Jakhri (Shimla), 5th Dec 2013:– In a statemennt released to the media by HNA on the Stakeholders consultaion meeting being organised at Jhakhri by the ICFRE on 7th December, Mr Gumman Singh, National Coordinator, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA) & RS Negi, Co-chairperson, HNA jointly said that they have serious concerns on Satluj cummulativ
Hydel projects are destroying all five river basins and the entire riverine ecology and future of people’s livelihoods in Himachal Pradesh. The Sutlej basin alone accounts for 13,332 MW (revised upwards from 10,355 MW under digitised plan) of the state’s total identified hydro power potential of 27,436.35 MW.
If the plan to set up a cascade of a dozen projects is fully implemented, the 230-km stretch of the fast- flowing river from Shipki La (the entry point at China border) to Koldam will be virtually wiped out. While the 135-km-long power tunnels will effectively kill 160-km length of the river, another 70 km will be submurged in the reservoir.
It will have far-reaching implication for the ecosystem and in turn the livelihood of the local people. Similarly if all proposed projects on the Ravi river basin are implemented, only 3 km. of the river will remain free flowing and the entire river and its ecosystem will disappear. Massive projects are also being taken up in all the highly seismic and fragile mountain regions which fall in Zone IV and V.
Several active people’s movements have been struggling against this destruction, and have come together under Himalaya Niti Abhayan. In response to this people’s struggle, the High Court has taken cognizance of this devastation and set up the Shukla Committee which recommended a community assessment of the cumulative impact of hydel projects in the river basin. ICFRE (Indian Council On Forest Research and Education)was given the task of this cumulative impact assessment.
Local communities should have been consulted before and during the study. But there have been no public meetings with local people (only meetings with few individuals), no consultation with gram sabha’s to find out the problems the people are facing as a result of these projects, no attempt to learn from people’s experiences of the ecological damage they are facing and livelihood loss. No publicity was given to the process so that people may approach them with details. Instead the study done by ICFRE which is supposed to be a community consultative study based on the Shukla committee recommendation is presenting a completed final report to the people in the public hearing on 7th Dec.
Given this casual and non-participative approach of ICFRE, HNA has initiated an independent Community based Cumulative Impact Assessment Study in the entire Sutlej basin. We are conducting the study in close consultation with all affected gram sabhas and people in resistance to understand ecological flows, holistic river ecology, cumulative and interactive effects of multiple projects, impact of tunneling and construction work on glaciers, and risk factors in Zone IV and V earthquake prone areas and impact on local livelihoods.
Further the study doesn’t consider the micro hydel projects impacts on the ecology and livelihood. These projects are also have destructive impacts such as depletion of the drinking water sources, irrigation canal systems and ultimately threatening to the horticulture economy of the basin. the economic benefits are not clear and not studies in this report. Moreover, even the actual cost-benefit ratios of these massive projects are not clearly evaluated. Low water flows due to glacial changes, non-peak season flows, projects not working to their full capacity, and high cost of power generated are not included in any study.
HNA is not demanding an eco-sensitive zone which will take away peoples rights, we are demanding a complete ban on the destructive hydel projects in all five river basis of Himachal Pradesh which are resulting in climate change, loss of livelihoods and severe downstream effects. Apart from the changing weather which is affecting agriculture and horticulture in the region and massive floods which devastated the tribal region of Kinnaur this year, entire villages have slid downhill due to tunneling activity. Health and cultural effects of construction have hardly been taken account of in the region.
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA) and people of Himachal Pradesh demand moratorium on hydel projects in the state.