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Hydropower Projects in Himachal Not ‘Eco-Friendly, Govt Keeps People in Dark Through Biased Environment Impact Assessment Reports

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Himachal's Hydropower Projects Are not eco-friendly

Shimla- The Himachal Pradesh Government, as witnessed on several occasions, favours hydropower companies over the environmental impacts and affected people. It believes that these projects would boost the economic growth of the state and that there are hardly any environmental hazards linked to the construction of excess hydropower projects. There is a long list of pending projects that the government wants to get constructed.

In its environmental assessment reports,  the government preach that hydropower is eco-friendly. However, as a bitter reality, it does not appear to be true. There are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government is not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. are suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they are forced to evacuate. Let’s take a look at a new report compiled by an environmental group explaining why hydropower projects in the Himalayas are not eco-friendly.  

In the month of the ‘World Environment Day’, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydropower construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydropower production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all. This document compiles primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects highlighting the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report highlights the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

 “A report of the state’s own disaster management cell says that around 10 Mega hydropower stations are located in the medium and high-risk landslide area,”

states the document.

  The report explains that the magnitude of the underground component of the civil work in hydropower projects involving blasting and dynamiting exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. These impacts are yet to be adequately studied and understood.

Visuals and testimonies of affected people from project sites in Kinnaur, Kullu and Chamba falling in the Satluj, Beas and Ravi basin collected over the years have been used to show the impacts. Case studies like that of the Parbati II, Karccham Wangtoo, Kashang and Bajoli Holi projects illustrate how landslides, drying up of springs, damages to houses, farms and forests have made difficult the lives and livelihoods of the people in the project area.

Landslide in Jhakri village of shimla due to hydropower project

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The report finds that the existing studies available on these impacts are inadequate or biased in favour of the hydropower producers, with economics as the main concern. Environment Impact Assessment reports of hydro-power projects gloss over the geological & seismic vulnerability of the project sites, with an explanation that the ‘hurdles’, ‘surprises’ and ‘incompetencies’ of the mountain geology would be handled at a later stage, if and when they occur. ‘Scientific’ linkages become difficult to establish later, and during EIAs, the concentration is to only rush through the studies to get ‘clearances’.

“They say there is no scientific evidence that the landslides are because of project activities and so we cannot claim compensation in case of cracks in the houses or damage to fields”,

according to Ramanand Negi of Urni Village located in the affected area of the Karchham Wangtoo project and now sitting on a huge landslide. 

The report also refers to the Audit reports of the Comptroller Auditor General to show how the costs of these ‘surprises’ are borne by the affected people or transferred to the public exchequer. The costs that producers have been forced to bear have led to financial losses, bad loans, and cumulatively a slump in the hydropower sector over the last few years. 

According to the report,

“The contribution of hydropower sector today to the country’s total electricity production has halved from 25% to 13% in the last decade. Where this state of hydropower industries was an opportunity to review hydropower policy and the sector’s viability, the report of Parliamentary standing committee on energy that reviewed the performance of hydro projects in 2018 turned a blind eye to environmental impacts and safety norms”.

 

Based on the committee’s recommendations the Ministry of Power issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydropower projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, brings out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

Water Sources drying due to hydropower projects

Water sources drying in himachal due to hydro projects

 

The report also identifies the institutional failures of the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority that are supposed to assess the Detailed Project Reports and give techno-economic clearances, monitor the progress, and reasons for the delay in projects.

This list also includes the Ministry of Environment that has blindly granted environment and forest clearances overlooking the above impacts and non-compliance; the State Directorate of Energy and State Disaster Management Authority, who have failed to fulfil their regulatory roles and ensure that there is no negligence.

The environmental group demanded that an independent scientific review of the immediate or long-term implications of construction work for hydropower development in the Himalayas should be commissioned. Citizens’ engagement, public consent mechanisms need to be strengthened, and a grievance redressal process needs to be put in place.

 

Loos of wildlife in himachal due to hydropower projects

 

Environment

HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training on “Securing High Range Himalayan Ecosystems” Begins Today

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HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training

Shimla- HP ENVIS HUB at Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla, today kicked off its one-month training program on Para-taxonomy under the GoI-UNDP-GEF Project “Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable use and Restoration of high range Himalayan Ecosystems” (SECURE Himalaya).

This program is being conducted in collaboration with HP Forest Department and State Biodiversity Board for Lahaul, Pangi and Kinnaur landscapes of the State. Under this program, selected youth would be trained for documentation of local biodiversity in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).

The Chief Guest of the inaugural function was Dr Savita, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). Sh. Anil Thakur, CCF (Wildlife) and Dr S.P. Bhardwaj, Retd Associate Director, Regional Fruit Research Station, UHF, Nauni were special guests on the occasion.

Speaking on the inaugural function today, Dr Savita, PCCF (Wildlife) said that snow leopard is the iconic animal of high Himalayas. A good number of these apex predators denote a healthy ecosystem. To ensure the survival of these beautiful animals, sustainable use of forest resources and generation of alternative livelihood opportunities is pertinent.

The initial step to conserving local biodiversity is its documentation as Peoples Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). She lauded the efforts of ENVIS Hub in implementation of Green Skill Development Program (GSDP) last year and now training students in SECURE Project.

