Baglihar Power Project Threatens Doda, Kishtwar

26 July 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Amir Karim Tantray

Jammu: The Baglihar power project is becoming a death trap for the people of the twin districts of Doda and Kishtwar as the water level of the project reservoir has increased tremendously for the past couple of months. The increased water level is causing huge damage to the area. Several areas near the river have been submerged under the dam water. Recently, old bridge on Neeru stream submerged into the dam water and both pillars of the bridge over river Chenab near Pul Doda also came under water. Due to landslides, silt is entering into the riverbed and water level is fast increasing. 'Since the start of the Baglihar Hydro Electric Project (BHEP), we never saw water level increase so much. This is a cause of concern for the people living in the area but it seems the government is not concerned about it,' said Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Doda. The stagnant water of the reservoir is also causing damage to loose soil due to which the landslides have become order of the day. After fresh spells of rain on the higher reaches of Doda and Kishtwar districts, the water level has increased in the Chenab reservoir. Pul Doda area of Doda district is the worst hit due to the increased water level. The local administration and the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) officials are sleeping over the matter. The geological experts have warned of extensive damage to the area due to the stagnant water of reservoir. Huge area has started to sink. Landslides are occurring frequently on both sides of the reservoir and the only road link of Doda and Kishtwar - Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway - has suffered extensive damage. But the SPDC officials are of the opinion that the dam water is not responsible for the landslides in the area. 'Landslides have not occurred due to dam water but due to construction on the national highway. Wherever we feel that dam water is expected to damage the soil, we go for treatment. Soil conservation department has been given the responsibility to address the issue,' said Abdul Wahid, Chief Engineer (Civil), BHEP. But his views are contradictory to the geological experts' views, who hold the stagnant water of the BHEP reservoir responsible for landslides and other damage to the area. 'Before construction of dam, rocks were visible on both banks of the river. But when water level increased and became stagnant, rocks are nowhere in sight and water has entered loose soil. The root cause of frequent landslides and sinking of area in Doda districts on both side sides of the dam is stagnant water. On ground this is happening and it will continue till water remains stagnant. Cracks are developing on higher reaches as well and rain leads to huge landslides,' said GM Bhat, a geological expert, who keeps an eye on the events unfolding in the region. Construction on the 900-mega watt Baglihar hydroelectric project near Chanderkote area of Ramban district was started in 1999. The first phase of 450 MW was commissioned In October 2008. It was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Before the construction of the project, no proper geological survey was done and a report to cover up the fault was prepared after start of the project. 'Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environment Management Plan (EMP) are the two surveys which have to be performed before start of work on any hydroelectric project. But in case of Baglihar project, no such survey was done,' Bhat informed.