Press Release Oct 30, 2017
National Green Tribunal Admits Appeal Challenging
Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa Project:
No claim of equity for work done during pendency of application
The Principle Bench of National Green Tribunal on Oct 27, 2017 admitted a comprehensive Appeal (No 33 of 2017) challenging the Environment Clearance to Phase I of Ken Betwa River Linking Project. The order of the Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson of NGT), Hon’ble Justice Jawad Rahim (Judicial Member) and Hon’ble Bikram Singh Sajwan (Expert Member) on Oct 27, 2017 (available on Oct 28, 2017) noted: “Learned Counsel for the respective respondents accepts notice and prays for time to file reply. Copy of the application be furnished during the course of the date. Let the reply to be filed within two weeks from today and rejoinder within two weeks thereafter. List the mater on 27th November, 2017.” Ritwick Dutta, Rahul Choudhary and Meera Gopal are the lawyers representing the petition.
In the same case, in response to Miscellaneous Application no 1263 of 2017 for stay on the project during pendency of the case, the NGT order says: “We dispose of this application with direction that all the action taken by any of the respondents meanwhile shall be subject to final order that may be passed by the Tribunal upon hearing the matter finally. None of the parties would be permitted to claim any equity for the work done during the pendency of this application.”
The Environment Clearance letter for the Ken Betwa project was issued on Aug 25, 2017 by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), but seems to have been uploaded on the MoEF only on Sept 11, 2017. The Application was filed (by Himanshu Thakkar in personal capacity) on Oct 11, 2017, which came for admission before the Principal Bench of the NGT on Oct 27, 2017. MoEF, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are respondents in the petition. The NGT act allows challenge to Environment Clearances within 30 days of the date of clearance letter and within 60 days thereafter with condonation of delay. In the current appeal, by way of abundant caution, an application (Misc Application No 1264) was filed for condonation of delay, in response to which the NGT order says: “Consequently, we allow M.A. No. 1264/2017 and condone the delay in filing of the Appeal.”
Among the grounds in the petition includes inadequate Environment Impact Assessment, lack of impact assessment and public consultation in affected districts (Banda, Jhansi, Mahoba) and also those of Madhya Pradesh, Violations in Public hearings, inadequate Appraisal by Environmental Appraisal Committee (for River Valley Projects), contradictions between Forest/ Wildlife Clearance Conditions and those of Environment Clearance, among others.
We welcome the NGT order and hope the respondents will respond in the spirit of public interest, which underlines the application.
NOTE: The Feature Photo provides a fabulous view of the Ken River in Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.