Shimla, Jan 15
The designing of the 18MW Holi hydropower project in the ecologically fragile Bharmour Subdivision of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, without conducting a geological survey is looming danger to a village due to a recent leakage in the diversion tunnel, a report published by pro-envoirnment group warned.
The Himdhara Environment Collective today released a fact-finding report about the recent landslides and damage caused to houses due to construction of 180 MW Bajoli-Holi Hydroelectric Project in Chamba district. The report stated that the tunnel testing of Holi hydroelectric project again triggered landlsides and danger to homes due to leakage in the tunnel.
Himdhara and local people were protesting against this project since the time of conceiving or planning of this venture. The villagers had warned the government and the company about the fragile ecology of the area during allotment of this project.
Members of Himdhara claimed that it had facts documenting the environmental impacts of number of major development projects for the past decade and the study conducted by the collective has predicted catastrophic disasters.
Spokesperson Himdhara said that a team of collective had visited affected Jadhota village in Holi panchayat of Bharmour tehsil of Chamba district on January 3-4, 2022. They had visited to study the impact caused by leakage in the diversion tunnel, as was warned by the villagers in the last week of December.
The reports said that the incidents of water leakage started around December 17 to 19.  After about two weeks, the leakage and landslide continued and the local people alleged that the administration and the company management did not take any concrete steps.
“The purpose of our visit was to collect evidence and opinion from the residents of Jadhota villagers located near the project tunnel site regarding cracks in residential houses and private/forest land”. Vivek Negi, a member of the fact-finding team, said, “ team reached the affected site in the afternoon of January 3.
The fact finding team saw a worker vacating his shed, which was hit by a landslide, near the Holi-Chamba road in the foothills of Jadota village.
A house was under construction near it. Water was seeping from above and, stones were rolling down. Another family was vacating their house on January 4 due to increasing landslide  “.
He added that “According to local statements, people first noticed the leak on the left side of the village on 19th December. After that more leakage was seen, landslides became active, cracks started appearing. Obviously, people were upset but by the time the collective team, reached the affected place, the leakage was on, people didn’t know whether the testing had been stopped or not”.
A committee was constituted by the administration under the chairmanship of the Naib Tehsildar to assess the damage on the same day. Angry Jadhota residents demanded that the project work be stopped immediately and a team of security experts be sent to the area.
As per the report’s recommendation, it is one thing to assess the damage done, but it is extremely important to investigate in the rest of the area pertaining to future hazards and therefore, the Directorate of Energy should immediately send a team of safety experts to the affected site.
Manshi Ashar of Himdhara Environment Group said that in 2014, the women of Holi Panchayat organized a Dharna for a month in the same area where the leak first started. The women were agitating against the change of design for the project tunnel from right side of Ravi river to left side.
 It is worth mentioning that right side is barren land while the left side is populated and forested area. People had warned administration and officials about it.
The ecology of this area is very delicate and the tunnel construction would result in loss of life and property but the administration has not paid any attention to it,” Manshi added.
This is not the first incident of its kind, these hazards remain at every stage of the project – due to heavy explosions, during construction, during testing and even long after commissioning, local residents alleged.
“Once the slopes are destabilized and the ecology and geo-structure of the area is disturbed, there is bound to be an impact, but all this should have been observed during the planning and impact assessment phase.  The focus is only on getting approval”. report pointed out.
A 2015 study by the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) also warned that in the state, 56 per cent of hydroelectric projects are at serious risk of landslides. Therefore, any carelessness at the time of planning and impact assessment is bound to have disastrous consequences.
Environmental impact assessment reports prepared for hydroelectric projects often fail to make a realistic assessment, ignoring the potential for landslides, seismic issues or the impacts of the area’s disaster potential, Himdhara pointed.
In the case of Bajoli-Holi Hydroelectric Project also, the affected area, Bharmour area, falls under very high landslide vulnerability zone as per GSI mapping. On the one hand the community has to face continuous loss of livelihood and resources, while on the other they have to go through the trauma caused by such dangers and risks.
Upkar Singh of Himdhara Environment Group says that “apart from ensuring accountability of the project officials and introducing safety measures, the administration should ensure that all benefits of the rehabilitation and resettlement package are immediately given to the people of Jadhota”.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here