By: ML Verma
Shimla: The Green Bench of Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday directed Government of India, inspector general of forest, chairmen of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and Power Grid Corporation of India to inform the court about ways and means being adopted to protect trees while laying proposed transmission lines by Jaiprakash Hydro-power limited on the left bank of Satluj river.
The recently constituted Green Bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol directed the respondent central government officials to inform the court about the authority and basis of determining the height of the transmission towers. The court sought seven queries in this regard including, scope of changing the height of towers in hilly terrain, height of transmission line and what type of clearance was required between top of the tree and transmission lines.
The Green Bench also observed that it cannot be disputed that the left bank of Satluj was covered with forests while the right bank has very little growth. However, the court observed that since the company had obtained permission from the apex court, the aggrieved parties may approach the Supreme Court in this regard.
The court also observed that permissions were subject to conditions like ensuring minimum felling of trees and damage to the flora and fauna of the area that user agency shall observe and even if the power corridor was to be established on the left bank, it was imperative that these conditions were followed in letter and spirit. The court observed that there must be some independent agency to ensure the compliance of conditions, and hence added Inspector General of Forest, chairmen of Forest and Central Electricity Regulatory Commissions and Power Grid Corporation of India as respondent and directed them to answer the question by April 30, the next date of hearing.
In order to save dwindling green cover from devastating and eroding hydroelectric projects, a common corridor having common transmission line pool have been devised by state and center government to discourage raising of new huge steel towers structure embarking on the ridges of hills. Some powerful hydro-power companies in the state are insisting on raising their own transmission lines and some of them are already being undertaken by getting requisite permission from higher authorities. The web of transmission lines across the valleys in the state is also being considered a hassle for air traffic.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court is the first in the country which has constituted a green bench to hear cases of mining, forest and environment. Recently, this bench had also ordered to set up new check posts on the porous borders of the hill state to check illegal mining on riverbeds.