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HNA demands a moratorium on HEP in Satluj and other river basins in the state of Himachal Pradesh

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

Press Release | Date: 7 Dec. 2013, Jhakhari

Second Stakeholder consultation (first had with power producers companies on 3rd July 2013) on the cumulative impact assessment study of Satluj river basin carried on by ICFRE (Indian Council of Forest Research and Education) was organized by HP state Directorate of energy today at SJVN (Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam) auditorium  Jhakhari.

More than five hundred affected people from many HEP of Kinnaur, Luhari HEP-Karsog, Jhakhri, and many other places gathered to listen to the presentation and findings.  This consultation was called with the unfair short notice of only four days through public daily, not even the PRI representatives or the affected families were informed at any stage except the public daily newspaper. Even one step ahead of such action the organizers’ DE (Directorate of Energy or ICFRE) didn’t circulate the study finding or any other preliminary documents to the stakeholder nor in advance nor today.

This action seems that the DE and ICFRE are trying to hiding the facts of the report thus this stakeholders consultation meeting is an eye wash.  

A four page document was circulated at the beginning of consultation, just mentioning the purpose of consultation and introduction of agencies who are doing the said study the survey procedure is not discussed in this document thus it also seems that the document is circulated just for the sake of circulation.

  When proceeding was started local project affected people were sitting on chair where as Officers of state government, environment, consultants and power producers sat on the dais. After introduction of power secretary and other officers a researcher started his presentation (power point presentation) from dais and screen was on the ground which was invisible to the stakeholders. After hot discussion with the state officers they agreed to put the screen at the visible place.

The presentation also contained general data and insufficient to explain the CEIA, thus the stakeholders raised many questions and the ICFRE representatives unable to continue the presentation.

 Project affected local participants resented on such mechanism and pressurized officers to leave their seats and sit on chairs below.

HNA Representative Guman Singh, RS Negi and Vinay Negi   make their points and resented this type of consultation with the demand that another stakeholders consultation must be called immediately at local level ( Tehsil  and Gram Sabha level) and before the final report the public hearing should also be organized in the same way as demanded.

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan put the serious concern on the procedure of the study and even the first consultation has been done with the power producer lobby and this consultation also organized with the state government department. As this study is being carrying out after the suggestions submitted by the Shukla committee to the High court of Himachal Pradesh. It is fact that people of Kinnaur resisted against these HEPs and  High court took cognegense on this tow year back. Now the procedure of the study seems that the lobby of power producers, state government and ICFRE is working in the favor of power companies and is just an eye wash. Thus we demand that the ICFRE shall work independently and honestly. They shall  organize stakeholders consultation free form the pressure of administration and power lobby.

The other concern is that the ICFRE is supposed to submit the final report by the end of the December thus we seriously concern on the inclusion of the affected communities views and concerns.

 Consider the current Cumulative Impact assessment is an eye wash and ICFRE is working under pressure of state government and power producers.

 HNA demands moratorium on HEP in Satluj and other river basins in the state of Himachal Pradesh  

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 hydropower 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 subsumed in 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 sabhas 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 preliminary report to the people in this public consultation on 7th December.

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 hydal projects impacts on the ecology and livelihood.

These projects are also having 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 that will take away people’s 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 tunnelling activity.  The Health and cultural effects of construction have hardly been taken into account of in the region.

HNA and people of Himachal Pradesh demand moratorium on hydel projects in the state.

Gumman Singh, National Coordinator, HNA

RS Negi, Co-chairperson, HNA

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