Dam projects worry environmentalists
Shimla: Depleting green cover, receding water resources and frequent change in climatic conditions are worrying the environmentalists in Himachal Pradesh. The reason is obvious. The small hill state is the storehouse of biodiversity.
"Thousands of trees have been axed and thousands would soon meet the same fate," said R.S. Negi, who is heading the Him Lok Jagriti Manch (HLJM), a people's movement in Kinnaur district against upcoming hydro projects.
"A large number of micro and major hydropower projects are coming up on the rivers and their tributaries, blocking the regular flow of the water. Traditional water sources have almost dried up due to massive constructions," he said.
"The days are not far when there is only a concrete jungle," added Negi, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who is settled in Nesang village near Rekong Peo, Kinnaur district's headquarters town.
In Kinnaur district, the 1,000-MW Karcham-Wangtoo hydro project, 100-MW Tidong, 195-MW Kashang, 402 MW Shongtong-Karchham and 100-MW Shorang are among the major hydro power projects under execution on the Satluj and its tributaries.
Puran Chand, secretary of the Renuka Bandh Jan Sangharsh Samiti, said the government should scrap the Renuka dam project.
"The government is ready to axe thousands of trees to supply water to people of Delhi," he said.
The project in Sirmaur district is facing massive protests. An environmental clearance proposal for the Renuka dam was rejected by the union environment and forests ministry last year because it involved cutting 17.7 million trees.
"The successive governments in the state were bent on plundering natural resources," said Kulbhushan Upmanyu, who is heading the Himalaya Niti Abhiyaan.
"We want the government to stop allocating these forest-guzzling hydro projects, especially in the Sutlej river basin where land is fragile," he said.
Another environmentalist, Guman Singh, said, "Even the big colonisers are looking at ultra-luxurious housing projects deep in the forests."
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.
Call to shun plastic and plant more trees
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit yesterday exhorted school children and residents to abandon the use of plastic and asked them to plant more trees.
Addressing a gathering of school children on Earth Day at her official residence, Dikshit talked about the importance of planting trees and referred to the dangers of using plastic bags.
"Plastic is harmful to society, so plant trees and avoid using plastic bags," she said.
She also emphasised the need to conserve power and water.