ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Construction of Calamities in the Uttarakhand Himalaya

Hydropower projects on the Uttarakhand rivers have proven to aggravate the severity of floods, making them calamitous. In addition, these projects have also increased the vulnerability of the mountain villagers towards disasters, while giving these an unsettling everydayness and a spiralling effect. Projects have evaded accountability and responsibility for such disasters by opportunistically deeming these as devi aapda, or natural calamities, even as the line between natural and human-made calamities has become more blurred than ever.

Company gaya” or “the company is gone” are the anticipative cries one hears in the videos that the villagers settled at heights could take of the “toofan,” the towering surge of sludgy waters proceeding through the gorges of the Rishi Ganga river towards the Rishi Ganga Power Project. It was obvious to the villagers that the surge would take down any kind of obstruction constructed in its path. After wiping out this project in seconds, the waters barrelling through Dhauli Ganga reached and swept away the barrage of the Tapovan Vishnugad project, about 8 kilometres (km) downstream, near Joshimath town in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The villagers did not wish that these companies, the hydropower projects, of which there are 450 in the Uttarakhand mountains, had come near their homes in the first place. They could apprehend and have experienced that the heavy blasting by use of explosives that the companies employ for construction, large-scale deforestation, and the muck they dump by the riverbanks prove to be disastrous.

When the coming of these projects, however, was forced down upon them, many had to give up their agricultural and forestlands and were made to feel obliged for getting temporary jobs of constructing the tunnels and barrages of these projects or for other small “favours.” Their lives have got inevitably tied up with these projects despite their fear of and disagreement with such an intervention, projected as development. They have turned into labourers for constructions that have literally shaken the foundations of their homes and have forced many to leave behind their homes in search of work and secure habitation. It is these very projects which also became the cause of the workers being washed away or buried under the sludge on 7 February 2021. The flood caught them unawares, with only their fellow villagers calling and whistling to alert them of the waters rushing towards them.

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Updated On : 30th Mar, 2021

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