The expert committee constituted last month by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to conduct a detailed study on whether existing hydro power projects as well as those under construction in the river basins of Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and their tributaries have contributed to environmental degradation will submit its final report by January 14th, 2014.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests constituted the 17-member committee on directions of the Supreme Court in a case relating to Alaknanda Hydro Power Co. Ltd. It consists of experts from various fields including hydrology, ecology, hydraulics, water resources, blasting and tunneling, construction and design, and biodiversity.

The committee, in accordance with its terms of reference, will assess whether existing and under construction HEP projects contributed to environmental degradation, and if so, to what extent. It will also look into the role of such projects in the tragedy that struck the state of Uttarakhand in the month of June.

The Wildlife Institute of India had observed in a report that out of the 39 proposed hydro power projects in the state, 24 were significantly impacting biodiversity in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins. The findings will be examined by the committee.

In the course of preparation of its report, the committee will assess and review progress made in compliance of environmental conditions and safeguards with regard to existing and under construction HEP projects on the date of occurrence of the tragedy in the state, study the state of Himalayan glaciers and the impact of HEP projects on glaciers, examine cumulative effects of proposed and existing bumper to bumper and run of river schemes and on the basis review existing Cumulative Impact Assessment reports, review compliance of existing protocols for construction activities in the basins of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, assess status of progress in respect of the 24 proposed projects and assess projects where impacts cannot be mitigated to preserve biodiversity.

The committee will draft a Himalayan Policy for Uttarakhand keeping in mind the unique ecological, social and cultural characteristics of the state, and suggest environment friendly developmental activities. Recommendations concerning suitable environmental safeguards to mitigate the adverse environmental impacts in respect of ongoing projects for which environmental clearances have been granted including tourism projects will be included in the report. The committee may suggest necessary changes in project parameters where necessary.

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