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Loktak project gets clearance

- Nod after NHPC pledges additional Rs 150 lakh for conservation but Tipaimukh stuck

Guwahati, Nov. 13: The Union ministry of environment and forests has finally given environmental clearance to the 66MW Loktak downstream project in Manipur after the NHPC agreed to meet additional budgetary provisions in the project.

The project envisages construction of 28-metre high barrage on the Leimatak (a tributary of Irang river) near Tousang Khunou village in Tamenglong district of Manipur to generate 66MW of hydropower.

The project was given environmental clearance last month at the meeting of the expert appraisal committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects held in Delhi, which discussed the reply of NHPC after it was asked to increase budgetary provisions in some areas.

The public hearing was conducted on June 7 last year and the stage I forest clearance has been accorded for diversion of 211.50 hectares of forestland on March 3 last year.

Manipur has chosen hydropower sector as a thrust area for development as it has potential to generate nearly 2,000MW power, which is sufficient not only to meet the local requirement for domestic and industrial uses but leave surplus for marketing outside. The government has identified eight hydel projects, including Tipaimukh.

A a joint venture between the NHPC and Manipur government, the 66MW Loktak project would cost Rs 867.77 crore at 2006 price level and be completed in 78 months.

The total land requirement is 211.5 hectares and no private land is to be acquired for the project. However, 705 families are likely to be affected because of loss of their right over community and unclassified forestland.

Official sources said the committee in its earlier meetings had asked the NHPC to provide an additional amount of Rs 150 lakh for conservation of endemic flora and fauna under biodiversity conservation plan, as the Rs 494 lakh under biodiversity conservation plan, was inadequate.

Sources said the committee observed that the cost for local area development was too less to meet the requirements of the local people, as the area was under developed and the cost of the plan should be increased to about 1.5 per cent of the total cost of the project.

The committee suggested a provision for development of orange/fruit orchard, fruit processing unit and others may also be made available under local area development.

It emphasised that community and social development plan may be separated from relief and rehabilitation plan. It had observed that the budget provisions of Rs 6,370.35 lakh kept for implementation of environmental management plan was not enough.

The budget kept under public health delivery system, fuel provision and restoration of construction areas and landscaping seemed to be inadequate and project proponent should also include the cost of hospital, additional benefits for locals, in the environmental management plan and the overall budgetary provisions should be increased in the plan.

The committee in its last meeting when it gave the environmental clearance found that additional budgetary provisions were made by the NHPC in environmental management plan and the additional provisions made by the company were found to be in order.