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HP Govt. letting Kinnaur Hydro-Projects kill people and destroy villages knowingly: Himdhara

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In the last two weeks a half a dozen lives have been lost in the Kinnaur region alone in three separate incidents that have one thing in common – accidents at hydropower project sites. The first event took place in Burang village on the 18th of November 2015 where a penstock pipe burst off the 100 MW Sorang Hydro-electric project led to the death of three people.

Himdhara, an Environment Research and Action Collective in Himachal,has been fighting against irregularities in the construction of hydro-power projects and negligence of the Himachal Pradesh Government towards lethal consequences of it. After recent mishaps, the group is demanding strict safety norms and monitoring of such projects.

sorang-gi-2

Image: SANDRP

On November 29, 2015, two labourers died in blasting operations in the 450 MW Shongthong Karchham project, some others were seriously injured. And on the same day in the Bhabha Valley, a young teacher lost her life in a landslide that occurred in the area.

Kinnaur in crisis Sheer Negligence in hydro projects claiming lives-himachal

Penstock pipe burst at 100 MW Sorang Hydro-electric project/ Image Credit:Sumit Mahar

Even now more lives are at stake – Four days after the Sorang project disaster on 22nd November, a massive landslide occurred in Chagaon Village, located on the alignment of the Karchham Wangtoo project’s tunnel. While houses and property was damaged fortunately there were no fatalities. More of the area is likely to slide soon. Residents of Panvi Panchayat from Kinnaur carried out a demonstration last week at Shimla protesting the cracks in their houses due to the underground construction by the 9 MW Ralla-Taranda project.

Cracks on link roadChagaoun

Cracks on link road Chagaoun/Image Credit: Sumit Mahar

It is time that the Himachal government wake up from its long slumber, because these events are not freak accidents, they are the result of sheer negligence in the construction of hydropower projects in the state. This negligence is evident at two levels – firstly the failure in ensuring compliance to environmental and safety norms by project authorities and the government. The second, is the negligence towards the very impacts of unregulated hydropower development. In both cases the project authorities have shown sheer callousness, continuously ignoring the issues raised by local people and environmentalists.

Destable land Chagaoun

Land Destabilisation at Chagaoun/Image Credit: Sumit Mahar

Now the geological, ecological and hydrological impacts of these projects, especially in fragile zones like Kinnaur are emerging clearly.

For instance, during tunnel digging heavy blastings are used which causes cracks in the houses. Around 80% people of project area are affected by this problem. It has also caused drying up of springs, grazing and agricultural fields. According to data obtained by Him Dhara, a Himachal based environment action group, under the Right to Information Act in 2012 from the Irrigation and Public Health Department, 43 out of 167 water sources had dried up in villages affected by the Karchham Wangtoo project, and discharge in another 67 has gone down. That was three years ago. The condition has worsen.

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

However, Himdhara alleged that the government has not just overlooked these impacts but justified each and every project making excuses and even trying to cover these impacts. For instance, the issue of slope destabilisation and landlsides in Kinnaur has been blamed on rainfall fluctuations, floods or other natural factors without conducting any independent studies. The project authorities have gone to the stupid extent of saying that these landslides are occurring naturally in the area. If that is the case, is it not all the more reason that the construction in these regions has to be controlled and regulated rather than allowing disastrous projects like Karchham Wangtoo to come up here?

No action against companies openly flaunting Safety Regulations and Monitoring&lt

As far as issues of safety regulations and monitoring goes, there are an ample number of incidences vis a vis hydropower projects that have occurred in the last couple of years apart from the ones that happened in the last two weeks in Kinnaur.

The seepage in the Chamera III project had washed off Mokhar village’s habitations. The reservoir of the Aleo-II project in Kullu in its first testing, had burst washing off the labour camps.

Mokhar village tragedy

A villager standing in front of the debris of his leftover house after the leakage tragedy

Gallery Showing Horrific Chamera III Project Disaster in 2012

Images by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People

Three engineers were suffocated to death at the state-run Rongtong hydropower project in Spiti valley when a valve at the plant burst all of a sudden.

