Skip to main content

Himachal hydro projects on major rivers "cleared" sans local nod, pollution control bodies' role "diluted": Govt told

Surlej
By Our Representative
A top civil society source has revealed that the Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) studies of  several big and small hydropower projects for Himachal Pradesh's three major river basins, Sutlej, Chenab and Beas, have either been completed are in the process of completion. However, for most of these, little or no local consultation, as required by law, has been carried out. 
A letter dashed to state environment secretary Manisha Nanda, who also heads the chief minister's office, by civil rights network Himdhara Collective has alleged, these studies have been found to be a mere formality, "as the process of giving environment and forest clearances for hydro projects has been de-linked from the CIA process."
Demanding that until complete studies are carried out there must be a moratorium on further hydro development in the state, the letter, which is based on an in-depth study of environmental assessment of all the rivers, says, there is, as of today, no "local community involvement in river protection".
A 2016 study, "Dried & Dusted: State of the Rivers Report – Himachal Pradesh", it said, "Himachal has the largest hydropower installed capacity in the country." It has "installed 10264 MW worth of projects. It is planning to harness a total 27436 MW out of which 24000 MW of power is harnessable (Govt. of HP, 2015-16) from the five major river basins of the state namely Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Yamuna across a total of 813 large, medium and small projects and micro-hydels."
"In such a scenario the nature of development is bound to impact the state of the rivers. In the next section we examine some of the major developments that have emerged as threats to the health of Himachal's rivers", the study believes.
Basing on the study, the letter -- signed  by representatives from Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Social Uplift Through Rural Action, Himalaya Bachao Samiti, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Sutlej Bachao Jiven Bachao Abhiyan Samiti, Himdhara Collective and Himachal Van Adhikar Manch -- calls Beas, Ravi, Sutlej and Lower Stretches of the Yamuna (tributaries) "already critically polluted" and "in the red", adding,  the regulatory authorities are least concerned about fighting pollution.

According to the letter, the State Pollution Control Board and the Irrigation and Public Health departments' roles have "either been made redundant or they have been working to ensure least hindrance to 'developers'." It adds, things wouldn't change for the better unless the "dilutions" made in the amendments in the Hydropower Policy of 2006 made in 2014 and 16, are withdrawn.
The amendments, says the letter, have dilute "the process of No Objection Certificate (NOC) from these departments prior to approval of hydro projects", adding, "The role of these regulatory agencies needs to be strengthened with community involvement in ensuring compliance to existing legislations that protect rivers and riparian rights."
Noting dangers posed by industrial pollution, the letter says, "Special attention needs to be paid to monitoring and regulation of industrial pollution in areas like Baddi, Barotiwala, Nalagarh and Paonta Sahib. Common Effluent Treatment Plants have failed miserably and an effort needs to be made to monitor pollution at the source as well as treat the effluents there."
Industrial pollution is not the only hazard faced by the state's rivers. The letters says, despite the National Green Tribunal and High Court orders, things with regard to sand mining have not change. While following their orders it is Sand mining is is "regulated or even stopped, the revival would take place in a short period of time."
The letter wants tourism and urbanisation as needing "serious policy measures that strengthen the role of regulatory agencies as well as work towards models that are not large and commercial in nature but small scale and community owned and managed." It adds, "Four laning projects and blind road widening are not just damaging forests but also increasing erosion and the siltation on our rivers."
Seeking involvement of local community in protecting forests in order to stop erosion of rivers, the letter says, "The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, if implemented in full spirit, will strengthen community control and ownership over forests around river basins. Unfortunately, the Himachal government has the poorest track record in FRA implementation with the forest bureaucracy impeding rather than facilitating the filing of claims process."

Comments

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?