Stay on suspension of Loharinag project!

Stay of the Central Government decision to suspend Lohari Nag , Pala (600MW) power project by Nainital High Court- a blow to the Environment and People of Uttarakhand

It is with great disappointment that Raksha Sutra and Uttarakhand Nadi Bachao Andolan received the news from the report in Amar Ujala, Dehradun 27.02.09 that the Uttarakhand High Court has granted a stay to the Central Government Order suspending the work on the Loharinag , Pala (600 MW) hydroelectric project. The work on the project has begun with hardly a break in its stride. The Public Interest Petition filed by Rural Litigation and Entitlement Centre, a Dehradun based NGO filed for a stay stating that neither would the natural flow of the river be affected nor is the project causing any environmental damage is a total falsehood. The petitioners have deliberately misled the High Court. They have not visited the site for themselves and have filed for a stay from the sanitised environment of Dehradun. We who live and work in Uttarkashi know the truth. This is not the first instance that this NGO has taken legal action to restart projects that have been stopped because of their dubious benefits. It is quite clear that unlike its name this NGO is working not for rural entitlement but rather for the entitlement of vested interests. This is very saddening. The environmental impact of the project is enormous. Entire mountainsides have been scarred and shorn of their green cover. Thousands of tonnes of excavated rock from the tunnel construction have been dumped on the riverside and threaten to block the flow of the river with the onset of monsoon. The dust being churned day and night by the hundreds of dumpers and trucks operating on the project is choking all life on both sides of the river. Fields that were the mainstay of the primarily agricultural community are lying barren because no growth has taken place for the last 3 years despite the best efforts of the farmers. Pastures which sustained the livestock of the village people have been devastated. Representations by the people to the government and NTPC have yielded no satisfactory results. We have photographic and video evidence of this.

As for employment, the around 250 persons employed by the company from the 8 affected villages are all on temporary basis. Most of them are employed as helpers and the few graduates as supervisors. Their employment is assured only as long as the project is being constructed. The example of the youth of Dikholi , Neeri, a village affected by the Maneri , Bhalli Project, Stage II and the Tehri Dam stares in our face. They were unceremoniously retrenched after the project was completed. Their struggle for justice was studiously ignored by the government and they went to jail for 28 days without a hearing for their efforts. So after all who is benefiting from the continuance of this project? It is the construction contractors, transporters and hoteliers who wish for the continuance of this project. It is evident that the petitoners who got the Central Government order stayed are in cahoots with the project vested interests and is working for them. It is they who have the reason, time and resources to stage protests and move courts. The poor farmer whose land and livelihood has been lost has the reason but neither the time nor the resources to fight his battle. Suresh Bhai Raksha Sutra & Nadi Bachao Andolan Himalaya Bhagirathi Ashram Matli, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand , 249 193 Dated: 03-03-2009

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