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Posted at: Aug 28, 2015, 12:19 AM; last updated: Aug 27, 2015, 10:51 PM (IST)

Eco concerns over Baglihar hydel project worry experts, locals

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, August 27

The 900-MW Baglihar hydroelectric project continues to increase the worries of experts and inhabitants in the erstwhile Doda district comprising Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts as the region faces a major threat of severe climate change, courtesy successive regimes which have ignored all environmental concerns attached to the project.

Torrential rain, cloudbursts and massive landslides are said to be new dangers confronting the people of the erstwhile Doda district which are mostly due to creation of the reservoir of between 30 km and 35 km in length. The region falls in Seismic Zone IV.

The second phase of the 450-MW Baglihar project will be commissioned in September. The 450-MW first phase of the project was commissioned in 2008. Work on the run-of-the-river project, which has come over the Chenab in the Chanderkote area of Ramban district, began in May 1999 when the National Conference government led by Farooq Abdullah was in power. Both phases have a common reservoir.

“Two important surveys, environment impact assessment and environment management plan, were not conducted before start of work on this project, which could cause a disaster in the entire region. The design of the project was based only on an old geological survey conducted in 1972. I had cautioned then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah about all portents of a disaster that could be faced by the area in the future, but was left virtually unheard. People of the erstwhile Doda district are paying for this faulty planning,” said noted geologist GM Bhat.

He said the new trend of torrential rain coupled with frequent cloudbursts in the region was fraught with dangerous ramifications. “There is a strong possibility that heavy landslides triggered by torrential rain and cloudbursts will block the Chenab river and create an artificial dam in the area. If it happens, it will cause a massive disaster in the region,” he said. He voiced his concern over danger to the people living in upper villages of Doda district, saying they had been facing a major threat because of terrain.

“Water from the reservoir has entered the loose soil which is the root cause of frequent landslides and sinking of Doda areas. It will continue till water in the reservoir remains stagnant. Cracks are gradually developing in the higher reaches. It is high time for the government to seriously look into the matter of grave concern,” Bhat said.

Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, head of the department of earth sciences in Kashmir University, said Jammu and Kashmir was tectonically quite active and earthquake with magnitude of 8 to 9 on the Richter scale, which was overdue in the state, could create havoc with human lives and property as these multiple dams would not withstand with such tectonic activity.

“The construction of multiple dams in this small region will definitely have a great impact on the environment. Water from reservoirs behind these dams may seep deeper into the earth and create an adverse impact. The need of the hour is to make stringent environment assessment guidelines for such projects to lessen the impact on climatic in future,” he said.

The Chenab that flows into Pakistan already has the 690-MW Salal hydroelectric power project in Reasi and the 390-MW Dulhasti hydroelectric power project in Kishtwar. The 850-MW Ratle project, the foundation stone of which was laid by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2013, was coming up on the Chenab river in Kishtwar.

“People have been voicing their concerns against the disadvantages to the region for long, but no heed is being paid to them. The sinking of the Batote-Doda highway and frequent landslides in the region have already begun. The project will lead to a huge disaster if corrective measures are not taken,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a resident of the Pul Doda area.

Furthermore, eyebrows had also been raised over the state government’s decision to allow Jai Parkash Industries Limited to execute work on phase II of the Baglihar project by just giving an extension to the memorandum of understanding signed with it for the first phase of the project way back in 1999.

The Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation, which is the executing agency for the power project, preferred to give an extension to the agreement (signed with Jai Parkash Industries) over floating fresh tenders for execution of the project, said sources.

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