Save Mon Region Federation v. Union of India, Appeal No. 39 of 2012
National Green Tribunal (April 7, 2016)
The Save Mon Region Federation, on behalf of the Monpa indigenous community, challenged the environmental clearance granted for the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Naymjang Chhu River. The Federation pointed to faults in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure and a lack of close scrutiny of the project by the expert appraisal committee (EAC).
The proposed location of the dam is one of two wintering sites for the endangered Black-necked crane, which is revered by the local Monpa community as the incarnation of the 6th Dalai Lama. This material information was not revealed in the scoping process and, accordingly, was not discussed or evaluated in the EIA or properly considered by the EAC. Paras. 16-17. The EIA also lacked any discussion of the cumulative impacts of other projects being proposed within the river basin.
The National Green Tribunal concluded: “It is true that hydel power project provides eco friendly renewable source of energy and its development is necessary, however, we are of the considered view that such development should be ‘sustainable development’ without there being any irretrievable loss to environment. We are also of the view that studies done should be open for public consultation in order to offer an opportunity to affected persons having plausible stake in environment to express their concerns following such studies. This would facilitate objective decision by the EAC on all environmental issues and open a way for sustainable development of the region.” Para. 25.
The NGT suspended the environmental clearance until the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change undertakes an environmental flow study to determine how to protect the black-necked crane and its habitat. All studies must be provided to the public for consultation. Thereafter the EAC must make a fresh appraisal of the dam project, with the new information and public comments in mind. Para. 22.