No should mean no

Kinnaur residents unite against hydro-power projects

No should mean no

A PEOPLE’S movement seems to have taken birth across the tribal district of Kinnaur against ecologically hazardous hydroelectric projects on the Sutlej. - File photo

A PEOPLE’S movement seems to have taken birth across the tribal district of Kinnaur against ecologically hazardous hydroelectric projects on the Sutlej. Isolated voices of worried individuals, activists and NGOs have coalesced into a resounding ‘no means no’ against the proposed 804-MW Jangi Thopan hydel project. The authorities concerned should sit up and pay heed to the grievances of the people directly affected on the ground. Their unified cry for protection of their lands, river and forests from denudation assumes significance in the background of the multitude of frequent landslides, mountain slips and floods that have ravaged Himachal Pradesh recently. Such devastating turbulences are a pointer to the fact that the hazard posed by large-scale and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources is real and already upon us. It is imperative that corrective steps are taken at once.

Voices fearing for the endangered chilgoza tree, river ecosystem and fragile hills in Kinnaur have been trying to get themselves heard through the thick tangle of legal and corporate one-upmanship that the hydel project has been caught in over the past 15 years. Not surprisingly, the development-vs-environment debate has tended to tilt towards the moneyed lobbies vying for multi-crore deals. Though various committees of experts have red-flagged the concerns, projects eventually get okayed with ‘certain modifications’. Kinnaur, being the hydropower hub of Himachal Pradesh, knows too well the havoc dam-building can wreak, especially as compliance with environment norms is usually compromised. The Sutlej basin bears over half of the hydel load in the state, with the river dammed at multiple places.

This time, the locals are determined to resist further degradation by exercising their right to consent, which is embedded in the rule that an NOC from the Gram Sabha is mandatory for setting up a project. Incidentally, the SJVNL, which has been allotted the Jangi Thopan project, became a member of the International Solar Alliance (a coalition of solar resource-rich countries) earlier this year. It would do well to spend more energy on tapping sun and wind — renewable and greener sources — for power generation.  

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