Thursday, May 26, 2011

Report questions ADB funded 'Himachal Clean Energy Development Programme'

26th May 2011
Report questions ADB funded projects under the 'Himachal Clean Energy
Development Programme'

* ADB loans for four hydroprojects at eco-fragile zones
* Livelihood concerns and environmental issues un-addressed
* Section 17/4 – Urgency clause being used by HPPCL for forced
acquisition of land
* Poor EIA reports and non compliance to environmental norms

Recently, a Public Hearing for the World Bank funded Luhri Hydro
Electric had to be cancelled after public protests making it clear that
the environmental and social impacts of Hydropower projects as well as
the increasing gap between their promise and performance, especially in
the Himalayan region have become issues of serious concern. And yet
these projects continue to be promoted in the garb of renewable and
clean energy. So much so that governments are borrowing millions of
rupees from international banks and financial institutions to fund these
so called 'green' projects. In Himachal Pradesh the Asian Development
Bank is leading the way by financing four hydro projects through a Multi
Financing Facility of 800 million dollars under the misleading name of
'Himachal Clean Energy Development Programme'. The four ADB financed
hydro power projects being constructed by HPPCL include the 195 MW
Integrated Kashang Stage I, II and III and the 402 MW Shongtong-Karccham
in Kinnaur. The other two projects are the 111 MW Sawara-Kuddu
hydropower project in Shimla district and the 100 MW Sainj hydropower
project in Kullu District.

Objectives of the report

A report titled 'In the Name of Clean Energy' by Him Dhara, Environment
Research and Action Collective and South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers
and People presents a critique of ADB's investment in the Hydropower
sector in the state. The report puts together field observations on the
violations of norms and legislations that are supposed to protect the
livelihood interests and environmental rights of the project affected
communities. The report looks at the environmental and socio-economic
impacts of each of the projects. ADB in its project documents and
policies has consistently insisted on safeguard mitigation measures on
three fronts – social, environmental and public or 'stakeholder
consultation. The objective of this study was to look at the
implementation of these on the ground.

Key findings

One of the key findings of the report has been that despite ADB's long
drawn out list of claimed safeguards on social and environmental
accountability, there is little difference between hydroprojects
projects in Himachal funded by ADB and those where a comprehensive
safeguard framework like ADB claims does not exist. The performance of
both sets of projects is equally pathetic on all counts.

The report points out that all four ADB project locations are
eco-fragile in nature. All four are coming up in heavily dammed basins
where there has been no credible cumulative impact assessment or
carrying capacity studies, where rivers have been destroyed several
times over and the performance of the past projects have been pathetic
on benefits, costs and impacts. All four are in seismic zone IV, being
built on catchments of glacial rivers, some so close to the glaciers
that the projects are likely to accelerate the melting of glaciers. The
integrated Kashang project area falls in an alpine zone (altitude
varying from 2000 to 3150 meters above msl.) where the ecological foot
print of any activity is going to be huge and permanent. The Sainj
project is in close vicinity to two very important sites from
conservation point of view – the Great Himalayan National park and the
Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary. Similarly, adjacent to the Kashang Project
area is the Lippa Asrang Wild Life sanctuary. All four projects also
involve diversion of forest land, the total area of forests to be
officially diverted coming up to 221.54 hectares, actual impacts could
be much greater, going by past experience. The nature of these forests
is also diverse ranging from alpine pastures to temperate forests of
deodar and chilgoza and from pine monocultures to mixed forests.

Further the report goes on to point out that these projects are not
coming up in isolation but are part of a cascade of projects within a
river basin and none of the Environment Impact Assessment studies bring
out the gravity of the cumulative impacts of all projects related
activities, including dams, blasting, mining, tunelling, road
construction, townships construction, dumping of muck and other related
construction activities. "It is surprising that the ADB's environmental
safegaurd policies failed to identify the cumulative threats and basin
wide impacts of the Hydro-projects it is financing" the report states.
The EIA report of the Kashang Integrated project fails to mention the
fact that on the same mountain side, at different altitudes, two more
tunnels are planned, one for construction of Jungi-Thopan 960 MW project
and the other for NH-22. In toto, there would be three tunnels in a
single mountain which is severely under threat of sliding down.

" ADB would have steered clear of projects in ecologically sensitive
areas and sites that are important from the conservation point of view,
like Kinnaur and Sainj, if its commitment towards a cleaner environment
and climate justice was real" the report states. "The ADB loans for
Himachal Hydro projects are reflective of its economic interest in the
energy sector and giving it the 'green' colour amounts to a serious lack
of ethics".

Role of HPPCL, the executing agency

The report is severely critical of the role played by HPPCL as the
executing agency. The report states that the company has had a high
handed and casual attitude, and instead of following basic norms of
transparency, participation, social and environmental accountability,
has adopted an adhoc approach to dealing with local impacts. "The most
stark indicators of this are - the use of section 17/4 of the Land
Acquisition Act 1894 for forced acquisition of private agricultural
land; a complete non recognition of the impacts on people's rights on
common property resources; the non compliance to the Forest Rights Act
2006 and severe inadequacies in the EIA reports which when pointed out
during the public hearings met with justifications and counter claims
rather than a genuine concern for people's views or respect or facts".

Problematic State Policies

The inadequacy of the state government's policy regime, in terms of its
Hydropower Policy, has been overlooked by the ADB. Instruments like CAT
(Catchment Area treatment) and LADA (Local Area Development) have not
been studied critically for their ineffectiveness as mitigation
mechanisms before being accepted, adopted and hailed as the be all and
end all solutions in the Environment Management and Rehabilitation
Plans. No proper mechanisms have been put in place for compliance or
grievance redressal and that is obvious from the fact that local
communities have turned to the judiciary or taken resort to public
actions or protest to make their voice heard in the case of the
Kashang-I as well as Sawra Kuddu Projects, both in advanced stages of
implementation. HPPCL's response has come in only after public
agitations or protests and it has found increasing cash compensation as
the only means to quieten protest to allow project work to continue.

Most of the issues mentioned in the report do not find space in the ADB
compliance and mid term evaluation reports which attempt to maintain the
image that progress on the projects has been smooth. This report is also
being forward to the ADB demanding withdrawal from projects, stopping
construction where work has not yet commenced and an immediate,
credible, independent review of the projects under construction with
fair public consultations.

While our focus in this study has been on the ADB funded projects, we
are also concerned about the state and central government's lack of
response to the very serious concerns that have been raised by its own
people. That the state government is relying on loans from an
international bank and in the process selling out its precious natural
resources for unjustifiable hydro projects is unacceptable.

A detailed copy of the report is available at

For details contact:

Prakash Bhandari, Him Dhara 9816089920
Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, 9968242798
R.S Negi, Him Lok Jagriti Manch, 9418002562

You received this message as a subscriber on the list:

To be removed from the list, please visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment