Manali: Residents of highlands in Lahaul-Spiti are up in arms against the proposed hydropower projects in this tribal region, more so after the massive disaster wrecked by an avalanche in Uttarakhand. Among others, projects proposed in the Lahul-Spiti district include Tandi (104 Mega Watt), Rashil (102 MW), Bardang (126 MW), Miyar (90 MW) and Jispa (300 MW).
People of two Panchayats Tandi and Goshal have been powerfully opposing the Tandi project. “Our worry neighboring the ill-effects of big hydro-projects on the environment has only been strengthened after the recent tragedy in Uttarakhand. Locals here are opposing hydro projects on the Chandra-Bhaga River basin. Our Panchayat has also passed a resolution against the Tandi hydro-project,” Vinod Larje, a resident of Tandi village, said while speaking to Hill Post.
Vinod said locals had been voicing their concerns for a long time. “We are against all hydropower projects in Lahaul, and in particular at Tandi. The ecology here is fragile, the soil is delicate. If a dam is constructed, the water level is bound to rise and the course of the river will also be impacted, eventually resulting in soil erosion. We will be displaced. The villagers here are very clear that they don’t want development at the cost of displacement. We have submitted our demands to the State government.” said Vinod. “We are not against the development, but we want to ensure that our ecology is not distressed.”
He further said they were planning to stage protests in the near future. “Since our region is snowbound, it’s difficult to stage protests at present. But hopefully, by April, we will chalk out a plan, if the need arises.”
An association of locals opposing the proposed project – ‘Tandi Dam Sangarsh Samiti’ recently submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. The memorandum says the existence of about a dozen villages falling in Tandi and Goshal panchayat was at risk. The construction of the dam would impact tribal rights. The project would bring more losses than benefits.
“We have rejected the proposal and asked the government to scrap the project respecting the sentiments of the local people, said Goshal village head Susheela.
Rigzin Hypa, president of eco-tourism society Lahaul Spiti said there were around 56 mini, micro and mega hydro projects in Lahaul-Spiti. “The entire region is fragile and disturbing; it will only have disastrous results. We are fighting to save Lahaul-Spiti,”
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.