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Uttarakhand Hydro Electric Power Stations: Impact On Environment And Social Life

Helang is a small village by the National Highway, with Joshimath town about 13 kilometres ahead. In a video that surfaced on July 16 – on the day of the harela festival (a ‘day of green’ meant to celebrate the new harvest and plant trees) – and then was widely shared, CISF who are tasked with guarding THDC hydro project, and police, can be seen closing in on an elderly woman. Helang may appear a minor incident as it is but one of many instances in Uttarakhand where hydropower companies have been employing all kinds of deceitful tricks and oppressive practices to function and appropriate as much as they can for years now.  

Currently, Uttarakhand has 37 operational hydropower projects, with another 87 projects at various stages of planning and construction. Uttarakhand has the highest potential for hydropower, but has been able to identify and deal with projects with a total capacity of only around 16,000 MW till now.

Environmental Impacts

The construction of these power stations had caused severe environmental impacts. In particular, the construction of the dam wall at Rambara village had destroyed the natural habitat of Himalayan black bears. The construction of the dams had also led to the destruction of many sacred religious sites including the cremation site of Pandavas. The construction of the power stations has also resulted in the displacement of many tribal families who lived near the river banks.

Socio Economic Impacts

The construction and operation of the dams has had significant socio economic implications. The people who live along the riverside are affected the most. Many villagers lost their land and livelihood due to the construction of the dams. The local economy suffered since the villagers could no longer use the water for irrigation purposes. The villagers also did not receive any compensation for their loss. Besides, the government has not provided them with alternative.

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