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The Indian Express: Top stories: Full story
Wednesday, April 18, 2001

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The Indian Express North American Edition


Uttaranchal despair over dam stirs

Amit Sharma

Lucknow, April 17: FROM Rs 192 crore in 1978 to an estimated expenditure of over Rs 6,000 crore out of which a sum of Rs 4,000 crore has already been spent but the result has been fruitless.

This is the saga of the Tehri Dam, which has been under way for the last 23 years and been billed as the biggest hydro project of its kind in the country.
The ambitious project, which could emerge as the only golden egg laying goose for the cash-starved Uttaranchal state, could not see the light of the day following a number of movements stalling construction of the Tehri dam.

The politics of movements on the issue has caused a concern among leaders of the fledgling state who have decided to write to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and seek his intervention in making the project ‘‘movement proof’’.

The latest in the series of agitations was the hue and cry raised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal following which a committee has been formed to look into points raised by him and work on the dam, once again,
has come to a standstill.

Energy Minister of the new state Bhagat Singh Koshiari is desperately trying to remove the bottlenecks but the same appears a tall order because ever since its beginning, the project had been surrounded by controversies and the job had been hampered on several occasions.

‘‘The project, when completed, will bring prosperity to the new state and also add a considerable lot to hydro power generation. But leaders with their vested political interests have nothing to do with the ground reality and they exploit gullible masses to pursue their gameplan.

“Because of politics on the issue that several thousand crores have been spent so far but even the first phase of the multi-phase project is far from being completed,’’ said a senior minister on condition of ano-nymity.

The first phase of the project was to be completed by next year but the row raised by Ashok Singhal has thrown the spanner in the works.

The dam officials wanted to block two tunnels on the site for carrying out the project but Singhal objected on the ground that the move would turn the Ganga ‘‘dirty’’ with inflow of nullahs.

The blocking of the tunnels was a crucial step but the dam officials could not go ahead with it. Now a committee has been formed to look into Singhal’s charges.

At least 20 different committees have so far been formed for the ongoing project on objections raised by a number of people and the work remains suspended till the committees submit their report.

The Uttaranchal government has many hopes on the project because it would have given them ample electricity to export and also provide a platform for tourism. But now, the leaders are not so hopeful.

‘‘The Tehri Dam saga so far sums up colossal wastage of government money at the cost of petty politics which blocks general welfare of the residents,’’ commented a senior official of the Tehri Dal Hydro power Development

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© 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.