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Concern expressed over India’s hydro-power plans

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hydroIndia’s water management issues have pushed the country to the top among 11 nations on the Environmental Justice Atlas, an interactive portal conceived by an international team that maps ecological conflicts, resistances and environmental injustices.

The team has expressed concern over India’s plans on hydro-power generation in Himachal Pradesh and northeast.

With over 200 reported conflicts, India tops the EJAtlas, put together by the EJOLT project ‘Environmental Justice, Liabilities and Trade’.

It is a work in progress to represent a global distribution map of cases of people’s resistance against climate change and environment degradation, mostly in developing nations.

In the atlas, India is tailed by Colombia and Nigeria, according to a recent Current Science article which also brings the spotlight on water woes responsible for the bulk of the conflicts in India.

“The main causes for this (poor water management) are industrial waste, excessive extraction of groundwater, pollution (rapid industrialisation, urbanisation, poor farming and irrigation practices), hydropower, and poor sanitation,” Daniela del Bene, doctoral candidate, ICTA – Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, and one of the core team members of the project, told IANS.

Besides del Bene, Leah Temper (co-ordinator) and Joan Martinez-Alier (scientific coordinator) are the other project members. In India, the collaborators include Swapan Kumar Patra and V. Kishna from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

In collaboration with the local environmental research collective Himdhara, the team has also prepared a featured map for Himachal Pradesh, to highlight key issues of environmental justice in the state.

“Many of such conflicts relate to hydropower generation. Himachal Pradesh is said to be the ‘Green State’ of India. While it is laudable to go green by avoiding dirty or very risky sources of energy like coal or nuclear, we have to ask how much is then desirable to produce, for what and whom, and under which conditions,” del Bene said.

She said with hundreds of new projects coming up in the state the situation was “alarming.”

“According to available data, it was estimated that 70 percent of the Sutlej river will be diverted for hydropower purposes. In the case of Nathpa Jhakri Hydro project, the communities claimed that about 128 water sources would be affected due to the blasting and excavation activities inside the mountains. But the cumulative EIA put aside the issue by stating that ‘no document was provided to substantiate the claims’,” del Bene said.

She said The same EIA, then, overlooked the impacts of already existing hydropower plants.

“How can you claim you are dealing with impact assessment with scientific rigour if you don’t take into account massive cracks in the houses, water sources drying up, muck deposits, floods and correlation with seismic activity,” she asked.

On the situation in northeast India, del Bene said hydropower potential of the Himalayan region is assessed to be more than 63,000,MW, of which only 3 percent has been harnessed so far.

She warns impacts are likely to be very worrying.

Del Bene and the EJOLT project associates underline the necessity of consultations with locals.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ian

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