Vehement opposition from villagers to a proposal to relocate an army ammunition depot has apparently resulted in frustrating the government efforts to end the logjam between the Himachal Pradesh Power Corp Ltd (HPPCL) and the Indian army in order to speed up work on constructing a tunnel at the Shong-Tong Karchham hydel project.
The government had earlier asked the army to shift the depot located on the strategic Hindustan Tibet in Powari village. Powari village, which is about 134-kilometre from Kaurik, is last point of Hindustan Tibetan road. Construction of the 450 MW hydroelectric project is being executed by HPPCL.
After the state government took up the issue with the army authorities last year, the latter began scouting for land and inspected several sites near Chiaso, Kanam and Jungi villages in the district.
The district administration in the tribal district of Kinnaur, which borders China, has submitted its report on the project to the government along with the objections to relocate the ammunition depot close to Jungi village. "We have apprised the government about availability of land and as well about objections raised by villagers," Pooh additional district magistrate Mast Ram said.
The army depot in Powari, spread over 12-acres of land, is situated in a populated area. Government school and fuel stations are also located around the ammunition depot. The Indian army had earlier proposed to acquire nearly 2,000 bighas of land near Jungi village but the plan was opposed by the 'gram sabha' in Jungi.
Recently villagers called on Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to apprise him about their opposition to relocating the ammunition depot. "We met the chief minister and registered our objections. The forest identified by the army for shifting its ammunition depot has 'chilgoza' trees, which are the main source of our livelihood. The forest is visited by researchers from across the world," Rakesh Poris, chief of the Jungi gram panchayat, said.
Similarly, residents of Chiaso and Kanam are also opposed to land selected by the army authorities near both villages.
The Indian army had opposed construction work on a tunnel for the Shong Tong-Karchham project.It had also approached the courts, seeking a halt to the work. The army objected to the use of explosives at the tunnel.It maintained that explosives at the tunnel could prove destructive for the depot, which supplies ammunition to troops stationed at the border areas close to China.
According to the Works of Defence Act, no activity or structure is allowed within 1,200 metres of an ammunition depot.