An Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) of the Project was carried out by Mira Power Limited. Both primary and secondary sources were explored to gather information regarding various environmental and social parameters of the Project. As a first step a reconnaissance visit to the Project area was made to familiarize with the environmental and social setting and carrying out a screening process to identify the probable areas of impacts. On the basis of this, a plan was prepared to carry out environmental and social survey and conducting scoping sessions for public consultation. Consultation was also carried out with officials of various departments, knowledgeable people, public representatives and local NGOs. In addition to this primary source, information was also extracted from the published literature and data from secondary source.
The Study concludes that the overall environmental impact rating is very low adverse in spite of the fact that the Project activities at some components has adverse effects of medium to high level in some areas. The benefits of the Project operation and the compensation package proposed for the effects will ultimately nullify the adverse effects of the Project.
Notwithstanding the negative impacts indicated above the Project will be beneficial with respect to many areas, particularly in the following manner.
- The construction of the Project will open job opportunities for the local people. This will help in raising their living standard.
- The local contractors shall be in a position to get the work from the Project thus having positive economic impact.
- The creation of reservoir will open the area for tourism which will again be economically beneficial for the local communities.
- Creation of an impoundment of relatively shallow depth will be beneficial for development of fishery.
- The reservoir may also improve the groundwater condition, if not of the surrounding areas, at least in the downstream reaches of the river.
- Some generic negative impacts associated with all hydropower projects shall also have the similar impact like, noise levels, stability of slopes and erosions during construction, impact on surface water quality, and cutting of trees. These impacts shall be mitigated by applying good engineering practices and following the environmental standards requirements of IFC, ADB and laws of Pakistan and AJ&K.
- The Project is going to consume about 42 acres of agricultural land and about 4 acres of residential area. These form about 6% of the total area that is likely to be consumed by the Project and by and large this is the only proprietary land. The rest of the land belongs to the Government.
- The reservoir will submerge the bridge on Poonch River located just upstream of the confluence of the Ban Nullah with the river.
- Disposal of wastewater effluent from the Kotli Town is unlikely to deteriorate the quality of the reservoir water for the reason that it will operate on daily basis. There will be water storage for long duration. It will be evacuated every day during peaking, say 4 hours in the evening and replenished during rest of the day.
- Depletion of the river from flows when the water is diverted through Power Tunnel will affect the population of villages falling in the river stretch between the Weir and Power house. A substitute arrangement will be made for release of compensation water from the weir.
As may be seen from the preceding section, the negative impacts from the construction activities are not so critical and can be avoided or minimized. Following mitigation measures are proposed:
- Slope stability and soil erosion preventive measures.
- Minimizing contamination of land and water resources from soil, wastewater generated from different activities, oils, and chemicals.
- The proprietary land will be compensated in cash in accordance with the market rates currently prevailing in the area.
- The proponent will make arrangement in the operation of the Project for release of some compensation water from the Weir for downstream reach of the river.
- The Project will provide a new bridge at the Weir that will substitute the existing suspension bridge on the Poonch River that is going to be submerged by the impoundment.