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Wildlife Board rejects Sikkim�s hydro project

By Correspondent

GANGTOK, Oct 19 � The reconstituted National Board of Wildlife standing committee on October 13 rejected 13 of the 32 proposals put before it for using national parks and wildlife sanctuaries or areas around them for other projects.

The Board, headed by the Prime Minister, is the apex body on wildlife issues under the Wildlife Protection Act. Its standing committee, which includes wildlife experts and naturalists from outside the government, is empowered under the Act to clear all projects that require land within the Wildlife Parks and around them.

The reconstituted standing committee includes Brijendra Singh, M K Ranjitsingh, Divyabhanush Chavda, A J T Jonsingh and Prerna Bindra besides representatives of Bombay Natural History Society, Satpuda Foundation and Nature Conservation Foundation. The Union Environment and Forests Minister is the chairman with Director of Wildlife Institute of India and Director General Forests as official members.

One of the projects which the standing committee rejected was the 96 MW Lethang hydro electric project in Yuksam, West district of Sikkim, sources in the MOEF revealed to this correspondent.

KHC Lethang Hydro Project Pvt Ltd, developers of the Lethang project has been in the eye of the storm with project opponents like Sikkimese Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) and National Sikkimese Bhutia Organisation(NASBO), demanding scrapping of the said project, mainly citing religious sentiments and the violation of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991, extended to Sikkim in 1998.

KHC Lethang is part of the Kalpan Group of Companies, funded by two of world�s leading green energy focussed private equity groups. The group is at present engaged in developing a total of five hydro power projects across India, with their expertise of developing the run of the river type of projects.

Earlier, there have been media reports that the project developers have been trying to acquire land without proper government or local body permissions. Secretary, Power department, P Wangchen told this correspondent �every single move till date, has been made by the Company with knowledge and approval of the local people and the government. KHC Lethang has public mandate of people from Lethang, Yuksom, adjoining areas, including monks from the Dubdi and Khecheodpalri Monasteries. In fact, these people have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, expressing their full support and mandate in favour of the project�.

�They reiterated the same during the Public Hearing conducted by the Sikkim Pollution Control Board (SPCB) on September 16, 2010�, Wangchen added. There was an overwhelming support for the Lethang project by all sections of locals comprising of Nepalese, Bhutia, and Lepcha at the hugely attended public hearing for the project.

Convener of SIBLAC, Tseten Tashi Bhutia, however, informed The Assam Tribune that �Any project on the Rathong Chu is not acceptable to us since it is on the waters of the most sacred river according to Neysol Buddhist texts. It is to us Buddhists what Quran or Bible is to Muslims or Christians. The water of Rathong Chu is used by the Tashiding Monastery for the annual Holy Bum Chu festival�.

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Wildlife Board rejects Sikkim�s hydro project

GANGTOK, Oct 19 � The reconstituted National Board of Wildlife standing committee on October 13 rejected 13 of the 32 proposals put before it for using national parks and wildlife sanctuaries or areas around them for other projects.

The Board, headed by the Prime Minister, is the apex body on wildlife issues under the Wildlife Protection Act. Its standing committee, which includes wildlife experts and naturalists from outside the government, is empowered under the Act to clear all projects that require land within the Wildlife Parks and around them.

The reconstituted standing committee includes Brijendra Singh, M K Ranjitsingh, Divyabhanush Chavda, A J T Jonsingh and Prerna Bindra besides representatives of Bombay Natural History Society, Satpuda Foundation and Nature Conservation Foundation. The Union Environment and Forests Minister is the chairman with Director of Wildlife Institute of India and Director General Forests as official members.

One of the projects which the standing committee rejected was the 96 MW Lethang hydro electric project in Yuksam, West district of Sikkim, sources in the MOEF revealed to this correspondent.

KHC Lethang Hydro Project Pvt Ltd, developers of the Lethang project has been in the eye of the storm with project opponents like Sikkimese Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) and National Sikkimese Bhutia Organisation(NASBO), demanding scrapping of the said project, mainly citing religious sentiments and the violation of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991, extended to Sikkim in 1998.

KHC Lethang is part of the Kalpan Group of Companies, funded by two of world�s leading green energy focussed private equity groups. The group is at present engaged in developing a total of five hydro power projects across India, with their expertise of developing the run of the river type of projects.

Earlier, there have been media reports that the project developers have been trying to acquire land without proper government or local body permissions. Secretary, Power department, P Wangchen told this correspondent �every single move till date, has been made by the Company with knowledge and approval of the local people and the government. KHC Lethang has public mandate of people from Lethang, Yuksom, adjoining areas, including monks from the Dubdi and Khecheodpalri Monasteries. In fact, these people have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, expressing their full support and mandate in favour of the project�.

�They reiterated the same during the Public Hearing conducted by the Sikkim Pollution Control Board (SPCB) on September 16, 2010�, Wangchen added. There was an overwhelming support for the Lethang project by all sections of locals comprising of Nepalese, Bhutia, and Lepcha at the hugely attended public hearing for the project.

Convener of SIBLAC, Tseten Tashi Bhutia, however, informed The Assam Tribune that �Any project on the Rathong Chu is not acceptable to us since it is on the waters of the most sacred river according to Neysol Buddhist texts. It is to us Buddhists what Quran or Bible is to Muslims or Christians. The water of Rathong Chu is used by the Tashiding Monastery for the annual Holy Bum Chu festival�.