Local residents said the disappearance of the Sutlej will affect the local climate as in upper reaches of the Sutlej valley where similar projects have affected the apple crop and agriculture

A public hearing on Saturday on environment clearance for the World Bank-financed 775-MW Luhri hydel project on the Sutlej river in Rampur faced public ire and had to be cancelled midway after the stakeholders got agitated.

The project, to be executed by Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam in the districts of Shimla, Kullu and Mandi, faced strong opposition from the public and NGO activists. More than 500 people raised slogans and condemned the government officials' “biased” attitude.

A number of organisations under the banner of Sutlej Bachao Sangharsh Samiti said the very fact that the Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board organised three separate hearings indicated the magnitude of the issue.

The proposed project involves construction of a 86-metre-high concrete gravity dam (with gross reservoir capacity of 35 million cubic metre) from which 38.14-km-long twin tunnels of 9-metre diameter would bring water to an underground power house about 40 km downstream of the dam site.

The reservoir of the project will submerge 153.04 hectares of land. Total land to be acquired is 290.967 hectares, which does not include 77.99 hectares of riverbed. More than 27 villages in three districts will be affected by the project.

Raising crucial issues during the public hearing, local residents said the disappearance of the Sutlej over a stretch of nearly 20 km will affect the local climate. They raised concerns of drought and their apple crop being affected as is the case in upper reaches of the Sutlej valley where similar projects have been constructed.