Cancel permission to hydro power projects: Former Union secy to govt

The New Indian Express | Dec 19, 2022

Sarma said the government seems to have not taken nod from the National Commission for STs before taking the decision on the projects.

VISAKHAPATNAM: Former Union Energy secretary EAS Sarma has said the consent given by the State Cabinet for hydro-pumped storage projects at Kurukutti and Karrivalasa in Parvathipuram Manyam and at Yerravaram in Alluri Sitarama Raju district is in ‘gross violation’ of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act.

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Sunday, Sarma who is also a former AP State tribal welfare commissioner, said the conduct of grama sabhas is mandatory to get permission from tribals for the projects as per the two Acts. He urged the Chief Minister to withdraw the consent given to the hydro projects honouring the rights of tribals and Acts enshrined in the Constitution for the protection of their interests.

“The State government has no powers to take unilateral decisions on such projects. The same was stated by the Supreme Court in a judgement in 2013. It ruled that bauxite mining permission given to Vedanta by the Odisha government in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts was unconstitutional. As per the apex court order, grama sabhas held in 11 villages rejected the mining proposal leading to its cancellation.

Similarly, in the Samata case judgment in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that awarding of projects to private companies in scheduled areas and also giving land on the lease were against the Land Regulation Act. Hence, keeping in view the previous directions of the apex court, it was not legal to give a nod for hydropower projects, he noted.

Moreover, such projects should be discussed at the Tribal Advisory Council, which was formed under Schedule para 5 of the Constitution. “Any decision arrived at without taking the opinion of the TAC is against the constitution,” he said.

Sarma also said the government seems to have not taken a nod from the National Commission for STs before taking the decision on the projects. Besides, it was not proper to hand over the projects without going for competitive bidding as per the national hydroelectric policy. Sarma felt that the three projects will seriously impact the living conditions and culture of tribals as they will disrupt the natural resources. “Hence, the State government forthwith should cancel the permission given to the three pumped storage hydropower projects,” he added.