Shimla: In opposition to a 775 MW hydropower project on Satluj River that involves 76 Kms of tunnels, Himadhara, an environment action group with others, have asked union minister Jayanthi Natrajan to not grant environment clearance to Luhri project.
The activist organization has written to the environment minister after and an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects on November 23 recommended that environment clearance to the project be accorded.
Nidhi Agrawal of Himdhara says “In the series of projects on Satluj River, this will have the longest tunnel and any impact at this stage must consider the cumulative impacts of all the 30 small and big projects planned on the entire basin.”
Luhri project will be the final nail in the coffin of Satluj as it would alter the riverine ecology, climatic conditions and landscape of the valley irreversibly, she said.
Pointing out several illegalities in conduct of public hearings for the project in May-August 2011, the environmentalists says, “details of the 78 villages to be affected by the 9m wide, 38 km long twin tunnels were not even included in the Environment Impact Assessment report. The EAC has not taken into account this very critical impact of the project.”
Says Nidhi, “First expressing shock that over 50 Kms of the riverbed stretch was going to dry due to the tunnel, the EAC then belittles its own mandate by recording a fait accompali in saying – ‘The only remedy now available is to consider mitigating’.”
Himdhara spokesperson Manshi Asher adds, “In written documents we repeatedly pointed out to EAC the serious implications Luhri project has on local environment and livelihoods that have neither been correctly understood, nor studied as a part of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
“The EIA report should have carried out a detailed carrying capacity study and a Cumulative Impact Assessment for Satluj River” she adds pointing out that transmission lines related component of the project has even been touched in the EIA report.
Satluj Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti (SBJSS), an organization of 78 villages in the project impact zone, is also opposed to the large hydropower project that is estimated to involve Rs 6080 Cr investment.
“Experiences from Nathpa Jhakri (1500MW), Karcham Wangtoo (1000 MW) and Rampur (412 MW), the other large projects in Satluj River basin are evidence enough for the argument that the impacts of the tunneling are disastrous and unavoidable even with the best technology deployed that often the project proponents promise to bring in, says Nek Ram Sharma, a member of SBJSS.
With Luhri project we will stand to lose not just our water sources permanently but it will also leave our houses in broken shape because of the heavy blasting involved in tunnel construction. Dust rising from the construction site will reduce agriculture and horticultural productivity that will make our livelihoods very vulnerable, he added.
Public sector undertaking SJVN is the project developer of Luhri project that may involve funding by World Bank.