Open Letter to J&KSPCB: Cancel Public Hearings for Sawalkote HEP for violations

Above: Title page of Sawalkote EIA Executive Summary

January 14, 2016

TO:

J&K State Pollution Control Board,

Parivesh Bhawan, Forest Complex, Gladni, Narwal, transport Nagar,

Jammu (J&K) Telephone Nos:- 0191-2476925, 2476927

  1. Sh. Abdul Razak, IFS

Chairman, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Mob:- +91-9419188852, chairman87jkspcb@gmail.com

  1. Sh. Vasu Yadav, IFS

Member Secretary, J&K State Pollution Control Board, Mob:- 0194-2311165, membersecretaryjkspcb@gmail.com

  1. Regional Director, Jammu,

J&K State Pollution Control Board, Jammu. Email:  regionaldirectorspcbjmu@gmail.com

Sub: Violations in public hearing for 1856 MW Sawalkote HEP

in Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi districts in J&K

Respected Chairman, Member Secretary and Regional Director,

We understand from J&K SPCB website that the pubic hearings for the proposed 1856 MW Sawalkote Hydropower project is to be held in Udhampur (Village Panchari), Reasi (Village Mahore) and Ramban (Village Tanger) districts at 10 am on January 18, 21 and 28, 2016 respectively. However, we notice a number of problems in this context, some of the key ones include:

  1. JKSPCB website does not have full EIA-EMP: The JKSPCB website contains (see: http://jkspcb.nic.in/ModuleDesc.aspx?Mod_ID=2&ID=136) only the executive summary of the EIA-EMP of the project in English, Hindi and Urdu. It does not contain the full EIA-EMP as is the norm.
  1. Flawed, incomplete translation of EIA-EMP Executive Summary A perusal of the Hindi translation of the Executive Summary shows that it is totally incomplete and inadequate from a number of aspects, including: It does not contain the certificates from EIA consultants, no index, the cover page comes at the end, the table and maps are not translated, most key words are not translated, including common words like dam, monsoon and reservoir and even the translation done is flawed and there are so many mistakes in just first two pages, it is clear there has been no proof reading of the text. This is clearly not acceptable and does not reflect the contents of the English executive summary. Most importantly, it says, “;g izkstSDV ‘kq: esa 1200 esxk okV dh {kerk dk Fkk vkSj bl izkstSDV dh eatqjh Hkkjr ljdkj dh i;kZoj.k vkSj ou ea=ky; us viuh fpV~Bh la[;k J-12011@19@2011&141 frfFk 13 vDrwcj 2011 esa nh Fkh—- bl {kerk dks i;kZoj.k rFkk ou ea=ky; us viuh fpV~Bh la[;k J-12011@19@2011&141 frfFk 12 twu 2013 us eatwjh ns nhA” This sentence on the first page of the Executive Summary gives an impression that the project has already been given clearance by MoEF, when what the MoEF according was only scoping clearance, which has not been translated. This public hearing is in fact part of the process to get environment clearance. With such completely wrong executive summary of the EIA-EMP, this is clearly not an acceptable document and will not stand legal scrutiny.
Outline Map of Chenab basin upstream from proposed Sawalkote HEP

Outline Map of Chenab basin upstream from proposed Sawalkote HEP

  1. Invalid Scoping clearance The scoping clearance to the project given by MoEF on June 12, 2013 clearly stated in para 10 that “In case of any change in the scope of the project, such as capacity enhancement, shifting of dam site/ power house and change in submergence etc, fresh scoping clearance has to be obtained by the project proponent.” The scoping clearance letter said in para 2 that submergence area is 900 ha including forest land of 600 ha. However, the EIA executive summary now on JKSPCB website says (para 1.4.1.7) that the project submergence area is 1158.75 ha (add the figures of three districts given in the table) including 684.15 ha of forest land. This huge 28.75% increase in submergence area makes the scoping clearance for the project already invalid and project will need to apply afresh for the scoping clearance as per point 10 of the clearance letter. There are many other changes: Total land requirement has gone up from 1099 ha given in scoping clearance to 1401.35 ha and number of project affected families have more than doubled from 629 given in scoping clearance to 1477 now mentioned in EIA summary. Even the minutes of the EAC meeting dated July 20, 2015, which considered the request for extension of the TOR Clearance noted that this is being considered “keeping in view no significant change in project parameters” and all these key parameters were mentioned there. All this makes the current scoping clearance invalid according to the clearance letter. Hence holding public hearing for a project that does not have valid scoping clearance is clearly legally invalid.
  1. TORs not fulfilled A quick perusal of the executive summary of EIA-EMP shows that the EIA-EMP has not fulfilled number of terms of reference of the scoping clearance, including the following:
  • TOR required Social Impact Assessment, which does not even find mention in the EIA summary.
  • There is no R&R plan, it does not give any details except financial allocation.
  • TOR required the details of land use of what is called state land, but no details are provided.
  • TOR required valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services of the forest to be cut down, but this is not even mentioned.
  • TOR required GPS readings of the RET species
  • TOR said that at least 30% flow in monsoon should be released, but there is no mention of this in the EIA executive summary. TOR also said that the capacity of the 56 MW station for release of environment flows may need change keeping in mind higher environment flows requirement, but again there is no mention of this.
  • TOR mentioned that the river has high silt load and full details of desanding mechanism should be given, but this has not been given.
  1. Invalid QCI-NABET certificate The QCI-NABET certificate for the EIA consultants that is attached with the EIA executive summary is valid only upto Aug 13, 2013, so this is no longer valid now and hence this EIA cannot be acceptable.
  1. No Cumulative Impact Assessment The Chenab river in Kashmir has already existing hydropower projects including 690 MW downstream from proposed Sawalkote project, 900 MW Baglihar I and II and 390 MW Dulhasti HEPs in the upstream, in addition to large number of other projects under consideration. However, in spite of this bumper to bumper hydropower situation, there is no cumulative impact assessment or carrying capacity study of the Chenab basin. This is not only imprudent, but it is also in violation of the MoEF orders of May 28, 2012, where MoEF had cleared required such study before more projects can be considered in any basin.
Layout of proposed Sawalkote Project site (Source: EIA Exec Summary Jan 2016)

