(Feature image source:-A Sikkim tribe trying to save ‘paradise’ from woes of development.)
March 14 is International Day of Action for Rivers, against destructive projects. The main objective is to ensure that the river people have their say in the decision-making processes which affect their rivers and related livelihoods sources and that the decisions are informed decisions.
Here we are bringing forth the struggles of riverine communities in India in past one year to make decision makers aware of their hardships and impacts of destructive hydro and dam projects on the riverine eco-system.
Himachal Pradesh Impacts of Hydro projects & Compensatory Afforestation This study conducted by Himdhara in the remote Kinnaur Division in the Western Himalayas, between 2012 to 2016 found that hydropower proliferation in the name of ‘clean energy’ has brought rapid land-use changes adversely impacting local terrestrial ecosystems and communities inhabiting them.
It found that of the area of ‘forest land’ diverted to non-forest activities between 1980 and 2014, 90% was transferred for hydro-electric projects (HEP) and transmission lines (TL), leading to change in land-use, fragmentation of forests and loss of biodiversity in the Kinnaur region, already considered as vulnerable from the point of view of its ecology, geology and climatic changes. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837719315819
Between 2002 and 2014, of the Rs 162.82 crore collected under Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) plan funds of Kinnaur’s projects, only 36 per cent had been spent till March 31, 2014, says the study. CAT plan funds are budgeted as mitigation measures for hydroelectric power projects. Kinnaur Forest Division received another Rs 11.50 crore between 1980 and 2013 for compensatory afforestation after forest land was diverted for hydropower projects.
Himachal Pradesh has the highest installed capacity of hydropower projects of 10,000 MW in the country, and located in Sutlej basin, Kinnaur is the state’s hydropower hub with 53 planned hydropower projects in various stages of development. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/only-10-saplings-planted-on-paper-found-at-site-survival-rate-low-study-6703020/ (5 Oct. 2020)
Hydropower not ‘green’ solution Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator SANDRP, said the study is a “welcome effort” and “what it concludes for Kinnaur is likely to be true for the rest of the country.” “Most compensatory measures proposed for the adverse impacts of development projects provide scandalous results, be if compensatory afforestation, rehabilitation of people, environment flows, catchment area treatment, muck disposal, fisheries plan to name a few. This is because both government agencies and developers are least interested. There is no independent oversight or consequences when such compensatory proposals do not get implemented as required. Until and unless we can put in place a credible independent compliance mechanism that will involve consequences when compliance is not achieved, there is little hope for improvement,” Thakkar said. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/09/hydropower-not-a-very-green-solution-in-himachal-pradesh-finds-study/ (29 Sept. 2020)
Locals oppose mega hydel projects Residents of Lahaul and Spiti district – which is highly vulnerable to floods, avalanches and landslides – are a worried lot on hearing of the glacial burst in Chamoli district. The govt recently signed MoUs for five mega projects in Lahaul – home to over 100 glaciers, including Himachal’s largest glacier Bada Shigri – with SJVNL and NTPC. Nearly 16 mega-hydel projects are proposed for the Chenab basin, which has a highly sensitive and fragile ecosystem, in Lahaul and Pangi valley with combined power generation of over 5,000MW.
Warning about the devastation caused by these projects in Kinnaur district and in Uttarakhand, Lahaul residents have been opposing these projects and have threatened that they will not allow companies to start work. They are worried that construction activities, including building reservoirs, will not only destroy huge glaciers but also will put human lives at risk. They have warned they will not let a single tree be cut and will not let land to be submerged under water. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/locals-oppose-mega-hydel-projects-in-himachals-lahaul/articleshow/80740816.cms (08 Feb. 2021)
Fearing Chamoli like disaster, tribals in Lahaul and Spiti conducted meetings to pass another resolution against the proposed dams in the region and sent it to the Governor and the President of India. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-disaster-over-300-km-from-joshimath-in-chamoli-ripples-of-alarm-in-himachals-lahaul-and-spiti/ (08 Feb. 2021)
Similarly, 13 organisations in a collective statement said that many operational, as well as planned hydropower projects, are located in areas highly vulnerable to disasters such as landslides and floods in the state. http://www.uniindia.com/~/numerous-power-projects-vulnerable-to-disaster-ngos/States/news/2314509.html (09 Feb. 2021)
‘Don’t approved Integrated Kashang HEP’ The letter to MoEF provides detailed reasons why this project is being opposed by local people, Himdhara & others. https://sandrp.in/2020/05/12/integrated-kashang-hydropower-project-in-geologically-fragile-and-ecologically-diverse-tribal-area-kinnaur-himachal/ (12 May 2020) https://www.himdhara.org/2020/05/11/stopkashanghep-ec/ (11 May 2020)
Also, 990 signatories, led by Himdhara wrote to EAC not to extend EC to Kashang HEP in Kinnaur. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/himachal-pradesh-green-activists-locals-oppose-kashang-hydro-project-of-kinnaur/articleshow/75738561.cms (14 May 2020)
The submission also underlined that ‘the Integrated Kashang Project has almost no economic benefits and humongous ecological, livelihood and social costs. Allowing the project is an invitation to more disasters in the fragile Himalayas, already bearing the load of the climate crisis’. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/himachal-pradesh-green-activists-locals-oppose-kashang-hydro-project-of-kinnaur/articleshow/75738561.cms (14 May 2020)
Indigenous rights undermined for Kashang HEP People from the district are protesting against the forest clearance granted to Stage II and III. They are entitled to forest rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006, but forest land has been diverted in violation of the FRA law to build the hydropower project. The communities are also concerned about the project’s downstream impacts such as landslides and flooding, and the adverse impacts on springs they depend on for irrigation. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/10/21/indigenous-rights-undermined-for-hydropower-in-himachal-pradesh/ (21 Oct. 2020)
Shongtong Karcham HEP violating norms Tikendra Singh Panwar, former mayor of Shimla, wrote how norms are being violated in implementation of the 450 MW Shongtong Karcham HEP in Kinnaur on Sutlej River and how communities are fighting against odds and state is siding with the violators. https://www.newsclick.in/Shongtong-Karcham-Story-Stark-Precursor-Dilution-Environment-Laws (18 July 2020)
