Chenab hydropower projects face protest

Chenab hydropower projects face protest

Will displace people, affect water sources, say activists

A hydropower project on the foot of a dam. DH FILE PHOTOResidents of Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul Valley on Monday protested against upcoming hydropower projects on the Chenab river basin. They said the projects not only threaten to displace them but also affect the local ecology.

“The Chenab, one of the five major river basins in Himachal, remains the least exploited basin for hydroelectric power generation (in the state),” said Ravi Thakur, a protester.

The Chenab basin falls largely in the high-altitude region (above 2,500 metres) in Lahaul and Spiti district.

The area is characterised by difficult terrain, fragile and loose mountains, prone to avalanches and landslides and falls in seismic zone-IV.

“In such an area, construction of reservoirs and tunnels will have serious implications. Any rise in the temperature and rainfall can bring havoc in the form of landslides and can cause disasters similar to the kind that happened in Leh in August 2010,” added Thakur.

Environmentalist R S Negi said the hydroelectricity projects would severely affect natural water sources in Lahaul.

“There has not been any independent study or assessment of the environmental impact of the projects. We demand a full assessment of the projects,” said Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara, an environment research body.

Thakur said the 300-MW Jispa project on the Chenab will displace more than 200 families of seven villages.

The project is being constructed by the state-run Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited.
The mega projects coming up in Lahaul are in Miyar, Seli and Udiapur areas. Protests against hydro projects are becoming common in Kinnaur, Shimla, Chamba and Kullu districts.

According to forest department estimates over 9,000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted to non-forest use and out of this, 7,000 hectares are used for hydropower projects.

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