PM Inaugurates 3 HEPs, Amid Ongoing Environmental & Social Repercussions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today (18 October 2016) has dedicated to nation 3 big hydro power projects in Himachal Pradesh. The projects, namely the 800 Mw Kol Dam HEP on Sutlej River, 520 Mw Parbati HEP on Sainj River (Beas basin) and 412  Rampur HEP on Sutlej River have been involved in several controversies right from the day of inception. These projects were given clearances in questionable manner and even have not gone through proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs). The resultant impact on environment, Rivers, and local communities has been catastrophic. The projects have been facing long and unending protests by dependent communities and others and these controversial projects continue to threaten the environment and local people, as can be seen from some details given here.


It is worth mentioning that the first-ever Disaster Analysis and Management report compiled by the Himachal state govt emphasises the high vulnerability of major parts of five districts of Kangra, Chamba, Hamirpur, Kullu and Mandi to earthquakes as 80 quakes of more than 4 magnitude have rocked Himachal Pradesh. The projects under discussion lie in the very districts mentioned in the report. It also points out that though the state is prone to many hazards, earthquakes can pose a serious challenge. 

Also according the latest study undertaken by the State Centre for Climate Change of the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment confirms that there is accelerated glacial melting in all the river basins of Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej. The the number of lakes has gone up in all the basins. In the Sutlej basin the number has remained stagnant at 391 in last two years, but one cannot overlook the fact that the number of lakes in the Sutlej basin rose from a mere 38 in 1994 to 390 in 2015.


The substantial increase in the number of glacial lakes in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh from 596 to 705 within two years has raised concern over the possible threat from lake bursting and a dire need for proper monitoring and management of these water bodies having international dimensions.

The study also confirms accelerated glacial melting which has resulted in increase of 109 small lakes in the three basins of Chenab, Ravi, Beas, within a short span of two years. Though the number of lakes in Chenab basin has risen from 116 in 2013 to 192 in 2015 the number of lakes in 2001 was a mere 55. In case of Sutlej basin this region has some of the biggest lakes as there are 10 lakes with areas more than 10 hectares and 45 having are between five to 10 hectares.

Again cautioning the concerned Govts and authorities experts and Civil Society Organizations have urged PM Narendra Modi to announce a green development package for Himachal instead of special industrial package being sought by everyone. Several Himachal NGOs under the aegis of Himdhara and Himalaya Niti Abhiyaan and working in the sphere of environment protection have sought moratorium on dams and mega hydro electric projects.  The organisations said such development projects have reported high negative impact on local eco system, environment, river system, forest, triggered landslides, increased erratic weather pattern and negatively impacted agriculture and horticulture.

Here is a brief description of all three projects along with short description of damages they caused and community driven protest they have been facing.

  1. 800 Mw Kol Dam Hydro Electric Project

The Koldam Dam Hydropower Project commonly known as Kol Dam, is an dam on the Satluj River upstream of the Dehar Power House. It is 18 km from Bilaspur off the Chandigarh-Manali Highway (NH-21) near Barmana, Himachal. The main purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power generation and it will support an 800 MW power station. The project is developed by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

The foundation stone for the dam was laid on 5 June 2000 by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On 14 January 2004, main construction on the dam began. Due to problems associated with habitat and forest loss, the project has been delayed. Attempts to impound the reservoir first failed in December 2013 due to problems with sealing the diversion tunnels. By 18 March 2014, a fourth attempt to seal the tunnels and fill the lake was underway. Repairs were made and another unsuccessful impounding in April 2014 led to continued leakage in diversion tunnels. Another period of impounding began on 3 November 2014 and finished on 3 January 2015. A tunnel still leaked though but authorities were confident they would have the power station operational by April 2015. Generator commissioning was originally scheduled for 2009 but was rescheduled to 2015.

Kol Dam salient features and issues

Salient Features
Project Name Koldam Hydro

Electric Project

State Name Himachal
District Shimla
River Sutlej
Basin Indus
Type of Dam Earth-cum-Rock filled
Height of Dam 163 meters
Total Installed Capacity 800 Mw (200X4 units)
Catchment Area 42 KM
Type of Project Major
Status Commissioned
Owner Type/ Name Centre/ NTPC
Foundation Stone Laid 05 June 2000
Construction Started 14 January 2004
Month of Commissioning 1st & 2nd Units March 2015

3rd Unit April 2015

4th Unit June 2015

Approved Budget Rs. 4527.15 Crore
Total Cost 5,640 crore
SN News Source/ Date Problems with 800 Mw Koldam Hydro Power Project
1 The Tribune

The Hindu

One India

06 March 2006 

4 killed, 3 hurt in Kol Dam mishap In a major industrial accident at Kol Dam project, four persons were killed and three seriously injured. These persons were employed by AFCON Infrastructure Ltd and were engaged in construction of the desilting chamber. They were busy raising the steel structure which was to be covered with concrete when 1000 tonnes of steel rod fell on them. Four persons died on the spot and three were admitted to Civil Hospital, Sundernagar, in a serious condition.

