High Court pulls up hydel developers for not complying with court orders on safety measures

Shed being erected at JNV-Pipaley by Dans Energy to provide temporary relief to hostellers displaced by rising reservoir of the 96 MW Jorethang Loop hydel project

Gangtok, 21 Aug:

The High Court of Sikkim has pulled up hydro-power projects operating in Sikkim for not complying with court orders on abiding by guidelines, safety rules and procedural norms for operation of hydel projects in the State.

The division bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Satish Kumar Agnihotri and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, while hearing a PIL today, pulled up the state’s biggest hydel project developer, Teesta Urja (of the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III at Chungthang) for flouting guidelines despite the District Collector, North pointing out several deficiencies from time to time.

While issuing a show cause notice, the bench directed the project developer to explain as to why the project not be closed for want of compliance of the necessary guidelines.

The Project Head of Teesta Stage III Power Project at Chungthang has been asked to be present in the Court on the next date of hearing slated for 14 Sept.

In the last week of July, the bench had issued a direction to the District Collectors to serve a notice to the hydro power projects informing them about the next date of hearing to enable the respondents to take necessary steps and also directed to serve notice to them through District Collectors.

Despite the notices being served through the District Collectors, no representation was made on behalf of Teesta Stage III Power Project.

Meanwhile, the North District Administration, in its affidavit filed in the Court, stated that several deficiencies were pointed out from time to time by the District Administration and that Teesta Urja has failed to comply with the administration's directives.

There were no power and communication lines installed over the dam by the project developer (power supply at the dam is through Energy and Power Department supply lines) while proper beacon lights with siren were also not installed. No contact number in case of emergencies is made available either, the Court was informed.

It was further found that an 8-seater inflatable rescue boat has been procured and one more boat is under progress for procurement.

The bench also pulled up Dans Energy Pvt Ltd, power developers of the 96 MW Jorethang Loop hydel project, directing it to make good the deficiencies as noted by the District Collector (West), before the next date of hearing.

The reservoir of the project had risen dangerously close to the campus of Jawahar Navodaya Vidhyalaya at Pipaley, a residential school run by Ministry of Human Resource Development, so much so that a portion of the boundary wall had collapsed and a wing of the boys' hostel had to be evacuated fearing threat from the rising water.

After the District Administration's (West) intervention, Dans Energy is constructing two temporary sheds for students which are expected to be completed by 22 Aug, informed DC West, Kapil Meena.

The school in the meanwhile has been closed for ten days in light of the threat posed by the reservoir. The school is scheduled to reopen on 23 August, by when alternate accommodation for the displaced hostellers and adequate protective works were expected to be in place.

Ajay Rathi, the counsel appearing for Dans Energy Pvt Ltd on instruction of Asstt. Manager, Chunku Bhutia, has sought time to file a report indicating the steps taken by the developer and also why the nearby JNV Pipaley School was fully imperilled on account of the rising reservoir of the project.

Mr Rathi, who is also the counsel for Shiga Energy Pvt. Ltd, a sister concern of Dans Energy, submitted that all necessary steps have been taken and since the project is yet to be operational, it will be ensured that all the requisite guidelines are complied with before the project is commissioned.

NHPC and Chujachen HEP, meanwhile, sought time to file their reports detailing steps taken by the project authorities.