Says river’s catchment area is fragile, falls under Zone V seismic belt

Citing the fragility and seismic nature of the Yamuna catchment as one of the reasons for not going ahead with the construction of dams, a Delhi-based non-government organisation, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, has written to the Planning Commission to refrain from funding construction of the proposed Lakhwar Byasi hydroelectric dam project over the river.

The project has been envisaged by the Uttarakhand Government downstream of Lakhwar on the Yamuna and a request has been made to the Planning Commission for a funding approval for the proposed dam project.

In its letter to the Planning Commission, the YJA has said the “204-m-high solid concrete gravity dam with two power houses (one underground) and a barrage downstream at Katapathar” is just about 120 km downstream of the river’s origins from the holy shrine of Yamunotri and is a “fragile ecosystem”.

Based on its research findings, the YJA has put forth that the Yamuna basin with very fragile hills as its catchment, and sitting as it does in Zone V seismic belt is “unsuited” for construction of man-made structures. “There is an existing dam at Koti on river Tons and barrages on river Yamuna at Dak Pathar and at Hathnikund and another over river Asan in Dehra Dun district, the river is already over structured and can ill afford any more man-made structures,” said YJA convenor Manoj Misra.

The NGO has proposed carrying out “massive reforestation campaign” in the catchment area that it claims is “landslide-prone” as man-made constructions will only aggravate the fragility of these hills and endanger the lives and property of millions living downstream. “The Yamuna has an extremely small founder basin. Resultantly, while on the one hand the amount of water available in the river system during the lean season is restricted, huge amount of water gets accumulated at short notice in the system leading to flash floods from cloud bursts which are quite common during monsoon months,” Mr. Misra said.

He has cited the devastating cloud burst of August 2, 2012, in the Hanuman Ganga (feeding Yamuna system) and Asi Ganga (feeding Ganga system) head waters as an example of the areas fragility.

“The special characteristic of the Yamuna founder basin do not permit construction of any structure on it as these would always remain susceptible to great damage,” he said.

The YJA has also called for a fresh environmental impact assessment of the project. “Records inform that the hydro project dam at Lakhwar had received environmental clearance from the Environment Ministry way back in 1986. Thus an environmental clearance from almost 27 years back should not be treated as being good enough now, when the ground situation is much different,” it has said in the letter to the Planning Commission.

It has also called for the completion of a study being conducted on the review of the hydro-projects. Referring to the study by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education to review all hydro projects planned in the Yamuna basin that were commissioned by the Uttarakhand Government in 2012, the YJA has said sanction for the project should be considered only after the study has been completed.

  • “Special characteristics of Yamuna founder basin don’t permit construction of any structure on it”

  • Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan calls for fresh environmental impact assessment