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Himachal: SC Approves Forest Land Diversion for 605 Projects Including Several Hydro-Electric Projects

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Forest Land diversion in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The Supreme Court of India on February 15, 2020, approved diversion of  685.58 hectares of forest land for 605 projects including several hydro-electric projects pending for want of FCA and FRA for many years. The judgement was passed by a three-judge Green Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde. These projects also include several hydropower projects.

It’s pertinent to mention that after the recent disaster in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, diversion of forest land for and construction of hydropower projects has again come under the radar of environmental scientist and activists. In Himachal Pradesh, the locals in Lahaul-Spiti  have started protesting over proposed power projects in their region.  The tragic disaster has killed about 58 persons so far. This number could rise as the rescue operations in the tunnels of the hydropower project continues.

The quest of the government to exploit forest land for developmental projects has been a contentious issue due to the fragile ecology of the Himalayan region.

Of these 605 projects, the Supreme Court has permitted FCA clearances to 138 projects, which include 20 hydro-electric projects, 88 road projects, five each of drinking water and other projects, three bus stand projects, two each of degree colleges, treasury office buildings and sewerage treatment plants and one each of IIT Kamand, School, Car Parking, Sub Market Yard, Police Post, Gau Sadan, Ropeway Manali, Helipad, Shiv Dham Mandi and bridge.

The Supreme Court also permitted 465 projects under FRA which include 334 road projects, 53 schools, 20 community centres, 18 drinking water supply and water pipeline, 13 tank and other minor water bodies, 10 dispensaries or hospitals, 7 anganwaris, 6 skill up-gradation or vocational training centres, and one each fair price shop, electric and tele/line, minor irrigation channel and water or raining water harvesting structure.

The Government reached the court with a plea to relax the restriction imposed on diversion of forest land under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (vide order dated 11.3.2019) and the restriction imposed on diversion of forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

All these projects were held up for long and the same could not proceed on account of directions contained in the order dated 11th March 2019 of the Apex Court. The Supreme Court order dated 15th February 2021 has permitted to execute 138 projects for which approval has been given by the Central Government under FCA and also permitted to execute 465 projects under FRA.

Some of the major projects are Rs. 1337 crore Green Corridor National Highway Sirmour and two-lane National Highway 20A (New NH 503) Dharamshala worth Rs. 61.48 crore sanctioned by Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

The Supreme Court has also accorded approval for construction of 66 KV line Sainj Sub Station to Lastadhar worth Rs. 56.36 crore, upgradation of existing 33/11 KV Sub Station Nadaun worth Rs. 12.54 crore, Rs. 19.31 crore scheme for setting up of 2 MV Solar PV Kaza, construction of Rs. 2.07 crore 33/11 KV Talyar Mandi, Rs. 6.74 crore construction of 33/11 KV unmanned Sub Station Manali.

The Apex Court cleared projects of HP Power Transmission Corporation Limited worth Rs. 338.31 crore. These projects are Rs. 31.73 crore 66 KV D/C line from Nirmand to Kotla Sub Station, Rs. 11.97 crore 132 KV transmission line Kurthala-Bathar to Majara, Rs. 66.47 crore 220/132/33 KV Sub Station at Andheri (Kala Amb), Rs. 119.58 crore 220 KV Transmission line from Dehan to Hamirpur and Rs. 108. 58 crore 66/220 KV Heiling Sub Station at Laha.

The approval has also cleared the way for construction of Rs. 46.80 crore Dhaulasidh Hydro Electric Project. Various projects of Education Department worth Rs. 142.67 crore have also been accorded approval by the Apex Court. Several projects of Municipal Corporation Shimla, Animal Husbandry, Transport, Health, Ayurveda and Election Department worth about Rs. 20 crore have also been cleared.  Shiv Dham project of Tourism Department at Mandi had also been cleared by the Court.

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Video: Massive Landslide in Sirmaur Caught on Camera, NH 707 Closed for Traffic

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Sirmaur landslide nh 707

Sirmaur-Incessant rains have caused another massive landslide in the Sirmaur district on National Highway 707. A 100 to 150 meters stretch of Paonta Sahib – Shillai road near Kali Dhank, Badwas, caved in within a few minutes.

According to the initial information received, no loss of lives or damage to any vehicle was reported as a minor slide from the hill had alerted the people.

The landslide completely damaged several electricity poles, causing a blackout in some parts of the region.

The district police is re-directing all traffic from Paonta Sahib to Shillai to the Puruwala-Kilod-Jong-Kafota-Shillai route.

Further, all traffic movement towards Shimla from the region has also been re-directed.

The HP Meteorological Department has issued a yellow alert for the state till August 2th, while widespread rain has been predicted till August 4th. 

The Met has also issued an alert for flash-floods for Chamba, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, and Solan districts.

It’s pertinent to mention that furious monsoon has already claimed over 200 lives and caused damages to property worth hundreds of crores in Himachal Pradesh.

During the last two days, as many as 21 people had died due to landslides and flash floods triggered by cloudbursts. Some of the persons who were swept away or buried were yet to be traced.

