Two workers of 450 MW Shongtong hydropower Project[i] were killed when the trolley they were using overturned inside the tunn[ii]el of the under-construction project near Ralli in Kalpa Tehsil of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The police have registered a case in connection with the incident.Continue reading “Fatal Disaster at Shongtong Hydro in Himachal Pradesh in June 2022”
How one fish and many people saved a river
“Hark! What is that? What is that sound? It is laughter, bubbling up from the heart of the darkness. It is the sound of water! There is no doubt. The water of Muktadhara is free!”
As I stepped on the wooden slats across the joyously gurgling Tirthan River, I remembered Rabindranath Tagore’s lines from his first play, Muktadhara (Free-flowing). I was in the Himalayas to listen to the story of Tirthan, a Muktadhara in her own right! Tirthan is the rarest, possibly the only river valley in India to be declared as a “No-Go Valley” for hydropower or dam development, protected in perpetuity.Continue reading “Muktadhara Tirthan“
On May 16, 2020[i], the penstocks of the 100 MW Uhl III project at Lad Bhadol in Mandi in Himchal Pradesh, under testing, burst, leading to flooding of downstream power house. 30 people working at the project were trapped but all have been rescued to safety. The power house is about 150 m from the burst point in Chulla village. Continue reading “UHL hydro project disaster needs independent probe”
Have you seen how FEROCIOUS glacial lake outburst flood can be? I too have not, but watch this[i].
Frightening, is it not?
“If you love Shimla, please do not visit” is one of the viral messages in social media this season, encapsulating the water crisis in the hill city this summer. The current round of severe water crisis in Shimla possibly had some roots in what happened here in Dec 2015-March 2016. In winter of 2015, Shimla faced severe water quality issue[i], out break of hepatitis lead to huge reduction in water use in Shimla from Ashwini Khad. Thousands suffered from the outbreak and dozens of people died. The poorly functioning Malyana Sewage Treatment Plant, was releasing the effluent in the same Ashwini Khud from where the Hill city was taking a significant part of water. That water supply was then reduced, but nothing has been done to improve the situation. The Himachal Pradesh Chief Secretary has also told media[ii] that water available from Giri and Gumma streams have hugely reduced currently. Continue reading “Shimla water crisis: How smart are we getting?”
(Above: illegal muck dumping by Parbati HEP along the Sainj River in Himachal Pradesh)
The people of Sainj-Parbati valley in Beas basin in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu disrict’s Banjar Tehsil are living in constant fear of a disaster. Since six days now, the power tunnel of the NHPC’s under construction 800 MW Parbati II hydropower project is heavily leaking, but NHPC refused to stop water release into the tunnel till the leakage led to landslides and displacement of people. Ultimately on the night of April 17, 2017, huge cracks spread over 200 m appeared in the hills, leading to landslide & fall of soil and rocks, immediately threatening eight families of Rahan (Reina) village, though over 400 families of some 12 villages of Rella Panchayat (including Rella, Sharan, Jiva, Sulga, Khadoa, Rahan, Shalah, Bhebal, Bahara, Bagidhar, Khaul, etc) are facing the prospects of disaster as cracks in the hill have appeared just above the villages. People here are spending sleepless nights since several days now. They are afraid that if the leakage continues, these villages will have to be evacuated any moment, else a major catastrophe may result.[i] Continue reading “NHPC negligence leads to man-made disaster in Parbati Valley in Himachal Pradesh”
The Environment Appraisal Committee
River Valley Projects
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Subject: Submission related to Chenab River and Lahaul Valley in context of EC for 430 MW Reoli Dugli project
We have read reports that the expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Ministry of Environment has decided “not to take any cognizance of representations” received by its members since such representations are ‘anti-development’. The article appearing in Indian Express on January 14, 2017 stated, “In its December 30 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”. Continue reading “Lahaul people write to Environment Committee not to clear Reoli Dugli Hydro project”
When I talk with Manshi, a friend and co-traveler from Himdhara Collective about Bhagirathh Prayas Samman that the collective received during the India Rivers Week 2016, she is modest, even slightly hesitant. She simply says, “We love the mountains, we want to protect them and help mountain communities fight the unequal battle against unplanned hydropower. That is one motivation of our work. But the other is recognition of the fact that we are privileged… privileged to be able to speak English, to work on a computer, to understand the bureaucratic procedures that alienate a tribal or forest dweller from her land. That understanding also drives us.”
Citation of Bhagirath Prayas Samman given to Himdhara Collective states: “Himdhara’s strength is its engagement with communities, movements and organisations. It has created an effective discourse around issues of resource distribution and their ownership and the resultant impacts on ecological spaces of mountain communities, especially vulnerable groups like indigenous people, dalits and women. It is an honor to recognize and celebrate Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in maintaining the integrity of rivers in Himachal Pradesh.”
In their own words, “Himdhara is an autnomous and informal non registered environment research and action collective, extending solidarity and support, in research and action, to people and organisations asserting their rights over their natural resources and agitating against corporatisation of these resources for destructive development in the state.”
A collective of young, passionate and questioning minds, Himdhara has been working with communities in far flung areas of Himachal Pradesh include Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur in their fight against the onslaught of ill-planned and bumper to bumper hydropower projects in Himachal, amongst other issues. Continue reading “Bhagirath Prayas Samman: Himdhara Collective: Relentless Questioning and Doing”
Even as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has been sanctioning cascades of hydropower projects on here-to free flowing rivers in the Himalaya and North East India, Cumulative Assessment of the Impacts of these projects became a crucial area of concern. Over 70 dams are planned one after other for the rivers of the Upper Ganga Basin, 44 dams across the Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh famed for its pristine forests and biodiversity, 12 dams across the Lohit Basin, 19 for Subansiri basin. These are bumper to bumper projects, one starting where the other ends. Continue reading “Cumulative Impact Assessment documents not in public domain anymore? Letter to MoEF and CC”
Himachal Pradesh in Northern India is foremost among Indian states in pushing large hydropower projects. It has operating hydropower projects with total installed capacity of 7970 MW, under construction hydropower with 2216 MW and largest capacity projects under consideration for clearances. As this review of Hydropower development in Himachal Pradesh in 2015 shows, HP has also started facing the consequences of too many projects, with fragile Kinnaur area facing multiple disasters in 2015, including the penstock burst disaster at Sorang HEP. However, the Expert Appraisal Committee on Union Ministry of Environment and Forests continues to sanction more projects. In 2015, the committee recommended first stage clearance to 219 MW Luhri Project on Sutlej river and 210 MW Purthi Project on Chenab river. During the year, the 800 MW Kol Dam project was commissioned, and as our separate review of hydropower projects commissioned in 2015 shows, the project faced large number of serious problems and continues to face them even post commissioning.