Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Renukaji turns to Sonia-ji

Got this in a press note from the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan. I have not been following the dam issue in the Himalayas closely but clearly, all is not well.

The Renuka Bandh Sangharsha Samiti is on hunger strike in Renukaji against the Renuka Dam project which intends to supply drinking water for Delhi. The project was denied clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests but the state is just revising the project through reducing the height of the dam.

I am simply putting down below the campaign's fax copy, for those who'd like to and are able to do something with this information. Though I have to say I am a little shocked that they should choose to address it to Sonia Gandhi instead of Jairam Ramesh, who is only marked in the CC, along with Rahul Gandhi. I understand that Delhi is more or less run by the Congress government at this time and that a nod from Sonia Gandhi means more to the state government than a letter from a central ministry. But for every battle, small and large, people cannot go running with their petitions to 10, Janpath. It just isn't sustainable. Nor is a hunger strike, actually. Unless people can persuade their elected representative to starve through the winter session of Parliament. That might be worth a shot.

Dated: 15th November 2010



Smt Sonia Gandhi,

Chairperson, National Advisory Council,

New Delhi

1. In a victory for a safe ecological future and peoples’ livelihoods, the MoEF has rejected the Forest Clearance for the Renuka dam for the 2nd time, based on the massive scale of deforestation that will take place in the submergence area.

2. After the rejection of Forest clearance for this project recently state government is acquiring agriculture land forcefully where as land acquisition proceeding should be stalled till all clearances are granted[1].

3. Award for 447 Bigha land has been recently issued and land compensation Rs 7,22,00,000 has been forcefully distributed including three residential houses with out any R&R of Project Affected Families[2]. This land is having thick forest plantation, HPCCL (the developer) has counted 32640 standing green trees on this 445 Bigha of land.

4. Tree estimates in Renuka dam submergence area

The Renuka dam was initially proposed to be 778 mts high from mean sea-level. Consequent to the rejection of the Forest Clearance, the promoter has proposed to lower the dam height to 762mts. HPCCL is preparing for fresh forest diversion proposal and manipulating the count of standing trees at the site.

HPCCL has counted the trees only in Reserve forest and wild life area. As per their counting total trees are 1,51,439 at sea level of 778 mts. While the actual total number of trees is more than 2,50,000.

HPCCL is currently recounting trees to the lowered height of 762 mts. so that number presented to the MoEF would be much less.

Trees in private land have not been considered for forest clearance case and not counted which is atleast more than 13 lakhs.

Initially, a tender was awarded on 16-3-2007 to a contractor to count the trees in private land. His estimate of 17 lakh trees on private land was uncomfortable for HPCCL, which raised objection to his survey. His contract was terminated with a payment of Rs 6 lakhs.

Our estimate is that the total number of trees in the proposed submergence area is more than 15 lakhs. HPCCL has sent proposal for forest clearance mentioning only 1,51,439 trees but it is compulsory to include private /deemed forest under FCA 1980 for clearance.

5. NAC Chairperson’s Concern over Productive Lands and and a brief on Agro-Horti-Silvi-Cultural Wealth of Renuka Submergence Zone

In light of the recent debate on the Land Acquisition Act 1894, we want to point out that the Renuka dam project will also drown 376 hectares of agricultural and 60 hectares of horticulture land (according the R&R plan), producing food and commerce vital to the people of this country.

"New industries and infrastructure cannot be built without acquiring land. This is obvious and there is no argument about it. But land acquisition must be done in a manner that it does not result in the loss of large tracts of fertile and productive agriculture land." Quoting Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, NAC The Indian Express: 9th of September 2010

In the light of the statement above, we would like to point out some very important features of the land under submergence by the planned Renuka Dam in Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh where land acquisition process is being conducted forcefully by using urgency clause of LAA 1894. The Renuka Dam will drown an area of 1630 hectares of prime agricultural and dense Shiwalik mix forest land (according to the R&R report from HPPCL), to supply drinking water to Delhi.

According to official records, the total cultivated area in the district of Sirmaur is 70,000 hectares, which is under great threat when any forest and contiguous agricultural land are submerged. Sirmaur’s agricultural land is characterized by a mixture of cash crops like tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and peas, as well as floriculture and horticulture such as peach, pears, mango, citrus fruit, pomegranate, apple etc, as well as ecologically sustainable subsistence agriculture with families growing their own maize, wheat, and rearing livestock.

The low lying areas which are on the Giri river bank and are marked for submergence in the Renuka dam and are the only flat agriculture land with excellent productivity, good soil quality, irrigation, ground moisture. The important feature of agricultural
land here is that it is extremely diverse, with multi cropping and mostly 3 crops a year being grown.

The per Bigha income from growing tomatoes is Rs. 40,000/- per season, Ginger, a crop that made Sirmaur famous as one of Asia’s significant ginger producers, is almost a biological geographic indicator. Families also invest in floriculture as a commercial activity, and have a variety of fruit trees such as mango, litchi, pomegranate, jamun, and pears, amongst other things.

It is evident in this area of Sirmaur’s abundant and thriving agriculture, that fertile land is found in low lying areas slated for submergence, while most of the rest of the land in the district that is not under submergence, is not as productive.

Additionally, the dam submergence area is slated to drown 642 hectares of dense mix Shiwalik forest land, that has been reason enough to deny the project forest clearance. Parts of the Renuka wild life sanctuary are also being acquired for the dam submergence area.

Forest land is the supporting structure for fertile agricultural land. Without forests, lands do not remain moist, winds are not broken, and the whole ecology and balance of a region is destroyed.

It is in light of these facts; we would like to point out that the Renuka dam severely endangers the food producing farmers of the Giri Valley of Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh. The dam will also impact the local climate as well as affect climate change, cause deforestation and destroy bio-diversity.

People of the area are resisting against the acquisition of agricultural and forest land for the last three years, they are opposed to this Dam. We have noticed that the GoI is considering the view of local communities that are opposing Dams and Hydro-projects in Uttrakhand and the North East, and we urge you to do the same in Himachal.

6. We would also like to point out another reporting by the Indian Express epaper, that said: “Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has taken up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demands for a review of all hydro projects in the region and a “moratorium on any further clearances for hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh” since “these are bound to be the subject of agitation” in Assam.”

It is a scandal with green cover which needs to be abandoned and a complete enquiry instituted on how institutions have colluded to hoodwink the decision makers.

We urge you to intervene in the matter of the Renuka Dam and save the beautiful Giri valley and the lives of local farmers by completely scrapping the project. To emphasise this demand. Renuka Bandh Sangharsh Samiti is sitting on hunger strike on 16th Nov 2010 on the eve of Renuka Mela. Chief Minister of HP is coming for opening the fair and the communities feel that it is the appropriate time to inform the Government of its misdeeds.


On behalf of

Renuka Bandh Sangarsh Samithi

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

Environics Trust


Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment, GOI

Shri C.P Joshi, Minister, Panchayat Raj, GOI

Shri N.C Saxena, Member , NAC

Shri Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary, AICC

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