The first public hearing on the environment impact assessment of the proposed 5,040-MW capacity Pancheswar project, a joint venture between India and Nepal, was held at Barakot block headquarters here today. The project is proposed at Panchesaw on river Mahakali along the border with Nepal in Champawat district of Uttarakhand. "Over 500 villagers from 26 villages have participated in the hearing which was also attended by Pancheswar Development Authority (PDA) and WAPCOS officials," District Magistrate, Champawat, Iqbal Ahmed said. "Though the hearing was on environment impact assessment but most of the questions were raised on rehabilitation package," he said. The villagers, on the other hand, said everything was being completed in a "hurry" and they were only being "wrapped in that formally". "We should have been given sufficient time to discuss the issue at village level only after that concrete opinion from the villagers would have emerged," said Pushpa Devi, the Gram Pradhan of Zindi village, who had reached the public meeting place with her fellow villagers. Officials from the PDA have assured the villagers that all the categories under compensation will be dealt with new circle rates of state government, and not only as mentioned in the detailed project report (DPR) alone. "Once the public hearing on the compensation and ecological issue is completed, we will sit in Mahendranagar in Nepal to discuss on provisions of the DPR submitted by WAPCOS recently," said Mahendra Gurung, the chief executive officer of the PDA. The next hearing will be held in Pithoragarh on August 11 where a total of 87 villages are coming under the dam waters of the proposed Pancheswar dam.
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