Environment group Himdhara Collective on Sunday sent a letter to the expert committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, demanding cumulative impact assessment of each hydropower project on the Satluj river basin.
The committee, at its meeting on Tuesday, will consider the grant of environment clearance to public sector Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Ltd’s 219 MW Luhri Stage I Hydro Electricity Project, which is proposed downstream of the 420 MW Rampur hydropower project in the state.
The SJVN was earlier to construct a 750 MW project with a 35km-long tunnel in that stretch.
“It was due to the objections of the locals that the massive tunnel will disturb the geology of the region, already prone to landslides, that the project was dropped,” said Himdhara Collective’s letter.
Instead, the state government has now allocated three dams, namely Luhri Stage I, Luhri stage II (163 MW) and Sunni (355 MW) in that river stretch.
The key objection raised in the letter is that the expert committee, instead of studying the overall impact of the three projects, should examine each project individually.
The total land required for the three proposed projects is 654.02 hectares, which is twice the size of the land of the earlier proposed 750 MW Luhri project.
Considering 70 per cent of the required land falls in the category of ‘forest’, this would lead to more deforestation in the Satluj river basin which has already faced severe forest diversion, erosion and slope de-stabilisation, it said.
The letter highlighted that “the move to build tail end-to-tail end dams on a single river basin is destructive and this is the reason why we have been saying that the Environment Ministry should look at the cumulative impacts of the dams rather than for individual projects.”
In 2013, on the directions of the Environment Ministry, the state Directorate of Energy had commissioned cumulative environment impact assessment studies for all the major river basins of the state.
The process for the Satluj river basin was initiated in 2013. A series of public consultations were held where local communities and environmentalists had filed detailed objections.
Himachal Pradesh’s hydroelectricity generation potential is 27,436 MW — about 25 per cent of India’s total potential in the sector.
However, according to state’s Economic Survey 2017-18, only 10,519 MW has been harnessed till December 2016, which is 37.73 per cent of the total potential.