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

Uttarakhand



I. Overview: Dams damned

During July-September 2010, Uttarakhand ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party witnessed cancellation of many dams.

In July 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forest rejected the proposal for diverting 217.522 hectares forest land for constructing the 261 MW Rupsiabagar-
Khasiyabara Hydroelectric Project in Pithoragarh district. The Ministry held that diversion will affect the highly ecological sensitive wildlife habitat. [1]

Ignoring the recommendations of the “Committee to Ascertain the Status of Environmental Clearances of Lohari-Nag Pala Hydro Power Project on Bhagirati River” constituted by Ministry of Environment and Forest, in July 2010, the Group of Ministers (GoM) of the Government of India cleared the controversial Lohari-Nag Pala hydro-power project stirring turbulence within the high-level National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) headed by the Prime Minister constituted in February 2009 for comprehensive management of the Ganga River Basin. [2] In February 2010, the non-official expert members of the above mentioned Committee, namely Ravi Chopra, SK Sinha and RH Siddiqi had recommended for decommissioning of the Loharinag-Pala dam. However, in the light of the vigorous protests by environmental, religious and social justice groups, the Central Government decided to cancel three under-construction power projects including the Lohari Nagpala project on 23 August 2010. [3]

According to a press release dated 4 August 2010 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Uttarakhand government proposed to build 61 more dams on the Ganga River and its tributaries while 15 dams have already been constructed and commissioned. [4]

The Environment and Forests Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) decided not to give clearance to any of the proposed projects until the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) conducts a cumulative impact assessment study of all the proposed dams. The decision came after an FAC team, under instructions from the Uttarakhand High Court, found serious violations in some existing dams and that the government had decided not to undertake any cumulative study on the effects of building so many dams on the Ganga. [5] Earlier, in an inspection report submitted to the Uttarakhand Governor in April 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had warned that there would be no water in large stretches of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi riverbeds if the state government built the 53 power projects on these two rivers. [6]

On 22 July 2010, the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) had to cancel the public hearing regarding the construction of the 252-MW capacity Devsari hydro-electricity project, being built on Pindar river in Chamoli district for the second time due to strong opposition by projected affected people led by Matu Jan Sangathan (MJS) and Bhu Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti (BVSS). The first environmental public hearing which was to be held on 13 October 2009 had to be suspended due to strong public opposition. [7]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

During July-September 2010, ACHR documented two cases of violations of civil and political rights.

On 12 July 2010, police beat up Rajkumar, a Member of Legislative Assembly of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Dehradun, the state capital. Following an argument the policemen allegedly dragged Rajkumar out of his vehicle and assaulted him. They later took him to Premnagar police station. [8] Eight policemen, including a sub-inspector were suspended and booked on charges of rioting, voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, criminal intimidation and attempt to murder under the Indian Penal Code. [9]

On 4 September 2010, 50-year-old Rajendra Singh Arora died due to alleged torture in the custody of Kotwali police station in Haridwar. The deceased, an employee of Haridwar Roadways, was picked up from his residence on 30 August 2010 for questioning in connection with a case of theft on 27 August 2010. Police also detained the deceased’s son and tortured both.  The deceased sustained serious injuries and had to be rushed to the district hospital on the night of 4 September 2010 where he succumbed to his injuries after a few hours of admission. Although Sanjay Gunjyal, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Haridwar denied the allegations of torture, he failed to give answer for the prolong illegal detention of the father-son duo. [10]

III. Violations of ESCRs

a. Violations of land rights

In September 2010, the Uttarakhand government had reportedly decided to allot about 115 acres of land to Baba Ramdev in Rishikesh. Reacting strongly to the government decision on 15 September 2010, the Uttarakhand Revenue Minister Devakar Bhatt stated that government must provide alternate land to the people of 101 villages ravaged by heavy rains and landslides in the state rather than giving it away to saints for buildings ashrams. [11]

In the second week of September 2010, forty-two families living in the Chinvalisaur area had to be moved to safer places after their houses were submerged with the rise of the level of Tehri Dam Reservoir to 820 metres. Four houses were washed away while many more were affected. On the other hand, government continued to delay in providing compensation to those whose properties fell in the declared submergence zone. [12]

On 28 September 2010, hearing a petition by ND Jayal seeking proper rehabilitation of displaced villagers, a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhake underlined six focus areas that required immediate attention from both Tehri Hydro Development Corporation and the Uttarakhand government. These included evacuation and rehabilitation of three villages in the Bhagirathi Valley facing threat of submergence, pending rehabilitation measures of some families, early disposal of close to 1,500 complaints for adequate compensation, supply of drinking water to villages situated at higher altitudes. [13]

Endnotes:
1. No environment clearance for Uttarakhand hydro project, The Economic Times, 19 July 2010
2. GoM’s clearance to Lohari-Nag Pala hydro-power project triggers controversy, The Pioneer, 22 July 2010
3. GoM decides to scrap NTPC hydel project on Bhagirathi river, Business Standard, 23 August 2010
4. http://www.pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=64162
5. A breach of faith in dams, Hindustan Times, 18 July 2010
6. Power plants will dry up Ganga in Uttarakhand: CAG - The Times of India, 2 April 2010
7. Villagers’ protest stalls Devsari dam public hearing again, The Pioneer, 28 July 2010
8. Eight police personnel suspended for beating up BJP MLA, The Times of India, 13 July 2010
9. Ibid
10. Complaint of the ACHR to NHRC on 10 September 2010
11. Give land to Uttarakhand villagers first: Minister, The Hindu, 16 September 2010 
12. 42 families shifted, The Hindu, 11 September 2010
13. SC unhappy at poor Tehri rehabilitation, The Times of India, 18 September 2010
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