Not many of us are familiar with the details of the proposed Pancheshwar Dam, so here is a brief background information of this project.
Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project:
The Pancheshwar Dam is a record busting 315 meter high Rock fill Dam being built on the River Mahakali, at the town of Pancheshwar in Champawat District. The Mahakali River forms a 230km boundary between India and Nepal so the project is an international one.
The agreement of this dam was signed between the two countries on 12th February 1996 and is known as The Indo-Nepal Mahakali Treaty. The treaty envisages basin development under the aegis of a binational Mahakali Commission. The commission would look after three things: (1) The Sharda Canal (2) The Tanakpur Barrage and (3) The Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. The first two already existed and the treaty formalized the division of water and electricity between the two countries. The last is what a lot of people on both sides of the border are worried about.
The treaty generated a lot of protests. Both in India and in Nepal, environmentalists, local villagers and anti-dam activists organized protests and agitations. In Nepal the treaty was seen a result of undue pressure exerted by India and US on the Royal Nepalese Government and a sell out to India. Pricing of electricity and ownership of unused waters were two big issues in Nepal. In a very unusual move clearly signifying the extreme discord in Nepal over the treaty, the Nepalese Parliament passed five amendments to the treaty after it had been signed by the two countries.
In Nov1999 a Joint Project Office was set up in Kathmandu. It prepared a Detailed Project Report, which was rejected by Nepal and the JPO itself was dissolved in 2002. In 2004 another Joint Group of Experts was setup and it held its first meeting in Dec 2004. A second meeting was due when political turmoil hit Nepal and the matter has been in a limbo since then. The Maoists in Nepal, who are now a part of the Government, are stoutly against the Dam.
Comparison with Tehri Dam:
Comparing the Pancheshwar Dam with Tehri Dam helps us visualize how massive the structure is. With a height of 315 meters, it will be the second highest dam in world; the highest being Rogun Dam in Russia at 335meters. Tehri Dam is 261 meters high.
At present prices it will cost a whooping Rs 21,780 Crores. This figure is likely to multiply at least 4 times if and when it is ready. Tehri cost a measly 4000 Crores.
The Dam will create a lake with a submerged area of134 sq.km; Tehri submerged 51.7sq.km. Of the 134 sq.km, 120sq.km is in Uttarakhand; only 14sq.km is Nepalese territory. Officially, 82 Indian villages and 33 Nepalese villages would be completely submerged and 11,361 families would be fully displaced. Tehri Dam submerged 33 villages and Tehri town and completely displaced only 5421 families. These figures are hotly contested by local NGO’s, who claim that once completed and functional, the Pancheshwar Dam will displace around 80,000 people.
The Mahakali River upstream from the Dam will form a lake up to Baluwakot. Sarju and Gori Ganga Rivers, draining into Mahakali will also be swollen substantially. Infact about 15kms of fertile Sarju plains will be completely submerged. Dry riverbeds around Pithoragarh will be full of lake water and one of the major fallouts of the submergence would be that connectivity to Pithoragarh would be undermined. Some NGO’s claim that infact the hill town of Pithoragarh may become an island!
Both Pancheshwar and Tehri Dams are in Zone 4 of Seismic Activity. However in the last 15yrs, over 10 earthquakes having a magnitude of over 5 have had their epicenter within a radius of 10kms around the Pancheshwar Dam. The maximum damage in an earthquake is at its epicenter. That makes the Pancheshwar Dam much more vulnerable to damage in an earthquake, than the Tehri Dam.
Proposed life of the Project is claimed to be 100yrs but according to Dr. Bidur Upadhaya, head of Meteorology Dept. at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, it is more likely that the lifespan of the Dam would be 25yrs given that 68 million tons of sediment is released by the hills around Mahakali into the river.
The purpose of this project is electricity production, generation of water for irrigation and flood control. It will produce 6480 MW of electricity, compared to the 2400 MW peak production at Tehri. Water for irrigation would benefit the farmers in UP and by storing water, floods in Bihar and UP will be reduced. So important is the aspect of flood control, that officials of Bihar and UP are a part of the expert group created for negotiations in 2004.
How will Uttarakhand benefit from this colossal structure? Besides the 12% free power as royalty, it will have a new lake to show tourists! 82 villages of Uttarakhand would be submerged completely to reduce the monsoon flooding of villages in Bihar. Perhaps the benefits of Pancheshwar Dam for Uttarakhand will be similar to the benefits of Tehri Dam. The Benefits for Uttarakhand from the Tehri Dam as detailed by the Ministry of Power, Government of India, in its Annual Report for 2005 -2006 are reproduced below:
BENEFITS FROM TEHRI HYDRO POWER COMPLEX:
Do we want more such 'integrated development' or another new hill station at enormous environmental and human cost? The trauma of the “Tehri refugees” has still not ended, why would we want to create 80,000 more homeless people? The same report further mentions that the afforestation carried out to compensate the loss of Uttarakhand’s Forests, is not in Uttarakhand, but in Jhansi and Lalitpur Districts of UP!
Questions the State Government must answer:
||Get Updates||Get SMS Updates|