People Power On Display in Rural Himachal

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“Over our dead bodies” was the cry of the villagers from the Tirthan Valley in response to a hydel project under arbitration in a Chandigrah Court.

It was an amazing day for the Tirthan Valley. A day when all the villagers of the Tung Panchayat sat on the road to block all the roads carrying a team of environmental experts and the Swastik Company team, which was allotted a hydel project banned by the honorable High Court. The BTCA contingent of women led by Mr. Gopal Krishan (Secretary of the local NGO BTCA ) and the ecotourism men led by a local tourism Professor, had a two hour demonstration against the hydel Swastik company and those wanting to develop hydels in the legally protected Tirthan Valley. The environmentalist contingent also consisted of Mr. Dile Ram Shabab (a former MLA who has spearheaded oposition against all hydels in the Tirthan catchment) , Mr. Raju Bharti , Mr BS Rana ( who is fighting hydel companies on his side of the Upper Seraj Valley of the Tirthan Catchments ), Gunam Singh (noted environmentalist ), members of the Seraj Tourism Development Association, and various other homestay and ecotourism team members from the valley. All oppose the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of hydel development in the pristine Tirthan Catchment. In 2006, the HP courts banned hydel development in the Tirthan Valley as it was part of the catchment of the Great Himalayan National Park.

After delaying the team of experts for one hour from inspecting the site allotted for the hydel company, it was only on the persuasion of local leaders, Fisheries Director Mr. B D Sharma and Director Great Himalayan National Park Mr. Ajay Srivastav on the promise that there will be no hydels on the Tirthan River, that the villagers allowed the team to touch the holy waters of the tributary.

The entire Tirthan Valley gives employment to hundreds of people through ecotourism options like fishing and home-stay and is one of the finest spots for fishing in Himachal Pradesh. A 2.5 crore fish breeding farm for the brown trout is under construction and will be inaugurated in April/May this year for stocking the river for anglers. Local environmentalists have been pooling funds to fight the case against these hydels in the entire Tirthan catchment for the last five years, knowing how any development will negatively impact the region.

Photo courtesy: BS Rana.

 

Ankit Sood is Associate Professor at Govt. PG Degree College Kullu. He also runs Sunshine Himalayan Adventures.

4 Comments

  • Aashish Thakur says:

    This is a gr8 example of what people can do when they stand united for a better and just cause. The entire Kullu Valley (whether it is Seraj or Lug or Parvati or Beas) is under tremendous environmental pressure. Things like this will not only shatter the myth of the hydel maafia about local people’s ignorance and tolerance for them but on the contrary instill fear among their greedy local associates. Congr8z to all the people of the area.

  • Rupesh Gupta says:

    I feel these politicians are planning with the environment by providing contracts to companies for Hydel projects. This will destroy our rich forests where we spaeies of plants and herbs which are getting extinct. These are also related with medicinal values. Its great to see Kullu people coming together. Hats off to guys iver there

  • Jasmine Ahluwalia says:

    This is a true example where a small ‘political interest’ can lead to a much larger collateral damage to the local people of an area and the fragile environment. We – the people of the valley, need to unite and step forward in a much larger way. My heartfelt ‘pat on the back’ to all those who contributed to this effort. We need to feel the same for the development of the ROAD Projects in the Valley, where they are simply blasting, dumping and disturbing the hill face and river course.

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