Monday, February 22, 2010

Action Alert: Himachal Environmentalists Under Attack in Chamba

On February 14, five environmental activists, including a  Zila Parishad member, were brutally attacked in Himachal, allegedly by contractors of the Hul Hydroelectric project.  The villagers were attacked at the village Chungah, where residents were holding a meeting to oppose construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Hul Nala, a tributary of the Ravi River.  Though the attacks are getting little if any coverage in most national news outlets,  you can read more and see photos in My Himachal.

Villagers have opposed this project since 2005, due to it's affects on local forests and water resources. Local residents were outraged by the attacks, as these photos of the large protest and bandh they staged last week clearly demonstrate--the streets were full, the shops were shuttered.

Local people typically have a clear understanding of what is at stake in struggles like this--farmers know how much water they need and what will happen if water needed for irrigation is diverted for power generation. And that's to say nothing of flooded forests and homes that often result from projects like this. It's no surprise Chamba residents oppose this project.  

But sometimes, in their rush to cut carbon emissions and consumption of fossil fuels, well-intentioned urban environmentalists jump too quickly onto the hydroelectric bandwagon.  Hydroelectric power is often billed as clean and renewable.  The problem is that more and more research suggests that in many cases, hydro plants actually emit more greenhouse gases than burning oil!  This is because when trees and plants go underwater, they decompose and release methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon.  Even small dams can drown a lot of trees.  More work on this is needed, but recent research into methane production at the Three Gorge Dam in China suggests dams may be even worse than many previously believed.

The fact that dams may contribute much more than we once thought to climate change suggests that while hydroelectric power may be renewable, it's not necessarily sustainable!  We cannot allow these projects to be pushed through by force over local opposition.  

Wherever your live in India or the wider world, you can help by signing this on-line petition calling on the Chief Minister of Himachal to scrap the Hul Hydroelectric project and to take action against those who perpetrated the recent violence against local environmentalists.  Let him know the whole world is watching!  Then you can post the link to Facebook and mail a few good friends.

Thanks to the Indian Youth Climate Action Network for the tip on this story.
Thanks also to the IYCN for passing on word about this event, which takes place later this week in Delhi:

PERSPECTIVES invites you to a convention COMMUNITIES, COMMONS AND CORPORATIONS the struggle for rights and resources
24TH February, Wednesday: 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Ms. Arundhati Roy (Activist and Writer), Mr. Prashant Bhushan (Advocate, Supreme Court), Mr. Felix Padel (Anthropologist working in Niyamgiri, Orissa), Ms. Joya Mitra (Activist and Writer, West Bengal)

25TH February, Thursday: 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Ms. Shamim Modi (Activist, Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh), Film and Talk by Mr.Amar Kanwar
(Independent Documentary Film-maker), Ms. Dayamani Barla (Journalist and Activist, Jharkhand), Prof. Nirmal Chandra (Formerly Professor of Economics, IIM-Kolkata)

Venue: Room no. 22, Faculty of Arts, North Campus, University of Delhi.

For more information, go here.


  1. Hey! Thanks for posting this.


  2. What's your game here, Batti?

    First you tell me oil's bad. Now you tell me dams are bad. I just bought a plasma TV. How do you expect me to keep it powered? Bicycle?

    As far as methane goes, I've gone back to eating all the meat I can. Pigs, cows, chickens, anything that poops. I'm trying to eat it before it expels more methane. I figure that'll be my carbon offset so we can build me a dam!

  3. @kabir, thanks for the tip on this.

    @plastic: I think you're clucking up the wrong tree on the methane-meat connection! Here's what you can do: buy a couple of milking cows, build a low tech biogas plant in your back yard, mix the cow pies into a slurry every day and you are in business: you can sell the resulting fertilizer to your neighbors for their gardens; you will have all the milk and cheese that you can eat; and you can probabably use the methane to run a generator big enough to power your plasma TV. Of course the cows will keep your lawn trimmed (if you have a lawn; othewise, you just turn them out into the neighborhood and they can eat your neighbors' lawns or whatever your neighbors feed them in place of their lawns--cows will eat a lot of things!) I think it's a winner all round!

  4. Tweeted about this Hari.

    Do you know about Himvani - A lot of fiery himachalis on that network. If not, i could introduce you to Varun Rattan Singh, the primary mover behind the initiative.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. @danceofshiva-- thanks for the tweet and the tip. I just went over to and you are right, they've got a lot of interesting stuff up there, including this article about the Hull Project:
    stay in touch and send more info anytime--our email is on our blogger profile.


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