NHPC violates job promise for villagers in Parbati HEP Residents of Largi village in the Sainj valley observed hunger strike, demanding employment in the Parbati project in Sainj. Largi panchayat president Kanta Devi said NHPC has employed only 13 local persons out of total 150 staff engaged in the project. She alleged that the NHPC was misleading the administration and the government. Former minister Satya Prakash Thakur met villagers and assured them all support. Former Kullu MLA Maheshwar Singh also assured the villagers that their demand was valid and he would raise the issue with the CM. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/villagers-seek-jobs-in-parbati-hydropower-project-at-kullu-40936 (12 Feb. 2020)
Local people oppose Jangi Thopan hydro power project https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/3690279647666348
Hydropower is not a green alternative Interesting account and some amazing photos about Himachal Hydro projects in particular and Himalayan hydro projects in general. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/07/22/opinion-himalayan-hydropower-is-not-a-green-alternative/ (22 July 2020)
Even after 5 decades, Pong dam oustees await rehabilitation The Pong dam in Kangra had submerged the lands of over 30,000 families who were promised rehabilitation in Rajasthan, in areas irrigated by the dam’s waters. About 8,000 families are still awaiting rehabilitation – they have either not been allotted land in Rajasthan or had their allotments cancelled, the govt told the Legislative Assembly in Dec 2018. https://scroll.in/article/982092/50-years-on-thousands-of-families-displaced-by-a-himachal-dam-are-yet-to-be-compensated (24 Dec. 2020)
Uttarakhand Scrap Rishigang; Tapovan HEPs Among five key demands by Vikalp Sangam in the context of the Chamoli disaster included scrapping the two damaged hydropower projects – Rishi Ganga and Tapovan – and removal of the debris from the river courses. It also asked for initiation of a participatory process to develop an alternative development policy/ strategy for the holistic protection, preservation of the Himalayan Rivers and the ecosystem and livelihood security of local people.
Rampant development in the Himalayan region should be banned; instead, the Himalayan region should be protected as a natural heritage with minimum human interventions approach. The approach should incentivize protection and conservation of ecosystem services, organic and biodiverse farming, sustainable pastoralism, decentralized water systems, local/ indigenous forests and biomass-based manufacturing, crafts, and community-led ecotourism, removing disincentives such as subsidies for ecologically harmful agriculture, mass tourism, etc. https://vikalpsangam.org/article/statement-on-the-uttarakhand-tragedy/ (24 Feb. 2021)
SANDRP coordinator Himanshu Thakkar on Chamoli disaster once again shows that there are multiple ways in which hydropower projects tend to act as force multipliers in disasters. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-the-role-of-hydro-projects-of-uttarakhand-in-the-chamoli-avalanche-disaster/373823 (10 Feb. 2021) In order to understand what has happened and also take a scientifically informed and socially and ecologically just view about the long term environment-development intersections in the Himalayan regions in the background of climate change, plz see. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6zwM_suy-Y (14 Feb. 2021)
Alaknanda HEP caused flooding in Srinagar In June of 2013, the state was inundated with floods. Unplanned development with disregard for the effect of construction on the ecologically sensitive landscape further exacerbated the scale of destruction.
One community that was gravely affected were residents of Pouri. However, they stood resilient in the face of destruction and brought to justice those who worsened their misery. ‘Ladenge Jeetenge’ tells the story of their courage and resilience. https://youtu.be/21Udw9CBNDo (20 Jan. 2021) The film Surya Ganga a panoptic story on India’s rivers, big energy projects, climate change was streamed on Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/title/81217749 Is Hydropower benign, reliable and financially viable? Kindly watch the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxbJyIaxrsw (10 Oct. 2019)
Work at Singoli-Bhatwari continues without ‘environment nod’ The environmentalists are showing that the work of the Singoli Bhatwari HEP on Mandakini river is going on without valid Env clearance since Aug 23, 2020. The reservoir rim is witnessing landslides, houses are cracked and one of the Adit has developed huge leak. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/work-at-singoli-bhatwari-hydro-plant-continues-without-environmental-nod-activists-write-to-environment-ministry-about-impending-threat-to-lives-of-200-families/articleshow/78133020.cms (16 Sept. 2020)
Official report critical of Pancheshwar Dam The State of Environment Report compiled by the Pollution Control Board in collaboration with GB Pant Agriculture and Technical University has said that the proposed Pancheshwar Dam along the Indo-Nepal border will put more than 300 species of flora and fauna in danger. The report points out that the dam will have an adverse impact on around 43 mammals and 193 varieties of flora along with 30 species of fish and 70 species of birds found in the region. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/proposed-pancheshwar-dam-along-indo-nepal-border-will-put-flora-fauna-at-risk-report/articleshow/77186334.cms (27 July 2020)
Lakhwar dam raises environmental concerns The Lakhwar Project is contentious as it will impact a large forest area. Dams on Himalayan rivers can also amplify glacier burst, flash floods etc. https://www.hindustantimes.com/videos/news/watch-first-high-dam-on-yamuna-raises-environmental-concerns-101613988963773.html (22 Feb. 2021)
Seer on fast for closure of all HEPs on Ganga writes to PM Bahamchari Atmabodhanand of Haridwar’s Matri Sadan ashram who has been on a diet of water, lemon, salt and honey since Feb 23, 2021, also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, describing his fast as ‘tapasya’, a fight against corruption and for preserving the environment. Atmabodhanand is also demanding the prohibition on stone crusher units within 5 km periphery of Ganga riverbed, a blanket prohibition on quarrying from Raiwala till Bhogpur, the formation of Ganga Council, speedy enacting of Ganga Act and ensuring a free unhindered flow of Hinduism\s holiest river. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/seer-on-fast-for-closure-of-all-hydel-power-projects-on-ganga-writes-to-pm-modi-101615118659282.html (07 March 2021)
Jammu & Kashmir Gathering resistance against a proposed dam by Raqib Hameed Naik For the last three years, locals in Marwah town of the Jammu region have been protesting the planned construction of a dam under the 800 MW Bursar hydroelectric project, a storage scheme on Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab river.
