An expert panel of the Union environment and forest ministry has deferred forest clearance for the 252MW run of the river Devsari hydro electric project (HEP) in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand as concerns over wildlife, religious importance of the project site and cutting down of a sizeable forest area remained unresolved. The Devsari HEP is located on Pindar River, the only northward bound Himalayan Rivers in India, and it is one of the main tributaries of Alaknanda River according to environment ministry data.Dewal, along Pindar is also a revered religious site as a part of the Panch Prayag or confluence of five rivers.The Devsari project is one of the 74 HEP’s proposed in the Alaknanda River basin, according to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. The bigger HEP’s in the Alaknanda River basin such as Devsari have faced a lot of local protests following the Uttarakhand disaster of 2013.While appraising the project, the expert panel on forests observed that the project, controlled by Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited, requires felling of 7,434 trees spread across an area of 197 hectares of forest land.Though the project does not directly fall inside or in the 10-km radius of a wildlife protected area, the vulnerable Himalayan Black Bear and endangered Snow Leopard are found in the higher reaches of the forest to be cut down. Besides, the near threatened Himalayan Tahar species and musk deer too are found in this region.The forest panel noted that these animals would be affected by the project. The clearing of the forest area for the project would in fact acutely impact wildlife as it will the nearest protected area is at a considerable distance. The expert forest panel did not recommend clearance for the project as it felt that more studies were required for wildlife issues and along with it, it asked the project proponent to explore the possibility of shifting muck disposal site to non forest land.The project proponent was also asked to look for new sites to carry out compensatory afforestation and was also told to prepare a sound relief and rehabilitation plan.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

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Forest nod for Devsari dam in Uttarakhand shelved