Layout of proposed Sawalkote Project site (Source: EIA Exec Summary Jan 2016)

  1. No mention of climate change The EIA executive summary does not even mention the word climate change, how climate change will change Chenab river flows and monsoon rainfall, how the project will be impacted by such changes, how the project construction and related changes in landscape will affect the adaptation capacity of the people and area in changing climate. Such an EIA cannot be acceptable in current situation when climate change is already impacting all the Himalayan areas including J&K, as was also clear from the Sept 2014 floods.
  1. No mention of upstream downstream projects The FRL of the Sawalkote project is proposed as 695 m and the Tail race level of upstream Baglihar project just above at 702 m. In immediate downstream there is Salal project. How the water flow, silt flow and disaster situations of these collective projects will affect the river, people and the area is not even mentioned.
  1. Is Sawalkote Run of River Scheme? The EIA executive summary claims that Sawalkote is a run of the river schemes, but this claim is totally wrong and misleading considering that in involves 192.5 m high dam, 1159 ha reservoir with 530 million cubic meters of storage capacity and a massive power house close to the toe of the dam. How can such a project be called run of the river project? This is clearly wrong and misleading claim.

Respected Sirs, it may noted that Sawalkote is Kashmir’s biggest capacity hydropower project. For such a project, to accept such a shoddy EIA and accept so many violations will not only be imprudent, but also legally questionable. Under the circumstance, we urge you to cancel the public hearings now slated on January 18 to 28, till all these concerns are addressed in a satisfactory way.

We will look forward to your response on each of these points and also necessary action,

Yours Sincerely,

  1. Prof Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Head, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, Srinagar Kashmir, shakilrom@yahoo.com
  2. Prof. M. Sultan Bhat, Head-Department of Geography & Regional Development, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, msbhatgeog@yahoo.com
  3. Dr Arshid Jehangir, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, arshidj@gmail.com
  4. E A S Sarma, Former Secretary, Govt of India, Visakhapatnam, eassarma@gmail.com
  5. Madhu Bhaduri, former Ambassador of India, Delhi. madhu.bhaduri@gmail.com
  6. Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala, formerly from IIM Bangalore, Uttarakhand, bharatjj@gmail.com
  7. Samir Mehta; International Rivers & River Basin Friends; Mumbai. samir@internationalrivers.org
  8. Tarun Nair, Researchers for Wildlife Conservation, Bangalore, tarunnair1982@gmail.com
  9. Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, yamunajiye@gmail.com
  10. Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com
  11. Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Thrissur, Kerala, latha.anantha9@gmail.com
  12. Dr. Zareen Bharucha, University of Essex, UK, zpbhar@essex.ac.uk
  13. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, bhaivimal@gmail.com
  14. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi 88 ht.sandrp@gmail.com, https://sandrp.wordpress.com/
  15. Dr. Irfan Rashid, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir,
    Srinagar, irfangis@gmail.com
  16. Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, Kashmir, muzaffar.rti@gmail.com

2 Comments on “Open Letter to J&KSPCB: Cancel Public Hearings for Sawalkote HEP for violations

  1. Pingback: Environmental assessment for Jammu and Kashmir dam breaks all rules | The Third Pole

  2. Pingback: Environmental Assessment for Kashmir Dam Breaks All Rules - ViewsWeek

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