The seepages in the Karchham Wangtoo tunnel which were noticed in 2011 – are indicators of a disaster waiting to happen. Despite it being mandatory as per the Hydropower Policy 2006 that there will be a safety monitoring authority in the state that will look into the safety quality monitoring for hydropower projects, no such authority existed till recently.

As late as August 2013, the Department of Power and MPP issued a notification about the creation of such an authority. Now the government should immediately make public all the work that has been done by this authority in the last two years. The people have a right to know, how often this committee convened its meetings, which are the projects it has monitored and what action has been taken in the cases of negligence and accidents. Has any punitive action been taken against power companies for negligence?

House is sliding Burang, Shorang HEP

House is sliding Burang, Shorang HEP/ Image Credit :Sumit Mahar

It needs to be put on record, in the context of the 100 Mw Sorang Hydro-Electric Project that the villagers had brought to the company’s notice that there were leakages in the penstock pipe at an earlier date on 8th May 2015. This indicates that there was some technical fault in the project despite which the testing was carried out. Further, it needs to be raised that on the night of the testing (when the accident occurred) no warning was issued by the project authorities while carrying out the testing of the penstock pipe.

Disaster awaits Burang Village

Today, the Burang village is nothing less than a danger zone with rock and debris just hanging above heads of the residents. We wonder how the company even had the audacity to carry out construction in an area where there was habitation – even if temporary/ for part of the year. In event of heavy rains or tremors of any sort there will be additional damage and fatality which should be avoided at any cost. All families who are residing in Burang need to be protected so that they do not become victims of yet another accident which will be caused due to sheer negligence of the company as well as the administration, who is now responsible for the safety of the people.

House sliding down Chagaoun

House sliding down Chagaoun/Image Credit: Sumit Mahar

Complete Failure of Central and State Government

As per a report (2013) by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), a total of 559 run-of-river hydro projects with an aggregate generation capacity of 10,131 MW were allotted to independent power producers from November 1991 to January 2012.

The central and state monitoring and regulatory authorities have failed miserably and have ignored several incidents of landslides, massive erosion, drying up of water sources, sudden reappearance of water sources, deforestation leading to soil erosion, illegal muck dumping etc. Despite the impact of these on the horticulture, local vegetable cultivation, day to day life and safety of the people the government has not taken any action whatsoever on project proponents and have been blind to the issues raised by the affected people time and again.

Campus Watch

HIMCOSTE PLS: Eminent scientist & activist Dr Vandana Shiva to speak at Shimla on July 17

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Navdanya founder dr shiva

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Council for Science Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla is organising Popular Lecture Series (PLS) under its Science Popularisation programme.

This programme started under Science Popularisation since 2017 for Science students of Govt. Degree Colleges of all the Districts of Himachal Pradesh. The programme is funded by Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, under the Science Day and Mathematics Day celebration.

Eminent speakers/scientists are invited to address students so that they are motivated for taking up Science & Technology and work for the betterment of the community.
This series of lectures will be organised in the first phase at the:

  1. Government Degree College (GDC), Sanjauli, Shimla on July 17
  2. GDC Bilaspur on August 1
  3. GDC Hamirpur on August 2
  4. GDC Nathan on August 8
  5. GDC Solan August 9

Following five renowned and eminent scientists and environmental activist will deliver lectures :

  1. Dr Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya
  2. Retd. Prof. PK Ahluwalia, Department of Physics HP University
  3. Dr Patrick Das Gupta, Department of Physics & Astrophysics University of Delhi
  4. Dr Kiran Katoch, Dr AS Paintal Chair (ICMR) IIHMR University, Jaipur
  5. Dr Ravi Chopra, Director Peoples Science Institute Dehradun
  6. Dr Rajeev Kumar Puri, Department of Physics University of Punjab

 

The second phase in other Districts would be organised in September and October 2018.

Dr Vandana Shiva at Sanjauli College on sustainable Mountain Agriculture & Organic Farming

The First lecture in this series would be delivered by Dr Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya – a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds and to promote organic farming and fair trade

For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations serving more than 5,00,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from all over the country and have established 60seed banks in 16 states across the country.

