Centre’s nods to Ujh Project, Over 2 lakh trees to be axed

VISHAL. Updated: 1/31/2021 11:11:49 AM Front Page

Jammu: After recommendations from the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) seeking clearance from the Environment Ministry, the Government of India on Saturday signaled ‘green’ for work on the much awaited Ujh Multipurpose Project in Kathua district of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier in December, the EAC had recommended grant of conditional Environment Clearance to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to be followed by the Project Proponent– Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation Limited.
Official sources here said that after abrogation of Article 370, the Government of India for the first time has given its clearance for use of forest land for non-forestry purposes in Jammu and Kashmir for construction of a multipurpose project of geo-strategic and national importance.
The DPR of Ujh project, which was declared as a “national project” in 2008, was initially prepared by the Indus Basin Organisation of the Central Water Commission in 2013.
“The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects in its recent meeting attended by the representatives of the Central Water Commission (CWC), Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) held detailed deliberation on the information submitted by the Project Proponent,” official sources added.
“The environment clearance for Ujh project came soon after the nod for forest clearance from the FAC, the Environment Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and hydroelectric project considered the project for environment clearance on December 30, 2020,” sources asserted.
The minutes of the EAC’s meeting however, observed that in all 52 villages with 3,700 families are likely to lose their homesteads as a result of the process of land acquisition due to construction of the dam and subsequent submergence area, they said.
Ujh Project is a multipurpose project (hydropower, irrigation and drinking) and the total land required for the project is about 4,350 hectares (ha) – over twice the size of Delhi airport.
Of the total land required, the submergence area is 3,450 hectares which comprise 329 hectares of government land, 680.1 hectares of forest land and 2,441 hectares of private land.
The project envisages construction of a 116-metre dam and needs diversion of 4,350 hectares of land, which includes about 680 hectares of forest land and clearance of 214,502 trees.
The project, which was declared a national project in 2008, is part of India’s endeavour to step up use of the water available under the Indus Water Treaty.
India’s environment ministry’s expert panels have recommended clearance for the Ujh multipurpose hydroelectric project in Kathua region of Jammu and Kashmir for which over two lakh (214,502) trees in the ecologically sensitive area will need to be cut.
They said that earlier the FAC in its meeting held on December 22, 2020 gave its go-ahead to the project subject to certain conditions wherein it was mentioned that every effort shall be made to ensure that trees are felled only when feeling is unavoidable and it shall be done in a phased manner.
“The UT administration had therefore ensured that compensatory afforestation is taken up in the first year of the construction of the project, and adequate post-planting measures are taken to ensure healthy growth of regenerated forest,” the minutes of the meeting read.
The FAC had also observed that “the project is of national importance which provides geo-political strategic advantage in form of more effective use of water of Ujh River”.
“This project will ameliorate the agricultural and power sectors in the otherwise barren Kandi area. It will also be a boon in the dry Kandi belt which is reeling under the peril of impending water crisis during the dry season and also reduce the miseries of floods in the monsoons,” it further read.
The Multipurpose Project is proposed to be built on River Ujh, one of the main tributaries of River Tawi and the proposed dam site is located at village Barbari about 1.6 kilometres downstream of Panchtirthi and the power house site is approximately 9.5 kilometres downstream of dam site near village Deoli.
The annual energy benefit from the project in a 90 percent dependable year is estimated as 238.66 Million Units.
Moreover, about 10 cusec of water from Right and Left Main Canals will meet drinking water requirements of district Kathua. Due to construction of the project, area of about 30381 hectares (Ha) will become cultivable.
Sources further said, “the Rehabilitation and Resettlement plan shall ensure that no rehabilitation is proposed over forest land. A copy of the approved R&R plan shall be submitted by the user agency to the UT administration which will monitor to ensure that no project affected person occupies forest land.”
The irrigation benefits from the project will comprise annual irrigation of about 31,380 hectares.
“In Jammu and Kashmir, every year hundreds of thousands of trees are cut for one project or another such as highways, roads, dams. No one is against development but what we want is green development – a development that takes into account concerns related to forest, tribal people, and environment. It needs to be sustainable,” said a social activist.
He expressed that as per estimate, over two million trees have been cut in the last two decades across the region and while taking up the developmental projects, the Government of India must ensure that environment and climate change under the sustainable development goals must be kept in mind.

Updated On 1/31/2021 11:13:04 AM
Updated On 1/31/2021 11:18:39 AM

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