Eastern Times, New Delhi : The glacier disaster in Joshimath at the Chamoli district in Uttarakhand on 7 Feb was due to the complete disregard of security arrangements and criminal negligence of National thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and it stood responsible for the loss of lives of its own employees and workers, a study done by Matu Jan Sangathan claimed this.
The barrage gates at Tapovan village were closed due to which fast flowing Dhauli Ganga water collided with the gate and entered the headrace tunnel on the left. The mishap cannot be dismissed simply by considering it as an environmental cause of glacier breakdown or global warming.
Sadly, while the government has not even declared a mourning day in Uttarakhand, NTPC has not taken out a statement of condolence.
The dams promoted for development are responsible for the killing of these workers.
Matu Jan Sangathan had already paid tribute to these martyrs in its statement only recently. The dead bodies coming out every day are drowning in long lasting grief.
NTPC received environmental clearance on Feb 8, 2005 to build the Tapovan Vishnugad project. This project was expected to be commissioned in 2011. However, the project was stalled due to the fragile environmental conditions in the region.
In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Coffer Dam broke and the barrage was damaged several times. In 2009, the 200 crore tunnel boring machine (TBM) brought to build the head race tunnel was stuck in the tunnel itself. Then it was stuck again in 2016.
Report has it that the TBM is still stuck. Meanwhile, due to the tunnel boring a huge water source erupted destroying the ground water in Joshimath. This resulted in the complete change in the design of the tunnel.
No assessment report of it has been revealed yet. The cost of the project continues to increase. Environmental conditions are negating the project.
The Matu Jan Sangathan team visited Tapovan and Raini villages where power house of the Rishi Ganga project is located. The residents of Raini village said that they needed no relief material and strongly opposed the dam. They demanded the dam should be closed.
It is known that there have been frequent accidents in the 13.5 MW Rishi Ganga project. The project user died of a rock fall in 2011. Even after that, the project suffered significant damage in many accidents. All this suggests that the environmental condition of the entire region is quite fragile.
There is no security during the construction of large projects and no system of early warnings. So who is to be blamed? Do the lives of these working labourers worth only 4 lakh rupees?
Taking the disasters into account, Matu Jansangthan demanded that the government should file a prima facie case for unintentional murder and criminal negligence on NTPC. This entire case should be investigated by technical experts headed by retired High Court or Supreme Court Judge.
Further, workers’ families should be given a permanent employment and a tax-free amount of 50 lakh. It also demanded that the Supreme Court should immediately take cognizance of this matter and execute the pending case in this context and that both projects should be closed.