Residents of Dharchula town in Pithoragarh district, located on the India-Nepal border, staged a protest on Monday against the proposed Bokang-Baling Hydroelectric Project in the Darma Valley. The project is set to be executed by THDC India Limited, but residents are concerned that the work, which involves blasting and tunnelling, may cause irreparable damage to the town and property, similar to what happened in Joshimath.
Living in a seismically sensitive zone of the Himalayas, residents fear that the project could lead to landslides and subsidence, endangering their lives and property. They have also expressed concern that the project would adversely impact the environment, culture, and tradition of the valley, which are connected with nature.
The protesters, carrying banners and posters with slogans like “THDC go back from Darma Valley” and “We don’t want destruction in the name of development”, handed over a memorandum to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Dharchula, Divesh Sasni. The memorandum, issued by the Darma Sangharsh Samiti (DSM), addressed the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, demanding the immediate suspension of the hydro power project's contract.
According to the DSM, if the proposed power project is completed, residents of seven villages in the Darma Valley will have to relocate. They argue that the project's completion would have the opposite effect on national security, as the central government says it wants people to live in border villages to ensure border safety. Additionally, the valley is located just 35 km from the China border, making it a highly sensitive area in terms of national security.
The DSM has also stated that no resident of Dharchula and Darma Valley will work in the power project or support it in any way. They fear suffering the same fate as the people of Joshimath and do not want any power projects to come up in their area.
The protest is supported by N.S. Napalchiyal, former Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand, who has urged the government to rethink large power projects in ecologically sensitive areas. Despite repeated attempts to contact Mr. Sasni, he could not be reached for comment on the matter.