Amid talks of river cleanliness across the country, environmentalists of the state have highlighted the ill-effects of hydropower development in Chenab basin.
A report released by Himdhara, an environment research and action collective organisation, has highlighted the local sentiment and probable adverse impacts of the proposed projects in Chenab basin in Lahaul.
"With Himachal and Jammu Kashmir governments planning to setup around four dozen hydel projects to generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity, Chenab river is all set to become one of the most dam-congested rivers in the country," it said.
Stating that under the shadow of expanding energy resources, environment could not be neglected, the report, "Changing the Colors of Chenab", also raised questions about the state's uninterrupted mission to lead the ambitious hydel development mission in the Himalayas.
It said hydel development had made the tribal areas of Lahaul and Spiti more disaster prone, adding that hydel development could cause landslides in the area like neighbouring Kinnaur district.
The report said due to construction work of hydel projects, air pollution is likely to affect the crop productivity. "Muck dumping (that is generated while excavating tunnels) will have probable impact on the pollination process of cherry, apple and several other fruit bearing varieties," the report read, adding, "The impacts of the blasting undertaken for tunnel on foundations of houses and crops is also a pressing concern."
Manshi Asher, author of the report, said, "In Lahaul, the Miyar Project is in the most advanced stage with the environment clearance having been granted and land acquisition process completed. People in these areas have expressed apprehensions about hydel development because of recurring floods, cloudbursts and avalanches making the area too fragile for construction activity."
The Chenab flows for 130 kilometres in Himachal Pradesh. Out of its total catchment area of 61,000 square kilometres, 7,500 square km is in the state. The river in Jammu and Kashmir is already choked with hydro projects like 660 MW Kiru, 560 MW Kwar and several others proposed in a cascade.
As highlighted previously, within Himachal, 49 hydro projects were under different stages of implementation, most of these being in the Lahaul Valley.
Chenab River forms in the upper Himalayas in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh and flows through the Jammu region into the plains of Punjab in Pakistan. The water of the Chenab are allocated to Pakistan under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty.