[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE National Green Tribunal (NGT) has dismissed an application alleging conflict of interest against members of a committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) to appraise the Subansiri Lower Hydro-Electric Project (SLHEP) along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
The committee was established in pursuance of the NGT’s own order of October 16, 2017.
“We have not found any material on record justifying the plea of bias. The EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee) has conducted the appraisal. The Competent Authority has agreed with the same. Mere association of organizations with the project in professional capacity is not enough to hold that any expert who worked in such association will have an institutional bias,” the NGT panel headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said in response to allegations made in the application by Aabhijeet Sharma and Tularam Gogoi that there was a conflict of interest as members of the committee had been associated with government institutions associated with the project in question.
“It is not the case of the applicants that any of the experts have any pecuniary interest or personal interest. Pre-disposition which may disable a person from going into the merits may also be bias but no such pre-disposition has been shown. The plea of the applicant is farfetched,” the panel said.
Subansiri Lower Hydro Electric Project
SLHEP was set up by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (NHPC) over the river Subansiri along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border to generate 2000 MW of power. Environment Clearance (EC) for the project was given by the MoEF & CC in 2003.
Taking into consideration the sensitive location of the project and precautionary and sustainable development principles, the Tribunal had directed the MoEF & CC to constitute a committee of three expert members for their opinion on the Terms of Reference (ToR) for which a Project Oversight Committee was constituted in January 2015.
The Committee was to submit its report to the MoEF & CC without being influenced by the opinions expressed by earlier committees or the observations of the NGT. The MoEF & CC was then to refer the report for Stage IV appraisal by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC). This appraisal was to be completed within 60 days and placed before the Competent Authority for final decision.