Hill Post

30 Nov 2010

Kol Dam violates several green norms Being red flagged for having built Kol Dam in ignorance that it would inundate some part of a wildlife sanctuary, NTPC proposal to lower the dam height and save a portion of the 124 hectares likely to be submerged is not acceptable to environmentalists, who oppose any diversion of protected forest lands for the purpose. Interestingly NTPC in 2005 had let the forest department know that “no wildlife sanctuary/protected habitat/forest would be submerged by the Kol dam”. NBWL struck down the proposal on 13th Oct, 2010 and even environment minister Jairam Ramesh is said to have pointed out, “it was a rather strange argument that NTPC was caught unaware that the Kol dam would submerge part of a wildlife sanctuary.”The ministry has also pointed out that for diverting more than 50 hectares of sanctuary land, it was mandatory to have a biodiversity impact assessment study conducted and a report prepared – something which NTPC has not got done. 
3 Sanctuary Asia

February 2011

Kol Dam Threatens The Cheer Pheasant In October 2010, the Kol Dam project was turned down by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL). This project could drown 124.054 ha. of forest land within the Majanthal Wildlife Sanctuary which is one of best refuges and  prime habitat of the Cheer Pheasant, a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act and a CITES Appendix I species. The NTPC also failed to submit a Biodiversity Impact Assessment report while seeking clearance from the Standing Committee even though it is mandatory for any proposal that requires diversion of more than 50 ha. of area.
4 The OK Travel 


Kol Dam threatening to engulf Tattapani hot springs by April 2013 The hot water springs at Tattapani will cease to exist after the completion of Kol Dam in April 2014. Although the actual completion date of the dam was 2010-2011 and it was feared since then that the hot water springs would no longer exist. However, NTPC Kol Dam always finds out a way to miss deadlines and that’s what they have been doing since 2008.

Tattapani is a popular religious pilgrimage destination in Himachal. In the month of January, Makar-Sankranti festival is celebrated at Tattapani and it is popularly called “Mini-Kumbh” of Himachal. People gather in abundance from across the state on the auspicious days of Tara Ratri, Lohri, and 26th January.

5 Dainik Jagran

05 June 2011

Koldam Project suffers major setback The Koldam Project in Himachal Pradesh has suffered a major blow as no solution could be found out on the objections raised by Union Environment Ministry over a big portion of forest which comes in periphery of the dam. Now even if the dam is ready, it will not be able to produce power as the reports had pointed out that in the sunk area around 50,000 trees of the sanctuary area are falling under it. It may submerge a big portion of the forest which may cause harm to the animals living there.
6 Asian Age

24 July 2011

Kol Dam commissioning delayed NTPC’s 800 MW Kol Dam hydro electric project is now expected to be commissioned by March 2013. The previously slated date was in April 2009, which is almost four years after.  
7 2011 EIA of Kol-Dam Hydropower Project – A Case Study It can be concluded that there was a loss of on-farm income resources like agriculture land and its associated resources i.e. important tree species and livestock. This might have serious impact on local biodiversity as well as on the life style of project affected families.
8 Money Control

15 Dec. 2012

Koldam: Commissioning extended to April 2014 It was slated for commissioning in six years by end of 2009. However, the completion was delayed and the date of commissioning was extended to December 2012 but the management failed to meet the new deadline due to weather and geological hurdles. It then fixed April 2014 time for starting power generation.   
9 Popular News & Events

The News Himachal

22 Feb 2013

Kol Dam oustees threaten indefinite fast Protesting oustees of Kol Dam project have threatened go on an indefinite fast till their demands were met. They refused to abide by the NTPC deadline of February 22 for vacating land in the submergence zone. Oustees from Mandi, Shimla and Solan districts joined the protesters from Bilaspur district. They said they would not leave until CM accepted their demands here in the presence of the NTPC management.
10 Hill Post

09 July 2013

Kol Dam muck, A recipe for Kedarnath like disasters  The biggest footprint of hydro projects is on account of the sheer volume of muck and debris that they generate by tunneling and road construction. Just to give one an idea, the net volume of muck generated by the Kol Dam of NTPC on the Sutlej is 2.27 crore cubic metres; to put this in perspective: if this muck were to be dumped into the Sutlej (where it will eventually go), it would raise the level of the Sutlej by 2.20 metres along a length of 100 kms. (the distance almost from Khab to Tattapani).
11 Divya Himachal

01 March 2014

Missing Deadlines of Kol Dam Country’s ambitious 800 MW Kol Dam Hydropower Project has failed to impound a single drop of water even two months after filling up of the reservoir. Generating electricity is a far cry; even impounding water in the lake has become a distant dream. Technical experts despite their best of efforts have not achieved success to shut the gates of diversion tunnels ‘Lav-Kush’ of Satluj River.

