Villagers oppose Himachal hydro project

May 8th, 2011 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, May 8 (IANS) Hundreds of people in three districts of Himachal Pradesh have been protesting for the past three days against an upcoming hydropower project of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL), but the company said Sunday the affected villagers will be adequately compensated.

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

“The company is committed to providing funds for local area development. In Rampur and Nathpa-Jhakri hydropower projects, the company has spent Rs.105 crore as part of its social responsibility,” Verma said.

Around 27 villages in Shimla, Kullu and Mandi districts will be affected with the commissioning of the 775 MW Luhri project in upper Shimla.

Hundreds of villagers have been staging protests for the past three days and boycotted public hearings organised by authorities at different venues.

SJVNL holds 51 percent equity in the project, while the state government holds the rest.

Activists say the hydro project will have high environmental costs.

“A 38-km stretch of the Satluj river will disappear in some areas of Kumarsain tehsil in Shimla and Nirmand in Kullu. It will pass through tunnels and traditional water sources in the areas will dry up,” environmentalist Guman Singh told IANS.

He said during the public hearings organised by project authorities, residents of Seraj and Kumarsain tehsils raised concerns about impact of the tunnels on their apple crop.

“If the projected earnings from the hydro project are estimated to be over Rs.800 crore per year, the affected panchayats should also get a 10 percent share as royalty,” said Nek Ram of the Paryavaran Evam Gram Vikas Sansthan, a group comprising more than 20 villages in Karsog in Mandi district.

The project involves construction of an 86 metre high concrete gravity dam with gross reservoir capacity of 35 million cubic metres, from which 38.14 km long twin tunnels of 9 metre diameter would bring water to an underground powerhouse some 40 km downstream of the dam site.

Taking note of a report on the fallout of hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, environmentalists last year shot off a letter to 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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