In 2004, she started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.

Dr Shiva combines the sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism. She is equally at ease working with peasants in rural India and teaching in Universities worldwide.

Time Magazine identified Dr Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003 and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia. Forbes magazine in November 2010 has identified Dr Vandana Shiva as one of the top seven most Powerful Women on the Globe.

The topic of the talk by Dr Vandana Shiva would be “Sustainable Mountain Agriculture & Organic Farming” at Govt. Degree College, Sanjauli on July 17, 2018, where 1000 science students are expected to get benefitted by this talk. The Science faculty of Sanjauli College would attend this talk.

Kunal Satyarthi, IFS Member Secretary HIMCOSTE, will be present on the occasion.

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Environment

15 lakh saplings planted in Himachal by 80,000 people in 3 days, claims Forest Minister

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15 lakh sapling planted in Himachal Pradesh on van mahotsav

Shimla: The Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur today said that three days statewide plantation campaign from 12 to 14 July 2018 was launched in the State and more than 15 lakh saplings were planted in different parts of the State.

He said that the campaign was undertaken in all 13 Forest Circles in the state and Forty-one Forest Divisions participated in the campaign. Plantations were performed at 600 sites of the state. Chamba Forest Division with 99,281 plants was at First position followed by Ani and Rampur Forest Divisions with 81,369 and 80,059 plants respectively.

More than six lakh deodar species were planted beside broad leave and other conifers. He said that the entire plantation campaign was monitored online.

He said that all walks of life including school children, women, senior citizen and youth comprising 80000 people actively participated in the campaign. Plantation activities were performed from the boundaries of the state in the north with Jammu and Kashmir to Yamuna River in south and Kinnaur district in the east to boundaries of the state with Punjab in the west, he added.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had inaugurated state level Van Mahotsav on July 10 from Rajgargh in Sirmaur district. Governor Acharya Devvrat also participated in the campaign at Nehra in Shimla District on July 13 2018.

He said that plantation activities are still going on and it is expected that total 17 lakh plants will be planted by the end of the campaign.

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Campus Watch

Van Mahotsav 2018: Nauni varsity plants over 500 trees at campus

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UHF Nauni on van mahotsav 2018

Solan: Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur today inaugurated the Van Mahotsav at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni.

He planted a sapling of an ornamental tree-Crape Myrtle, at the university’s main gate.

Later in the day, UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma addressed the university staff and students. He thanked the Chief Minister and other dignitaries for launching the plantation drive of the university.

Jai Ram Thakur on Van Mahotsav 2018

CM Jai Ram Thakur watering a newly planted tree at UHF Nauni

While explaining the importance of trees for the survival of humankind, Dr Sharma called for collective efforts to conserve existing forests and undertake plantation in newer areas. He said that Van Mahotsav was an event, which not only connected everyone with nature but was also an important requirement in today’s times.

Dr Sharma also called for the support of the all the university employees and students in ensuring the survivability of all the plants.

The participants undertook a plantation drive at the university campus in which over 500 trees of Melia Composita, a fast-growing tree was planted near the staff residences of the university.

The local branches of the State Bank of India and UCO Bank along with various societies also supported and took part in the programme.

Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha Speaker Dr Rajeev Bindal, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Virender Kanwar, Forest Minister Govind Thakur, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Dr. Rajiv Saizal and Member of Parliament Sh. Virender Kashyap also carried out plantation on the occasion.

Chief Minister presided over the 69th State Level Van Mahotsav at Churwadhar in Rajgarh area of Pachhad Assembly Constituency in Sirmour district.

He said that 15 lakh sapling would be planted in the 596 selected places in the State witan h active participation of the people. He said that although about 67 per cent area of the State was covered with forests still lot more needed to be done.

The State government was endeavouring that everyone adopts a tree as “Gotra Tree” and help to conserve and protect it. This would motivate the people particularly the younger generation to conserve our environment. He also urged the student to help in environmental conservation.

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