(Feature image: Rescue operation at Tidong HEP tunnel. Image source: Divya Himachal)
Early morning around 5.45 am on Saturday, May 7, 2022, five labourers were stuck while coming out from the 180 m deep tunnel of the under construction 100 MW Tidong Hydropower project[i] in Murang Tehsil of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh when debris fell into the tunnel (according to one report) and the lift in which the 5 labourers were coming out over turned[ii]. The trolley with 5 workers inside pressure shaft of adit 2 tunnel slipped off its track. The workers were coming out as their shift had ended.
March 14 marks 25th anniversary of International Day of Actions for Rivers, a unique campaign dedicated to indigenous communities striving to protect and preserve their rivers from a whole range of destructive anthropogenic activities. The Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) are among key threats affecting rivers eco-system and riverine communities greatly, in multiple ways.
The resistance against destructive, unviable HEPs growing stronger in India. Over the past one year there has been several protests against hydro projects across the country particularly in Himalayan states. On the occasion of International Day of Actions for rivers celebrating people’s resistance, SANDRP has compiled top ten stories of such community led opposition during the year, along with relevant additional stories. .
The border areas of Pithoragarh witnessed large scale destruction[i] following series of disasters on August 30, 2021 night. The event[ii] unfolded after unprecedented rainfall in the region causing flash floods in local streams and Kali River also known as Sarda. The affected areas included villages in Darchula district of Nepal located across Kali River which forms natural boundary here between India and Nepal.
On August 25-27, 2021 the most of hilly districts in Uttarakhand witnessed intense rainfall events causing widespread destruction. Media reports and local people suggest at least seven cloud burst incidents occurring in quick succession over Binhar range in Pacchawadoon and Mussoorie hills dividing Ganga and Yamuna basins in Dehradun district. The resultant deluge has also affected the under construction Vyasi Hydro Electric Project (HEP) areas in Vikas Nagar tehsil highlighting that the project is unprepared to cope with existing & emerging disasters.
(Feature image showing July 24 landslide blocking mouth of NTPC’s main tunnel. Mahadeep Panwar/Atul Sati via social media.)
The 520 MW hydro power project (HPP) Tapovan-Vishnugad having proved a recipe for disaster during Chamoli deluge on February 07, 2021, continues to jeopardize the local environment and play havoc with the lives and livelihoods of people in Joshimath area.
National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the developer of the project was seen working round the clock, close to para glacial zone without installing any Early Warning System (EWS) and providing adequate safety equipment to workers before stuck down by the catastrophic event resulting in death of over 200 innocent workers there.
It has been 15 years, since the project was started in November 2006, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2978.48 crore with 2012-2013 as planned commissioning year, however the project is still far from completion.
In a tragic incident, 4 labourers were killed and one was injured after part of an under construction tunnel of NHPC’s Parbati-2 hydropower project collapsed on Friday evening around 4.30 pm, May 21, 2021[i]. This happened at Pancha Nalla in the Garsa (Bhuntar) Valley of Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district[ii]. The accident happened when the labourers were doing drilling work in the 600m-long diversion tunnel (a sub tunnel of the main 31.52 km long tunnel[iii]). The whole area, where drilling was underway, collapsed. Four bodies were found buried under the debris. This description possibly shows signs of neglect of NHPC and the contractors.[iv]
The February 7 2021 Chamoli deluge has completely destroyed Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project (HEP). The 13.2 MW run of the river project has also become graveyard for over 50 innocent workers and villagers. The damages to homes, bridges, forest and river eco-system is additional which cannot be restored easily.
In fact, the disaster is among the threats against which experts and locals had been warning the authorities time and again. Sadly, the past history of struggle and destruction shows that not only the state government but the judiciary also failed miserably to address the pleas of locals and assess the disaster risks in a timely manner.
(Feature image of rescue operations at Tapovan Vishnugad barrage following Feb. 7, 2021 deluge in Dhauliganga river, Chamoli. PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)
The tragic Chamoli flash flood episode has become latest and one of most vivid examples of how hydro power projects (HPP) are a recipe for disaster in geologically delicate and climatically sensitive regions of Himalaya.
Even 10 days after the deluge the Alaknanda Basin Rivers are following with muddier water. Death toll is mounting. The immense damages to infrastructure including roads, bridges, homes and hydro projects is still to be fully assessed.
The catastrophic event has offered authorities many valuable lessons: not to be blind to the preventable disasters the hydro projects are inviting frequently.
Initial findings have established that the reason behind the flash flood was detachment of snow and rocks. The fact that the hydro projects and other man made mistakes have led to most human casualties and financial losses is undisputable.
फरवरी 7 को चमोली में आई विकराल बाढ़ अपने पीछे भीषण तबाही के निशान के साथ कुछ अहम सबक भी छोड़ गई है जो भविष्य में आपदा प्रबंधन को बेहतर बनाने में बहुत कारगार साबित हो सकते हैं।
ऐसा ही एक असंभव किस्सा स्थानीय महिला मंगसीरी देवी का है जिनका 27 साल का लड़का विपुल कैरेनी एनटीपीसी की तपोवन विष्णुगाड जल विद्युत परियोजना में कार्यरत है।
घटना के दिन विपुल की माँ मंगसीरी और पत्नी अनीता ने ऊचाई पर स्थित अपने गांव ढ़ाक से धौलीगंगा नदी में आई जलप्रलय को देखा। उसके बाद उसने अपने बेटे को कई बार फोन किया जिसके कारण उनके बेटे समेत 25 अन्य लोगों का जीवन बच गया।