Humans have always had a special relationship with rivers. They provide fresh water for drinking, irrigation, washing and religious ceremonies. But rivers are not just water. Riverine landmasses – riverbed and riverbanks – have also been put to use by humans for centuries. Activities including agriculture, transportation, building homes, and everyday chores have all been part of the interaction between water, land and people.
The Forest Advisory Committee of India has recommended against the clearing of forest land for the construction of two highly controversial hydropower projects in northeast India – Tipaimukh and Dibang dams – which sets an important precedent for the country.
The Northern Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand experienced widespread flash floods and landslides in mid-June. The scale of the disaster was huge. Climate change is increasing the frequency of such disasters world-wide. In such a context, all of our interventions need to take this reality into account and strive to reduce the risks. Yet in the case of these disastrous floods, it is increasingly clear that human interventions worsened the situation.
Bhutan is highly dependent on India in many respects, especially for exploiting its hydropower potential. India is providing a combination of grants and soft loans to Bhutan for developing its hydropower potential. Bhutan’s power requirement is 300 MW. It has an installed capacity of 1,480 MW. The rest along with the 10,000 MW to be developed by 2020 is for export to India. Ecology, environment and social costs do not appear to be given sufficient consideration.
Bhutan fires the imagination of an ideal mountain country with many snow-clad peaks, where people go about their daily chores in serenity, dressed in their national dress, wearing a smile and a with a song on their lips. The image of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) that it portrays is ever present.
Growing up, I was always fascinated by stories of Lepcha culture and wanted to visit their tribal reserve of Dzongu in North Sikkim, India, where the Lepcha are believed to have originated. Recently I had the opportunity to make this trip and jumped at the chance.
The following is Part II of a two part trip report by Samir Mehta, South Asia Program Director.Protesters take turns sitting at road to block dam construction.India’s rivers and streams are threatened by a massive hydropower rollout. Large projects in the mountainous northern states will have the biggest impacts, but the smaller ones – which are cropping up all over the country – are having serious impacts on local people’s lives. Indeed, the High Court of the state of Karnataka has halted the implementation of a number of mini- and micro-hydel (hydro) projects in the Western Ghats region of the state pending a cumulative impact assessment. During my recent visit to the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh I also surveyed many mini- and micro-hydel projects.
The following is Part I of a two part trip report by Samir Mehta, South Asia Program Director.Wall meant to protect the stream from debris of Parbati II project collapsed into the stream at Raila Village.It is with mixed feelings of joy, hope and despair that I return after a survey of some of the proposed, under construction and completed hydroelectric projects in the north Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. Joy that people continue to fight for their rights and against corporate efforts to own rivers, hope that their struggles will bear fruit, and despair at the injustices done to them. During my 10-day trip, I surveyed a dozen or so hydropower projects of all sizes in the Satluj and Ravi river basins. The projects are wreaking havoc on livelihoods and the environment.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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