Sutlej river under siege by hydro-electric projects : says NGO

Shimla : Highly critical of the exploitation of the Satluj river basin, an environment study points out that if the 750 MW Luhri project is built it will only exacerbate the process of destruction of the fragile river basin in Himachal Pradesh .

Apart from Bhakra, four operational and under construction projects, Nathpa Jhakri, Rampur, Baspa II and Karchham Wangtoo on the river have proven to be severely damaging both environmentally and in terms of their socio-economic impacts, the study , ‘A river under arrest’ done by Him Dhara, a Palampur based NGO .

Starting from Kinnaur to Shimla, Mandi and Bilaspur the river has been sliced in pieces for construction more than 30 hydropower projects, allotted to either private and public hydropower developers that is playing havoc with the local environment, the researchers hold.

Tunneling of the river has led to drying up of the river bed, caused soil erosion, landslides, changed climatic conditions, dried up natural water springs and affected livelihood activities like apple cultivation says Manshi Asher, the researcher of the report.

Taking the case of 750 MW Luhri project intended to be constructed downstream of Rampur project and being funded by World Bank, the study points out, “several loopholes are inbuilt in the very design of the Luhri Project – the location of the tunnel being the most problematic.

It is also obvious that the Environment Impact Assessment report has failed to carry out a fair and detailed assessment of the environmental and socio-economic impacts, especially so because of construction of twin large tunnels.

The 750 MW Luhri Dam project will be spread over a length of 40 kilometers with 38 km long twin tunnels of 9 meters diameter, a 86 meter high dam, 10 bridges , 8 tunnel entry points called adits and a massive 360 hectares of land usurped that will include large tracts of forestlands, the study records.

The sheer magnitude of this project is indicative of the extent of impacts involved.

A copy of the report has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, Asher said.

In a 20 year career published widely. He has worked for the BBC, AFP, The Statesman, IANS and the Business Standard . Known for his hard hitting writing and occasional off-beat stories. He lives in Shimla.

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