Furore over hydel power projects on the Ganga in Uttarakhand

DehradDun : There is a debate raging in the mountain state here over the setting up of hydel power projects on the Ganga and its tributaries.

Amongst the extremists either, like the sadhu and sants demanding a complete ban there are the “self-styled” intellectuals who propagate that the over 27500 MW hydel power should be exploited in the name of development.

The logic given by such extremists has been from the insane to illogical. Perhaps the only logical view has come from the president of the Nai Akhara Parishad, Mahant Balwant Singh, who has taken the stand that to oppose the setting up of hydel power projects on the Ganga just for the heck of it was not proper, but the cleanliness and smooth flow of the river should be the main consideration of those for setting up of the projects.

He reminds those who are against the setting up of the hydel power projects in retaining the sanctity and purity of the river that it is after the Ganga enters the plains in Hardwar that the states downstream are polluting and literally killing the river.

The industrial waste of tanneries and industries and untreated sewerage of the number of cities downstream have made polluted its waters to the extent that it is non-drinkable.

It is tragic that politics is now going on in the name of preservation of the Ganga.

Rajendra Prasad, popularly known as waterman has taken the stand that the Ganga should be kept free of hydel power projects and dedicated to the country as a whole.

His view is that the hydel power projects should be allowed to come up in the other rivers of the state and country and the national river should be allowed to flow without any politics or hindrance.

Alaknanda-Bhagirathi sagam on Ganga

To press home his point he maintains that the Ganga is not just a river.

Wherever two rivers meet in the entire stretch of the Ganga the place is called a prayag. Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karanprayag, Vishnuprayag and Nandprayag are the five prayags in Uttarakhand, and as their name suggests they are the confluence of two rivers, of which ultimately one loses its identity and becomes the Ganga.

Those for setting up of hydel power projects, including chief minister Vijay Bahuguna have taken the stand that Uttarakhand which is a power-deficit state can not only sell power to other states, if the power projects are allowed, but also become financially self sufficient.

The power projects will also create employment opportunities for the large number of educated unemployed in the state and cites the example of adjoining Himachal which is not only power surplus but also making hundreds of crores by selling power to other states.

However, Himachal has set out certain guidelines on the power projects that are coming up.

Most important, the project has to ensure that atleast 20 per cent water is left along the mainstream so as to save not only the aquatic flora and fauna downstream, but the drinking and irrigation schemes that have been set up on the river for various villages along its flow.

But it is not that there has not been environmental damage and the problem of rehabilitating thousands of people in Himachal Pradesh.

A number of villages and NGOs are opposing the setting up of hydel power projects in that state because of the problems that they are giving birth to and some of the problems are being reconsidered because of the popular resentment against them.

Maybe Uttarakhand should learn from them and form a body of experts that takes an aesthetic and humanistic approach to the problem to the satisfaction of those for and against the setting up of hydel power projects on the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand.

But perhaps the decision of the Prayagwal Sabha at Allahabad where the mahants and purohits have taken the decision that they will give ‘lota’ full of Ganga water to the VVIPs to drink during the Maha Kumbh in the city.

It will give them cause to think on the sanctity of the river by spelling out the what is the difference in the water of a river and that of a sewer.

On this the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, which is for setting up of hydel power projects on the river has taken a dig at the sants and sadhus opposing the projects.

The community of sants and sadhus that is demanding for a clean and free flowing Ganga should first see at the large number of ashrams and hutments created by the sages along the rivers which are discharging untreated human waste into the river, before opposing the setting up of power projects on the river, the party said.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.