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The Dam Debate

Rhetoric drowns logic as Politicians in power plunge for Dams.

Dr Nitin Pandey

04-Oct-2009

From the recent media blitz launched by supporters of the stalled Hydro electric power projects in Uttarakhand, it seems that some people are in a hurry for them to restart. From press releases, to staged rallies and letters to the Prime Minister, everything to grab headlines and then present it as a “people’s” movement, has been attempted.

This debate over dams reminds one of the debates over the closure of limestone mines in the Doon Valley in the 80’s. Rich limestone contractors, powerful industrialists and the elected representatives, all attempted to portray the issue as one of local employment, development of the region, welfare of the Nation and people’s demand. Staged rallies in support of the mines, hired goons out to intimidate the opponents and media blitz were crafted to perfection. Opponents of the mines were labelled as anti-development. Thankfully, the Supreme Court in 1988 banned mining in the valley and the rest is history. Those of us who were here in the 70’s & 80’s remember the thick blanket of pollution in the air that hung around daily and the rare sightings of the Mussorie hills in those days from Doon. Had the issue been left to “people’s representatives”, there would have been no Doon Valley today.

Striking similarities exist in these two cases. Elected representatives are anxious for work on these projects, never mind the cost to the ordinary people, to the state or to the environment. Politicians out of power are simply not interested (till the time they are in opposition), logical reasoning is met with rhetoric, vague talk of welfare of people and development are the only reasons given for continuing the work on dams and alternatives are ignored.

A letter written recently by Gopal Singh Rawat, the MLA from Uttarkashi along with a host of other dignitaries to the Prime Minister with much fanfare is highly educating.

The “Pani Do, Bijli Do” Campaign
It was a pretty sight, women dressed in their traditional attire shouting the slogans at Parade Ground on Friday. Organized by RLEK, the rally tried to equate opposition to dams to religious reasons only.

While no one can dispute the demand for water & electricity, after all the concept of Uttarakhand is for the development of hills, yet the basis of their arguments are the same as those used by politicians.

It is sad to see that RLEK which led the movement against mines in Doon valley, is now on the other side of the table, using the same arguments, it once opposed!


Quoting from the report in Garhwal Post appearing on 30th September they demanded that “the construction activities be allowed to be completed as the projects were in the interest of state development as well as providing employment to the local youths”. (sounds similar to mining lobby’s reasoning, doesn’t it?) Are there no other avenues for providing employment to the local youth without damaging the environment? The trauma of Tehri Dam, the helplessness of the displaced people, the lost heritage, the corruption in its rehabilitation schemes and the havoc it is still wrecking on the nearby villages cannot be ignored.

And, how do dams provide development to the State? By generating electricity, pat comes the reply. The point is that much more electricity can be produced in Uttarakhand by solar and wind energy projects at less than half the investment. Yet it is a mystery why no one in government is ever interested? No one even talks about it. The only way to generate electricity to the politicians seems to be by building big, expensive, environmentally disastrous dams. The probable explanation seems to lie in the fact that in alternative energy projects big multinational giants like Suzlon would be involved, from whom chances of kickbacks are minimal and the subcontracts in such cases would also be miniscule compared to the huge subcontracts given in building dams. Hence the preference for dams and the hurry to see work done during their tenures in office! A request for wind maps of their areas would probably draw a blank expression from people voraciously advocating generating electricity for “development” of our state.

The honourable MLA writes on “in fact, the local youths are expressing their resentment against the decision to hold the construction activities, which could become a law and order problem”. Again, is this not similar to the Mining lobby’s arguments and those Narender Modi used to ban Jaswant Singh’s book.

He further writes “public representatives of Uttarkashi were of the firm opinion that completion of the project would lead to a lot of other development activities in the State”. One fails to comprehend which “other development” activities he is referring to. Years after the completion of Tehri Dam, there is hardly any other development activity resulting from it, except perhaps as another tourist site. A smooth flowing blue holy Ganga & unspoilt green snow capped mountains are by themselves the best tourist attractions our State can offer. The only “other development” the villagers near the Tehri Dam have seen is the sinking of their land, flooding of their villages and land slides.

It is a bit puzzling that such urgency and enthusiasm is shown by our representatives only in building dams. One fails to recall a single incidence of letters being written by such persons demanding construction of schools, hospitals and roads or protesting the failure of government in promoting education, tourism or providing good governance in the areas they represent.

The disastrous environmental impact of big dams, the failed policies of central electricity generation and then supplying brown electricity through long distribution lines, are too well known to be repeated here and have long been rejected by the western world, in favour of local generation of green electricity through wind, solar and tidal power. These not only turn out to be cheaper, cost effective and with minimal wastage, but also helps heal the world we live in.

While the pro-dam lobby is rich, powerful and well organized, the pro-environmental lobby is poor, disorganized and carries with it only moral conviction. It is time for all of us to speak out against the destruction of our mountains and the mutilation of our rivers. Tears fill my eyes every time I see kilometres upon kilometres of dried up river bed of Ganga, with all its water diverted into mountain tunnels; with green hillsides scarred and converted into barren landslides by the construction of dams, in what were once pristine green valleys with clean air and clear water. Just as we once saved our Valley, much to the dismay of our rulers, now we must save our State. History will not forgive us if we watch silently, the destruction of our heritage. Is it time to launch an Uttaakhand Bachao Andolan?



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Date30-Dec-15
From: Helen Cranston | Helen Cranston NutritionalTherapy and other Activities karlyndejongh.com was infcat a marvelous article, cant wait to read far moreof ur articles. Time to waste several time online lolz.Thanks a lot -Julio
Helen Cranston | Helen Cranston NutritionalTherapy and other Activities karlyndejongh.com was infcat a marvelous article, cant wait to read far moreof ur articles. Time to waste several time online lolz.Thanks a lot -Julio


Date14-Oct-15
From: Just across the srteet from the Gateway Center is The Beanery coffee shop. Free Wi-Fi and locally roasted coffee. Located in the former Elwha Theatre building (1931) and connected to Captain T's, a great place to find souvenirs with local flavor. Look
Just across the srteet from the Gateway Center is The Beanery coffee shop. Free Wi-Fi and locally roasted coffee. Located in the former Elwha Theatre building (1931) and connected to Captain T's, a great place to find souvenirs with local flavor. Look for the chainsaw art Captain in the front window. Bring your Peninsula Daily News coupon for 10% off your purchase!


Date05-Oct-09
From: ANIL HEBLE
There isn't one MP who has risen from complete obscurity to millions. These are their only ways in a seemingly short tenute of just 5 years. In open competetion they wouldn't even get a peon's job. I wonder how long it will take to run things aground entirely by the collective efforts of these representative of ours.




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