Published On:August 25 2014
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Environmentalists oppose Pancheshwar dam.

The bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala during the former's recent Nepal visit included an agreement to restart work on the 5,600 MW Pancheshwar multipurpose project. This has aroused strong opposition from environmentalists and anti-dam activists.

Speaking to The Hindu about the project, earlier this month, Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) had pointed out that the project, which would generate hydropower for India and Nepal, provide benefits through irrigation and flood mitigation, was proposed in a fragile zone and could have major ecological and social impacts.

Geographical issues regarding the project also have been questioned over the years. 'Between 1992 and 2006, over 10 earthquakes with a magnitude exceeding 5 (on the Richter scale) have had their epicenter within a radius of 10 kilometres around the site of the proposed Pancheshwar Dam, making the Pancheshwar Dam vulnerable to damage in an earthquake,' a research report published in the year 2010 and titled The proposed Pancheshwar Dam, India/Nepal: A preliminary ecosystem services assessment of likely outcomes, states.

In India, the project lies within the State of Uttarakhand, which shares international border with Nepal. The State has a 1000 MW Tehri dam which was strongly protested for its impacts, which have now begun to surface.

The unresolved issues of the Tehri dam has raised questions about the feasibility of large dams in the area. Vimal Bhai, convenor of the Matu Jansangthan, an organisation that works on dam related issues, said, 'The rehabilitation process of the Tehri dam affected has not been completed yet. Many people are still fighting cases for compensation. This raises serious doubt about handling of rehabilitation and compensation related issues during the construction of big projects, here.'


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