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'Is HCC still destroying forest environment in Bandipora?' – Part I
India's Hindustan Construction Company that had turned notorious in Kashmir has again been accused of destroying the ecologically important forest cover in Gurez and Bandipora areas in North Kashmir over 65 Kilometers from Srinagar, where the company is working on the construction of 330 Megawatt Kishen Ganga Hydropower Project from last nine years.

The locals represented by a Civil Society Group and a Non Government Organization (NGO) - Global Green - after visiting, surveying and studying many operational areas have raised fresh concerns over the effectiveness of coarse operations of HCC that has led to the zero-deforestation in the areas adjoining to the operational sites monitored by HCC.

Both the Group and NGO is muse on to approach Green Tribunal and Supreme Court to seek investigation into the destruction caused by operations initiated by HCC after starting work on Kishen Ganga Power Project in Bandipora area of Kashmir.

Civil society Group in collaboration with Global Green (NGO) which has a team of professional and environmentalists in report titled, "HCC operations and its impact on surrounding Biodiversity" has accused HCC and its local officers of indulging in uncouth and unscientific operational methods causing enormous damage to High Carbon Stock (HCS) forest in Chandaji, Mantrigam and Gurez area" survey cum study has come up with the disquiet revelations about wildlife, bio-diversity, geographical balance and probable mass soil slump in the area which can cause mammoth damage to over six surrounding villages.

Report says that HCC had failed to compensate the chain of deforestation besides completing over eight years of work prices in the area.  "The money meant for afforestation and other community services has gone to the pockets of HCC, NHPC, Civil officers and local politicians" report reveals.  

Pertinently the Chandaji, Tragabal and other adjoining forest rich areas near the project operation sites are known for wildlife and varied biodiversity. Group during their survey cum study has exposed the murky business of engaging the affected people on petty jobs and contract thereby carrying the hassle free destruction. Even company has given contracts to dozens of panchayat members and political activists during the course of work, who in turn were used by the company to shut the people's mouth, report says.

There is no impact of HCC's Community Corporate Services on the ground in adjoining areas, report reveals in detail. "HCC has doubly damaged and destructed the area by keeping stakeholders busy in serving in a fictitious manner and then carrying hassle free destruction" said Debashish heading the Group.

"We were surprised to see the trickery and mockery of HCC officers while dealing with the affected people" Debashish said.

It is unfortunate that the company instead of compensating the natural resources damage is feeding their 'well wishers'. Group has accused HCC higher ups of befooling the people and local government by keeping both the stakeholders in dark about the probable environmental disaster. There is deeper concern over the self-monitoring of HCC administration and their ability to enforce operational change in administratively inefficient company has continuously struggling to appease both the government's demands for higher output and pro people cum environmental processes, the report says.

"HCC has bitterly failed in maintaining many targets due to its anti environmental stances and has invited massive disaster due its ill planning" says the Group's report.

The Group interviewed many field officers of HCC who admitted the company's failure in keeping their publicly announced promises regarding safeguard of people and natural resources.

"We asked them, 'what were our intentions when we wrote down our policy?,' because in our policy there are very beautiful words, of providing employment, growing more forests coming under the construction or construction of public roads and houses and then when civil society comes to the public saying there was a violation of our policy, we say, 'it is a journey; we cannot implement our commitment [immediately],' and so on," report quotes a top HCC officer saying during the survey.

Head of the NGO Global Green, Suhail Tanveer while quoting the report said that HCC during the last eight years had a record of breaching numerous public cum governing commitments.

"During secret survey we find that HCC administration from very beginning has involved in meticulous anti-people stances thus have caused damage to both public and nature" Global Green head said.

During a series of site visits, assessors discovered that preliminary environmental survey by HCC and NHPC appears erroneous which needs a thorough investigation. The Civil Society Group and Global Green (NGO) after compiling the survey and study are mulling to approach Green Tribunal and Supreme Court of India to ensure the proper compensation of natural resources.

"We will approach national and international agencies to investigate into the damage of natural resources caused by mismanagement of HCC and its administrative setup" Group says.

The report will be submitted to heads of both the state and central governments before calculating future impact of tunnel, dam and the specific damage of specific sites to the surroundings.

"We are still assessing and analyzing other impacts, after completion it will be made public to show the probable disaster being invited by HCC and its stakeholders," they said.

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