Athena Power Company that has been given the right to develop the massive 1750 MW Demwe Lower project in Arunachal Pradesh has a poor track record going by the records. The same company which is one of the debutants in power sector is developing the 1200 MW Teesta III hydropower project in Sikkim.
Teesta III Hydropower project: This 1200 MW project is being executed in Sikkim by M/s Teesta Urja Limited. Teesta Urja Ltd is also an Athena Group company. The Expert Appraiisal Committee (EAC) for the River Valley and hydropower projects of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, in its minutes for the April 21, 2009 meeting notes with reference to the Teesta III project, “It was seen during the field visit that the excavated materials are dumped on the slope of the Teesta River without constructing the retaining wall. There was every possibility of the excavated material going down in the river with heavy rain, as the rainy season has already started.” Such dumping of the excavated material is in complete violation of the Environment Protection Act and also the conditions of clearance given to the project. The EAC response was totaly inadequate, “The committee directed the project authorities to carry out the construction of retaining walls immediately at all muck disposal sites, before the actual construction takes place.”
Moreover in December 2008, the Central Electricity Authority of Govt of India observed that Teesta Urja had made serious deviations from the approved DPR (detailed Project Report) for the 1200 Mega Watts Teesta III project and this was brought to the notice of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydro electric projects of Ministry of Environment and Forests on January 1, 2009 by civil society groups. This issue was discussed in the April 21, 2009 EAC meeting and the minutes note, “changes adopted by Teesta Urja contravene environmental clearance accorded on 3rd August, 2006, as per the recommendations made by the EAC and the project was issued environmental clearance with a condition that:- In case of change in the scope of the project, project would require a fresh appraisal”.
The Carrying Capacity Study of Teesta Basin in Sikkim by Centre for Inter Disciplinary Studies of Mountain & Hill Environment (CISMHE), notes that Chungthang, the location of the Teesta III project is one of the areas where high diversity of mammals, birds and reptiles is found. Further, the conclusion of the CISMHE study (page 80-81) is unequivocal, “Looking at the number of species of studied taxa and endemic exclusive and endangered species of studied taxa, Zone III is very sensitive and if the development project (stage-III) is executed in this zone (1800-2800 m, Temperate broadleaf forest, near Chungthang), an irreversible ecological damage is expected with respect to biological environs.” The report further says (page 210), the project would lead to loss of biological “wealth which is unique to this region”. Shockingly, the EIA of the project found no wildlife in the project area. It is clear that the EIA of the project was of very poor quality.
It is clear that the Athena, which otherwise has no experience of building large hydro projects, has very poor track record at the only place where it is building a mega hydro project. Such a company cannot be trusted with the biggest private hydro project of the country so far, that too in a pristine area and a state where a private project of any magnitude is yet to be taken up.