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Himachal tribals oppose hydel project in Spiti valley

SHIMLA: Tribal communities in Himachal Pradesh are up in arms against hydro power projects proposed in their areas. While Kinnaur residents are demanding complete ban on hydro projects, people across Kullu, Kangra, Chamba and Lahaul & Spiti are opposing projects in their respective areas.

The most recent opposition against hydel projects is being led by people from Spiti valley, located at an average altitude of 10,150 feet above sea level. Sham valley in Spiti is entirely inhabited by pure homogenous Tibeto-Mangoloid tribe used to living keeping their houses unlocked, but now they are worried about their future after coming to know about a government proposal to build a power project in their area.

Camping in Shimla to highlight the issue, tribals opposing the projects claim that geological history of Sham valley dates back to half a billion years and remnants in fossils can be found scattered all along the valley, which may be treated like any other stone by the army of migrants who would invade the valley. "We wonder what the future will be for rare species of animals and plants in a fragile eco-system coping up with cement and steel structures," said Subodh Kumar, president of Shams Sangarsh Samiti of Spiti.

Sham valley witnesses extreme winter with minimum temperature being witnessed around minus 30 degrees Celsius. Harsh climate adds beauty to the valley with its mighty grey barren hills rolling into inhabitant green valleys on either side of Spiti river, snow capped peaks, 100-year-old monasteries and unique cultural identity that revolves around Buddhist monasteries. He said the elected government should not wish development at the cost of religious, cultural, social, economic and environmental rights and freedom of indigenous scheduled tribes.

Kinnaur based Him Lok Jagriti Manch convener and former IAS officer R S Negi said that no projects should be allowed in upper Kinnaur and Spiti areas. He said that cumulative impact assessment of Satluj basic is being conducted by the government while green activists too were doing studies at their own. Expressing concerns over projects coming up in high-altitude areas of the state, a one-man committee of then additional chief secretary (forests) Avay Shukla, appointed by Himachal Pradesh high court, to monitor the impact of hydro power projects on environment, in a report submitted in 2010 had stated that projects above the height of 7,000 feet require a more detailed examination by experts in the fields of hydrology, geology, 
forestry, environment and zoology.

The Times of India (01-12-2013)