Lahaul-Spiti residents want hydro projects scrapped

Among the projects proposed in Lahul-Spiti district are Tandi (104 Mega Watt), Rashil (102 MW), Bardang (126 MW), Miyar (90 MW) and Jispa (300 MW).

In the wake of the Uttarakhand avalanche, there is increased anxiety among the people in the Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh who have been up in arms against the hydropower projects proposed in this tribal region.

Among the projects proposed in Lahul-Spiti district are Tandi (104 Mega Watt), Rashil (102 MW), Bardang (126 MW), Miyar (90 MW) and Jispa (300 MW).

People from at least two Panchayats — Tandi and Goshal — have been strongly opposing the Tandi project. “Our apprehension surrounding the ill-effects of big hydro-projects on environment has only been strengthened after the recent tragedy in Uttarakhand. Locals here are opposing hydro projects on the Chandra-Bhaga River basin. Our Panchayat has also passed a resolution against the Tandi hydro-project,” Virender Kumar, vice-pradhan (head) of Tandi, told The Hindu.

Mr. Kumar said locals had been voicing their concerns for a long time. “We are against all hydro power projects in Lahaul, and in particular at Tandi. The ecology here is fragile, the soil is delicate. If a dam is constructed, the water level is bound to rise and the course of the river will also be impacted, eventually resulting in soil erosion. We will be displaced. People here are very clear that they don’t want development at the cost of displacement. We have submitted our demands to the State government, the Governor Bandaru Dattatreya and also to President Ram Nath Kovind,” said Mr. Kumar. “We are not against the government, but we want to ensure that our ecology is not disturbed.”

He said they were planning to stage protests in the near future. “Since our region is snowbound, it’s difficult to stage protests at present. But hopefully by April, we will chalk out a plan, if the need arises.”

An association of locals opposing the proposed project – ‘Tandi Dam Sangarsh Samiti’ — recently submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. The memorandum says the existence of about a dozen of villages falling in Tandi and Goshal panchayat was at risk. The construction of the dam would impact the tribal rights. The project would bring more losses than benefits, it said.

“We have rejected the proposal and asked the government scrap the project respecting the sentiments of the local people,” said Goshal village head Susheela.

Vikram Katoch, vice-president of ‘Save Lahaul-Spiti Society’, an NGO, said there were around 56 mini, micro and mega hydro projects in Lahaul-Spiti. “The entire region is fragile and disturbing it will only have catastrophic results. We are fighting to save Lahaul-Spiti,” he said.

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