Shri Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge),
Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110003
Subject: Destruction due to Tehri Dam Reservoir (1000 MW, Uttarakhand)
Violation of environment clearance No. 2-19-81-HCT/1A-1
We are writing this letter with immense grief and concern over the environmental destruction caused by the increase in the water level of the Tehri dam reservoir to 832 M from the sea level in the 2010 monsoon, in violation of environmental laws and R/R policy. We are shocked at the MoEF's apathy to this issue, even as it gets deserving media attention.
Thus, we are putting forward a few critical issues related to the environment clearance granted by the MoEF to the Tehri Hydro Electric Project (Tehri Hydro Electric Project consists of the Tehri Dam, Tehri Pump Storage Plant and the Koteshwer Dam) dated 19th July 1990 (Letter attached).
The 260.5 M high reservoir of the Tehri Dam on the confluence of Rivers Bhagirathi and Bhilangana continues to be a huge threat to the life and property of the people living near it.
The recent increase in water level affected the lives of several families living between 820m to 840m in the more than 40 “Partially Affected Villages” such as Pilkhi, Ghonti, Uppu, Sod Uppu, Syansu, Bhaldgaon, Chinyalisoud, Hadiyaadi and Chhaam, who have either never been rehabilitated or are too poor to move.
Main links bridges to the Cutt-off areas like bridges at Devisoud, Ghonti etc. have been submerged. As a result, people of the cutt-off areas have been forced to take other longer routes (almost 20-70 km extra) to reach the District office.
Issues related with GSI
In a 2002 study by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) said a rise in the water levels could increase pressure and instability of the slopes. Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) has deliberately ignored all GSI reports on the Tehri region in order to hasten the pace of Tehri project completion.
The GSI had recommended to fill the water in the reservoir only after taking into account the seismological vulnerability. The THDC, however, continued without taking any action. An example of this is that of Gojmer gaon that the GSI had recommended for relocation. The village was however, not relocated and the Chamba-Dharasu road passing near the village collapsed this year.
Due to the rise of the reservoir level many residential colonies and important roads like the Jogatmarg-Gangotri highway got sandwiched due to the land slides.
Many houses and shops of the village Chhaam, Chinyali Soud have collapsed. People had to leave their houses and move to other places. There are cracks visible in the houses, roads, slopes above the reservoir at many of the places around the Tehri Dam reservoir Rim area.
This catastrophe is likely to continue as the GSI has indicated that the falling water level will lead to increased landslides in the area. The GSI has already recommended the relocation of three villages above the dam area and the survey in the ongoing in about a dozen other villages.
However, since these partially affected villages are not in the submergence area, there is no land to relocate them to and talks of monetary compensation are ongoing.
Violation of CWC norms
According to the Central Water Commission norms, since the water level was being raised above 820 M for the first time, it had to be monitored such that the water level should not rise more than 0.3 M in 48 hours. THDC did not follow the norms of the Central Water commission for raising the water level in the dam reservoir.
THDC records show that while on the 28th of August, the water level was 820 M, it rose to 825 M by 13th of September. The water should not have risen more than 2.4 M in the 16 days. However, THDC allowed the water to fill the reservoir at more than double the legal, prescribed speed and in doing so violated the CWC recommended norms.
This move had put the people and animals of the surrounding areas, the valleys downstream and the places upstream in extreme danger.
In May 2006 as well the THDC had within a span of only 15 days raised the water level by more than 12 m. According to the CWC norms the water level should not have exceeded 3m in these 15 days.
Wrong operation of TDP
Impact on the downstream underconstruction Koteshwer Project were also seen. The excess overflow and current of the water released harmed the 400 MW Koteshwar dam being built downstream. While the THDC blamed this on the monsoon, the truth of the matter is that THDC is responsible for the delays in construction and for making only one diverging tunnel at the site. The wrong operation of the Tehri HEP led to avoidable flood disaster and avoidable damage of Koteshwer HEP.
Actions going on in the area
For most people the situation has reached the point of No-Return. These affected people are sitting on dharnas in different parts of Tehri Dam reservoir. For example, in the village of Sarot, people are on a hunger strike and intend to go for JALSAMADHI to get their voices heard. People are sitting on dharna at the New Tehri Town under the banner of Nagrik Manch for the fulfillment of their demands of safe drinking water and other R/R promises etc.
It is apparent that the THDC raised the Tehri reservoir water level without considering the impact on the people as well as the environment. It is a clear violation of the environment clearance given by the MoEF.
An independent inquiry be conducted to find out the reasons behind above mentioned incidents.
Action be taken against THDC.
An independent Fact Finding Team be sent to assess the current situation around the Tehri Hydro Electric Project, with a prior information to all and FFT should meet and listen people openly.
THDC's Environment Clearance be cancelled for underconstruction projects and not granted for future projects allotted to them.
In fact this is the time when the whole issue of rehabilitation and environment related to the Tehri Dam project should be reopened and discussed at large to avoid these kind of irreversible mistakes that shall continue to occur again and again at the time of filling the Tehri reservoir. It should also be kept in mind that the Pump Storage Plant and the Koteshwer HEP are still under construction.
Looking forward to prompt action on your part.
Attached- Environment Clearance letter dated 19-07-1990
Pix of destruction due to Tehri Dam reservoir
Mr. Vijai Sharma, Secretary
- J.M. MAUSKAR, ADDITIONAL SECRETARY, Impact Assesment Division
- Dr. S. Bhowmik, Add. Director (IA)
- Ms. Nalini Bhatt, Advisor