Approved in 2000, the Bursar dam was given the “National Project” status on Aug. 4, 2016, by the Ministry of Water Resources. In 2017, an environmental impact assessment report on the project compiled by experts from Kashmir University stated that the dam would affect over a thousand families in 18 villages and result in the flooding of over 1,149 ha forest land.
Locals said the report sparked controversy and resulted in weekly protests against the dam in Marwah’s Nawapachi village. Later, youth from different villages came together to start the Save Marwah Movement, which since 2018 has been at the forefront of the anti-dam resistance in the region. In March 2020, locals began a hunger strike against the project, but all protests were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement, however, continues. The video story gives a glimpse of how the Save Marwah Movement leaders spearhead the resistance. https://www.storiesasia.org/damned-gathering-resistance-against-a-proposed-dam-in-jammu-and-kashmir/ (28 Jan. 2021)
Doodhganga valley heading for a disaster This trekking experience note writes about the environment impacts of the the 7.5 Mw Branwar Hydropower project. “Doodh Ganga also called Chatch Kull originates from the glaciers of Pir Panjaal around mount Shankar Bul Bul located at an altitude of 4500 metres. The so-called development has destroyed this great river. By changing its historical course for a small Hydropower Project we have simply murdered Doodh Ganga… When the 7.5 Mw Branwar Hydro project was being constructed more than a decade back a lot of false promises were made with local villagers by political leaders & the Govt. Villagers were told that they would get subsidized & 24 x 7 power supply, but that turned out to be only a hoax.” https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/doodh-ganga-valley-heading-for-a-disaster/ (22 Aug 2020)
Bumper-to-bumper hydro projects increases disaster risks in Kistwar Now the govt is building seven new hydropower dams on the Chenab and its tributaries in Kishtwar district, with a total capacity of 5,190 MW. Most of these projects have been fast-tracked. But the human and environmental costs associated with these projects have largely missed public scrutiny. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/10/30/homes-nature-lost-for-seven-new-dams-in-kishtwar-jammu-kashmir/ (30 Oct. 2020)
Human cost of Baglihar dam The Baglihar dam bears testimony to the enormous human costs associated with hydro projects. https://www.thethirdpole.net/hi/2020/07/24/video-the-human-cost-of-the-baglihar-dam/ (July 24, 2020)
Athar Parvaiz about why rapid hydropower development in J&K is a cause of concern. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/are-forest-rules-used-against-tribal-people-in-jammu-and-kashmir/ (01 Dec. 2020)
Stop axing trees for Ujh HEP Plea to stop axing trees for Ujh project. Will the Supreme Court look into this as it says beneficial trees cannot be axed for development? https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/stop-axing-trees-for-ujh-he-project/ (18 Feb. 2021)
Sikkim Lepchas reignite protest against 520 MW HEP The recently elected Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party had promised to set right the overexploitation of natural resources by the previous govt. But, the Lepchas allege the govt has gone silent on the matter. Since June 2020, they have launched fresh protests against the project. https://en.gaonconnection.com/turbulence-along-the-teesta-the-lepchas-of-dzongu-valley-in-sikkim-reignite-their-protest-against-the-520-mw-hydropower-project/ (11 Jan. 2021)
Lepchas opposes hydro projects near UNESCO heritage site Sonam Gyatso reiterated his strong objection to the project. “Development has to be sustainable, this large dam will destroy the heritage and sanctity of Dzongu, the cradle of Lepcha religion, culture, and tradition, already we have Teesta III and Teesta V we do not need to stop the last free flowing stretch of our Teesta, we need to be united and strong in seeing this to the end, otherwise vested interest will gain”, Sonam Gyatso warned. http://theasianchronicle.com/primitive-lepcha-tribe-opposes-hydro-power-projects-near-unesco-heritage-site/ (11 Sept. 2020)
A tribe trying to save ‘paradise’ from woes of development The concerns of the local community are understandable. The Teesta Stage V dam, built by the same NHPC, suffered extensive damage due to a massive landslide in June 2020. The entire region is classified as Seismic Zone IV. And, it is important to note that the government of Sikkim has drawn flak from the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) for the blatant violation of the environmental norms.
The Sikkim govt also violated the Supreme Court’s standing order over the implementation of several hydropower projects under different stages of construction. This is one of the reasons why Dzongu resident Sonam Gyatso, a former SDF legislator and also the former power minister, feels so strongly against the project. https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2020/12/29/a-sikkim-tribe-trying-to-save-paradise-from-woes-of-development/ (29 Dec. 2020)
Lepcha tribe vows to stall hydropower project in their holy land People of Sikkim are ready to fight the unviable Teesta IV project on Teesta River with huge disaster potential. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sikkim-s-lepcha-tribe-vows-to-stall-hydropower-project-in-their-holy-land/story-2WI8qE5RbcRNZ4Hdr7FEMP.htm (15 Oct. 2020)
Environmentalists have been saying that power projects in the ecologically sensitive Teesta basin region will be harmful. 7 hydropower electric projects in Sikkim including the biggest – 1,200 mw Teesta Urja – have already been commissioned, while 2 more are likely to come up. On Teesta River only, there are 4 big projects inside Sikkim while 2 in W Bengal.
Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of SANDRP said, “This project is even economically unviable. It will hugely increase the disaster vulnerability of the Teesta basin in multiple ways. We have the examples of Teesta Stage VI proving unviable, Teesta V increasing disaster potential and Teesta III in terms of corruption.” https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2020/10/15/sikkims-lepcha-tribe-vows-to-halt-hydropower-project-on-protected-land/ (15 Oct. 2020)
Teesta tribals to intensify protest against HEP Gyatso Lepcha, general secretary of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), said, “This campaign has been going on for the past 16 years. Now that the govt and NHPC have been pushing it, we have started a campaign called ‘Save Teesta’. This (project) is actually coming in the last stretch of the free flowing river. The project also comes under the periphery of UNESCO World Heritage Site Kanchendzonga National Park.” https://www.newsclick.in/Ecology-Livelihoods-at-Stake-Protests-Intesify-against-Hydropower-Project-on-Teesta (24 Oct. 2020)
Hishey Lachungpa on traditional governance, dams & tourism Hishey Lachungpa, activist member of Lachung community, north Sikkim, talks to Ashish Kothari and Shrishtee Bajpai of Kalpavriksh about their still-active traditional governance system, the struggle against a hydro project, and attempts to deal with excessive, outside-led tourism in a fragile biocultural area. Conversation on side-lines of Dialogue on Rights of Rivers, Delhi, 6-7 March 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EEc54YaXUY (19 March 2020)
Rivers for Life ACT, an organization of the indigenous Sikkimese citizens to protect the land and people from the threat to the Biodiversity Hotspot (Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve), endangering the demographic profile of the indigenous primitive Lepcha tribes & the right to live in one’s homeland with dignity & security due to implementation of numerous mega hydro power projects. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgOhDXpQJek&feature=youtu.be (27 Sept. 2020)
Manipur Book on dams and indigenous people’s rights released The author of the book Jiten Yumnam said he published his book Dams and Indigenous People’s Rights for the Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur (CRAM), dedicating to all striving for the free flow of rivers and protection of land in Manipur.
Jiten said that he highlighted two absurd parallel realities that continue to unfold in Manipur in the book; the reports on failure and underperformance of several commissioned mega dams on the one hand and concerted and aggressive efforts of the government to construct series of mega dams under the Manipur Hydroelectric Power Policy, 2012 despite the failure and ineffectiveness of dams.
“A serious question remains why the govt is wasting public money for such mammoth structures that failed to serve its intended purposes. It only devastates the peoples land, lives and ecology of the state and its indigenous peoples,” he contended. Jiten also said that there has not been any serious investigation to prove the veracity of such reportages as well as the causes and reasons of the claims by the rights activists and Indigenous peoples regarding the failing nature of the dams and its devastating impact. “One needs to ponder who benefits out of mega dams, the contractors, the politicians, dam builders, equipment suppliers or whether the people of Manipur really benefit,” he added. https://ifp.co.in/3455/dams-and-indigenous-peoples-rights-in-manipur-released (30 Oct. 2020)
Revoke PPA on proposed 66 MW Loktak Downstream HEP The CRAM expressed concern with the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) signed between the state govt & Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corp Ltd, a joint venture of NHPC and state govt to construct the 66 MW Loktak Downstream HEP on 1st Sept 2020. NHPC envisaged to utilize water discharged from the Loktak Project from its Leimatak Power Station for Loktak Downstream project.
CRAM says that the NHPC’s push for the Loktak Downstream project constitute a disrespect and rejection of the prolonged demands of the indigenous peoples of Manipur to review and decommission the Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (Loktak project). http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.Press_Release.Press_Release_2020.Revoke_Power_Purchasing_Agreement_on_proposed_66_MW_Loktak_Downstream_Project_20200906 (5 Sept. 2020)
Mapithel dam-affected villagers call for 48 hrs strike The Mapithel Dam Affected Headmen, Chiefs and Elders Organisation (MDAHCEO) on Feb. 11, 2020 called for a 48-hr total shutdown along Ukhrul to Imphal road via Mapithel Dam from the midnight of Feb 16 till the midnight of Feb 18. Speaking to media persons at Manipur Press Club, MDAHCEO informed that they were forced to take such a decision protesting against the state govt for neglecting their long-pending demands of providing rehabilitation and resettlement.
On Jan 24 2020, the dam affected people submitted an ‘ultimatum’ to the authorities concerned demanding to materialise the memorandum of agreement between the state govt and the organisation, however, till date submitted memorandum is yet to take any action, they said. The organisation also appealed to all CSOs, NGOs and the public of the state to support the shutdown. Mapithel Dam, the Thoubal Multipurpose Project was first proposed in 1980 at an estimated cost of Rs 47.25 crore. However, the work on this project began only in 1990. https://www.eastmojo.com/manipur/2020/02/11/manipur-mapithel-dam-affected-villagers-call-for-48-hours-strike (11 Feb. 2020)
Pledge to strengthen efforts for free flow of rivers Kangoi Khullen & Kangoi Khunnou village authorities, CRAM & Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) on March 14 observed International Rivers Day, with the theme. “Let the rivers flow free in Manipur” at Kangoi lrangpham, Tengnoupal district. The day was observed with an aim to create awareness about the importance of rivers in sustaining lives of the communities & ecosystem in Manipur.
