The 520 MW Nakthan Hydroelectricity Project is a Run-of-the-river project proposed in Barshaini Panchayat of District Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. The proposed project will be developed by Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL), a state government enterprise set up exclusively for power generation in the state. The proposed project will utilise the water of Parbati river (tributary of Beas River) and Tosh stream, and will be located 1 km upstream from its confluence point.
Currently, the project is in a very nascent stage but the events around it have already generated significant response on ground vis a vis the local community's perception of the project. Locally based environmental groups such as Gaon Vikas Samiti, a platform initiated by the affected people of Barshaini Panchayat (main affected panchayat) have begun speculating the potential impacts of 520 MW Nakthan project. This is also given their encounter with hydropower 'development' in case of 800 MW Parbati II, a project under construction downstream of proposed Nakthan.
The total land requirement for Nakthan project is 90.07 ha out of which 81.85 hectares is forest land and 8.22 hectares of private land.
• The visible impacts of Parbati II by National Hydropower Corporation Limited (NHPC) has been fundamental in shaping people's response to Nakthan project, be it those related to poor road conditions, landslides, blasting related impacts, discrepancies in local development fund, agricultural productivity, diminishing natural water sources, deforestation, destabilisation of slopes etc.
• Just 14 km uphill from Nakthan village is the famous site of Kheerganga- known for its trekking trail and hot water springs which attracts both domestic and international tourists, especially trekkers. The locals are cautious about Nakthan project's implications on the flourishing tourism economy in the area- especially a new income opportunity for the younger generation.
• Besides the high probability of impacts being similar as the ongoing Parbati II, what has really bonded together people's dissent is threat to the holy site of Rudranag waterfall. A religious and spiritually revered symbol of local faith system, the affected people in their submissions to the MoEFCC (dated 11th November 2013) and the Chief Minister (dated 19th December, 2014) termed it as their "centre of faith". The supremacy of Rudernag waterfall in the everyday social, cultural and religious life of the local affected community stands uncontested in many ways.
• The fact that projects diversion tunnel would run underneath the source of Rudernag waterfall has left the local community agitated. Besides this, violations related to Forest Rights Act have been repeatedly questioned and the affected population has called for a strict implementation of the act under which their community user rights over forest would stand acknowledged.
• The main affected Panchayat of Barshaini and 8 Gram Sabhas under it have passed multiple resolutions opposing the project and have vehemently shot down any scope of granting a No Objection Certificate to HPPCL. The locals have also been fearlessly vocal about District Administrations mounting pressure on them to accept the proposal on the grounds of much needed 'development' of the area.
• The project was considered for Scoping in the 40th Meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on 20-21 August 2010. However, the EAC was not satisfied with the information provided by HPPCL and asked for some additional documents. It was finally in the 45th meeting on 20-21st December 2010, the project was granted Terms of Reference. Thereafter in November 2013, HPPCL applied for an extension on the terms of reference. The validity of the TOR was extended twice by the EAC. Members of local environment groups such as Gaon Vikas Samiti, Jan Jangran evam Vikas Samiti in collaboration with Himdhara Collective objected to this move of the EAC.
• Later, almost a year after, on 29th September 2014, an environmental public hearing was conducted by the Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board (HPPCB) where people once again raised genuine livelihood related issues. The project was listed for Environment Clearance in the 83rd meeting of the EAC. However, the EAC took a quite a radical stand and stood by its own words. Referring to its Office Memorandum dated 28th May 2013- in which it directed the State governments to undertake basin wise Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment Studies (CEIA) for consideration of any project for TOR and environment clearance. No project would be considered for EC unless a basin wise study (in this case Beas) was completed, stated the EAC.