People left stranded even as their lands are sinking

“Our village experiences frequent landslips. There are many other villages in the vicinity of the Tehri dam reservoir where land is sinking and people need to be shifted to safer places. But, all of us have been left stranded here,” said Vijendra Singh Bisht from Saur Uppu village in Tehri district.

Around 80 villages in the vicinity of the 42 sq-km Tehri dam reservoir have been exposed to the dangers of frequent landslips due to constant erosion of the area by the reservoir water.

A Collateral Damage Policy was formulated to rehabilitate 414 families in the villages that are in the landslip zone.

While the Uttarakhand government wants to provide rehabilitation to the villagers in places in and around Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Dehradun, the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDC) feels the villagers should be provided rehabilitation in the vicinity of the dam reservoir.

The tussle between the THDC and the State government continues and the affected population has been left in the lurch while the matter lies with the Supreme Court.

In 2010, when landslips and land sinking were noticed above the height till which rehabilitation was initially decided upon — 835 metres (m) above sea level — a Collateral Damage Policy was formulated to provide rehabilitation to the affected villagers living above 835 m.

Tehri District Magistrate Nitesh Kumar Jha said: “There is a likelihood of landslips resulting from filling of the reservoir. The affected population has to be rehabilitated. A Collateral Damage Policy was formulated for this.”

In January 2013, the Collateral Damage Policy was notified by the State government but it was challenged by the THDC and the matter now lies with the Supreme Court, Mr. Jha said.

D.S. Kundu, Additional General Manager (ADM), Rehabilitation and Coordination, THDC, said: “While the State government is saying that all people should be given rehabilitation in areas near Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun, the THDC is of the idea that people falling under the collateral damage policy should be given rehabilitation in the areas acquired by the THDC in the vicinity of the dam reservoir in Tehri district.”

Mr. Kundu said forest land would have to be acquired to provide rehabilitation to the villagers in Rishikesh. Acquiring forest land would take time.

“We are providing the land to villagers in Tehri itself. Why not use the available land for rehabilitation?” Mr. Kundu asked. The cost of land in Haridwar and Dehradun is around 10 to 15 per cent higher than the cost of land in Tehri.

Mr. Kundu said: “The THDC already has available land in Tehri. If we acquire land in Dehradun and Haridwar, we will pay for it. Ultimately it is public money [that will be spent].”

“If we were to provide land to the affected population in Tehri itself, we would only give land which is safe and stable,” Mr. Kundu said.