Himachal Pradesh has five river basins i.e., Satluj, Yamuna, Beas, Ravi & Chenab and the identified potential of hydropower is 20463.5 MW out of this only 6066.00 MW has been harnessed till now. Major of these hydro power projects are located in the Satluj basin of Kinnaur district which accounts for 9728.25 MW hydropower potential.
Hydropower projects are generally made to generate electricity by constructing dams and reservoirs to provide hydraulic head and release water through turbines on a schedule that matches energy demands. The river water is stored in dams and passed through the tunnel and released on the turbines, by running this water on turbines, the turbines start rotating and thus electricity is generated. A number of hydro projects have grown in the state of Himachal Pradesh out of these, major hydro-projects are located in the Satluj basin of Kinnaur district.
Kinnaur district is located in the North Eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, India bordering The Republic Of China. Kinnaur has an area of 6041 sq. km about 11.5 % of the state with a population of 84,298 persons, density 13 person per sq km. The altitude of district ranges from 1500 meter to 7025 meter above mean sea level. The major part of district is drained by river Satluj or Sutlej.
Many hydro projects are affected the villages in Kinnaur , below is their account :
1. Village Chagaon, Jani, Urni & Punang are affected by Karcham-Wangtu project.
2. Village Nigulsari & Kafor are affected by Nathpa-Jakhri project.
3. Village Pangi is affected by Kashang project.
4. Village Moorang is affected by Tidong project.
5. Village Kandhar is affected by Karcham-Wangtu.
In Kinnaur the dams constructed by these projects are acting as a physical barrier to fish movement and are interrupting the life cycle of migratory species of fish. Because of which the aquatic ecology in general and fisheries in particular and destroying it.
The roads in Kinnaur are very close to river Satluj, so when the water rises up in the dam it touches the road which leads to weakening of the mountain and road base.
During tunnel digging heavy blastings are done which causes cracks in the village houses. Around 80% people of project area are affected by this problem. It has also caused drying up of springs, grazing and agricultural fields. An article from Indian Newspaper “The Tribune” of 6th May 2012 tells us that, Him Dhara, a Himachal based environment action group, obtained data under the Right to Information Act from the Irrigation and Public Health Department, which revealed that 43 out of 167 water sources had dried up in villages affected by the Karchham Wangtoo project, and discharge in another 67 has gone down.
During the construction of tunnel, done to give water a slope, the excavation material is directly dumped into Satluj river or near road side, which not only causes deterioration of water quality but also air pollution.
There is no industry in Kinnaur , the only and only one reason for air pollution in Kinnaur is Dust and the poisonous gases from this excavation material.
Transmission tower lines are used to transmit electricity from Kinnaur to other states and districts. During making of these towers a huge chunk of forest land has so far been diverted. According to the state forest department, over 70, 000 hectares of forest land has so far been diverted to hydro projects. Of this, nearly 1,000 hectares is in Kinnaur district. EIA reports of individual projects indicate felling of about 35,046 trees including highly endangered species ones like Chilgoza trees (Pinus Gerardiana).
A case study of Manoj Jreat and Renuka Thapliyal tells us that, there is an unfavourable perception and a negative attitude towards hydel power projects in Kinnaur district .This is mainly because the local residents do not perceive any benefit in terms of employment opportunities or improvement in infrastructure rather they believe that the projects stand responsible for destroying their simplicity of life.
Their study revealed a heart breaking data, that to give a way to the projects in Kinnaur other districts like Shimla, Kullu, Sirmaur and Bilaspur are also affected as 1,19,292 trees have been cut to construct these power lines.
Residents of six villages coming under Tinala forest area have lost 80 per cent of their Chilgoza trees due to blasting and debris dumping.
During the making of these hydropower projects around 35046 trees are felled and damaged, and 781.479 hectares forest/agricultural area is diverted.
Apple is the main cash crops of district. Throughout the district, people attribute the decrease in crop production to air pollution, decrease in precipitation and lack of moisture in the soil due to establishment of Hydro projects.
The main reason behind the decrease in crop production and small size of apples is the dust which arises from dumping of excavation material, which results in air pollution. The dust affects the flower of plant during its time of pollination, this dust when settles down on the stigma of flower it stops an anther to contact with stigma, which affects the pollination.1