Protect Chenab river from onslaught, say Himachal villagers

Shimla : Residents of Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Valley Monday knocked on the doors of the union environment and forests ministry, protesting against an upcoming hydropower projects on the Chenab river basin.

They said the projects not only threaten to displace them but will also affect the local ecology.

“The Chenab, one of the five major river basins in Himachal, remains the least exploited basin for hydro electricity generation (in the state). The government is hell bent on killing the only living river by planning almost 20 projects of more than 3,000 MW total generation capacity on it,” said the letter.

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,” Ravi Thakur, a signatory to the letter, said in a statement.

Environmentalist R.S. Negi said the hydroelectricity projects would severely affect local natural water sources in Lahaul like in another remote district of Kinnaur.

“There has not been any independent carrying capacity study or assessment of environmental impacts of the projects. We demand that until and unless this process is carried out, there should be no further commissioning and clearance to the hydro projects,” said Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara, an environment research and action collective.

Thakur said the reservoir of the 300 MW Jispa project on the Chenab would displace more than 200 families of seven villages. The project is being constructed by the state-run Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL).

The mega projects coming up in Lahaul are in Miyar, Seli and Udiapur areas.

Like the Lahaul Valley, protests over 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. Of this, 7,000 hectares were used for hydel projects.

Photos by: Prakash Bhandari

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  1. says: lkkapoor

    It is my firm belief that we should stop exploiting the wealth of state wheather land ,air or anything for a greed to collect revenue irrespective of consequencies. The geogrphical area of himachal is fragile and construction of these hydro projects in a land like kinnaur and l&s needs practical thinkig to save overall environment of state and northern India. We must stop exploiting such acts of disgrace for the future generation at least.

  2. says: Prem Chand

    This is the high time for the people of Lahaul to think and react over the decision of the Govt.on distribution of Power Projects to be constructed on Chandra and Bhaga rivers in Lahaul like fruit and vegitables. The people seem to be either unaware of the consequences or insensitive to the issues, for which they have to pay the prices in days to come. The entire Lahaul being covered within the siesmic Zone-5 is very sensitive. We should not overlook the predictions of a famous british geologist appeared in various news Papers that there may be an earthquack measuring 9 on richter scale with its epicenter in Zanskar which will affect the area upto 200 Kms.

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