A Serious View on Tehri Oustees by Supreme Court

Firdaus Jahan for BeyondHeadlines

Tehri HEP case was again heard in Supreme Court by the bench of Justice H.L. Gokhle and Justice Kurian Joseph, which was long pending.

It’s clear here that all the divergent tunnels were closed and tehri dam reservoir started filling to its capacity on 29th July 2005. But rehabilitation had not been completed till now. Environmental conditions were not kept in mind while constructing the dam infrastructure. The bridges have not yet been constructed which connect the villages on two sides of the river. It resulted extreme problem of commutation for villagers due to large distance. And Grievances redressal mechanism has not been allowed to function properly due to various technical reasons.

The land rights have not been given to old oustees still now who were rehabilitated due to Tehri HEP and situation of the provision of civic amenities is also in bad conditions.

On 29th July 2005, N.D. Juyal and Shekhar Singh challenged the Naini High Court verdict. Which had allowed Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) to close the tunnel to fill the reservoir. Battle is continued in the Supreme Court still now which proved that rehabilitation of this project is not yet completed. Therefore, the order of 29th July 2005 was proven wrong.

After that Supreme Court deeply observed the matter and didn’t permit THDC to fill the reservoir fully. Even state government did the same. The problem of 80 villages in the vicinity of Tehri dam arose which are now on the risk of subversion and landslide. It resulted the miserable for the villagers to live. New collateral policy is planned for them by THDC and government. The THDC and state government has controversy. State government wants to rehabilitate new oustees in Haridwar and Dehradun district. While, THDC is pressurizing to rehabilitate around the reservoir.

Besides it, Adv Sanjay Parikh pleaded that it’s no need of any collateral policy because the people are also affected due to the same Tehri dam so the oustees should get rehabilitation under the same policy as for the earlier ones. He also added that it’s their main focus and they have filled other issues like bridges, command area plan, catchment area treatment plan etc.

Then Justice Gokhle said that their first motto is to give land to the displaced people. He further gave references of the Supreme Court order dated 1 September 2003, “It is made clear that the condition of pari-passu implementation of conditions prior to the commissioning of the project shall be closely monitored under the existing mechanism set by MoEF and the Project authorities will ensure that prior to closing of diversion tunnels T1/T2 for impoundment of the reservoir, evacuation, resettlement and rehabilitation are completed in all respects.” Which was not done.

Adv Parikh said that question is not only below 830 mts (the height of the reservoir from the sea level) but also about villages around the reservoir which are sinking as they are also directly affected. Ms. Rachna Shrivastava submits that it’s the view of the state that affected families should be rehabilitated downstream because the upper region is fragile. The number of such is 414 according to the state government.

Mr. Raval, Senior counsel appearing for the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation explained the opposite view that rehabilitation should be upstream. Ms. Shrivastava informed that a proposal is waiting for clearance submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Mr. H.P. Rawal also said that the issue will not be dealt effectively until we will not be allowed to file our issues to the same Ministry.

The next date of hearing is scheduled to be on 4th March 2014 for the further development. And it’s expected by the Supreme Court to take the decision quickly.

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