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India: 2021 Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project Disaster & the UN’s fraudulent Clean Development Mechanism Process | SANDRP, Feb 28, 2021

28 February

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SANDRP, February 28, 2021

Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project - A foretold disaster for River, People and Chipko legacy

The February 7 2021 Chamoli deluge has completely destroyed Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project (HEP). The 13.2 MW run of the river project has also become graveyard for over 50 innocent workers and villagers. The damages to homes, bridges, forest and river eco-system is additional which cannot be restored easily.

In fact, the disaster is among the threats against which experts and locals had been warning the authorities time and again. Sadly, the past history of struggle and destruction shows that not only the state government but the judiciary also failed miserably to address the pleas of locals and assess the disaster risks in a timely manner.

Notably the project was being built on Rishiganga river about one km upstream of iconic Raini village in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. It was on March 26, 1974 when the native women spearheaded the Chipko Movement[i] to protect their native forests. The movement is still celebrated worldwide and continues to inspire people to stand firm against environmentally destructive projects.

However, about two and half decades later, the significance and success of Chipko were side-lined by the state government when it started planning, sanctioning and allowing implementation of the Rishiganga HEP in para-glacial zone. Fearing damages to their forests, river, common lands the villagers once again tried to resist but given adamant, insensitive governments at state and central level, developers and ineffective judiciary, they could not put off the disaster.

Project with ZERO environment scrutiny For being less than 25 MW installed capacity, the project escaped scrutiny under Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), though the project proponent & government were well aware[ii] that the area is vulnerable to disasters, hydrological & geological risks. The project thus had no environment impact assessment, environment management plan, environmental appraisal, environment clearance, public consultations, environmental monitoring or compliance requirements.

This is yet another wake up call for the Government of India and states that the current (Sept 2006) EIA notification is fundamentally flawed and all projects above 1 MW should be required to have environment clearance and all the relevant norms as listed above. In Uttarakhand in any case such projects would only bring more disasters.

A Wake up call for UN and CDM The disaster is also a wake up call for the United Nations and its fraudulent Clean Development Mechanism decision making process[iii] that end up certifying completely disastrous, unviable and unacceptable projects like the 13.2 MW Rishiganga project as clean development project. The project was certified to get CDM credits and this certification process needs to be probed by an independent credible process to ensure that no projects like this ever get CDM credits. The project may have lost the CDM credits since it could not be commissioned within the stipulated period as mentioned on CDM website, which says: “Renewal no longer possible”, but the fact is the project was certified to get 49585 Credits per annum for a period of seven years, which was totally wrong decision.

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