Skip to main content

Of Himachal's incessant rains, reservoir-induced seismicity, hydro-electric projects

By Bharat Dogra* 

Following excessive rain in many parts of Himachal Pradesh on August 20, the situation deteriorated rapidly and flash floods as well as landslides were reported from many areas. In a particularly sad incident, 8 members of a single family in Gauhar ke Kashan village were buried under their collapsed house and died.
In the same district nearly 900 students and their teachers who had gathered in Mandi district for a sports event were trapped for some time due to a flash flood, spreading a lot of anxiety.
Nearly 27 persons died in various incidents whole some others were injured or missing. Several hundreds were rescued, or had a narrow escape. In Bariara village of Nurpur area, several houses developed cracks and had to be deserted.
The Chakki railway bridge on the Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow gauge railway track collapsed. This was a known danger zone as repair of pillars had been taken up in recent times but the more extensive repair or reconstruction work needed was not taken up.
The Pathankot-Mandi highway also suffered extensive damage. Indiscriminate construction and road cutting has led to the creation or aggravation of many permanent landslide zones here and the situation worsens at the time of heavy rains.
Other reports say that those who had suffered serious harm in earlier flash floods and landslides during this monsoon season have not been rehabilitated properly yet. To give an example, flash floods had caused extensive damage in Karpat village of Lahaul and Spiti district in the last week of July this year ( as well as earlier in 2017).
Fearing more harm from floods, they have to start living in tents some distant away. More recently they have sent a strong plea to the administration for rehabilitation at a safer place.
The cumulative impact of several such disasters has led to a situation in which a large number of families have been devastated over the years and another significant number live with increasing fear in danger zones. A recent report by the state government has stated that Himachal Pradesh is vulnerable to 25 out of 33 hazards identified by the Government of India. Overall, the districts of Chamba, Kinnaur and Kullu, as well as parts of Kangra and Shimla fall in the ‘ very high’ vulnerable status.
When looked at in the context of earthquakes, the districts of Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi fall in the ‘very high’ vulnerability category.
In this context the extent to which risks can be aggravated by the location of several hydro-electricity projects in high-risk areas and high seismicity areas has been frequently debated.
There are several aspects of this debate. One aspect relates to the extent to which these structures are safe in high seismicity areas. Another aspect relates to the extent to which threats and risks increase in the course of the construction process which frequently involves not just the use of heavy machinery but also often blasting work and serious problems relating to disposal of mounds of rubble. Yet another aspect of controversy relates to reservoir induced seismicity.
Have all these risks been taken care of while approving these projects? Given the sensitive ecology and fragile as well as complex (from the point of view of dam-construction) geological conditions of the region, is it really advisable to go ahead with several of the controversial hydro-electricity projects of the region?
Are these projects even desirable and viable in economic terms, given the long delays and cost overruns? A parliamentary committee on energy has reported recently that the 800 MW Parbati-II project earlier billed at Rs 3,900 crore has a cost over-run of Rs 5,400 crore so that it is now estimated to cost Rs 9,300 crore. 
Where is the guarantee that a project found viable at the cost of Rs 3,900 crore is still viable following a 139% rise to Rs 9,300 crore?
Such questions can be raised also about the 100 MW Uhl-III which has experienced 197% cost rise, or the Sawra Kaddu project which has experienced cost rise of 111%.
In the case of several highway construction and highway widening projects there have been many cases of indiscriminate cutting of slopes, excessive tree felling, unsafe practices of rubble disposal and other factors leading to the emergence of many more landslide zones as well as aggravation of the threat from floods.
Indiscriminate mining, particularly in and round rivers and water-sources for sand, has also led to increasing the threat from floods during rains (while at the same contributing to rapid depletion of water during the dry season).
These times of climate change are identified with several kinds of adverse weather situations, including concentration of rainfall in a few very heavy rain events. In such a situation there is need for more ecologically protective policies but the actual situation appears to be moving in the opposite direction.
Therefore there is clear need for corrective actions in favor of an ecologically protective path which will also protect people from disasters.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books include ‘Planet in Peril', ‘Protecting Earth for Children' and ‘A Day in 2071’

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i