New Delhi: Taking note of Odisha government’s objections to the controversial Indirasagar Polavaram dam project, the Supreme Court Thursday directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to file an affidavit containing parameters to conduct public hearing in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer directed the MoEF to file an affidavit by Saturday mentioning procedure of conducting public hearing through an independent agency and the terms and conditions of public hearing.
The top court may order stay on project work till the completion of public hearing in the riparian states at its next hearing Monday.
The bench sought to know how much loss can occur in case the work stops for a month. The counsel for Andhra Pradesh told the court halting of work could lead to a loss of Rs 30,000 crore. However, the Odisha government counsel said if project didn’t stop then the losses would be more.
The bench asked the Centre and Andhra Pradesh what steps they had taken to conduct public hearing in the matter.
The counsel for AP said they had deposited Rs 75000 for conducting public hearing in Odisha.
While the Centre’s counsel said it is the primary duty of the state to conduct hearing and if they do not do it then the Centre would do. He further said “what can be the objection of people in there”.
Irked by the lackadaisical attitude of Union government, the apex court categorically said, “It’s a democracy. You have to tell people how they are going to be affected due to the project. You can’t keep people in dark. Without public hearing, no work will take place”.
The Odisha government had submitted that the change in scope will have a three-fold impact on the state.
The counsel further said environmental clearance (EC) was given to Polavaram project in 2005 for 36 lakh cusecs of water. The Andhra Pradesh has changed the scope of the project to 50 lakh cusecs and the 2005 EC is not valid for it.
Telangana has also sought back water study. The Telangana counsel urged the court that the area, including some ancient temples would be submerged due to change in the project design.