The Gori Ganga River
Gori Ganga arises from the mighty Milam Glacier in the higher reaches of the 100 kms long Valley and after traversing the valley it merges with the Kali River. Its fertile river basin is home to 50 villages with farming on its banks and about a thousand families survive by fishing in it. All this is about to change. Over the last few years, the government has sanctioned 8 major and 18 minor Hydro electric projects on the river and when implemented, the entire river will be diverted into numerous mountain tunnels, leaving its bed dry. And this spells doom for the villagers.
Says Ramnarayan, a social activist, fighting for the right of villagers “This is how, through the ages, the weak have been oppressed by the powerful & rich”. Ramda, as he is popularly known has been threatened and harassed on numerous occasions by contractors & the district administration but has stood firm. “The NTPC Project, which is the first project to be implemented in the valley, is the most destructive one since its dam is just 33 kms from Milam Glacier. While dams have been cancelled within 150 kms of Gangotri Glacier, standards seem different here. The environmental impact assessment study, done by WAPCOS, is extensively flawed and was made available to the community only two days before the public hearing. Letters and emails to the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, have gone unanswered” he says.
Praladh Singh Dariyal, Sapranch of Paton Village, where the NTPC will build the dam, says “Ever since the news of dam has come, the 120 families which live here, are in a state of fear. For 60 years we have been demanding a road link to Munsiyari but nothing was done. Now to build a dam here road construction has started in 6 months.” In 2006 when NTPC drilled an experimental tunnel under the village water sources of the village dried up. Explosives used to blast the tunnel caused a 1800 foot landslide up to the base of the village, “All of us survived by a whisker that night” remembers Praladh.
Villagers blocking NTPC Officals from entering the village
24yr old Surinder Singh Brijwal, Block President of Parvatiya Kisan Sabha, equates NTPC with East India Company. “It is using the 1857 Land Acquisition Act to force villagers to sell their land and money & muscle power to coerce and divide them.” Cries of “East India Company Go Back” rent the air whenever NTPC Officials visit the area. Attempts to hold meetings of Village Development Advisory Council and Jan Sunvai’s have been disrupted by the villagers who have not let NTPC official enter their villages on numerous occasions. “The government wants to give us money for our land. What will we do with the money?” asks 75 yr old Jagar Singh Rawat, a retired school teacher. Citing inadequacy of land in Uttarakhand, the State government has refused to give land for land, offering villagers money instead.
Such is the disruption created by just one dam in the valley, that villagers are mortified when they think of the 26 dams the government is working on. “Where will we fish, grow our grain, and collect fodder for our animals?” asks Rudra Singh of Kulthum Village. “Government’s slogan of eradicate poverty (‘gareebi hatao’), has changed to eradicate the poor (‘gareeb hatao’)” he says.
The snow clad peaks, the green fields & the gently blowing wind belie the deep resentment among the villagers against the exploitation of their land. Even as the agitation is peaceful, anger against the government is palpable. “We will die, but not give up our land and our river” seems to be the general refrain. It is perhaps time the Government linked ‘development’ with welfare & wishes of the people.
||Get Updates||Get SMS Updates|