According to sources, efforts to impound water in the project by shutting the gates of diversion tunnels began as early as in January. But despite shutting the gates of tunnels, water is percolating through tunnels. As a result water is seeping to the mountain of Kyan village and probability of a landslide too can’t be ruled out in future. It will take around next four to five months to complete the repairs and only after that the filling up can start, revealed a company official.

The leakage problem at diversion tunnels is turning out to be the biggest challenge for the management at present. The management is claiming to have solved the problem of gates malfunctioning, but the target of electricity generation by December 2014 seems not viable by the end of 2015.

It has been more than 13 years to construct the dam. It was more than seven years delay and the state govt has had to incur a loss of more than Rs 1000 crore. Even then, no penalty clause has been inserted in the agreement signed between the govt and the project authorities.

12 The Tribune

12 January 2015

Kol Dam: 2nd Phase of impounding water, but leakage continues A leakage was noticed at an outlet from diversion tunnel Kush and the quantity of water drained out presently from the tunnel was much more than it was observed earlier when the gates of Kush were completely closed. For the construction the water of the Sutlej was diverted in 2004 from the twin diversion tunnels Lav and Kush. In December 2013, the impounding of the dam was started, but it was unsuccessful due to some defects in the gates of the bottom outlet in the Lav tunnel and subsequent attempts also proved futile. During testing, it was also observed that the gates of tunnel Kush were found leaking so the authorities decided to plug the tunnel and constructed a 15-m concrete structure in the middle of tunnel Kush few days ago, but the leakage was still there. Many dewatering pumps are installed to drain leaking water out of the tunnel round the clock. Officials engaged in plugging the tunnel said the leakage of water was still observed from the gates, in addition to seepage. However, a special provision was kept to drain out the water. Interestingly, this project was the first hydroelectric project undertaken by the NTPC and was to be commissioned in 2009.
13 Divya Himachal

October 2015

Kol Dam damaged just months after operation A plunge pool of the newly-build Kol Dam has been found damaged within just a few months of its operation. The pool has been specially constructed at the bottom of spillway in the bed of river Sutlej to control the speed of water at the in the region. The project engineers claimed that it was observed that within just one month of its operation, both the sides of pool started eroding due to its “poor quality of construction. Meanwhile, other Kol Dam officials claimed that it was not just a case of “poor quality of construction”, but “faulty design” is also the reason behind the damage.

The dam has not been inaugurated formally but its structure has started eroding. Much damage has been caused to the sides of plunge pool.

14 Daily Post

03 Jan 2016

Farmers up against irregularities in Kol Dam transmission line  Affected by alleged irregularities in the construction of transmission lines for Kol dam project, people in Bilaspur and Mandi districts of the state have threatened agitation, if their demands are not met. Residents in the affected areas allege that during the erection of polls for construction of transmission lines of Koldam project lot of irregularities have been done by the companies responsible (Reliance Infrastructure Limited and Parbati Koldam Transmission Company Limited). They also said that farmers had also not been paid suitable compensation for the same.
15 SANDRP Blog

08 Jan 2016

KOL DAM: Serious problems at every level Appraisal blunders NTPC’s Kol Dam, the largest of the commissioned projects this year on Sutlej river, came up flouting the repeated directions of the National Board of Wildlife, since the project developers had forgotten during appraisal that it was submerging Majathal wildlife sanctuary, and no clearances were taken for this before starting work! That long drawn episode ended with Supreme Court granting approval.
16 Amar Ujala

09 October 2016

कोल बांध परियोजना में भारी रिसाव, उद्घाटन पर मंडराया संकट  बांध में बनी दो गैलरियों में पानी का भारी रिसाव हो रहा है। रिसाव इतना है कि नाले की तरह पानी आ रहा है। परियोजना से जुड़े सूत्रों की मानें तो अगर हर दो घंटे में गैलरी से पानी न निकाला जाए तो उससे डैम को खतरा हो जाएगा। लिहाजा, परियोजना प्रबंधन ने गैलरी से पानी निकालने के लिए मोटरें लगा रखी हैं। परियोजना की वजह से विस्थापित लोगों ने भी साफ कर दिया है कि वे 15 अक्तूबर से पहले दिल्ली जाकर इस मामले के पूरे साक्ष्य और रिसाव की सीडी प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी को सौंपेंगे। पानी के रिसाव को रोकने के लिए लंबे समय तक काम भी किया गया, लेकिन  सफलता नहीं मिल पाई।

