Hydropower: Himachal residents refuse to attend World Bank's stakeholder consultation

New Delhi, Jul 6 (IANS): Calling out as "blatant and willful negligence of hazardous hydropower dams in Himachal Pradesh", a people's movement protesting hydropower projects has shot off a letter to the World Bank and boycotted the stakeholder consultation on Wednesday.

In its letter to the World Bank and Himachal Pradesh's directorate of energy, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective (Himdhara) explained why its members -- comprising dam affected people and other local activists -- refused to attend the World Bank 'Stakeholder Consultation' for the proposed $200 million 'Himachal Pradesh Power Sector Development Programme'.

"The World Bank cannot be lending support to the Himachal government without a fair review of the impacts of the state's hydropower development programme up to date and a transparent and participatory critical review of the current energy policy," it said in the letter shared with IANS.

With an aim to make Himachal Pradesh a green state, the World Bank had recently announced a new project, which according to its own documents, "is a 200-million-dollar loan to support the development of environment social safety systems for the state's large scale renewable energy plans," Himdhara said in its letter and added, "It lauds the HP government for large scale hydropower development instead of bringing on the table any of the issues raised (by us)."

The points raised in the letter include the impact of hydropower projects ranging from deforestation to acquisition of scarce and precious agricultural land to irreversible shifts in sensitive terrestrial, geological and hydrological regimes, which have caused immense damage to local property and livelihoods.

"Cascade of hydropower dams have disrupted environmental flows and riverine ecosystems like no other activity ever has in the history of the Himalayas," it said.

Himdhara also pointed out the time and cost overruns to the projects prompting the private players to pull out of the sector as "the clean energy carbon credits have dried up as projects run into inordinate delays" and left it for the public sector entities in the name of 'development', 'national interest' and 'green growth'.

The letter, after drawing attention to the irregularities by the government, even going against the court decisions, non-compliance of legal provisions, faulty environmental impact assessments etc., accused that the "institutions like the World Bank and ADB have failed to carry out an honest assessment of the existing projects that were built with their support. Public resentment against the World Bank's Nathpa Jhakri and Rampur projects continues to exist to this day".

Last year, a landslide in Nigulseri, located in the affected area of the Nathpa Jhakri's tunnel had claimed 28 lives.



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