CRAM Secretary Jiten Yumnam said dams in Manipur like the Khuga dam, Khoupum dam and others are just lying without serving any purpose despite huge investment and sacrifices have been made. He urged the govt to withdraw its plan to build more than thirty dams in Manipur. The participants urged the govt to ensure the free flow of rivers in Manipur and to stop plans for construction of hydropower projects such as Kangoi Dam over Sengvai river, 190 MW Pabram dam over Sengvai river, 66 MW Loktak downstream project over the Leimatak river and others. https://www.easternmirrornagaland.com/manipur-observes-international-rivers-day-pledges-to-strengthen-efforts-for-free-flow-of-rivers/ (14 March 2020)
Arunachal Pradesh SMRF says no to govt’s renewed call for hydropower in Tawang The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), which is led by the monks from Tawang region, has shot down the govt’s renewed plan to construct hydropower projects in the district. In a statement, the SMRF said that it condemns the decision of the Arunachal govt to revive the hydropower projects in Tawang district. “Most of these hydropower projects are proposed to be constructed in the two major river basins in Tawang – the Tawangchhu in the east and the Nyamjangchhu in the west – which will damage the geographically volatile and highly seismic region of Tawang. Apart from endangering several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region, the hydropower projects also threaten the existence of the endangered black-necked cranes, considered a sacred embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama”. The SMRF in its latest statement reiterated its earlier allegation that the signatures of the gram sabha for the Tawang Chu Stage-II were obtained fraudulently by the NHPC.
In the gram sabhas conducted by the people, and recorded by the SMRF, the majority of the participants from 27 villages and the Tawang monastery had said no to these projects. It further added that the “Arunachal govt should learn from the disaster at Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, where the Rishiganga & Tapovan hydro projects were completely destroyed by a glacier avalanche. This event highlights the harsh truth of how little the govt of India & various Himalayan states are focusing attention on appreciating the fragility of this range,”.
After repeated protests and the 2016 killings by the police, a year later, in June 2017, a formal closure report was sent to the govt of Arunachal, rejecting the 600 MW Tawang-I and the 800 MW Tawang-II projects. The closure report, prepared under the chairmanship of Thegtse Rinpoche, was sent to the state govt, stating that “after elaborate discussion and listening to the merits and demerits of the hydropower projects in Tawang district and resolutions by villagers of the affected villages, the committee resolves to reject and direct the closure of the NHPC projects in Tawang district immediately.” In April 2016, the National Green Tribunal had suspended the environmental clearance given to the proposed 780 mw Nyamjang Chu hydro project, promoted by the Bhilwara Group, which subsequently led to the state govt’s cracking down on anti-dam protestors. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/02/23/monks-led-smrf-says-no-to-govts-renewed-call-for-hydropower-in-tawang/ (23 Feb. 2021)
In a statement issued on Feb. 22, the monks-led SMRF said the proposed projects would not only affect the nesting grounds of the endangered black-necked crane but also threaten several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tawang-monks-oppose-arunachal-govts-fresh-push-for-hydropower-projects/article33910552.ece (23 Feb. 2021)
Dibang Multipurpose Project AAC lists out demands The Dibang Multipurpose Project Affected Area Committee – DMPAAC made a series of demands to the State govt regarding the proposed Rs 1,600 crore compensation to the affected people. The DMPAAC in 2013 has filed a petition against the executing agency, NHPC and is ready to revoke the petition if their 5-point demands are fulfilled in written form. https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/arunachal-news/dibang-multipurpose-project-aac-lists-out-demands-to-arunachal-government/ (22 March 2020)
Scientists sought a cumulative impact assessment of all the hydropower projects in the region, including the 3,097 MW Etalin and 2,880 MW Dibang multipurpose projects – two of the country’s biggest hydel ventures. “We respectfully submit that the impacts of multiple projects placed in close proximity on the same river limb must be assessed together because these impacts will be cumulative and not independent,” they wrote. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/more-scientists-write-to-fac-about-treading-carefully-on-hydropower-projects-in-dibang-valley/story-ikGnHIt843sVrLI1aAtmlJ.html (25 April 2020)
Debang based NGO appeals to FAC to reject Etalin project revealing that there are several omissions and contradictions in the findings of WII (Wildlife Institute of India). Arguing that WII conclusion that tigers are not found in the community forest outside of Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary is a total disrespect of our community’s knowledge and traditions. In reality it is a fact that parents and elders in the indigenous Mishmi (Idu) have always narrated to their children how they have witnessed tigers with their own eyes. It is we the locals who have experienced, known and managed this land for centuries. https://sanctuarynaturefoundation.org/article/dibang-based-ngo-appeals-to-fac-to-reject-etalin-project (May 2020)
WII’s Dibang Valley Project report biased, incomplete In the 58-page peer review of WII’s report titled “Wildlife Conservation Plan for Impact Zone of Etalin HEP,” 24 scientists from 14 scientific institutions in India have said that it doesn’t reflect a true picture of the biodiversity of Dibang Valley where the Etalin Hydropower Project will come up. The review suggests that WII hasn’t revealed crucial information about the area, impact of the project on ecology & local people.
The peer review found that WII has ignored traditional ecological knowledge and the intricacies of nature-human relations of the local people in Dibang Valley completely. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/wii-s-dibang-valley-project-report-biased-and-incomplete-says-peer-review/story-aBGoMWx4civffTI4CqISSL.html (05 May 2020) WII faced severe criticism for shoddy work from several wildlife organizations. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/arunachal-pradesh/controversy-erupted-over-3097-mw-etalin-hydroelectric-project-in-dibang-valley.html (08 May 2020)
Citizens from different towns and cities across the country participated in a nationwide tweet-storm on May 9, 2020 demanding the govt stop the ‘disastrous Etalin hydro power project, which would destroy Dibang valley’, one of the world’s mega biodiversity hotspots and a rich carbon sink for the entire nation. https://nenow.in/environment/savearunachalbiodiversity-trends-as-citizens-hold-tweet-storm-to-protest-dibang-project.html (11 May 2020) Conservation India, sent a memorandum with 4,305 signatures to the ministry, asking it to deny environmental clearance for the project. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/4-000-petition-environment-ministry-on-hydropower-project-in-arunachal/story-12tsC1CFegMhAki3ovDmcI.html (29 April 2020) A lawyers’ body, “Indigenous Lawyers Association of India” urged the Centre & Arunachal Pradesh govt to cancel the Etalin Hydropower Project. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/jun/05/arunachal-hydropower-project-that-entails-felling-of-27-lakh-trees-irks-lawyers-body-2152618.html (5 June 2020)
Save Dibang Valley This film shows how the mesmerising Dibang Valley, one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world is under grave threat of destruction due to 17 hydel projects being planned in this highly earthquake prone and climate sensitive region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iuosfaaHSw&feature=youtu.be (25 Sept. 2020)
LSHEP: How safe are down-stream people? From the day one, the highly qualified & experienced technical experts on dam construction from Assam openly expressed their reservation, nay, opposing views along with recommendations of corrective measures on the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP (LSHEP) at Gerukamukh on the Assam-Arunachal border.
