Himachal environmentalist lock horns – demand scrapping of Renuka Dam project

Government moves ahead – acquires land for dam site

Shimla: Stepping up opposition to the Renuka Dam, environmentalist have asked for scrapping the Rs 3000 crore national project altogether as it not only involved large deforestation but would also uproot over 6,000 people.

Turning down the resettlement and rehabitation (R&R) package offered for surrendering private lands, Pratap Tomar, president of Renuka Bandh Jan Sangarsh Samiti (RBJSS) said, “we are opposed to the dam coming up as it will alienate many of us from our land and culture by displacing over 1100 families.”

Showing their resentment to the project, the samiti undertook a 24 hour token fast that ended today, while chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal with much fanfare inaugurated the traditional Renuka Fair on Tuesday.

Disputing the government’s claim over tree count that would have to be felled or would get submerged in the dam waters, environmentalist Guman Singh, Coordinator Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA) says, “to obtain environment clearance the government count puts it at 1.5 trees whereas it’s a much larger ecological disaster in waiting as about 15 lakh trees would be destroyed by the proposed dam.”

Asking HP Power Corporation Ltd to stop land acquisition, he said that RBJSS, HNA and another organization Himachal Kishan Sabha today resolved that the project should be scrapped for averting both a ecological and human tragedy.

The environmentalists have demanded a recount of the trees be undertaken by ministry of environment and forest (MOEF) and not by state agencies.

Only last month MOEF had declined allow diversion of 774 hectares of forest areas as the project involved high density forest are requiring felling of a very large number of trees

However, Traun Kapoor, MD of HPPCL – the government undertaking entrusted with the task of constructing the dam that would meet the water needs of National Capital Region of Delhi said, “only people with vested interests were opposing the project as over 450 bighas of land had been voluntarily acquired from the affected families recently.”

He said compensation had been increased by as much as three times and land for setting up the dam and other critical infrastructure had already been acquired.

Kapoor said that a recount of the trees likely to submerged was being done, which would be complete within a week before approaching MOEF again for forest clearances for the proposed project.

Though the project affected families’ number about 2500, but only about 100 families would be displaced from the project. The others would only be partially affected, he said.

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