Ujh Hydroelectric Project to Destroy Forests – Displace 3,700 Families in Kashmir
India’s ambitious Ujh multipurpose project is expected to destroy forests and displace 3,700 families in the Kashmir valley. Ujh hydroelectric project is a strategically important venture that the Indian government plans to execute in Kashmir’s Kathua district.
The hydroelectric power project includes hydropower, irrigation and drinking purposes and the total land required for the project is about 4,350 hectares over twice the size of Delhi airport.
As per the government, at least 52 villages, a total of 3,700 families, will likely lose their homes to clear the way for Ujh project. It will also involve the loss of about 680 hectares of forest land and over 338,000 trees. The quaint village lifestyle of thousands of families is threatened by the Indian government’s plan to build a large multipurpose project on Ujh River.
The power project is expected to utilize water from Ujh, a tributary of Ravi River, which is one of the three eastern rivers of the Indus Basin system. The project will include the construction of a 116-meter-high concrete dam and power generation of about 186 MW.
According to Environment Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), said;
This project is of national importance, providing geo-political strategic advantage in form of much more effective use of water of Ujh River. This project will ameliorate the agricultural and power sectors in the otherwise barren Kandi area. It will also be a boon in the dry Kandi belt which is reeling under the peril of impending water crisis during dry season and also reduce the miseries of floods in the monsoons.
People have been raising their voices against the project, given its huge environmental and humanitarian cost. A local non-profit organization, the Village Social Development and Welfare Committee has launched a movement against the Ujh hydropower project.
Many villagers are worried that they will lose their livelihood, which will jeopardize the future of their kids. They also said that they will not be sufficiently compensated and even if they are, they cannot live on compensation their entire lives.
The project will be carried out under the Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, which divides the waters from six border rivers between the two countries that are constantly at clash.
According to the government, the hydroelectric power project will irrigate 31,380 hectares of land, along with providing 18.92 million cubic meters of potable water to the residents in the Himalayan region annually.
Kathua district’s Deputy Commissioner Rahul Yadav said;
While the project has got forest clearance, the government will listen to the people’s issues as well. The land acquisition has not started yet. There will be a public meeting by an independent committee where people can share their issues.
Various climate activists and environmentalists have warned that the project can have a huge and devastating environmental cost. As the Himalayan region is ecologically fragile, building a project of such magnitude could wreak havoc.
Earlier this year, two Himalayan dam projects were damaged by a deadly flash flood triggered by a glacial burst in Uttarakhand state, an incident that killed over 100 people, and an equal number of people feared missing!