Let the elephants be, alter powerlines, says SC panel
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 18:
Even as work commenced on the Tehri dam, a committee
set up by the Supreme Court in November 2001 to study the
impact of a 800 mw transmission line of the project on Rajaji
National Park, recommended today that the power line be shifted
eastwards, close to the Haridwar-Dehradun Road, to exclude
the elephant habitat.
This corridor is already highly
disturbed with two highways, two railway lines, three existing
power lines, and industries such as the BHEL and IDPL.
The committee, charged with
the task of exploring the possibility of an alternate route
with least impact on the National Park, however, noted, ‘‘The
length of the power line has already been built right up to
the entry point on the north and south side.They added that,
‘‘Therefore, the situation is fiat accompli.’’
The 800 MW power-line will
carry electricity from the Tehri Dam cutting through 36 kilometres
of Rajaji Park, one of the country’s richest elephant habitats.
There is a controversy surrounding the hydel project because
on the one hand there lies a forest rich in its bio-diversity
and on the other power lines will transmit 2,400 MW of power
to Uttar Pradesh, a power-deficient state. The committee studied
four alternate routes and came to the conclusion that the
one originally suggested had to be modified a little to minimise
damage to the Park.
The other three considered
were either through the core area of the park, involved defence
land, or meant disrupting an area of rich bio-diversity with
rare wildlife. Local non-governmental organisations had recently
alleged that nearly five lakh trees would be cut for the transmission
‘‘The original plan had 90,000
trees. The exact estimates of trees that will be cut in the
modified plan is still to be given,’’ said S.C. Sharma, Additional
Director General (forests), Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Although the Central Government had given permission in 1997,
it revoked the order in June 2001 taking into account the
damage it would cause to the flora and fauna of the Rajaji
National Park. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
had referred to the February 2000 SC order that prohibits
removal of trees from national parks and sanctuaries.
This prompted the Powergrid
Corporation to file a case in the Supreme Court. The Supreme
Court then appointed a committee chaired by H.S. Panwar, Member,
Indian Wildlife Board, and included S.S. Bist, Director, Project
Elephant, and Azam Zaidi, Conservator Forest (Lucknow) to
look into the matter.
The Powergrid Corporation
has been also asked to increase the height of the tower by
six metres, negating the chances of elephants being electrocuted.
Apart from the money they have spent, the Powergrid Corporation
will have to pay another Rs 40 crores as lease rent.