Tunnel testing triggered seepage, landslides in Chamba village: Report
Tunnel testing under the GMR-promoted Holi-Bajoli Hydropower Project triggered seepage and landslides causing damage to the houses in Jharauta village of Holi Panchayat in Bharmaour subdivision of Chamba districts, revealed a fact-finding report by Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, a green group based in Himachal Pradesh.
A team, which has been documenting the environmental impact of mega development projects in Himachal, visited Jharauta village on January 3 and 4 to verify the reports of landslides and seepage reported in the village in the last week of December.
Reports suggested that the problem appeared in mid-December and the seepages and resultant landslides continued even as no substantial action was taken by the project authorities or the local administration.
“The objective of our visit was to collect local testimonies from Jharauta residents located in the alignment of the project tunnel site, regarding cracks on residential houses and private and forest lands”, said Vivek Negi a member of the fact-finding team.
The report says that as per local testimonies, people first noticed the seepage on the left side of the village on December 19. After that more seepage appeared, triggering a landslide, even as cracks started showing up. The seepage was present when the team reached the spot. Subsequently, three families had to be evacuated .
On the same day, a committee headed by the Nayab Tehsildar was set up by the administration to assess the damages. Angry Jharauta residents demanded that the project work be immediately shut down and a team of safety experts be sent to the area.
Assessing what has been lost is one thing, but examining the risks in the near future to the rest of the area is extremely urgent and the directorate of energy must send a team of safety experts need to the site right away, the report recommends.
Manshi Asher, who leads the Himdhara Collective. said that the women were protesting the unscientific and fallacious shift in the tunnel site from the barren right bank to the forested and heavily populated left bank of Ravi. “Once the slopes have been destabilized and geology of the area disturbed, there are bound to be impacted, but all this should have been looked into during the planning and impact assessment phase. However, at that time the agencies are only concerned with getting clearances,” she said.