Significantly, the heavyweight Czars at the Centre and in Dispur bent backward, forward, sideways and all ways to shower their blessings on the NHPC. The renewal of the construction of the dam is mired in end-less controversy. https://nenow.in/environment/natures-fury-and-helpless-lower-subansiri-project-how-safe-are-down-stream-people.html (07 June 2020)
Protests to halt Lower Subansiri HEP The crack and breaking of the guard wall of the cofferdam have washed away lands at Gerukamukh that houses the LSHEP. This has raised protests and concerns among different groups and the local people. Regional student groups of Gerukamukh and AASU have protested in order to ensure the safety of life and property and to stop the ongoing activities at the dam immediately. The protests will be indefinite until the Central, State govt & NHPC do not halt the project. https://www.pratidintime.com/protests-to-halt-subansiri-lower-hydroelectric-project/ (18 June 2020)
AASU warns protest against PM Modi’s visit All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) planned to organise state wide protests against PM Modi’s visit on Feb. 22 seeking time bound implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and a solution for Assam’s flood and erosion problems. “PM Modi should make an announcement to stop construction of the LSHEP and all other proposed mega dams in the northeast that can have a devastating impact in Assam. Unless the govt can ensure 100% safety of the lives and property in the downstream areas, such dams will be opposed,” AASU president Dipanka Kumar Nath said. He added, “Even the international experts have found that the dam is risky. The NHPC has recently set March 2022 as the target for commissioning of the project. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/aasu-warns-protest-against-pm-modis-assam-visit/articleshow/81129419.cms (20 Feb. 2021)
Dams don’t mean development: Case of HEPs in North East by Pallavi Hazarika Protests against the mega dam projects in North East highlight the issues related to land acquisition, compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation for displaced & project-affected people. https://www.epw.in/engage/article/dams-do-not-mean-development-case-hydraulic (1 Feb. 2020)
Himalayan dams become economic burdens by Rishika Pardikar Spiralling costs, long delays, earthquakes and landslide risks plague hydropower projects in the Indian Himalayan states. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/best-of-2020-himalayan-dams-become-economic-burdens/ (26 Dec. 2020)
Is Hydropower Good for Environment? The article by Urvi Shrivastav in Business World asks some right questions about hydropower projects. It may also have noted the generation performance of hydropower projects and its claims vs reality about providing peaking power. http://www.businessworld.in/article/Is-Hydropower-Good-For-Environment-Food-For-Thought/28-12-2020-358675/ (28 Dec. 2020)
Kerala People’s persistence can win good fight Excellent detailed report about the struggle against the Athirapally Project over the decades. https://thefederal.com/the-eighth-column/athirappilly-project-when-peoples-persistence-can-win-the-good-fight/ (24 June 2020)
Kadars continue fight for assertion of their community forest rights State Electricity Board has started clearing about 8 ha of pristine forest with 625 old-growth trees for the Anakkayam Small Hydro Project. The project conceived in the buffer area of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, would require blasting for the construction of a five-km long tunnel. They are expected to submerge and divert a vast expanse of unique lowland evergreen forests with high endemism of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians for reservoirs, construction of dams and the tunnel.
The projects were conceived without consent from the Kadars, who are the original inhabitants of these forests and also hold Community Forest Resource Use rights over these areas. Kadars are one of the five particularly vulnerable tribal groups in Kerala. In Vazhachal, Kadars are spread across eight settlements and the Malayans live in one settlement. The community has faced displacement several times in the past, during the construction of the Parambikulam-Aliyar, Peringalkuthu, Sholayar, Mangalam and Thunakadavu dams. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/forests/kerala-s-kadars-continue-fight-for-assertion-of-their-community-forest-rights-73868 (20 Oct. 2020)
Green collectives to protest against Anakkayam hydel project Scores of green collectives and environmental organisations joined hands for a protest at numerous places in the State against the planned felling of over 1,800 large trees in Vazhachal forests near Athirappilly for a proposed small hydro-electric project by the Kerala State Electricity Board at Anakkayam. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/green-collectives-to-protest-against-anakkayam-hydel-project/article33120677.ece (18 Nov. 2020)
Tribals fight against cutting of trees for Anakkayam hydel project “The Community Forest Rights (CFR) is held by nine tribal settlements including Anakkayam and Sholayar, which are immediately around the forest area that the project will be built on,” says Geetha, who is the tribal head of Vazhachal, one of the nine oorus. The area comes to 400 square kilometres of forest, and the tribe belongs to the Kadar community. Geetha and Ajitha, secretary of the CFR coordination committee (of all nine settlements), have submitted a petition to the Kerala High Court, in addition to sending letters to officials concerned at the KSEB as well as the Minister for Electricity, MM Mani. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-tribals-fight-against-cutting-trees-anakkayam-hydel-project-138496 (26 Nov. 2020)
Govt faces criticism for nod to hydel project Environment activists criticised the govt’s decision to renew the NoC for a proposed hydroelectric project near the picturesque Athirapally waterfall in Thrissur district. “Chalakudi river already has many big and small dams. It can’t withstand more. Preventing natural course and storing water led to many disasters in the past. In Chalakudy, we don’t want pristine forests to be submerged and tribals evacuated,” said VS Vijayan, an environmental scientist.
