States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Himachal Pradesh



I. Highlight: Damn the dams

During July-September 2010, Himachal Pradesh continued to be in news for controversial hydropower projects and cement plants and the failure to rehabilitate people earlier displaced. The state reportedly has power generation potential of about 23,000 MW. There are some 400 hydel projects proposed in the Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and Chenab basins of the state. All these projects are in different stages of allotment or implementation, while another 600 are awaiting allotment. [1] Currently, 13 hydropower projects in the public sector, six in Central and joint sectors and 19 in the private sector with a combined generation capacity of 5,809.1 MW are being executed in the state. [2]

These projects will cause environmental degradation and displacement. 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. [3]

a. Shukla Committee report: Findings worrisome

In August 2010, a Committee headed by Abay Shukla, Additional Secretary,  Forest (hereinafter the Shukla Committee), constituted by the Himachal Pradesh High Court in December 2009 to examine the environmental fallout of over 100 MW projects in the state, submitted its report to the Court. The Shukla Committee confined its survey to only 11 projects, but the findings are worrisome enough. [4]

The Committee recommended that a minimum riparian distance of 5 km be maintained between two projects on the same river and the projects which did not conform to this requirement and had not yet received environment clearances should be put on hold until the entire issue was examined and a proper policy framed. The report highlighted glaring deficiencies pertaining to environment management not only in the private sector projects but also those being executed by government agencies like the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation Limited (NHPC Limited) and the National Termal Power Coorporation (NTPC). The Committee found that the main valleys saturated with projects and power developers were moving to tributaries but the effect of large-scale felling of trees, dumping of muck and diversion of river water over the entire basin had not been studied by the government before allotting projects. Further, the Committee recommended the state government to declare some areas as “protected zones” under the Environment Protection Act 1986 to help maintain ecological balance. [5]

The Shukla Committee indicted the Hyderbad-based Nuziveedu Seeds Company executing the 100 MW Tidong-I project in Kinnaur district for felling large number of trees, including endangered species. As against the approval granted for felling of 1,261 trees, the Company had already felled 1,851 trees. As per the revised assessment of the Forest Department, destruction of another 4,815 trees was inevitable if the construction of the surge shaft road was allowed any further. More importantly, out of these 2,803 trees were the chilgoza pine trees which are already nearing extinction. The Company had prepared a false detailed project report on the basis of which the forest clearance was granted for the project. [6]

The state government decided to contest the Shukla Committee report in respect of big projects, while environmentalists want its recommendations to be applied to all hydroelectric projects, including small ones, which are causing more damage and creating serious problems for the local people. In fact, environmental fallout of the projects on small streams was much more as the people were entirely dependent on them for drinking water, irrigation and other needs. [7]

b. Renuka Dam: MoEF declines environment clearance

In August 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India rejected the request of the state government for the diversion of forest land for the Renuka Dam project proposed in Sirmour district. The decision on Renuka dam was taken because of the large scale deforestation involved in the diversion of almost 775 hectares of forest land required for the project. [8] The 148-metre tall and 24-km long Renuka Dam project to be set up by the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited on the Giri Ganga river in Sirmaur district will virtually stop the flow of the river and will submerge an area of about 2000 hectares at its stoppage in Dadahu in Renuka tehsil of Sirmaur district. More than 100 families will be displaced and more than 200 families will lose fertile agricultural land, cultivable wasteland and private forests. Further, a total of 340 families will be affected upstream of the project. [9]

c. State repression on the project affected persons

The state government sought to repress the rights of the project affected persons with an iron hand.

On 4 August 2010, the Hallan-Majhat-Karjan Sangharsh Samiti, which is opposing the setting up of 1.5-MW power project on Haripur (Pakhnose) nullah in Kullu district, had accused the state government of abusing state machinery to harass the villagers. According to the Samiti, the villagers were being implicated in false cases at the behest of the private company and cases of theft had been registered even against women. The project, if allowed to come up, would spell doom for over a population of 15,000 of 19 villages in three panchayats as they would be deprived of their main source of drinking water and irrigation. The District Administration had reportedly ignored their concerns and gave report in favour of the private company under pressure from the higher-ups in the government. [10]

Similarly, on 5 September 2010, two persons were seriously injured in disproportionate use of force by the police during against protestors at the 100 MW Malana II site in Kullu district. The protestors were holding a peaceful protest demanding construction of road, toilets, hospital, drains, streetlights and Panchayat Bhawan as promised by the company while acquiring their land. [11]

d. Cement plants: NGO into mining!

Cement plants have been causing serious environmental damages.  On 14 September 2010, the villagers of Keran, Chambi and Khatravari in Mandi district, urged the state government to cancel the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Harish Cement Private Limited for construction of the controversial cement plant at Chambi near Sundernagar. The cement plant will have adverse impact on environment, agriculture, irrigation and public health in the Sundernagar-Mahadev-Chambi belt. The plant will also destroy the drinking and irrigation water sources in both Chambi and Keran. [12]

In September 2010, a Joint Action Committee (JAC) was formed opposing the proposed cement plant on the Keran-Chambi belt. The 173-hectare site will destroy lush, thick forest groves of vast varieties of trees, plant, shrubs and herbs where thousands of species of birds, animals, leopards and reptiles live and yield grass for farmers. The jungle also conserves over 21 water sources feeding many villages and Sundernagar and is less than four km from Bandli Wildlife Sanctuary. [13]

Even the NGOs are involved in mining. In July 2010, the Himachal Pradesh High Court banned mining at Phati Diyar Kothi Kot Kandi village in Kullu district. The High Court also fined M/s Manorma Welfare Association, Hurla with Rs 50,000 for violating environment laws and directed the society to stop further construction of stone
crushing unit on the site. The Court further questioned that how a
society carrying on activities of quarrying, mining and stone crushing be registered under the Himachal Pradesh Societies Registration Act, 2006, which was enacted to provide for registration and working of literary, scientific, educational, religious and charitable activities in the state. [14]

e. No lesson learnt: Dam oustees still awaiting rehabilitation

The Pong Dam was built in 1960 across theBeas river in Kangra district but the people displaced by the dam are still awaiting rehabilitation.

