The residents of Lippa Village in Kinnaur are up in arms against HP Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) for starting construction work on 130 MW Kashang Stage II and III power project.

The villagers reportedly were facing tremendous pressure from HPPCL to allow them to start construction work on the power project.

“On 9 October, the HPPCL and local police force came into the village and faced severe protests and demonstrations from the locals, united under the banner Paryavaran Sanrankshan Sangharsh Samiti and were finally forced to return.

“The work on the project cannot be started by HPPCL on account of the non-completion of the process under the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the area,” said Tashi Chewang, a member of the Samiti.

According to Chewang, the National Green Tribunal had on 4 May directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State Government of Himachal to place the forest clearance proposal in front of the affected Gram Sabhas for their perusal.

The judgment was passed in an appeal filed by Paryavaran Sanrankshan Sangharsh Samiti Lippa against the forest diversion for the said project.

Chewang said the appeal was made on the grounds that HPPCL had violated the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 which require a mandatory No-objection certificate of the Gram Sabha of villages to be affected by the diversion of forest lands for the project. The judgment had concluded that ‘the Gram Sabha shall consider all community and individual claims’ in the process bringing under it the cultural, religious, environmental and livelihood impacts caused due to the loss of forests and water sources.

The process of filing claims on forest land under the Forest Rights Act was initiated by the Forest Rights Committee of Lippa, formed for verification of the claims in the year 2016 itself.

47 individual claims and one community claim were sent to the sub divisional level committee (SDLC) Pooh, she said. However, the process of settlement under FRA 2006 has been slow due to the apathy of the administration and the government.

Finally, last month the District Level Committee has recommended the Community forest rights claim of Lippa whereas the Individual Claims were not yet recommended. No specific objection or reason has been stated by the SDLC held on 31 August as to why the individual claims were being returned and not recommended.