The much controversial Kanhar dam, the construction of which was started in December 2014 without any valid Environment and Forest Clearance is once again in controversy. The adamant attitude of the State towards the court orders in the past has shown that if the State already decides to go ahead with the project, it will not pay any heed to the court orders even if the same is constructed in blatant violation of law. Let us remind that after a petition was filed by us in December, 2014, on the very first day of hearing National Green Tribunal stayed construction of the project. Ignoring the court order they continued with construction saying they have environment and forest clearances as per law. After several hearings, State of U.P. filed their reply but failed to provide any letter granting Forest Clearance from Centre. Ministry of Environment & Forest blatantly claimed that the Forest Clearance letter is untraceable. Both MOEFCC and State of U.P. told the court that compliance reports of the Environment Clearances are submitted every year since 2008, but none of the reports were filed in court.
Finally on 7th May, 2014 NGT pronounced its judgment in which they clearly stated that the State is under legal obligation to take Environment Clearance and Forest Clearance as per law. The Court also stayed any new construction activity but allowed completion of the construction already underway. The Court also formed a high level committee comprising of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Uttar Pradesh as its Convener which was required to submit its report within 3 months from the date of judgment. There were several functions defined in the order which includes studying the adverse impacts, suggesting modifications in the project, any measures and to see the resettlement and rehabilitation issue.
In June, 2015 the petitioners again approach the Tribunal seeking review of the judgment in reply of which the court on 7th July, 2015 ordered that
This Application is disposed of with an observation that upon filing of the report by High Power Committee; constituted under the Judgment of the Tribunal, the Tribunal will pass further directions after hearing the parties in regard to all matters as mentioned in the Judgment including Environmental Clearance and Forest Clearance.
On 8th July, 2015, the matter was again taken up after mentioning to give a deadline to the Committee on which the court ordered
Consequently, we direct that the report shall be submitted to the Tribunal within 45 days from today. Upon filing of the report the Registry shall place the matter for further direction, if necessary
However, the Committee did not submit any report till date, on which the counsel Advocate Parul Gupta mentioned the matter before court and was taken up for hearing on 21st September, 2015. Advocate Mr. Ravi Mehrotra (Counsel for State of U.P.) was present during the hearing. The Court gave the following observation and directions.
Though, this Review Application had been disposed of vide order dated 07th July, 2015, the matter has been listed on mentioning by the applicant. According to her, despite the order of the Tribunal dated 08th July, 2015 the Committee has not complied with the direction of filing the report within 45 days from the date of the order. The Learned Counsel appearing for State of Uttar Pradesh, which happens to be the Project Proponent as well, submits that they would file the status report. According to him, the meeting of the committee was held on 16th September, 2015 and now the meeting is fixed for 13th October, 2015. We see no reason as to why the Committee should fix the meeting after a period of one month, particularly in view of the order passed by the Tribunal. We direct issuance of show cause notice to the Chairperson of the Committee as to why cost be not imposed upon the Committee for unnecessarily delaying the proceedings before the Tribunal.
'It is abundantly clear that State of U.P. intentionally wants to delay the legal proceedings by all means. The reason and intention of the State government is very clear now', said Debadityo Sinha of Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan also a co-petitioner in the case.
'The delay done by the Committee has consequently led to non compliance of court orders and has intensified the level of corruption in the State. This shows how much regard the State has for the laws of the land,' says Maheshnandji of Gram Swaraj Samiti, Sonbhadra.
All the orders of National Green Tribunal related to Kanhar dam can be accessed from www.vindhyabachao.org/kanhar