Residents of Pithoragarh district’s Dharchula town, situated on the India-Nepal border and close to the China border, on Monday staged a protest against the proposed Bokang-Baling Hydroelectric Project in the Darma Valley, which will be executed by THDC India Limited.
Living in a seismically sensitive zone of the Himalayas, residents are apprehensive about the hydro power project work, which includes blasting and tunnelling that may cause “irreparable damage to the town and property”, much like what happened at Joshimath.
With banners and posters containing slogans like “THDC go back from Darma Valley” and “We don’t want destruction in the name of development”, the protesters handed over a memorandum to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Dharchula, Divesh Sasni, demanding immediate suspension of the contract of the hydro power project.
The memorandum by Darma Sangharsh Samiti (DSM), addressing the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, says Darma Valley is a very sensitive area in terms of national security as it is situated barely 35 km from China border.
“If this proposed power project is completed, residents of seven villages of Darma Valley will have to relocate. The Central government says it wants people to live at border villages to ensure the safety of borders and this project will have the opposite effect,” said Pooran Singh Gwayal, convener, DSM, in the memorandum.
It added that as per details of the project shared with them, it is clear that tunnelling and digging work will happen as part of the project.
“This will require blasting which will lead to landslide and subsidence,” said Mr. Gwayal who added that people in the town are apprehensive and frightened as the project will not just adversely impact the environment but also the culture and tradition of the valley which are “connected with nature”.
It has also been decided that no resident from Dharchula and Darma Valley will work in the power project or support it in any way.
“We don’t want to suffer the same fate as people of Joshimath. We don’t want any power project to come up here,” said Krishna Garbiyal, a trader in Dharchula.
The protest is also supported by N.S. Napalchiyal, former Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand, who has urged the government to rethink huge power projects in ecologically sensitive areas.
Mr. Sasni couldn’t be contacted even after repeated attempts.