Free electricity would be given to families affected by hydropower projects of Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL) in the state, a government official said on Saturday.
The HPPCL, a public sector undertaking, has seven mega hydropower projects, including the Rs 27 billion (Rs.2,700 crore or $561 million) Renuka Dam that will provide drinking water to Delhi.
"The government on Friday decided to provide more economic benefits to the families that will be affected by the projects being implemented by us," HPPCL Director Tarun Kapoor told IANS.
"The government will now provide 100 units of power free for 10 years to each of the project affected families, besides a series of other economic benefits," he said.
So far, only Sai Engineering Foundation, an NGO that has set up a mini hydro project in Kullu district, had taken the initiative to provide free power to a village located near the project.
The government has also decided to provide free medical facilities to the affected families.
"The families that will become landless will be entitled to free medical facilities and resettlement grant ranging between Rs 25,000 and Rs 250,000 as one time relief, in addition to compensation for land. Rehabilitation colonies having all basic amenities would be developed," a government spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the rehabilitation package would be prepared on the basis of socio economic baseline for each project.
On the progress of the Renuka Dam project, to be built on a tributary of the Yamuna in Sirmaur district, HPPCL Director Kapoor said the private land acquisition work had been started.
"All affected villagers would be suitably compensated and the process to acquire nearly 1,000 hectares of private land has begun," he said.
Kapoor said the proposal to acquire 900 hectares of forest land would be soon submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for clearance.
However, locals said the government did not take them into confidence before starting the land acquisition process. According to them, the project may have ecological repercussions and endanger Renuka lake, which lies downstream of the proposed dam and is of religious importance to them.
"Land acquisition work has already begun without taking the affected villagers into confidence," said Prem Singh, a Congress legislator from the nearby Nahan constituency.
The Delhi Jal Board, which will get 23 cubic metres of water per second once the project is completed, has given Rs 2 billion (Rs 200 crore) to Himachal Pradesh for starting the land acquisition work.
As per an agreement signed in 1994, while Delhi will get water from the Renuka dam till the Kishau and Lakhawar Vyasi dams in neighbouring Uttarakhand become operational, Himachal Pradesh will have the rights to the 40 MW power generated through the project.