NGO picks holes in upcoming hydro project in Himachal

December 13th, 2011 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Dec 13 (IANS) An NGO fighting for the cause of people affected by hydropower projects Tuesday said the upcoming World Bank-funded mega project in Himachal Pradesh has several flaws.

In its self-assessment report submitted to the union ministry of environment and forests’ expert appraisal committee on river valley projects recently, NGO Him Dhara highlighted several shortcomings in the environment impact assessment of the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd’s (SJVNL) 775 MW Luhri project.

Manshi Asher, a researcher who contributed to the report, ‘A river under arrest’, told IANS: “It documents several inbuilt faults in the design of the project, which is one of the longest in the world, with 38 km-long twin head race tunnels being the most problematic component.”

She said the environment impact assessment report submitted by the SJVNL to the environment ministry failed to carry out a fair and detailed assessment of the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project, especially in the wake of constructing two large tunnels.

“The tunneling of the river has led to drying up of the river bed, causing soil erosion, landslides, changing climatic conditions, drying up of water springs. This will further affect livelihood activities like apple cultivation,” the NGO report said.

It said nearly 80 villages located above the head race tunnel have been omitted from the list of project-affected families by the project authorities.

“The environment impact assessment does not take into account the cumulative impact of the project on the Sutlej river basin, which again has not been studied in detail by the project proponents,” it added.

Asher said a communication from the environment ministry on their report is yet to come.

“If we do not get the response, we will use the Right To Information (RTI) Act to get the ministry’s observation on our report,” she added.

SJVNL deputy general manager Vijay Verma told IANS the company will provide suitable economic benefits to the project-affected families on the pattern of its earlier projects.

Taking note of a report on the fallout of hydropower projects in the state, environmentalists last year shot off a letter to then union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh, demanding a temporary moratorium on environmental clearance to new projects in the state.

According to forest department estimates, over 9,000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted for non-forest uses. Of this, 7,000 hectares have been used for hydel projects.

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