ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF HYDROPOWER DEVELOPMENT IN NORTHWESTERN INDIAN HIMALAYAN REGIONRenu Lata and Konchok Dolma
Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) with its major river systems has vast potential for hydropower development. Establishment of a hydropower projects involves substantially large infrastructure development in terms of storage structures, diversion tunnels, powerhouse, residential/office area, roads, transmission lines, etc. Undeniably such a massive action has the potential to greatly affect the expanse, predominantly if it is taking place in the fragile Himalayan Region. No doubt hydropower projects have made an important contribution to local communities but such developments had significant impacts on local livelihood and the environment. Due to the fragile nature of topography and delicacy of ecology of the Himalaya, it results in a lot of disturbances because of high degree of human interferences like construction of major hydropower projects. The increased extent of geological hazards, such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, rock fall and soil erosion, have mainly due to developmental interventions in the natural ecosystem. However, in the present study, some of the important social and environmental issues are raised that arise due to dense allocation of hydropower projects in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India, which is Himachal Pradeshâs most ecologically fragile regions, is under threat from widespread construction activity for hydroelectric power projects. Among the most serious impacts are drying up of the natural drinking water springs and the reduction in sub-soil moisture in Kinnaur. The joint family systems is also collapsing in the study area which had the strength of the tribal society and was the pillar of the social system because after the implementation of hydropower projects, people in the study area have gained economic independency and are now preferring nuclear family system which had affected cooperation and moral values. To keep good relations concerning peoples livelihood and sustainability of the power projects there is need to make a bridge between progress in the social and organizational learning process and the willingness of stakeholders to participate in a consensus-building effort that contributes to identifying mitigation measures and areas of opportunity for regional development and environmental sustainability.
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