Protests force officials to cancel Luhri power public hearing

Officials were forced to cancel a public hearing on Saturday on environmental clearance for the World Bank-financed 775-MW Luhri hydel project on the Sutlej river following public ire.

Locals, NGOs and voluntary groups having made common cause are opposing the project tooth and nail, especially its 86-metre high dam and 38.14-km long (9 m wide) twin tunnel that will divert river water over a distance of 40 km.

According to Guman Singh, coordinator, Himalaya Neti Abhiyan, an umbrella organisation of a dozen NGOs and environmental groups, the  entire river would disappear due to this design feature, which is highly environment unfriendly.

He says similar concerns were raised with regard to the Ravi river in Chamba by the Shukla Committee, set up by the High Court. However, he said the Sutlej would be the worst affected in view of  at the number of mega projects coming up in this basin.

Public hearing for the project has commenced at the instance of the  Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, on behalf of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited, which is executing the project.

However, on Saturday, the third day of the hearing, the board officials were forced to cancel the public hearing following strong public protests and anger brewing among the villagers. The first two days - 5 May and 6 May did not witness smooth proceedings of the hearings in villages of Kullu and Mandi districts either.