The Supreme Court criticised the tendency of civil right groups to oppose every power project, nuclear or hydroelectric. "The moment a power project is to start, litigation gets filed in court," said a Bench of Justices HL Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi. Deprecating this practice the Bench said, "If initially the project cost is '1,000 crore, it goes up to '10,000 crore over the years and taxpayers money is wasted."
The comments by the court came while deciding the validity of the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti hydroelectric project on river Alaknanda in Uttarakhand. On September 2, 2009 the State Government approved diversion of 80.507 hectares of Government forest land for the project and on June 3, 2011 Stage I clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act was granted to the project by the Union Environment and Forests Ministry.
Dismissing the petition filed by environment activist Vimal Bhai, the Bench found no ground to entertain the plea that the project lacked a cumulative impact assessment (CIA). The Bench observed, "We really wonder people in this country say we don't want hydroelectric plant or nuclear power plant, but everybody wants bijli (electricity)." The petitioner had earlier approached the National Green Tribunal which refused to hold fault with the permission granted to the project.
The petitioner's lawyer Anitha Shenoy submitted that the principle of sustainable development required courts to balance the loss to the environment with the need for development. "If there are guidelines which are not being followed, what is the question of giving leeway. The natural process of quashing the Stage I clearance must follow," she argued.
The project meant to be a 65 metre high diversion dam was being developed by Tehri Hydro Development Corporation. The petition stated that while diverting forest land, CIA required the tribunal/court to consider the quantum of loss of agricultural land, river bed land, number of affected families, village infrastructure, and geological settings among other factors. But the apex court refused to go into this aspect and dismissed the same without granting liberty to the counsel to withdraw the appeal.