Women from Uttarakhand were recently in town to tell their tale of water woes

Food, clothing and shelter are no longer the only basic necessities of our lives. Clean drinking water, good health and uninterrupted power supply are also as essential. For those who live in the comfort zones of a city, these might not mean much but those who have forever been deprived of these, it is indeed of value.

A bunch of tribal women from Uttarakhand along with Avdhash Kaushal, Chairperson, RLEK (Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra) had come to the city recently, demanding static power supply in their village. Avdhash, who has been an environmentalist for most of his life, is now under the eyes of environment crusaders. He said at the press conference, “We are here for the cause of Uttarakhand. The State that was once called Urja Pradesh (energy State) is energy starved today. The hydro power projects that were started in our village have been stopped abruptly. People, who gave their forests, land and homes for the project are caught in the web of debt and poverty. We are here in the Capital to make an appeal to put an end to our turmoil by restarting the project.”

The per capita energy consumption of Uttarakhand is 654.84 kWh. Each year the State is spending Rs.750 crores to buy 150 MW of additional electricity as it has not been able to match the demand of electricity with supply. The State has spent around Rs.1500 crores on the shelved projects.

Raanishwari Devi, one of the tribal women present, blared, “People of our village are ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause. We have to travel two km to recharge our mobile phones. How would our kids study? The struggle is not for us but for our children. We don’t want them to rot like us.”

According to the women, the sudden stoppage of the hydro-power projects has divided the village. A few people got compensation and others were left behind. There are people who took huge sums of loan and bought tractors, SUVs and cars in the wake of the job prospects offered to them. But the stopping of these projects has put an end to their hope of a better life.

The saints who reside along the belt of Gomukh to Haridwar in the State have accused the project of polluting Nirmal Ganga. The political factions, who are against the project have called for other energy alternatives like thermal energy projects.

Avdhash refutes these claim, “The self-proclaimed holy people have constructed and encroached upon both sides of Ganga. It is not the project that is rendering the river impure; I have personally seen them throw the drainage of their ashrams directly into the river. And those who talk about renewable sources of energy as a potential energy alternative should think about the practicality of such suggestions.” In a State, where it rains for three to four months on an average, with no sunlight for days, his agony seems a genuine one.