Chenab Valley Residents Seek More From Power Projects

Locals unhappy at lack of adequate benefits from hydroelectric projects in
their region.
Power generation initiatives in Chenab Valley have greatly aided the
development of roads, bridges, healthcare, and other local infrastructure. —
JKPDC officials.

by Sanya Khan 

The Chenab Valley is marked by the development of several hydroelectric
projects, including seven in Kishtwar and one in Ramban. These projects have
been instrumental in aiding the development of infrastructure in the area,
according to officials in the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation
The Chenab river originates in Himachal Pradesh’s Baralacha Pass and runs
through the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for more than 500 km
before entering Pakistan. Along the way, it passes through the districts of
Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Reasi and Akhnoor. More than a dozen hydroelectric
projects on the river and its tributaries have been planned. Chenab Valley, where
too a hydroelectric project is being planned, refers to the area covered by the
Doda, Kishtwar, and Ramban districts of Jammu Division. These districts were
once all part of Doda district. Subsequently, they were carved out as separate

Chenab’s significance for Jammu and Kashmir is because of the more than 12
hydropower projects that have either been completed or are under construction.
The seven projects in Kishtwar district are the Kiru Hydroelectric Project, Pakal Dul
Hydroelectric Project, Dulhasti Hydroelectric Project, Kwar Hydroelectric Project,
Dulhasti II, Kirthai-II, Ratle Hydroelectric Project. In Ramban district lies the
Baglihar Dam.

The 624 MW Kiru Hydroelectric Project is located about 42 km from Kishtwar. The
proposed project includes the construction of a 135 m-high Dam and an
underground power house with four units of 156 MW each.
The 1,000 MW Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Project is proposed on the Marusudar
river, a tributary of the Chenab. It is envisaged as mainly a storage project.
The 390 MW Dulhasti Hydroelectric Project, built by the National Hydroelectric
Power Corporation (NHPC), is located in a rugged, mountainous section of the
Himalayas, several hundred kilometers from any large city. It consists of a 70 m-
high gravity dam that diverts water through a 9.5 km-long headrace tunnel to the
power station which discharges back into the Chenab. The project provides
peaking power to the Northern Grid. The beneficiary regions are Jammu and
Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Delhi and the
Union Territory of Chandigarh.
The 540 MW Kwar Hydroelectric Project is about 28 km from Kishtwar town. The
project includes the construction of a 109 m-high dam and an underground power
house with four units of 135 MW each.
The Dulhasti Stage-II Hydroelectric Project will generate 803.33 MU or million
units of energy annually through an underground power house comprising two
units of 130 MW each. The dam on which the Dulhasti Power Station is built will
cater to the requirements of Dulhasti Stage-II too.
The Kirthai-II Hydroelectric Project is a run-of-the-river scheme, also proposed on
the Chenab in Kishtwar district, will generate 3,329.52 MU of energy annually.
The Ratle Hydroelectric Plant is under construction and is situated downstream
from Drabshalla village in Kishtwar district. The project includes a 133 m-high
gravity dam and two power stations located adjacent to each another.
The Baglihar Dam, also known as the Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project, is a
run-of-the-river project on the Chenab river in Ramban district. It was the first
power project executed by the JKPDC. It was conceived in 1992 and approved in
1996. Construction began in 1999 and the project was estimated to cost US$1

billion. The project was built in two phases of 450 MW each. The first stage of the
project was completed in 2008-09 and was dedicated to the nation by the then
prime minister Manmohan Singh. The second stage of the project was completed
in 2015-16 and was subsequently dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi.

The government has claimed that after the completion of all the proposed and
planned power projects, Jammu and Kashmir's Kishtwar district will be capable of
generating about 6,000 MW of power, making it a significant power hub in
northern India. Because of all these projects, Chenab Valley lakhs of rupees in
revenue. Local residents, however, complain that they have not benefited from
these projects.
The influence of hydropower on the development of the Chenab Valley or in
improving the lives of its inhabitants is not as high as it should be, according to
them. They feel that electricity should be free for them. Or at least subsidized. But
they complain that they are paying the same rates as residents in other districts.
People who lived within 6 km of these projects were previously given free
electricity under a local government regulation. However, this changed after
Article 370 was repealed and residents need to now pay for power. Also, those
living on the land where the projects were running received a certain percentage
of power free earlier.
The local people were also unhappy that the majority of the staff hired for these
projects were from other districts or from even outside the union territory. Only a
small number of Chenab Valley residents have been hired, they said. As far as the
employment of women at the projected was concerned, the figure was zero, the
people said.
According to JKPDC, however, for hydropower projects, companies needed
skilled labour/workers, which was not available locally. The companies therefore
had to hire from elsewhere.




Residents in the area said that prior to the repeal of Article 370, the government
used money earned from these hydropower plants to build roads, bridges,
schools, and for other development projects. However, after the abrogation of
Article 370, no development had taken place, they alleged.
JKPDC officials said that development in the Chenab Valley was ongoing.
Whenever a landslide happens and a road is damaged, we clear it and
reconstruct the road. In addition, we have built many villages, hospitals and
schools, a JKPDC official said. Residents, however, said that & these electricity
projects are for the development of other states such as Punjab and the union
territory of Chandigarh, not for us.
The construction of so many hydroelectric projects and dams in the Chenab Valley
is seen by some as a danger as operations such as drilling and mine blasting were
making the area unstable and more prone to earthquakes. Thousands of trees
have been cut to make way for the projects, local residents alleged. They
expressed concern that the projects were harming wildlife in the area. They also
felt that they were not being heard by the authorities and their concerns were not
being given any importance. Environmental activists have also warned that the
unregulated growth of such projects could lead to natural disasters. “We the
residents of Chenab Valley are constantly dealing with earthquakes caused by the
ecological disturbances from these projects while receiving no benefits from
these developments,” a local resident said.
Who is at fault here? Chenab Valley inhabitants, who see little benefit from all the
development projects, or the government, which should have ensured that some
benefits from these hydroelectric projects percolate down to residents? As Bob
Dylan sang, the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.


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