Aspen Partnerships in Parvati Valley – Barshaini

Past Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh, and its geothermal springs, the presence of other energy plants can be detected. These however, are hydro-power installations. Run-off-the-river plants divert river flow into storage tanks, which in turn feed localised turbines to generate power from the gravitational potential energy stored within the water.

Hydro-power is a renewable energy source and, with modern technology, production is efficient and relatively cost competitive. Larger installations, such as the 520 MW Nakthan Hydroelectric Project (pictured below) near the village of Barshaini, provide further employment and reliable electricity to the people of Parvati Valley. This was a INR 4,500 crore  development by the state-government enterprise Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited.

 

Nakthan Hydroelectric Project  Image: Ewan Tennant

Although producing of energy through hydro power does not emit any greenhouse gases, building huge dams on the rivers and blocking them can have serious environmental and social effects in the form of altering the normal flow of river, blocking of migratory fish passage, sudden occurrence of floods, increase in number of earthquakes and displacing of local communities.

The local environmental organisation Gaon Vikas Samiti, a group born from the Barshaini Panchayat (village-level council authority), was formed to explore potential impacts of the installation. Particularly looking at the impacts on tourism, which is a growing economy in the area and a strong employment opportunity for the younger population. Gaon Vikas Samiti was formed in light of the Parvati II hydro project, proposed 14 km downstream of the Nakthan site, as local residents had fears that it would impact the Rudranag waterfall, which is an ancient holy site of great significance.

This is a prime example of a conflict of interest between local people and top-down initiatives that address an assumed ‘need for development’ in the area. Issues like poor road conditions, decline in agricultural output, violations to the Forest Rights Act and discrepancies in local development funds, that have far-reaching ramifications to the people of the valley, particularly the locals of Barshaini, are now overshadowed by Nakthan Dam.

 

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