Feature Story

River in the Indian Himalayas

By Daniel Moss

Lets take a recent such case, in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, in the Indian Himalayas. The small, lively stream called "Pakhanoj" or Haripur nala, near village Haripur, is the primary source for drinking, irrigation etc water for 19 small villages. In addition, being a fast-moving cold water stream, ther are several small Trout farms, giving incomes & livelihoods to villagers.Close to 15,000 villagers depend on this stream, which irrigates about 5000 hectares of paddy fields and apple orchards, with 5 small trout farms also thriving. This is the lifeline for these 19 villages.

Lets take a recent such case, in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, in the Indian Himalayas. The small, lively stream called "Pakhanoj" or Haripur nala, near village Haripur, is the primary source for drinking, irrigation etc water for 19 small villages. In addition, being a fast-moving cold water stream, ther are several small Trout farms, giving incomes & livelihoods to villagers.Close to 15,000 villagers depend on this stream, which irrigates about 5000 hectares of paddy fields and apple orchards, with 5 small trout farms also thriving. This is the lifeline for these 19 villages.

The HP govt. had "allotted" this stream to a private company called M/S Intra Continental, for constructing an 1.5 MW micro-hydel project. After repeated protests, petitions, demonstrations etcby the affected villagers, with the demand to immediately stop work and then cancel permission,work was halted in April 2010. After a gap of 3 months, on 28th July, the workers of the company,accompanied by a couple of forest guards (govt. employees) started cutting down big, old treesfrom the proposed project area (inside a forest). By the time 33 trees were cut, the villagers were alerted, and came in mass, to protest and stop the work. On their demand, the workers & the forst guards failed to show any permission to cut the trees from this forest area. The villagers forcibly stopped them, and forced them to leave the place.

The next day, the company lodged a case with the local police station, and 10 villagers, were arrested with various false charges. Himachal has a growing collective of people's resistaces,called Himalaya Niti (policy) Abhiyan (campaign), which is spearheading the peoples struggles against destructive 'development' of greed-driven GDP growth dream of the govt and the elite.Himalaya Niti quickly brought together many of its struggle groups together, from a workshop we were conducting for the activists, and on the 7th of August, a large public rally in the 'tourist town' of Manali was organised to put pressure on the district administration. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate & the District Magistrate were given memoranda, and were warned thatlegal action will be taken against the forest officers who permitted such illeagal acts.

A temporary victory was earned by the villagers, with larger help from the movemnet platform,but the larger struggle against unjust, inequitable, greed-driven "development", is far from over -- and people are desperate to evolve and enforce real alternatives.

This is not the only case. Hundreds of streams & rivers are being attacked in the greed of generationg a few megawatts to 1000 megawatt range so-called Run of the River projectson big rivers, putting entire river flows inside tunnels of 10s of kilometers, effectively killing the river in between, and starving fields, orchards, fishing areas. The 3 Himalayan statesof Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand & Arunachal Pradesh are under intense attack from these large, medium & even small projects, w/o regard to the lives & livelihoods of millionsof inhabitants dependent on these rivers, and the river ecosystems themselves.