Mandi bypoll | Tribals to use NOTA to protest against power projects

In the wake of rising demand for electricity, numerous hydroelectric power projects have come up in the fragile mountainous terrain in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, which fall in the Mandi parliamentary constituency that will go to bypoll on October 30
The Sutlej River, which flows through Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, a cold desert with a fragile topography, bears the biggest load of the state’s ambitious hydropower projects. (HT PHOTO)
The Sutlej River, which flows through Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, a cold desert with a fragile topography, bears the biggest load of the state’s ambitious hydropower projects. (HT PHOTO)
Published on Oct 27, 2021 01:17 AM IST
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ByGaurav Bisht, Shimla

As campaigning for the Mandi parliamentary bypoll reaches a crescendo, environmental activists in tribal regions are disappointed that neither of the political parties have incorporated the threat to their fragile ecology in their agenda and are urging people to opt for the NOTA option to voice their discontent.

In the wake of rising demand for electricity, numerous hydroelectric power projects have come up in the fragile mountainous terrain in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, which fall in the Mandi parliamentary constituency.

The Sutlej River, which flows through Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, a cold desert with a fragile topography, bears the biggest load of the state’s ambitious hydropower projects. Of the state’s total hydel capacity, 56% (5720MW) is installed on the Satluj basin. The ecological imbalance, thus caused, have impacted the livelihood of the residents and increased the probability of disasters. Kinnaur has around 30 hydel projects.

Candidates given charter of demands

Organisations at the forefront of opposing the power projects have submitted a charter of demands to candidates of both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party and are urging the people to use NOTA to protest against the non-fulfilment of demands.

“We want to draw politicians’ attention to the damage caused to the environment due to the power projects,” says RS Negi, a retired IAS officer and social worker, who has convened the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, which is running a campaign against the construction of hydro projects over the last two decades.

“Villages such as Nathpa, Kandhar, Urni and Pangi face the threat of landslides due to construction of mega power projects. The National Highway 5 often remains closed for the same reason,”said Negi

On August 26, a major demonstration was held at the district headquarters, Reckong Peo, under the joint aegis of local organisations such as the Himlok Jagriti Manch, District Forest Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti, Jangi Thopan Powari Prabhavitt Sangharsh Samiti and Hangrang Sangharsh Samiti. Agitating locals demanded that all proposed hydroelectric projects in the Sutlej River valley be cancelled.

‘Man-made disasters termed natural calamities’

Roshan Lal Negi of the Jangi Sangharsh Samiti said, “We have held numerous discussions with the administration, government and scientists on the downsides of the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan power project, but to no avail. Scientists have termed the disasters as ‘natural calamities’ as opposed to ‘man-made disasters’ on the behest of the government to give the hydel projects a clean chit.”

The tribals have been demanding implementation of the Forest Rights Act for a long time. “No political party is clear on the Forest Rights Act. Most panchayats in Kinnaur are still unaware of their rights. We will use NOTA to lodge our protest,” says Jiya Lal Negi, president, Forest Right Act Committee Kinnaur. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or Recognition of Forest Rights Act, commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA), was passed by Parliament in 2006 to address historical injustices and exclusion meted out to a large community of forest dwellers in India.

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Friday, December 03, 2021