It was between 1950 and 1990, that large dams like Bhakhra, Pong, Chamera I and Pandoh were constructed, dislocating communities and traditional livelihood systems due to their huge reservoirs. Even though the focus of the State remained on enhancing horticulture, agriculture and tourism based livelihoods, the development thrust required generation of more power and irrigation facilities for the country. After 1990’s, and especially in the last decade,
Himachal has gone all out to tap the 21000 MW of power generation capacity that it has identified in its rivers and streams. This has been done as the government considers hydropower as the future mainstay for its revenue generation. Promotion of hydropower also earns the states some extra points in the name of ‘clean power’ and ‘carbon neutral’ state. The process of setting up large and small run of the river projects on almost all river stretches in the state has been intensified, paving the way for private investment into more than 500 large and small projects. With hydropower being a national and state priority, these projects are cleared, constructed and operated with almost no social and environment responsibility. The construction of projects in the valleys has thrown up serious environmental and survival issues for the local people like loss of water sources, damage to houses, loss of agriculture, horticulture, wildlife and forests, security and health related issues etc.
Despite similar patterns of environmental degradation and livelihoods loss emerging project after project, the state government’s agencies entrusted with monitoring compliance of forest and pollution control laws have failed miserably in doing their duty. They have found deplorable ways to not take action, while appearing to do so – while the Forest Department only imposes insignificant fines for the loss of forest resources, the State Pollution Control Board sends a string of show cause notices without taking penal action despite repeated and grave environmental violations. Legal provisions established to ensure prior informed consent of the people proposed to be affected by the project are regularly undermined through political and monetary tactics. It is too late to stop a project by the time the real dimensions of its impacts become obvious to the local people.
Himdhara, along with affected communities and other environmental groups, has been raising issues around specific projects as well as on the larger policy scenario within the state. More information can be found in the following pages: