Kashmir villages going through submergence as India plans Himalayan dam

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Surrounded by lush inexperienced forests and fields of mustard, wheat and maize, Dungara is a small village in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Kathua district.

Most residents of Dungara, which falls within the disputed Himalayan area’s Jammu space, are farmers who develop fruit, rice, and mulberry bushes to supply silk.

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But their quaint village way of life is threatened by the Indian authorities’s plan to assemble a big multipurpose venture on Ujh, a tributary of the Ravi River which in flip pours into the Indus River.

The Ujh venture, anticipated to supply 186 megawatts of electrical energy, would fully submerge Dungara and displace the villagers. It would additionally contain the chopping down of greater than 330,000 bushes, compounding the villagers’ anger.

A normal view of the inexperienced fields in Dungara village which faces submergence as soon as the dam is constructed [Al Jazeera]

Fears of displacement

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A neighborhood non-profit, the Village Social Development and Welfare Committee, has launched a motion in opposition to the Ujh venture.

“No one in the village supports the construction of this project,” NGO chairman and village head SP Sharma advised Al Jazeera. “But no one is listening to us.”

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The authorities says at the very least 52 villages, with a complete of about 3,700 households, are more likely to lose their homesteads as a result of acquisition of land for dam development and the following space of submergence.

A boy stands exterior a faculty in Dungara village which has seen little growth for the reason that dam was proposed [Al Jazeera]

The fear of displacement is extra palpable among the many girls within the village.

“We are living a quite satisfied life here. We don’t want plots [of land] anywhere else,” 50-year-old Tripta Sharma advised Al Jazeera, referring to the federal government’s proposal providing land elsewhere to compensate them.

She stated villagers could lose their livelihoods if they’re moved someplace the place they’re unable to hold on farming.

“We don’t know if we will be able to keep our cows and buffaloes there. Before we think about ourselves we need to think of our livestock. The fear of relocation is taking a mental toll on us,” she stated.

Tripti Sharma, proper, exterior her home in Dungara village, Indian-administered Kashmir [Al Jazeera]

Another girl, Rita Devi, the top of the native growth physique, advised Al Jazeera the development of the venture will “jeopardise the future of their children”.

“The food people grow here is not only what feeds their belly but it is also their livelihood as they supply the vegetables and rice to other places as well,” Devi advised Al Jazeera.

“If the dam is constructed, we know we will not be compensated enough,” she added, asserting that no compensation could be ample for them.

Besides, she stated, “we can’t live forever on compensation”.

“Our new generations can also live here, eat and earn. We are worried about what will happen to us and our children once we are relocated.”

In its report, a forest advisory committee, a physique that screens initiatives involving using forest land for non-forest functions, stated the displaced households could be eligible to obtain resettlement advantages, along with compensation of homestead plots and buildings.

The committee additionally claims the venture will open a lot of jobs to the native inhabitants throughout the development. But the residents have little religion in these “promises on paper”.

“Our lives have come to a halt due to the dam. We want justice,” stated resident Panna Lal.

The street resulting in Dungara village in Kathua district, Indian-administered Kashmir [Al Jazeera]

‘Strategic importance’

For the federal government, the Ujh multipurpose venture has strategic significance, permitting India to utilise the Ravi River’s water for the manufacturing of vitality below the Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960.

The treaty divides the waters from six frontier rivers between the 2 nuclear-armed arch-rivals, who’ve fought three full-scale wars since 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned to type the 2 nations.

In latest years, India started formidable irrigation plans and the development of many dams, saying its use of upstream water is strictly in keeping with the treaty. Ujh was declared a nationwide venture by the federal government in 2008.

In its assembly on the Ujh venture, the area’s forest advisory committee noticed that the venture is of “national importance, which provides geopolitical strategic advantage”.

The venture envisages the development of a concrete face rockfill dam, with an put in capability to supply 186 megawatts of energy and an 11.5km (7-mile) barrage downstream of the dam.

