The people of Sutlej valley have rejected the draft study report on the cumulative environment impact on the river basin presented by the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun, on behalf of the Himachal Pradesh government.

Local representatives and environmentalists said over the weekend that a month’s notice should have been given for the public consultation after sharing the executive summary of the environment impact assessment (EIA) report under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification. They complained that a short notice of just four days was given to the stakeholders.

“The whole manner in which this consultation is being done has reduced it to a farce,” said R.S. Negi of Him Lok Jagriti Munch of Kinnaur. The State government did not consider it necessary to share the report prepared by the consultants with the public even during the consultation, leaving behind doubts in the public regarding the issues studied by the report.

“We do not know whether the consultants have studied the impact of the hydropower projects that have already been constructed that have led to drying up of drinking water sources, loss of forests and farm land, apart from the impact of blasting for tunnelling and road construction,” said Shyam Singh Chauhan, a member of the Mandi District Zila Parishad.

“There is no indicator that the consultants have determined the carrying capacity of the Sutlej basin or have included in their draft recommendations, stretches of the river that should be left free flowing. Without such recommendations, the report itself would make no contribution to the preservation of environment,” said Nek Ram Sharma of Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti.

People already affected by hydel projects from areas as wide as Spiti, Kinnaur, Mandi, Kullu and Shimla districts attended the consultation. Representatives of organisations from these areas targeted the manner in which the projects were being constructed in the valley with indiscriminate blasting resulting in the drying up of drinking water sources. Hardly any water was being released downstream of the dam sites.

The environmental organisations submitted their memoranda to the State government listing various issues of their concern.

All of them demanded that consultation be done at the Tehsil level with an appropriate prior notice. Secretary (MPP and Power) R.D. Nazim conceded the demand and also promised that two members of the consultants’ team would revisit the project-affected areas to record the impact of construction activities.