Please do not grant extension of environment clearance to Kashang Hydropower Project in Himachal Pradesh

INDIA GREENS PARTY

(Registered with the Election Commission of India under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Registration Number: 56/476/2018-19/PPS-I, effective from 18/07/2019.)

Party HQ: 104, Vardhman Complex, 1st Floor, LSC, Savita Vihar, Delhi-110092.

Email: indiagreensparty@gmail.com Website: www.indiagreensparty.org

15 May 2020

PETITION

Please do not grant extension of environment clearance to Kashang Hydropower Project in Himachal Pradesh

To

The Chairperson

Expert Appraisal Committee

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

Government of India

Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, Aliganj, Jor Bagh Road, New Delhi-110003.

Subject: Regarding Stages II, III and IV of the Integrated Kashang Hydropower Project in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh.

Dear Sir,

Greetings from the India Greens Party!

The India Greens Party (IGP) appeals to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to not grant extension of environment clearance to the Integrated Kashang Hydropower project in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh.

Sir, you know well that the Kashang Hydropower Project is in the geologically fragile and ecologically diverse, tribal area of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh.

We would like to remind you that the MoEFCC had granted an environment clearance to the four Stages of the project in April 2010 with the condition of 10-year validity. So far, only stage I of the project has been completed and is operational. Now, the Himachal Pradesh Hydropower Corporation Limited is seeking an extension of the validity of the environment clearance from the MoEFCC’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), due to be discussed on 15 May 2020.

As per the April 2010 clearance, the Stages II, III and IV of the project are to be constructed on the same mountain despite massive opposition from the local tribal population on the grounds that these will spell doom for their lives, livelihoods and biodiversity.

In view of the above, the IGP appeals to the EAC to not grant extension of environment clearance for the Integrated Kashang Hydropower project as it is in geologically fragile and ecologically diverse, tribal area of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh.

The party is making this appeal on the following points so that the construction of Stages II, III and IV is immediately dropped.

  1. Non-compliance of Safety and environmental laws by HPPCL in Stage I: The lack of safety compliance and non-accountability has meant that the costs of the damages to fields, farms, forests and human lives are borne by the people
  2. Financial non-viability and economic losses of Stage 1: This project was to be commissioned in 2015 but so far only Stage 1 is complete and there have been massive cost overruns in the first phase itself. A CAG report has slammed the HPPCL for initiating work without approval from gram sabha and increasing the financial risk to the project.
  3. Threats to local ecology, floral and faunal biodiversity: The project falls in the Lippa Asrang Wildlife Sanctuary home to the Himalayan Brown Bear and endangered Snow leopard. The eco-sensitive zone is also rich in floral biodiversity.
  4. Threat to local tribal livelihoods and land based economy: More than 1000 families in eight villages of this tribal area will be impacted as their livelihoods are completely dependent on commercial horticulture and farming of peas, potatoes, rajma, etc. They depend on forest produce like Chilgoza pines and kala jeera which will also be impacted as a result of the project.
  5. Violation of Forest Rights Act and tribal laws: The NGT in 2016 had ordered that the Individual and Community Rights of one of the main affected villages, Lippa, be settled and consent be sought from the Gram Sabha for the project. This is still pending and a case is ongoing in the High Court on the same. Being a schedule V area this is also a violation of the PESA 1996.
  6. Hazards and Risks of large scale construction in a fragile terrain: Underground blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects disturb the local geology and soil erosion triggering slope failures exacerbating landslides in an area already hazard and disaster prone, and leading to diversion of aquifers.
  7. Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment: The CEIA study reveals that apart from the 10 operational hydropower projects in the Satluj river basin and those under construction, many others are under planning. The cumulative environmental impacts of these in an ecologically fragile area will be irreversible and the report had recommended that the high altitude areas may be declared as ‘no-go’ areas.
  8. Landslides are common in the area: The area is prone to landslides. On 30 April 2020, a large portion of a steep mountain slipped down to village Pangi destroying apple orchards and killing one migrant worker.

In the light of the above, it is clear that the Integrated Kashang Project has almost no economic benefits and has huge ecological, livelihood and social costs. Allowing the project is an invitation to more disasters in the fragile Himalaya, already bearing the load of the climate crisis.

Hope, sane voices are heard!

With Green wishes sincerely yours,

Suresh Nautiyal

President, India Greens Party.

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