कोल बांध परियोजना में विभाग ने 80 लाख का मछली बीज डाला है लेकिन परियोजना की लापरवाही से सारी मछलियां टरबाइनों के माध्यम से बाहर निकलकर मर गई हैं। 80 लाख का बीज डालने के बावजूद मात्र एक क्विंटल मछलियां हुई हैं। गत रोज घाघस में आए मत्स्य मंत्री ने विभाग को परियोजना के खिलाफ एफआईआर दर्ज करवाने को कहा है। 


  1. 520 Mw Pravati-III Hydro Electric Project
Parvati-III Dam Salient Features
Project Name Parvati III Hydorelectric Power Project
State Name Himachal
District Kullu
River Sainj tributary of Parbati
Basin Indus
Type of Project Major Run of the River
Height of Dam 43m high
Total Installed Capacity 520Mw (130X4 Units)
Commissioned 3 Units March 2014

1 Unit May 2014

Owner Type/ Name Central/ NHPC
SN Source


Issues with 520Mw Parbati-III HEP
1 Hydro World

23 May 2013

Agitation holds work at Parbati-III HEP Work at NHPC’s 520 MW Parbati-III hydroelectric  project has been stopped due to local agitation at the project site. The representatives of Project Affected Families have stopped work on the project since April 01, 2013. The major demand is for providing regular employment in NHPC. NHPC had acquired 45.80 ha land for project development. There are 75 families covered under rehabilitation and resettlement plan. So far, NHPC has not given any employment directly to any of the project affected family at the project.
2 Hill Post

25 April 2014

Beas, a dying free flow Himalayan River – Photo Essay This photo feature documents some of the dams and hydroelectric projects on the Beas river and the kind of destruction these have caused. The Beas river with a length of 470 kms, flows from Rohtang in Manali to meet the Satluj river in Punjab has an indentified hydropower potential of close to 6000 MW. To tap this potential the Himachal Government has already constructed several projects and large projects amounting to a capacity 3263 MW are under construction in the Beas river basin. The story provides a visual representation of the Beas river today
3 Hydro World

28 Dec. 2015

Parbati III stops generating power In order to effect maintenance and repairs, NHPC announced on Dec. 14 that it will stop generating power through February 2016 from its 520-MW Parbati III hydroelectric project. Parbati III has four 130-MW Francis turbines and each unit will see repair to their pressure shaft, static excitation system, main inlet valves, digital governor seals and additional maintenance, according to a filing from NHPC.
  1. 412 Mw Rampur Hydro Eclectic Project
Rampur HEP  Salient Features
Project Name Rampur Hydorelectric Power Project
State Name Himachal
District Shimla & Kullu
River Satluj
Basin Indus
Type of Project Major Run of the River
Height of Dam  
Total Installed Capacity 412
Work Started 2007
Commissioned  2014
Owner Type/ Name Central/ SJVNL
SN Source


Issues with 412 Mw Rampur  HEP
1 One India

18 Sep 2009

Farmers protest against Rampur HEP Hundreds of residents and farmers here protested against the construction of run-of-river hydropower plant project. The campaigners complained that the project would disturb the ecological balance of the region. Environmentalists believe that the project is not suitable to the fragile ecology of the region.
2 The Indian Express

20 Sep 2010

Villagers from Rampur, Kinnaur protest against hydel power projects Residents of Kut village in Rampur tehsil of Shimla have threatened to go on hunger strike against the illegal dumping of debris by a private firm engaged in building the 24 MW hydro power project in the region.

During a protest held on Monday, locals alleged that the firm, Sai Engineering Company, hired by the Kut energy company to build the power plant was dumping garbage on public land which was causing damage to the environment, grazing grounds and fields.

SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

Note: All India Radio, in their Daily Prime Time discussion at 9.15 pm to 9.30 pm on Oct 18, 2016, had a discussion on hydropower projects in India in view of the PM dedicating to the nation three Himachal Hydropower projects. The discussion included SANDRP coordinator and Kirtika Suneja of Economic Times. Listen to this at the following link.

Please share your feedback and send it to others who may be interested (the link may not work for too long): http://www.newsonair.com/writereaddata/broadcast/Daily-Spotlight-Bulletins-56976.mp3

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