Kinnaur Locals Fear Hydropower Projects Will Destroy Chilgoza Trees

Himachal Pradesh government has allowed the construction of several hydropower projects in the Kinnaur district. The aim of these hydroelectric projects is to fulfill India’s increasing requirements for renewable energy to tackle the rapidly changing climatic conditions. However, recent studies say that these projects are adversely impacting the environment of the region while affecting the survival and growth of the chilgoza trees, which is a vital cash crop in the region. 

The cutting of these trees is to make way for more hydroelectric projects. Hence, it’s concerning the locals who depend on the chilgoza pine trees for their livelihood.

Kinnaur People Fear Hydropower Projects Will Destroy Chilgoza Pine Trees-1

Image: Mongabay India

Chilgoza Trees Could Go Extinct

In the 2011 study published in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it’s mentioned that chilgoza trees are under threat. It is because there’s a 30 percent decline in these regional trees. It started happening after the state government’s approval to construct the 804 MW Jangi-Thopan Powari (JTP) Hydro Electric Project in 2018.

After experiencing the negative impact of decreasing chilgoza trees in the region – both climatically and economically – the locals are now protecting against these hydropower projects. Around six gram panchayats are suffering due to these ongoing projects. So, collectively all impacted panchayats have passed a resolution to stop the project. After all, this project will set up over 350 acres of forest land. So, you can imagine the amount of damage it would do to the environment.

Kinnaur People Fear Hydropower Projects Will Destroy Chilgoza Pine Trees-1

Image: Mongabay India

According to Jiya Lal, convenor of Himlok Jagriti Manch, a Kinnaur-based conservation group, if this hydropower project gets set up, it would destroy the regional biodiversity. The endavour will include more cutting of the already endangered chilgoza trees. Moreover, the livelihood of many local people would become threatened as so many of them depend on chilgoza for income. On top of this, there will be a drastic climatic change due to such activities in the region.

Last year, the locals experienced unexpected landslides, cloud bursts, and other climatic damages in Kinnaur. And, they fear that the situation would worsen if the government didn’t stop the construction of such hydropower projects on this Himalayan land.

Plantation of New Trees – Not a Solution

If there’s this continuous cutting of chilgoza trees for making large projects, soon this species would go extinct. And, the plantation of new chilgoza trees won’t solve the problem. It is because the life of chilgoza trees is around 200 years. But it takes many years for this tree to grow and further bear fruits. But once the tree is cut, there are lesser chances of its revival.

Kinnaur People Fear Hydropower Projects Will Destroy Chilgoza Pine Trees

Image: Mongabay India

Therefore, the state government needs to take strict action on this matter. Only then there could be some control over the cutting of this crucial cash crop in the region. They can even implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 to address the problem of the chilgoza tree decline.

If the state government gives forest rights to locals as per the FRA in Kinnaur, it can positively impact the conservation of these trees. After all, the locals are highly concerned about the environment in the region.

Via: Mongabay India

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