Hydel projects in Himachal a threat to eco-system

Karcham Dam

All power companies, big or small, and corporate houses executing various hydel projects in different valleys of Himachal Pradesh are playing dangerous games with the ecosystem. These companies have been openly flouting environment norms. There has been large-scale destruction of herbs, shrubs and trees.

Dumping of debris in the local khuds and reserve forests has been causing extensive damage to the drinking water supply and irrigation channels. Acres of forest and agricultural land has turned barren because of the reckless cutting of hills and dumping of debris.

It is unfortunate that the district administration officials like Deputy Commissioners, SDMs, Divisional Forest Officers and state government officials responsible for the proper implementation of a MoU signed with the government have become silent spectators. They have given a free hand to the hydel companies to go ahead with the destruction of precious natural and forest wealth of the state.

Most of the companies executing hydel projects have failed to deposit the local area development fund with the state exchequer. The state officials have not bothered to collect it from them due to their political connections.

The arrest of over half a dozen officials while accepting bribe from power companies in the past two years has exposed the nexus between corrupt officials of the Revenue Department and the owners of hydel companies. There are a number of such cases where NOCs (no Objection Certificates) were issued overnight for setting up these projects throwing all norms to the wind.

SDMs, tehsildars and other revenue officials play a vital role in the grant of permission for setting up such projects as most of the NOCs for the transfer of land, marking of dumping sites, construction of roads to project site, etc are issued by them and later approved by district magistrates.

A dozen such hydel projects are coming up along the Satluj. Local residents have lodged many strong protests against the illegal acts of these companies and have taken to the streets. There is nobody to listen to the woes of the affected villagers.

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