He was in the team of Madhav Gadgil, who has prepared a report to save the fragile ecology of the Western Ghats in 2011 on the instruction of former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh. “It seems the state has failed to learn a lesson from two consecutive floods (in 2018 & 2019) that claimed many lives…Votaries of the new dam should think about the future generation also,” Vijayan said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kerala-govt-faces-criticism-for-nod-to-hydel-project/story-zBMH3Nf6tt3Nbw9KBwWkNM.html (10 June 2020)
In the face of criticism, CM Pinarayi Vijayan told journalists in an interaction that there is no decision to take the project forward as of now. Terming the NoC as a routine procedure, he said the project is on hold. https://science.thewire.in/environment/kerala-athirappilly-hydel-project-proposal/ (17 June 2020)
Madhya Pradesh NAPM’s seminar on destructive projects in river valleys In March 2020 a national level seminar was organized by NAPM in Gandhi Bhawan, Bhopal. The program was attended by villagers, activists, river experts from across the country. There was detailed discussion on various projects proposed and going on in different river valleys including Ganga, Narmda, Kosi, Krishna, Pariyar. The participants were unanimous on the fact that adaptation of water alternatives and ensuring people’s rights are essential for living and flowing rivers. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/3235517836475867 ; https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/river/river-projects/national-convention-of-nadi-ghati-vichar-manch-69551 (02 March 2020)
Historic victory and vindication for NBA Exploitative agreement of Maheshwar power project terminated. In a very significant development, the govt terminated the power purchase agreement for the Maheshwar power project, holding it as against public interest. Along with this, the escrow agreement and the rehabilitation agreements for the project have also been terminated. This is a historic victory for the affected people of the Maheshwar project, who have been persistently fighting this destructive project for the last 23 years under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The termination of the PPA will save Rs. 42,000 crores of public money. https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/india+press+agency-epaper-indpres/historic+victory+of+narmada+bachao+andolan-newsid-n180330750
Alok Agrawal of Narmada Bachao Andolan, who had been relentlessly raising the issue of this project’s expensive PPA and alleged irregularities, said, “Our stand is vindicated. A monument should be created at the concrete structure near dam site symbolizing the monumental waste of public money”. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/madhya-pradesh-govt-scraps-maheshwar-hydel-power-project/75367245 (25 April 2020) Crucial lesson from Maheshwar project. https://www.spsmedia.in/dam-and-displacement/maheshwar-project-decisive-lessons-of-privatization-alok-agrawal/ (9 July 2020)
Villagers to protest against Chillur dam project In a meeting representatives of all the villages unanimously decided to oppose the proposed Chillur dam on the Tapi river. The villagers say that the project is not for development but an attempt to submerge the tribal society and take away their rights over water, forest and land. They say that the claims of this dam are false and they cannot leave the farming, river and forest on which our life depends. https://www.spsmedia.in/current-news/opposition-to-the-chillur-dam-to-preserve-rights-on-water-forest-and-land/ (13 Nov. 2020)
NBA Oral history of Narmada Rosamma Thomas points out that Oralhistorynarmada.in website brings together narratives from people who witnessed the laying of the project’s foundation stone and were among those evicted from lands they occupied for generations. https://www.newsclick.in/Narmada-Struggle-Displaced-Peoples-Narratives-Oral-History (8 July 2020)
Destruction of temples in Narmada valley Fascinating photo blog by Nandini Oza about temples and culture of Narmada Valley that stands destroyed by the dams. https://www.raiot.in/photo-essay-who-remembers-the-temple-destructions-in-narmada-valley/
Naramda: A valley rises (1994) Fascinating film by Ali Kazimi, The most detailed (though it has its share of errors of omissions and commissions) account of the Ferkuwa confrontation of 1990. One of the most memorable episode in life of NBA friends. It may not be available for free watching now: https://vimeo.com/414382390
“Worlds Greatest Planned Environmental Disaster” Key Message is important here: The Supreme Court is supposed to protect the environment and environmental rights and also our government should be committed to protecting our environment at an international level. However, our Supreme Court forgot the mandate of various international human rights documents that speak about protection and improvement of the environment in the Sardar Sarovar Dam case. https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2021/02/sardar-sarovar-dam-and-the-question-of-environmental-justice/ (03 Feb. 2021)
Even after 3 decade, affected await rehabilitation Detailed account of how poor is the rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar affected people. https://sabrangindia.in/article/three-decades-many-sardar-sarovar-dam-affected-persons-still-await-rehabilitation (13 July 2020)
Gujarat 20 tribals detained for opposing fence around project land Around 20 tribals from Kevadiya village in Narmada district were detained on May 27 after they protested against the state government’s move of constructing a fence around the land near the Statue of Unity for development of tourism projects. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/20-tribals-detained-for-opposing-fence-around-project-land/1847678 (27 May 2020) Congress MLAs and Bharuch MP support the opposition by Tribals for fencing of their lands in six villages around Statue of Unity. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/guj-cong-mlas-detained-on-way-to-protest-fencing-work-near-sou/1850861 (30 May 2020)
Salt pan farmers decide to boycott local body elections At Kharagoda in Surendranagar district of Gujarat, the entry point to the Little Rann of Kutch region, the salt farmers stood in ankle deep water in their salt pans, holding placards as they announced their decision to boycott local body elections as mark of protest. They said each year excess water from Narmada is released in the area destroying their produce. The workers have decided to boycott the local body election unless their issue is resolved. Salt production has gone down by 40% in the past few years due to unnatural flooding of the salt pans. https://www.newsclick.in/Gujarat-Salt-Workers-Protest-Salt-Pans-Submerge-Due-Diversion-Excess-Water-Narmada (18 Feb. 2021)
After 46 years struggle, Tuwa villagers to finally get road, water facilities In 1974 during the construction of the Panam dam, these 50 families, who lost their lands which submerged, were rehabilitated to Tuwa village in Panchmahals from Mahisagar. They are now likely to get drinking water. This is yet another story showing that the dams NEVER help provide any benefit to the affected people. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/gujarat-after-trying-for-46-years-tuwa-villagers-to-finally-get-road-water-facilities-6437737/ (01 June 2020)
Maharashtra Mulshi Satyagraha: Remembering first anti-dam struggle Ousted without rehabilitation in 1921 and jailed for resisting, the families of the 52 villages in Mulshi taluka who lost their land to the Tata Power dam face ever-growing troubles even today. https://thewire.in/rights/mulshi-satyagraha-remembering-indias-first-anti-dam-struggle-in-its-100th-year (05 Feb. 2021)
Odisha NHRC issues notices on Hirakud displacement National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the action taken to alleviate the sufferings of people displaced by the construction of the Hirakud dam over the Mahanadi river about six decades ago. Human rights lawyer Radhakant Tripathy had moved the NHRC alleging that 26,561 families were displaced for the construction of the Hirakud dam project and due compensation was not paid to evictees. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/nhrc-issues-notices-to-chief-secretaries-of-odisha-chhattisgarh-on-hirakud-displacement/article33964240.ece (1 March 2021)
Chhattisgarh After 48-year-long battle, Gangrel dam affected to get justice The decades-long struggle by the people displaced by the Gangrel dam project launched in 1972, came to an end with the High Court issuing order to the state to suitably compensate the 8,560 affected families within three months. The court also issued a directive to rehabilitate the families by providing them land.
