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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.

Environment

Himachal Start-up Develops Pure Organic Incense From Offered Flowers, Contains No Charcoal or Chemicals

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Organic incense from flowers by Himachal start-up

Solan-Soon the people will be able to buy pure organic incense sticks prepared from flowers offered by devotees at religious places. Under the campaign ‘Yuvan’, Una based entrepreneur Ravinder Prashar, with the technical guidance from the scientists of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, has developed this eco-friendly incense sticks by utilizing flower offerings from temples.

The idea, supported under the Chief Minister’s Startup scheme aims to provide a novel solution to the problem of disposal of flowers offered by devotees at places of worship. Moreover, these flowers used in religious places and functions also get a new life in the form of incense sticks.

Ravinder, who has completed his Bachelor degree Engineering from BITS Pilani had registered a company –Yuvan Vendors during the last semester of his MBA. Thereafter, he took up this with the CM Start-Up Scheme of the state. On approval, UHF’s Department of Floriculture and Landscape Architecture was allotted to him as his incubator.

At UHF, the product was developed under the mentorship of Dr Bharti Kashyap, who along with Dr YC Gupta and Dr Manoj Vaidya provided the scientific input in product development. The testing for the product was done at the Floral Craft Lab of the university. 

The process uses natural portions and essential oils from flowers to make the organic incense with no charcoal or any other synthetic chemical. In addition, the process of making the stick is completely carbon neutral. No waste is generated from this process and even the unused portions of the flowers are being utilized to make compost.

The company has already developed five fragrances including rose, sandal and lavender. All the sticks are rolled with hand. These will be available to the customers from June onwards. UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma recently launched the incense sticks during the rose festival of the university.

Ravinder thanked the CM Start-Up Scheme, university and its scientists for their guidance and support in making the product a reality. He said,

The objective was to utilize the pious flowers from the temples and utilize them to make organic incense sticks. Through this, we also wanted to provide an alternative to the disposal of these flowers in open areas and drains.

Congratulating Ravinder and the university scientists on their achievement, Dr HC Sharma, University Vice-Chancellor said,

It is very heartening to see young entrepreneurs coming up with novel ideas that not only generate jobs but also address some problems the society faces. The university regularly helps farmers to establish new enterprises through the dissemination of information and transfer of technology and will continue to support such initiatives in the future as well.

Dr Sharma was of the view that in order to give respect to the agricultural profession, people particularly the youngsters will have to take up entrepreneurship in this field.

The startup scheme envisages practical exposure, orientation training, entrepreneurial guidance and handholding to potential entrepreneurs whose projects are approved. Once a project is recommended by the host institution and approved by the empowered committee, monthly support is provided as sustenance allowance for one year. One such incubation centre was established at UHF in 2017. The centres support startups and innovation by providing mentoring services, access to their labs, facilities on a free-of-cost basis.

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Environment

It’ll Take $100 Billion a Year To Stop Very First Human-Made Biodiversity Catastrophe: Scientists

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Cost of saving biodiversity on earth

There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth. But in the 21st century, scientists now estimate that society must urgently come to grips this coming decade to stop the very first human-made biodiversity catastrophe.

“The sixth extinction is on our societyʻs shoulders; it really is,” said ecologist Greg Asner, who serves on the faculty of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the School of Earth and Space Exploration and came to Arizona State University this past January to lead the new Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science.

“We have to make a decision about where to save biodiversity, and where to let it go,” said Asner. “That’s where we are now. We are playing that game as a society. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to that point because we are dominating the planet.”

Asner is one of 19 international authors with a bold new science policy proposal to reverse the tide, called A Global Deal for Nature (GDN). The policy’s mission is simple: Save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth — for the price tag of $100 billion a year.

“It’s not a huge price tag,” said Asner. “That’s not a pie-in-the-sky number, but one we had to meet on and agree on. I know that those numbers are not outlandish.”

Consider that in 2018 alone, the top two most profitable U.S. companies, Apple and Berkshire Hathaway, almost matched that amount. What’s the price of saving the Earth by comparison?

Societal investment in the GDN plan would, for the first time, integrate and implement climate and nature deals on a global scale to avoid human upheaval and biodiversity loss.

While the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was the first major accord to take global action toward climate change policies, the international team of GDN scientists believe a similar companion pact is desperately needed to implement the very first global nature conservation plan to meet these challenges.

“All nations have signed on to this (Paris) agreement,” wrote corresponding author Eric Dinerstein, of the Washington, D.C.-based nongovernmental organization Resolve. “But the Paris agreement is only a half-deal; it will not alone save the diversity of life on Earth or conserve ecosystem services upon which humanity depends.

“The Global Deal for Nature is a time-bound, science-based plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth. Without the Global Deal for Nature, the goals of the Paris climate deal become unreachable; worse, we face the unraveling of the Earth’s natural ecosystems that sustain human life. Achieving the milestones and targets of the Global Deal for Nature is the best gift we can offer to future generations — an environmental reset, a pathway to an Eden 2.0. We must seize this hopeful pathway.”

The study, published in Science Advances, titled “A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets”

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Environment

Group of Youth Try Cleaning Part of Shimla’s Jakhu Hill, Finds More Garbage Than Expected

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Trek A Tribe Cleanliness Driver in Shimla

Shimla-Every year on April 15, Himachal Day is celebrated to mark the day when Himachal Pradesh, among other 30 princely states, came into being as a centrally administered territory. Since the inception of this state, the people throughout the world have admired Himachal Pradesh owing to its tall standing mountains, forests, nature, adventurous trekking trails and the peace and serenity it offers.

However, during the last decade, this love and admiration from tourists have turned into filth and carelessness. Rivers and forests alike have been polluted by broken beer bottles, single-use plastic cups, water bottles, wrappers of crisps and biscuit. Not only do they harm the soil, but also poses a threat to the lives of animals like cows and dogs, who consume littered plastic, causing them extreme physical ailments.

The menace of littering continues despite the claims of the civic bodies as well as the government of India that Swachh Bharat has almost eradicated this ill practice.

As an initiative Trek A Tribe, a tours and travels company, organized a cleanliness drive at Shimla on April 15, 2019 to celebrate Himachal Day. Total 18 youth participated in the cleanliness campaign. As per this team, the campaign began from Sheeshe Wali Kothi and was supposed to end at Jakhu Temple. But they had to abandon their plan of going till the top since the amount of waste was much more than these youth had expected.

Just the starting point consumed over four hours of their drive. We collected 35 bags of garbage at the starting point of their drive,

the team said.

Most of the trash is the plastic left behind by youth who come to the forest to drink and eat, causing harm to the environment,

the team said.

The end solution, however, does not lay in repetitive cleanliness drives, but in the conscious awareness of the people. They should be aware enough to not leave their trash behind, it said.  

These cleanliness drives, the team said, do help in cleaning the surroundings but they do not solve the purpose if the people keep littering the same place over and again. The team said that the purpose of its cleanliness drive was also to raise awareness among the people by initiating a dialogue towards the protection of the environment. This drive urged people to raise voice against plastic pollution and to lead their lives more consciously. They need a more aware lifestyle.

The Municipal Corporation, Shimla, provided transportation and disposal facility for the garbage collected by these youth.

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