The District Administration of Kangra had finalised the list of 2,505 Pong Dam oustees in the last one year, who have not been allotted any land at the end of August 2010 by the Rajasthan government. The Supreme Court had earlier directed the Rajasthan government to allot 1,100 hectare reserve land in Ganganagar district for the Pong Dam oustees. The state government of Rajasthan failed to comply with the Supreme Court directions. [15] Instead the state government of Rajasthan has been offering about 3,500 muraba land in Bikaner district to the Pong Dam oustees. However, the land being offered does not have any irrigation facility and barren.  In 1996, the Supreme Court had ordered the allotment of 1,188 muraba land to them in Ganganagar district. However, most of the land earmarked for the oustees in Ganganagar district had been encroached upon by locals. The Rajasthan government had failed to evict the encroachers at the end of September 2010. [16]

Similarly, the state government failed to ensure the welfare including rehabilitation of the Bhakra Dam oustees in Bilaspur as on 1 September 2010.

II. Violations of the rights of the indigenous peoples

The tribals were greatly affected by development projects in the state.

The tribals were denied compensation after their lands were acquired for development projects. In 1982-83, the Border Roads Organisation acquired land in Madgram village in Lahaul and Spiti district for construction of the Sansari Nallah-Killar-Thirot road. However, the local tribal people who have parted with their land have not received compensation as on September 2010. The tribals had informed the matter to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes which directed the concerned authority for payment of the land compensation amounting to Rs 7,16,81,292. The Chief Minster P K Dhumal urged the Union Ministry for Road Transport and Highways to intervene in the matter. [18]

Further, a vast area of forest lands has been grabbed by non-tribals in Chandra and Bhaga valleys in land-locked tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti. The forest lands were grabbed to grow potatoes and peas under the nose of the district administration. As on 13 September 2010, the district administration claimed to  have removed encroachments of  about 3000 bighas of land from the possession of land grabbers in an  anti-encroachment drive in Darcha and Sissu areas. However, the tribals alleged the administration failed to take any action against the violators. [19]

III. Violations of the ESCRs

There were reports of widespread mis-use of social sector funds impacting the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
In September 2010, an enquiry was launched by the Deputy Commissioner, Solan to investigate a scam involving embezzlement of government funds worth several lakhs in the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Kandaghat. The SDM office had failed to disburse various funds, including the Natural Calamity Fund and the medical reimbursement allowance, to the beneficiaries. In some cases, funds in lieu of office expenditure were shown to be drawn from the government treasury from 2008 to May 2010 with no proper receipts of its usage in the records. [20]

The state government appointed Ombudsman under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGA). However, not a single Lok Adalat was held to look into NREGA complaints as of 4 August 2010. As a result, complaints were piling up in each district. This violates the order of the Supreme Court to hold Lok Adalats to give justice to the NREGA complainants. [21]

Endnotes:
1 . Power dryers, Outlook India, 27 September 2010
2 . Suspend new hydro projects in Himachal: Environmentalists, Yahoo News, 12 September 2010
3 . Ibid
4 . Power dryers, Outlook India, 27 September 2010
5 . Shukla panel report recommendations, The Tribune, 12 August 2010
6 . Kinnaur project damaging endangered chilgoza trees, The Tribune, 30 August 2010
7 . SHUKLA COMMITTEE REPORT, Apply recommendations to all hydel projects: Environmentalists, The Tribune, 13 September 2010
8 . Environment Ministry spikes another dam proposal for HP, IBN Live, 28 October 2010
9 . High social cost of Renuka project, By Manshi Asher, The Tribune, 16 February 2009
10 . Villagers oppose power project, The Tribune, 5 August 2010
11 . Lathicharge by police, Malana villagers hold protest, The Tribune, 7 September 2010
12 . Sundernagar Cement Plant, Villagers urge state to cancel MoU, The Tribune, 15 September 2010
13 . Farmers decry proposed cement plant at Sundernagar, The Tribune, 17 September 2010
14 . HC bans mining in village, The Tribune, 3 July 2010
15 . Pong Dam oustees still await compensation, The Tribune, 28 August 2010
16 . Pong oustees offered land in Bikaner again, The Tribune, 1 October 2010
17 . Govt failed to protect Bhakra Dam oustees’ interests: Congress, The Tribune, 2 September 2010
18 . Land compensation: Dhumal urges Centre to intervene, The Tribune, 4 September 2010
19 . Forest land grabbed in Lahaul-Spiti, The Tribune, 14 August 2010
20 . Funds worth lakhs missing from Kandaghat SDM office, The Tribune, 11 September 2010

21 . Despite ombudsman complaints pile up, The Tribune, 5 August 2010

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