The project was launched during the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh state in Dhamtari district, some 90 km from Raipur, which led to the evacuation of 55 villages that were later submerged, and the inhabitants were given the assurance of suitable compensation in return. Gangrel is the longest dam in Chhattisgarh built on the Mahanadi river and supplies water for irrigation. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/dec/29/chhattisgarh-after-48-year-long-battle-8560-families-displaced-by-gangrel-dam-get-justice-2242815.html (29 Dec. 2020) A Hindi report on the issue can be seen here. https://www.jagran.com/news/national-displaced-tribals-of-gangrel-reservoir-get-justice-in-chhattisgarh-after-48-years-of-legal-battle-21211087.html (27 Dec. 2020)
Tribals, environmentalists object to Bodhghat project The govt had started conducting a survey for the multi-purpose Bodhghat project on the Indravati river. The 300 MW project, worth Rs 22,000 crore, envisages to construct a dam near Barsoor village in Dantewada dist to irrigate 3,66,580 ha in Dantewada, Bijapur, and Sukma districts.
However, the local tribes in the Bastar division stood up against the project due to fears of displacement and deforestation and the project’s survey was stalled. Also, the activists have demanded that the project should be approved by state’s tribal advisory committee first because it is being constructed in tribal-dominated areas. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/environmentalists-object-chhattisgarh-govt-s-move-to-conduct-survey-for-bodhghat-project/story-A84b944V551TLZBCujKCtM.html (27 June 2020)
Tribals protest Govt’s move to reinstitute the Bastar Bodhghat multi-purpose irrigation project in Barsoor village of Dantewada irked local tribals as the project threatens their settlements. Nearly 6,000 tribals of over 50 villages protested at Hitalkudum village of Bijapur on Feb 9, against the move. https://thelogicalindian.com/adivasirights/tribals-protest-against-bastar-irritating-project-26778 (10 Feb. 2021)
The project is expected to displace over 44 villages — it is believed that 30 of these will be submerged. Apart from this, about 5,704 ha of forests will also be submerged. https://en.gaonconnection.com/chhattisgarh-govt-revives-bodhghat-dam-project-bastars-tribal-communities-launch-strong-protests/ (12 Feb. 2021)
Jharkhand Tribals fear for their future Indigenous people fear for their future as the North Koel dam project, lying defunct since 1997, has been revived. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/a-dam-is-revived-and-so-are-nightmares/ (11 March 2021)
Telangana Mid Manair project oustees stage protest in Sircilla Mid Manair project land oustees staged a rasta roko at Agraharam on the outskirts of Sircilla on Jan 8, 2021, demanding suitable compensation. The demonstrators refused to withdraw their protest till the district collector called on them and gave an assurance on compensation. They wanted the govt to provide compensation to MM oustees on par with those of Mallannasagar. https://telanganatoday.com/mid-manair-project-oustees-stage-protest-in-sircilla (8 Jan. 2021)
Oustees question the commitment given to HC In a move to speed up the completion of Mallannasagar reservoir (Part of KLIS) in the Siddipet district, the officials are bringing pressure on the displaced persons to vacate villages, that would get submerged in the project, without waiting for the Rehabilitation and Resettlement process to be completed. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/oustees-question-the-commitment-given-to-high-court/article33872634.ece (18 Feb. 2021)
Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (email@example.com)
4 thoughts on “2021 International Day of Action for Rivers: Opposition against HEPs, dams in India”
Very informative article.
The video on the Baglihar dam is a very powerful one – it shows the terrible impact these new hydropower dams can have on the local communities – destroying families and livelihoods.
A positive sign, however, is that more and more people in India are becoming aware of this and are now protesting against new constructions. And SANDRP are doing a very good job in covering this / http://www.rainwaterrunoff.com
Thanks, Sujata and Ivan
From junior schools we were taught that water, forest and minerals are irreplaceable heritage ie once depleted, they cannot be recovered.
How come our successive governments call hydropower as clean energy? Just because it’s not polluting the air like coal based plants? And what about the immense loss of water resources both downstream and nearby areas as people living near large dams like Tehri complain about dry agricultural fields because of scarcity or no supply of water?
We should start asking questions about the validity of so called clean energy as the whole process is destroying the ecology and environment of the catchment area and to a various extent downstream.