Environmental and Social Impacts of Hydro-Electric Dams in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh
by Hasrat Arjjumend, Senior Fellow at GRASSROOTS INSTITUTE on Jan 03, 2013
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Having 4300 large dams already constructed and many more in pipeline, India is one of world's most prolific dam-builders. Large dams in India are estimated to have submerged about 37500 km2 land area ...
Having 4300 large dams already constructed and many more in pipeline, India is one of world's most prolific dam-builders. Large dams in India are estimated to have submerged about 37500 km2 land area and displaced tens of millions of people. Himachal Pradesh is proceeding towards power-surplus state and there are as many as 401 projects of different magnitude in different stages of installation on 5 river basins of the state i.e. Satluj, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Yamuna. State has identified its hydropower generation potential at 23,000 MW. The ecological devastation caused by various projects at lower altitudes of Himachal Pradesh has been alarming; while the prospect of what will happen to the fragile alpine ecosystem is frightening. These projects will change the microclimate that will result in accelerated melting of the snow and glaciers at high altitudes. Like other river basins of the state, hydro-electric power generation in Chamba district was started in 1980s, with 117 mini & micro power projects in different stages of execution at present. Having the special focus on Hul projects the present paper explores the impacts of various dams on environment and local people in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. About 6000 local people are being affected by Hul-I project only. The consequences to nature and wildlife will also prove disastrous. As of now, the wildlife such as deer, bear, goat, tiger and peacock do not enter the fields of farmers. Deforestation and soil erosion are even more devastating. Making the situation even more absurd is that the benefits of these power plants do not go to the community suffering the consequences. Gujjar and Gaddi tribes in the state of Himachal Pradesh have been agitating against 4.5 MW hydropower plant from diverting the entire flow of the Hul stream, on which their lives depend. These communities have for more than two decades protected and preserved the forests from which Hul stream originates. The project’s pipeline is said to destroy about 2000 of slow-growing oak trees. Livelihood and social impacts of poorly planned mini-hydel projects can be thus devastating, as exemplified in this case.
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