New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday directed the Union government to file its response to the affidavits filed by Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments to obtain information for conducting public hearing regarding the controversial Indirasagar Polavaram project.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest to file an affidavit containing information sought by Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments within three weeks. The bench has listed the matter for hearing January 24.
Earlier, the counsel appearing for Odisha Gopal Subramaniam submitted in the court that Andhra Pradesh has not shared the report of backwater study.
“Have you studied backwater effect? Do you have any study in respect of backwater effect?” Gopal Subramaniam argued in the court.
In his submission, Subramaniam said that with the change of scope from 36 lakh cusecs to 50 lakh cusecs, there will be more impact in Odisha. The construction of big embankments will result in backwater flooding causing submergence of huge areas in the state.
Citing the Justice Bachawat tribunal award, Odisha counsel said that the level of backwater effect in the state should not be more than 174 feet, but Andhra Pradesh has admitted that the backwater effect will be 216 feet, which will result in submergence of large areas in Odisha.
Notably, Odisha has sought details pertaining to backwater effect in the state to conduct public hearing.
The state counsel also submitted that the Ministry of Environment and Forest had written a letter to Andhra Pradesh in January 2009 directing them to get a fresh environment clearance, but AP didn’t obtain that. MoEF gave stop work order to Polavaram project February 2011. But later, in April 2013, the MoEF kept stop work order in abeyance for a period of six months, but it has been kept alive year after year.
Significantly, the counsel appearing for RELA, a non-government organisation, submitted in the court that the construction was continuing illegally. There is no environment clearance to the project and it should be stopped immediately, the NGO stated.
The bench asked the counsel for Union government as to how much time they needed to provide the information sought by Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments.
On his part, the counsel said the MoEF has received Odisha’s affidavit December 17 and Chhattisgarh’s affidavit December 31 last year. The information is under process and will be provided in four weeks. However, the apex court asked the Centre to file a response in three weeks.
The court also directed the Centre and Andhra Pradesh to file responses on the queries raised by the RELA.