The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday dismissed the petition of Assam Public Works (APW) seeking reconstitution of the expert committee to look into the safety of Lower Subansiri dam.
The NGT gave ‘go ahead’ to the existing expert committee.
The tribunal in an order said, “We have not found any material on record justifying the plea of bias. The EAC has conducted the appraisal. The Competent Authority has agreed with the same.”
“Mere association of organizations with the project in professional capacity is not enough to hold that any Expert who worked in such association will have an institutional bias,” the NGT order said.
“Accordingly, we do not find any merit in the applications and the same are dismissed,” the order added.
“This is totally surprising. We will move to the Supreme Court in next one week,” said Abhijeet Sharma, president of Assam Public Works (APW).
Interestingly, the NGT in its hearing last week has reportedly asked the government to appoint a few independent members in the expert committee.
The expert committee was set up by the union ministry of environment and forests to look into the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam.
The NGT in its order issued on Wednesday said: “It is not the case of the applicant that any of the experts have any pecuniary interest or personal interest.”
“Pre-disposition which may disable a person from going into the merits may also be bias but no such pre-disposition has been shown. The plea of the applicant is farfetched,” said the order.
“Moreover, the present committee has only recommendatory role. There is safeguard of further evaluation by experts. The project is to advance public interest,” it added.
The order was issued by a bench comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice SP Wangdi, Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda.
Earlier, NHPC also opposed the petition, which raised question against the expert committee, by stating that the members of the expert committee are highly qualified and there was no basis for attributing any bias to them.
The NHPC said that Dr Prabhas Pande and Dr ID Gupta had given declaration of ‘No Conflict of Interest’.
PM Scott is from the northeastern region itself and well versed with the rivers and riverine basin in Brahmaputra region.
The cost of the project as assessed in December, 2002 was Rs 6285.33 crore.
Due to delay, the cost has already gone up to Rs. 18,000 crore.
A sum of Rs. 9610 crore has already been invested.
“50 per cent of the work has been completed till December, 2011. Each day delay was causing loss of Rs 10 crore. The project has been duly cleared by all the statutory authorities and is for flood moderation and electricity generation which is to promote public interest,” the NHPC earlier told the NGT.
“The delay has resulted in huge arbitration cases against the NHPC. The project will benefit the States of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh by way of free power,” the NHPC had stated.
The work for the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project had been halted for the last several years following agitation raised against the dam by several organisations including Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva-Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and others.