Victory in the Himalayas

ELAW Bulletin

The small Himalayan village of Lippa in far north Himachal Pradesh, India, won a David and Goliath battle last week against the State which sought to move forward on a hydroelectric project that would destroy forest and likely bury Lippa village in a flood of silt.

The National Green Tribunal ordered last week that the Gram Sabha (village council) must have a voice in decisions made about the proposed Kashang Intergrated Hydro Electric Project.

"It was a very long fight and involved arguing the case before multiple benches over the last four years," says ELAW partner Ritwick Dutta who represented the community-based organization Paryavaran Sanrakhsan Sangrash Samiti in its May 4 victory before the National Green Tribunal in Delhi.  "The local people were really committed and it was their dogged pursuit which made it possible to get this decision.  The judgment is a victory for the local people."

Hundreds of hydropower projects are in varying stages of construction in Himachal Pradesh.  The area is prone to earthquakes and floods, and dams, diversion of waterways, and forest destruction pose enormous risks to local communities.

Lippa village is celebrating because villagers have legal rights to local forests and the government is now being held accountable by placing projects involving forest clearance before the Gram Sabha.

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel helped Ritwick show that Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd.  vastly understated the amount of total forested area that would be diverted, and failed to assess how the diversion of freshwater from the Kerang River would threaten communities downstream.

"Heidi's analysis was extremely helpful," says Ritwick.

We will keep you posted on our progress protecting remote communities from hydropower schemes.

For more information, see:

NGT stops work on Himachal Pradesh hydro electric project

In a first, Himachal villagers get a say in hydel power projects

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Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
ELAW Fellows Program Coordinator