The 243 MW Integrated Kashang Hydroelectricity Project is proposed on the Kashang and Kerang streams- the right bank tributaries of Satluj River in Morang Tehsil of District Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. District Kinnaur is a Schedule V area under the Indian Constitution (with high percentage of tribal population). The origin of Integrated Kashang goes back to 2002 when a 65 MW hydroelectricity project was conceptualised under Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HPSEB). However, later 3 more projects were integrated with the initial design (65 MW Kashang) to develop a 1800 crore project to be executed by the state owned Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL). The four stages of the project are: i. Stage I- comprising of diversion of the Kashang stream, at El. 2829 m, to an underground powerhouse located on the right bank of Sutlej near Powari village, developing a head of approximately 830 m.
ii. Stage II- comprising of diversion of the Kerang stream, at El. 2870 m, into an underground water conductor system leading the upstream end of Stage-I water conductor system.
iii. Stage III- consisting of augmenting the generating capacity of Stage-I powerhouse using Kerang waters over the 820 m head available in Kashang Stage-I powerhouse.
iv. Stage IV- comprising of more or less independent scheme harnessing the power potential of Kerang stream upstream of the diversion site of Stage-II.
The first three stages of the project are now being funded by the Asian Development Bank as a part of the Himachal Pradesh Clean Energy Development Investment Program. HPPCL has awarded the construction contract of Stage-1st work to Hindustan Construction Company for Rs. 296.90 crores which involves construction 65 MW Kashang HEP and would also include preparatory work for two subsequent stages which involve installation of two turbines of 65 MW each and space for one more turbine of the same capacity.
Out of these Stage-1 is under construction; for stage II and III the project proponent has got the Environment clearance and the Forest Clearance but construction work has not started due to strong local opposition and local communities have challenged both clearances in National green tribunal. For stage-IV the proponents still have to obtain Forest Clearance.
The project was granted environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 15th November 2002, and for Integrated Kashang again on 16th October 2010.
For Kashang Stage-1, there was opposition from residents from Pangi village with two demands, which after lot of struggle and series of court cases was finally accepted: - Demand for higher compensation rates for private land to be acquired for the project- Initially the land was acquired under the provisions of Land Acquisition Act 1894. After lot of opposition on ground and a case filed against land rates, the management of HPPCL did an out of court settlement with affected communities and enhanced the rates of all type of land in District Kinnaur at INR 1,04,000.000/biswa (20,00,000.00 per bigha) as per the demand of the local people. These rates are followed in all the land acquisition being done in Kinnaur district.
- Compensation for forest land diverted for the project: The HPPCL was forced to pay Rs. 70,000/- to each and every family who have right over the forestland being diverted for the project. This is the first time any project proponent has paid compensation for the diversion of the forest land in Himachal. After this it has become a norm for the project developers to pay compensation for the forest land being diverted for the project in Kinnaur.
The major opposition is against Integrated Kashang Stage II and IIIrd, were affected community from Lippa and Rarang villages are demanding to scrap the project where there is a plan to divert the water of Kerang stream through KK link tunnel to Kashang stream.
• The major contention is that the water of Kerang stream washes off the debris brought by Taiti stream (a tributary of Kerang stream) and once water of Kerang stream is diverted, Lippa village will be buried under the debris brought by Taiti stream. Therefore the fight is to stop the diversion of Kerang into the tunnel for the project.
• There are close to 150 natural water springs in Lappo area (where the diversion weir with 4 adit tunnels for stage-II and II will be constructed) where 80% people from Lippa village have agriculture land and apple orchards and are dependent on them for irrigation. Without these, it will be not possible for local community to do cultivation in a cold desert area.
• Further Morang Tehsil, where the project is proposed is the abode of Chilgoza pine- a rare endangered tree species. The forest area of 63 hectares which is going to be diverted for the project has Chilgoza pine as dominant species.
• Violation of critical legislation like the Forest Rights Act and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA).
• The poor quality of the EIA report, that was prepared by the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) Shimla.
Though for the initial Kashang project (65 MW), the public hearing was conducted for Environment Clearance granted in 2002, given HPPCL's plans to now develop an integrated project, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) ordered HPPCL to submit a combined Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for all four stages of the project and seek a fresh Environmental Clearance (EC). The public hearing was conducted again in 2009 where local community raised their concerns again. However, the Environmental Appraisal Committee overlooked local opinion and granted Integrated Kashang an Env. Clearance on 16th October 2010. In case of forest diversion, this too has been a piecemeal approach. In 2004, the Forest Advisory Committee's granted forest clearance to Stage I Kashang (18.71 hectares forest land) and in 2001 recommended forest clearance (17 hectares) for stage II and III.
To counter the EIA report, in collaboration with state level environment groups, the local community leaders and affected population submitted their critique to MoEFCC asking for a reconsideration of the EC granted and a similar process was followed against FC.
The project affected populations have stopped all the construction activities started by the HPPCL for Stage-I and II and as representatives of affected community, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Samiti have challenged both the Environmental Clearance and Forest Clearance (Stage II and III) at the National Green Tribunal, which speaks volume about the local atmosphere vis a vis the projects on ground.
The project proponents also applied for CDM under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, environment collective Himdhara in collaboration with local environment groups such as Him Lok Jagriti Manch also raised objections against granting of CDM to Integrated Kashang. The groups highlighted loopholes in the Project Detailed Document- to show that the project was conceived before CDM and failed to establish any additionality .