Shimla, July 5: Expressing concern over the fallout of upcoming mega hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, a group of activists have shot off a letter to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to stop funding the projects.
The letter, signed by activists led by Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, asked ADB’s Senior Energy Specialist of South Asia Department Andrew Jeffries to stop funding the projects being executed by the state-run Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd. (HPPCL).
They said the projects, 100 MW Sainj in Kullu district, 402 MW Shongtong-Karcham in Kinnaur district and 195 MW Kashang stage II and III, also in Kinnaur, should be scrapped due to their adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts.
The letter sent to Jeffries July 2 questioned the sanctioning of multi-million dollar loan for projects under Himachal Pradesh Clean Energy Development Investment Programme.
‘While the Kashang stage II and III are clearly being locally opposed, the Shongtong-Karchham project on the Satluj river will not only add to the severe ecological destruction but disappearance of the river. The same is the case of the very fragile Sainj Valley that needs a serious carrying-capacity review,’ said the letter.
‘The environment impact assessment reports of the projects are misleading and finalised after completely ignoring the socio-economic concerns as well as the ecological impacts and carrying-capacity issues,’ it said.
‘Land was acquired forcibly… and differential compensation and rehabilitation policies were based on local protest rather than public consultations,’ said the letter.
It said the ADB overlooked the poor performance of hydropower projects which have been deteriorating on every count, including power generation, over the years. ‘It should have steered clear of projects in ecologically-sensitive areas and sites important from the conservation point of view like Kinnaur and Sainj, if it was committed to a cleaner environment.’
Manshi Asher, one of the signatories of the letter, told IANS that ‘the HPPCL is not even sincere about the problems of the people who are facing rehabilitation. The rehabilitation packages announced for the projects are not adequate’.
According to forest department estimates, over 9,000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted to non-forest use. Of this, 7,000 hectares were used for hydel projects.