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Villagers, environmentalists blame hydro projects for destabilising hills

 

The formation of an artificial lake on the Sutlej near Urni, 25 km from here, on the Hindustan-Tibet National Highway, following two massive landslides within a week has stirred up the anger of villagers. They are blaming the hydro-power projects for destabilising the fragile hills by reckless excavations for the construction of underground tunnels.

The artificial lake does not pose any immediate danger as 20 to 30 per cent of water is seeping and flowing down the river, but in case the lake bursts, it can cause flash floods.

Villagers of Urni, Chagaon, Ula and Meru panchayats alleged that the crisis was man-made and tribal people were facing such natural disasters ever since a large number of hydro-power projects were constructed in tribal areas.” The 1000-MW Karcham Wangtoo project proved to be last nail in the coffin, they claimed.

Retd IAS officer RS Negi, president, Himlok Jagriti Manch, said the villagers opposed the project “tooth and nail” and pointed out that the construction of huge tunnels underneath would endanger the villages, but the promoters had their say.

The project is generating more than 1,200 MW of power, but the destabilising of hills had posed danger to the villages located at a height, and landslides at Urni was a living example of ‘geological changes’ suspected to have taken place following large-scale excavations by the projects, he said.

The devastating floods in Kinnaur district last year were a result of these human activities, but the state government did not declare it as a national calamity as it could have a bearing on the hydro power, he added.

Negi alleged that earlier the outlet for flushing out the silt was just 1 km from Karcham, but now it had been shifted to 5 km below Urni. The construction of two tunnels had de-stabilised the lose strata and the fear of the villages sinking anytime was lurking over them, he added.

Sunil Kumar Negi, Urni pradhan, said unauthorised construction of silt outlet by the hydro-power project was responsible for the situation and demanded compensation for people of four villages.

DD Sharma, Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, said there was status quo in respect of the artificial lake as the inflow and outflow of the lake was almost same. However, the water of Ula Khud was also merging into the Sutlej and as such heavy rain and faster melting of snow could pose a danger.

He said they had written to the state government to urge the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to send a team of experts to study the geological changes and also the reason for the same. 

Another catastrophe in the making?

Villagers of Urni, Chagaon, Ula and Meru panchayats alleged that the crisis was man-made and tribal 
people were facing such natural disasters ever since a large number of hydro-power projects were constructed in tribal areas. The 1000-MW Karcham Wangtoo project proved to be the last nail in the coffin, they claimed.

 

17/06/2014, The Tribune