Amid the increased frequency of landslides and rockslides incidents in the region, the tribals of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti are up in arms against mindless exploitation of resources in the fragile Himalayan region.
On Thursday, the residents of Jangi, Akpa, Khadura, Thopan and Rarang villages in the Jangram Valley in Kinnaur district staged protests against the proposed Jango Thopan Powari hydro project on Satluj River.
R S Negi, a former bureaucrat and member of Lok Jagriti Manch told The Statesman, that trans-Himalayan is very fragile and the state government should reconsider its policy of mindless exploitation in the region.
“The state government is constructing power projects one after another in the region which will badly affect the ecology of the tribal area.
There should be a study on the impact of such projects on the ecology of the areas as it could prove destructive as we have seen in recent landslides and rockslides incidents that had claimed the lives of over 44 persons,” he added.
Negi stated that the tribals had started ‘No Means No’ campaign against hydropower projects after the landslide incidents at Nigulsari and Batseri.
“We have had ample number of dialogues and given several chances to the administration and the government over the years but today’s protest is to indicate that there is no scope for any more talks as the people of the region have had enough. Kinnaur is already producing more than 3000 MW of the currently established 10500 MW.
In the last few years, the region has seen several slope failures and landslides as well as other impacts in the region.
In addition, the policymakers have dismissed these as ‘natural disasters’ despite all kinds of evidence – this is only to give a clean chit to hydropower projects,’’ he added.
Manshi Asher of Himdhara environment NGO said the push for capitalism in the country had not only affected our environment but it had also resulted in inequality in the country.
“If the ruling governments didn’t take timely action on construction of power projects, they will be considered as murders in history,” she added.
The protests in Kinnaur also got support from the residents of tribal Lahaul Spiti district who were against the hydropower projects being constructed on the Chandrabhaga river basin (Chenab).
Vikram Katoch of Save Lahaul Spiti society said over 50 small and big hydropower projects on 100 km stretch were proposed on Chenab basin in the district which will prove detrimental for the cold desert region.
“The proposed power projects will include construction of various underground tunnels using blasting material and these areas won’t be able to bear the impact.
The results of such activities can be seen in Chamoli in Uttarakhand wherein a glacier burst had caused widespread damage and resulted in the loss of over 200 lives,” he added.
Lahaul Spiti Ekta Manch president Sudarshan Jaspa said the region is home to nearly extinct species of wild animals and if construction activities are allowed in the region, the wildlife will also be one of the worst sufferers of the government’s hydropower agenda.
“We have recently submitted a memorandum to the Governor requesting his intervention and declare the area not fit for mega hydropower projects,” he added.
It is worth mentioning here that 44 persons had died in weather-related incidents including landslides and rockslides in Kinnaur district while 22 persons had been killed in Lahaul Spiti district in monsoon season this year.