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Returning power to the people in Himachal Pradesh

The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has about a quarter of the country’s hydropower potential. It has an installed capacity of a little over 10,000 MW out of its full potential of over 27,000 MW. While the last decade saw a surge in hydropower development in the state, for the last three years the state government has been making desperate attempts to revive the hydropower sector. Falling revenues, the lack of interest of the private sector in taking up any new projects, the inability of existing projects to be completed on time, the rising cost of hydropower, and the social and environmental impacts leading to local resentment are some of the indicators that the government seriously needs to review its unrelenting faith in hydropower development as the driver of the state’s economy. But instead of taking a critical look at the hydro policy the government has kept the focus squarely on easing the environment for developers.

On 4 March 2014 the state government’s power department issued a notification on amendments to the 2006 hydropower policy doing away with the requirement of separate No Object Certificates (NOCs) the from Public Works Department (PWD), the Irrigation & Public Health Department (IPH), Revenue Department, Fisheries Departments and Gram Panchayats (village level elected bodies). On 17 August 2016 this notification was issued again with the intention to fast track clearance procedures. Last year approximately two dozen groups and community representatives made a submission objecting to these amendments especially to the dilution of the NOCs of local village councils stating that it was in violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006 which is yet to be implemented in the state. Despite this the government went ahead with the changes.

The Himachal government has also dragged its feet on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act ….. See full story

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