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Himachal: Cloudbursts, Landslides Claim 9 Lives in 48 Hours, 7 Still Missing, Met Issues Alert Till August 1st  

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monsoon damage in himachal pradesh 2021

Shimla-Monsoon continues to pummel Himachal Pradesh with deadly ferocity, leading to more cloudbursts, landslides, and flash floods. Several rivers and rivulets are in spate. Incessant rains could bring more destruction as the HP Meteorological Department has forecast widespread heavy rains till August 1st. While a red alert was issued for July 28, an orange alert has been issued for July 29 and July 30 and a yellow alert for July 31st and August 1st.

An advisory has been issued for locals and tourists to not venture near the river banks and avoid unnecessary travel as incessant rains could lead to more landslides, flash floods, and uprooting of trees.  However, tourists could be seen resolutely ignoring these warnings and partying near river banks and water bodies.

As devastation unfolds, the death toll due to monsoon induced calamities has reached nearly 200, while damages to property were assessed to be in hundreds of crores. Over 350 roads, including Manali-Leh, Pathankot-Chamba, and Shimla-Kalka, were blocked due to landslides.  Half a dozen bridges, as many as 30 houses and several vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of tourists were reportedly struck in Lahaul.

lahaul-spiti cloudburst

After a flash flood in Dharamshala, a massive landslide in Shahpur constituency, and a horrid rockslide in Kinnaur district that killed nine tourists and injured four people, a cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Lahaul-Spiti district on Tuesday that washed away over a dozen of people, who were said to be labourers.  

cloudburst in lahaul-spiti

According to the Director of the State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar, at the time of writing this report, seven bodies had been recovered while four others were missing. The cloudburst occurred over Tonzin nallah in the Lahaul region of the tribal district. Rescue operations were in progress to trace missing persons.

A team of the National Disaster Response Force, which was on its way to Lahaul-Spiti through road, remained stuck in Mandi for several hours.  

On Wednesday morning, cloudburst was reported in Kullu district resulting in deluging of Bhramhaganga – a tributary of Parvati river. A  tourist, a 25-year-old mother along with her 4-year-old son, and a hydropower official came in its spate and were yet to be traced. Beas river was also in spate and people living in shanties on its bank were evacuated. 

Beas in spate

Rackham area in Kinnaur district also reported heavy losses due to a cloudburst on Wednesday morning.

While a rockslide killed one person in Chamba’s Saluni, a helper tagged with a JCB deployed for clearing Bharmaur-Pathankot National Highway was swept away by gushing waters of a nullah on Tuesday night. His body was recovered on Wednesday.

In Shimla, a landslide between Vikasnagar and Panthaghati crushed a vehicle and caused damaged to some others. Gumma khud in Chirgaon was also in spate and reportedly swept away a bridge and about four vehicles. 

landslide in shimla crushed car

Dharamsala received the highest 122 mm of rain, followed by Una 119 mm. In Solan district, Kasauli and Nalagarh also received over 105 mm rain. 

This widespread destruction has worried climatologists and environmentalists who are linking increased instances of landslides and cloudburst to environmental degradation and destabilization of hills due to developmental projects, including cutting of hills for widening of roads, construction of four lanes, hydropower projects etc. 

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Kinnaur: Massive Landslide Caught on Camera, Kills 9 Tourists, Injures 4, Destroys Bailey Bridge

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kinnaur landslide in batseri

Kinnaur: A massive landslide in Batseri on Sangla-Chitkul road in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday killed nine persons and injured at least four others. Huge boulders rolled down the mountain following the landslide and destroyed an iron Bailey bridge and many vehicles parked along the road within a few seconds.

A tourist vehicle, which was reportedly carrying about 11 tourists from Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, was hit by boulders near Gunsa, killing nine tourists. A couple of videos of this heart-wrenching incident went viral on social media. In the video, some people can be heard whistling and shouting to warn others.

“Nine people died, and three were injured after boulders rolled downhill due to a landslide in Kinnaur district. Batseri bridge collapsed in the incident. A rescue team is present at the spot,” Superintendent of Police (SP), Kinnaur, Saju Ram Rana said.

The intensity with which boulders hit could be assessed from the fact that the iron bailey bridge on the Baspa river collapsed instantly. 

Video of landlside in himachal pradesh

On receiving the information, teams of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police rushed to the spot and initiated a rescue operation. The district administration was also assessing the situation. As per reports, rocks sliding down from the hilltop made the rescue operation difficult for the teams.

sangla valley landslide

As per initial reports, a request was made to make a helicopter available to aid rescue work, which was yet to be fulfilled.

landslide in himachal pradesh

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also expressed grief over the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the deceased while injured would be given Rs. 50 thousand.

The exact cause behind the landslide was yet to be ascertained.

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Pratiksha Sunil Patil (27) from Sadhbhawna Nagar, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  2. Deepa Sharma (34) from Jaipur
  3. Amoghi Bapat (27) from Korba Darri in Chhatisgarh
  4. Umrab Singh (42) of Tagore Garden West Delhi
  5. Kumar Ulhas vedpathak (37)
  6. Anurag Biyani (31) from Sikar in Rajasthan, his mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) and his sister Richa Biyani (25)
  7. Satish Katakbar (34) from Chhatisgarh.

Those injured have been identified as Shiril Obroy (39) from West Delhi, Naveen Bhardwaj (37) from Kaharar in Mohali and Ranjeet Singh (45) from Batseri in Sangla.

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