The authorities says the venture, which was given environmental clearance in December final 12 months, will irrigate 31,380 hectares (77,542 acres) of land, moreover offering 18.92 million cubic metres of consuming water to the residents within the Himalayan area yearly.

But the villagers have a main concern: they had been by no means consulted.

Jitender Singh Badwal, a lawyer and resident of the neighbouring village of Dodwara, fears the location isn’t appropriate for a dam.

“There is no natural water, there is no glacier, there is no natural suitable environment for the construction of the dam. But all this is being done due to political pressure,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“We were never taken on board, though my village also comes under submergence.”

Women strolling by way of fields in Kishenpur village, Kathua, Indian-administered Kashmir [Al Jazeera]

Kathua district’s Deputy Commissioner Rahul Yadav advised Al Jazeera that “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,” he stated.

‘Environmental destruction’

Climate and environmental specialists have warned that the Ujh multipurpose venture can have immense environmental prices.

The web site of India’s environmental ministry says a whopping 338,317 bushes are set to be felled for the venture, including to the anxiousness and fear in Dungara village.

In February this 12 months, two Himalayan dam initiatives had been destroyed by a lethal flash flood triggered by a glacial burst in Uttarakhand state, killing greater than 100 individuals and an equal variety of individuals feared lacking.

“We fear more now that the same tragedy could be repeated here,” stated Naresh, a villager.

Environmental activist Raja Muzaffar Bhat advised Al Jazeera “we are moving towards environmental destruction”.

“We have already lost thousands of trees in such projects. How many more can we afford?” he requested, including that India is a signatory to the Paris local weather deal, a worldwide treaty the place the nations have pledged to strengthen steps to fight local weather change.

Bhat identified that whereas hydropower is taken into account a clear vitality supply, initiatives equivalent to Ujh contain the sacrifice of many bushes.

“And no one is looking at that aspect,” he stated.

The proposed web site of the development of the Ujh multipurpose venture [Al Jazeera]

Anmol Ohri, an activist with non-profit Climate Front India, feels the Ujh venture can also be geared toward scoring a political victory within the disputed area.

In August 2019, New Delhi scrapped Indian-administered Kashmir’s semi-autonomous standing and turned the Muslim-majority area right into a federally-controlled territory.

“In this region, the intention is not to focus on sustainable development… They (government) have a huge pressure to show results,” Ohri stated, including that many initiatives within the area could pose threats to the atmosphere.

“They (government) have given sweeping environmental clearances to these projects… The government is pushing these projects in a hurry.”

Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDPR) advised Al Jazeera {that a} lack of credible environmental evaluation of multipurpose initiatives is a “pan-India problem”.

“They have to go through environmental assessments and environmental appraisals, but in reality, very little credible assessment happens. Public hearing is a sham in these projects,” he stated.

Thakkar added that the individuals displaced by such initiatives are hardly ever requested for his or her consent and that there is no such thing as a actual recompense for them.

Compensation primarily based on outdated information?

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defends the venture, claiming it will carry growth to the world.

“There are always people who oppose things,” BJP spokesman Ashok Koul advised Al Jazeera.

Koul, who is predicated in Indian-administered Kashmir, stated developmental actions such because the Ujh venture will take Kathua to “new heights of development”.

“There are some belts where there is no drinking or irrigation water. This (dam) will make the area green,” he stated, including that those that might be displaced will get “proper government compensation according to rules”.

But the residents allege the info utilized by the federal government to evaluate the compensation for the affected villagers haven’t been up to date.

“The displacement figures and the government’s plan of rehabilitation are based on 2011 census figures, which is unacceptable to us. The government must go for a new census and get the correct data,” 58-year-old Mahinder Kumar, a farmer with two sons, advised Al Jazeera.

“We know we cannot fight the government since they have made up their mind, but we must get fair compensation,” he stated, including: “But we know no one will listen to us.”

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