No tears, Tehri drones in anger before deluge
DECEMBER 9: The Countdown has begun for the death of
Tehri town with the closure of work on two diversion tunnels
of Tehri hydro project last week. And the people refusing
to leave this historic town despite the threat of submergence
from the waters of the Bhagirathi are an angry lot.
More than 5,000 people still remain in the town and are in
no mood to vacate the town. They are angry and hurt over the
prospect of losing their home and hearths and the apathy of
the authorities in not finalising plans for their rehabilitation.
Hundreds of them staged a noisy demonstration today and went
up to the bridge connecting the town with other areas which
has been declared unsafe and closed to public due to the rising
Shouting anti-dam slogans, they threw an effigy of Chief Minister
B.S. Koshiyari in the rising waters. Several landowners have
started a dharna in a temple and every day residents are taking
out protests and rallies.
Without giving adequate compensation, the authorities want
to pressurise us to vacate the town. But we are determined
not to leave, said Shiv Lal, a house owner.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Sunder Lal Bahuguna, who has been
consistently opposing the project for the past two decades,
has shaved off his head and beard to mark his protest at the
closing of the diversion tunnels. I have shaven off my beard
and head as I have lost my mother, he asserted sitting atop
a hill overlooking the closed tunnels and his old hut which
has been submerged.
The stoppage of the Bhagirathi river means that the only
living water in the country has been lost and now only water
stinking in the reservoirs would be available, he said.
He was of the view that apart from being a ecological, cultural
and sociological disaster, the project would be a short-lived
Many a scientist, including Director of the Bangalore-based
Jawaharlal Nehri Institute of Advanced Studies Professor K.S.
Waldhia, have predicted a life span of 30-40 years and for
such a short-sighted aim, we are losing immensely, he said.
With the trapping of our Ganga, we have lost our highlander
The Tehri Hydro Project Corporation authorities, however,
clarified that the flow of the Bhagirathi river has not been
stopped. We have closed two tunnels T3 and T4 and diverted
the flow of Bhagirathi and the discharge of both Bhagirathi
and Bhilangana are now diverted through tunnel T2, an official
said. He admitted the water level had risen since the closed
tunnels T3 and T4 were at a lower elevation than T2. T3
and T4 tunnels were at 606 meter height while the level of
T1 and T2 tunnels is 632 meters, therefore the submergence
of some portions of Tehri town, said project executive director
But the authorities said they wanted everybody out before
the next monsoon. We are trying to solve the rehabilitation
problem of each and every individual to make sure that each
resident shifts on his own, Tehri Garhwal District Magistrate
Radha Raturi said.
She said the claims of half of the populace of the town has
been granted and the state government is working earnestly
to work out a package for the entire displaced population
within three months.
The first phase of the project would be completed in March
2003, much after the scheduled completion date. Most of the
buildings are already damaged. Other buildings and shops acquired
by the authorities have either been sealed or are in a run
The mood in the town is best articulated by a cassette recorded
by Garhwali singer Pritam Bharatwan. His set of four songs
on the submergence of Tehri town are an instant hit and can
be heard all over the place. I have sold more than hundred
cassettes during the past one week, said Pappu, a shopkeeper.