In a suo-moto case, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to the Sikkim Government, the Sikkim Urja Limited and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) on a hearing on the breach of the Chungthang dam which led to the recent devastating flash floods in the Himalayan state. All three stakeholders are required to appear before the court on October 20.
The notices have been served in view of the recent flash floods which claimed 7 lives and heavily damaged the 1200 Mega Wattv Sikkim Urja Teesta-III at Chungthang, following the glacial lake outburst flood from South Lhonak Lake on the intervening night of October 3 and 4.
Soon after the incident, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang blamed the previous Pawan Chamling government for sub-standard work on the dam. “South Lhonak Lake did burst but major destruction downstream is also because the Teesta-III dam gave away. This is because of sub-standard work. This was done in the previous government.” His government would start an inquiry, he said.
The dam was commissioned in 2017, when the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government led by former Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling was in power.
Chamling’s party, however, has countered Chief Minister Tamang’s allegation. “The collapse of the Teesta-III dam must be forensically investigated. There should also be an investigation on whether enough was done to prevent glacier lake outburst flood,” P.D. Rai, senior vice-president of the SDF, countered, adding that the SDF government had worked on lowering the water level at the lake.
The NGT hearing also comes at a time when the state government is preparing grounds to set up a 520 Mega Watt Teesta stage IV hydel project.
Environmentalists in the meantime have been opposing dams in Sikkim. The Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) had sat on a 915-day demonstration from June 22, 2007, to September 27, 2009, against hydel projects in Sikkim. Many believe that four hydel projects were scrapped in the Teesta basin due to the campaign by ACT.
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