Dr Aparna Sharma, Coordinator, HP ENVIS Hub, informed that under this course, selected students would be imparted theoretical and practical knowledge by eminent experts in the fields of botany, zoology, forestry, wildlife, importance and conservation of Biodiversity, waste management, remote sensing & GIS. In association with State Biodiversity Board, field visits would be carried out to prominent Universities, Research Institutions and conservation areas of Himachal Pradesh for exposure to local flora, fauna and its documentation in PBRs.

A total of nine students have been selected for the training program: six from Pangi, two from Lahaul and one from Shimla. The best of trained youth would be involved in making PBRs in selected landscapes by the HP State Biodiversity Board.

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Video: CM Jairam Urges People to Celebrate Green Diwali After Setting Cracker Laden Effigies on Fire

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CM Jairam burns effigy laden with crackers

Shimla-Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on the occasion of Dussehra set ablaze the effigy of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhkarana on fire at Jakhu Temple in Shimla. Afterwards, while talking to media persons, the CM talked about the harmful effect of fire-crackers on the environment and urged the people of the state to refrain from using fire-crackers while celebrating Dussehra and Diwali.

He said considering the grieve problem of pollution that the world is currently facing, it’s the need of the hour to take concrete steps towards environmental protection. He said every individual should be encouraged to celebrate green Diwali.

However, it appeared that his government was not practising what it was preaching. The effigies that the CM set ablaze were filled with fire-crackers. Moreover, a round of fireworks was held right before ‘Ravana Dahan’.

There was a suitable opportunity for the CM and the organizers to send out an environment-friendly message on this Dussehra by refraining from using fire-crackers in effigies, which they missed.

On this occasion, the Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap, Narinder Bragta, chairman, HIMFED, Ganesh Dutt, Deputy Mayor Rakesh Sharma, and SP Omapati Jamwal were also present. All of them appeared to be clueless about sending a “Green” message.

Further, the Chief Minister talked about the victory of good over evil and taking the path of righteousness.

Dussehra festival signifies the victory of good over evil, truth over false and dharma over adharma. The Dussehra festival inspires us to follow the path of dharma (righteousness) and truth as in the end truth always wins,

he said.

He urged the people to work collectively to kill the demon of drug abuse from society. He laid the foundation stone of Nav Grah Mandir to be constructed at a cost of Rs. 15 lakh and also inaugurated a Museum at Jakhu Temple Complex.

Effigies were burnt at various places in Shimla including Summerhill, Chakkar, Kasumpti, Boileauganj, Vikasnagar etc. All the effigies were filled up with fire-crackers, which suggest that the government’s movement to discourage using fire-crackers is not yielding any results.

Similarly, cracker laden effigies were burnt in other districts of the state too.

Apparently, we need to devise innovative ways to make the celebrations of Dusshera and Diwali green. For example, a green celebration of Dusshera was witnessed in Delhi where a Ravana made of balloons was taken down without burning.

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Environment

Ignoring Environmental Concerns, HP Govt Signs 10 More MoUs for Hydro Projects Worth Rs. 25,772 Crores

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HP Govt Signs hydro-power mous at power conclave

Shimla- Though environmental groups and activists have been asserting that construction of more hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh is harmful to the fragile ecology, the State Government continues to sign more MoUs for more projects. The activist groups like Himdhara Collective have been highlighting the plight of the rural population and ecology of the state hit by the construction of hydropower projects.

The group has also challenged the claim that hydro-power is an eco-friendly source of power. The activists also allege that to favour the private investors, the government is keeping the people in dark through its erroneous environmental assessment reports.

In a Power Conclave organised by the Department of MPP and Power, Himachal Pradesh Government today signed 10 MoUs for hydro projects with an investment of Rs. 25,772 crore with a capacity of 2927 MW. The government said these projects have the potential to provide employment to 13,250 persons with NTPC, SJVNL and NHPC for harnessing identified hydro projects in the State.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur claimed that the State Government has signed 570 MoUs worth about Rs. 75,700 crores.

Chief Minister said that the State has a potential of more than 23,500 MW harnessable hydro energy.

Jai Ram Thakur launched HIMURJA’s online portal Unified Single Window Clearance Portal for processing of Rooftop Solar PV (USRTPV), which will enable the consumers to apply for rooftop solar system online and relevant stakeholders would be able to process applications online through this portal.

Mini Ratna from the State, SJVNL signed MoUs for 7 Hydro Electric Projects (HEP) with a total capacity of 1958 MW; these are Luhri Stage – I, Luhri Stage – II, Dhaulasidh, Jangi Thopan Powari, Purthi, Bardang. MoUs were also signed with NTPC for projects with a total capacity of 520 MW for construction of Miyar HEP and Seli HEP. Apart from it, MoU was signed with NHPC for Dugar HEP project which has a capacity of 449 MW.

Apart from Hydro Power Projects, the department of MPP & Power has also entered MoUs worth Rs 1,040 crore with three private entities in Solar Power Sector which shall generate employment to about 1,500 persons.

Principal Secretary Power Prabodh Saxena informed that during the next two years, 645 MW capacity would be added and two HEP projects of Kutehr and Luhri Stage-I would commence construction.

It’s pertinent to mention that, June 2019, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective had released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydropower construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh. Over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydropower production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all. As per Himdhara, this document compiled primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects highlighting the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

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