Bandipora, Jun 25: Villagers in this north Kashmir district are apprehending a major disaster due to construction of the controversial Kishenganga hydel power project by India’s power giant National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) here.
So far the project, which is being implemented by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), has polluted the waters of some of the major streams here rendering them unfit for drinking and unlivable for fish.The villagers said that apart from noise and dust pollution, the project is polluting the waters of Madhumati, Erin, Panchan and Zaingiri streams. Besides, it’s threatening one of Asia’s largest fresh water lakes, the Wular lake.
“These streams were once famous for their trout fish and were also only drinking water source for the entire district until they (NHPC) plundered it. What is the purpose of development if it leads to destruction of water and ecological resources,” the residents of Kralpora village, where HCC is constructing the 330 MW power project, told Kashmir Reader.
A senior official at the HCC endorsed the villagers’ charges, saying that the construction is polluting streams and water resources of the district.“The HCC uses chemicals for a process called mucking which help in the construction of 23.50 km headrace tunnels to take water to three turbines (110 MW each) for generating 1,350 million units of energy a year.
These chemicals are then disposed off in Madumati stream which flows directly in the Wullar,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.Earlier, these chemicals were disposed in Bonyar stream which is adjacent to the project site, but after objection by villagers and local administration, the HCC started to dump these chemicals in Madumati stream.“It doesn’t matter in which stream they (HCC) are dumping these chemicals because every stream ends up in Wular lake. Just go and take a look, the waters of Bonyar stream are opaque, unfit for drinking and there is hardly any fish in it,” the villagers said.
A stone crushing unit in the middle of the project site has compounded the woes of the villagers and has affected the fertility of the agricultural land in Kralpora and other villages. “The waste from the stone crusher also ends up in these streams and ultimately in Wular,” the villagers led by Sanaullah Khan, a trout fish farmer, told Kashmir Reader.The NHPC and HCC have also constructed their offices and living quarters over several kanals of agricultural land despite High Court ban on constructions over agricultural land.The villagers said that HCC, in order to make the Kishenganga project more accessible from outside, is constructing metalled roads, thereby triggering soil erosion and destroying the natural landscape.“If they continue to vandalize the place at the present pace, then in a few years this place will become ripe for a disaster like Uttarakhand.
Where will we go then,” they said.The project has also cast a shadow over the state government’s ambitious project to save Wular Lake. Under the Wular Conservation Project, the government is spending Rs 114 crores on the lake’s conservation.“The money and efforts may well go down the drain because of this project. We don’t want any development. We only want government and NHPC to leave us alone,” said a villager Mohammad Amin Dar.
When contacted, the district administration expressed helplessness over the way HCC was doing business.“They should have kept some provision to dispose of the chemicals rather than dumping into the water, but they have not. Till date we have collected three water samples and now it seems the toxicity of these chemicals have come down a little bit,” Ghulam Mohammed Barkhoo, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Bandipora, told Kashmir Reader.“We have also conveyed the matter to the government and they only directed that the chemicals be dumped in Madumati stream and not in Bonyar stream.
We are completely helpless, there is nothing we can do to,” Barkhoo said.India started construction on Rs 3,642.04 crore Kishenganga hydropower project after the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in its favour after Pakistan had questioned the legality of the construction under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. India had said that building the dam was within its rights.Conceived in 1996, the work on the project began in 2007 and has also been a centre of controversy between the state government and NHPC. In 2009, the NHPC awarded the contract to construct the power project to HCC.