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Tehri Hydropower Plant, UK, India

On the confluence of the Ganga and the Bhagirati river, Tehri dam is displacing 100,000 people and splitting up communities to bring water and electricity to bigger cities, including Delhi


The Tehri Dam and Hydropower Plant is a saga of shattered dreams. Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their homes and livelihoods to the project, which lies on a Himalayan fault line. Continuing construction has cost workers their lives, and seismologists fear thousands more in surrounding settlements and downstream cities could be displaced or killed if the dam fails.  At 260.5m high, the Tehri Dam is the largest in India. About 5500ha of agricultural, forest and other land were taken over by the project. Activist Vimal Bhai, in Water Conflicts in India: A Million Revolts in the Making, estimated the affected number of people was likely higher than official estimates, suggesting about 100,000 people were directly affected, while about 80,000 people on the other side of the Bhagirathi-Bhilangna lost access to basic amenities as well as important towns. Bhai said the project faced opposition and controversy from its inception in the 1970s. Key areas of protest are the project's negative socio-economic impact on villagers and their subsequent displacement, as well as its environmental hazards and latent seismic threats. Rehabilitation measures for the displaced have been poor. New Tehri city is ill-suited to residents from health and livelihood points of view, as well as being located in an active seismic zone. [1] Seismologists pointed out the dam lay in a major fault zone and was likely to experience an earthquake measuring greater than 8.0 on the Richter scale in the next 100 years. Following the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, which measured 7.8, risk analysts determined the likelihood of "the next great earthquake rupture" in the region was increased. [4] In 2004 a landslide killed 29 workers constructing a tunnel. Down to Earth magazine reported the THDC did not comment on the deaths, but construction contractors Jaypee Group then-chairman J P Gaur said "The dam is strong but inherently the mountains are weak". [3] Financial assistance and compensation to those displaced by the project have been inadequate. According to Bhai, in March 2004 the District Collector confessed that R770,000,000 (US$11.4 million) of funds meant for rehabilitation had been diverted for other expenses, and the government was not in a position to pay that amount back to the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC), the project managing company.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Tehri Hydropower Plant, UK, India
State or province:Uttarakhand
Location of conflict:Tehri
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Tehri Dam and Hydropower Plant is in the final Stage Three. Construction of a 1000MW pumped storage plant began in July 2011 with a contractual completion time of 4.5 years. The project is now expected to be commission in September 2019. [5] Geologist R C Mukherjee, from the Technology and Research Network, Dehradun, said the location is "a very dry, loosely sedimented area with hugely fractured and faulted rocks... The nature of landslips here is a direct result of the changed hydrogeology and heightened soil moisture due to the rise of water level following impoundment." [6]

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Project area:54,000
Level of Investment:1,300,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:200,000+
Start of the conflict:01/01/1972
Company names or state enterprises:Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) from India
Jaypee Group from India - Construction
Relevant government actors:Government of India
Government of Uttar Pradesh
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (ESCAMP ,WB) from United States of America - Financial support
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Virendra Dutt Saklani
Sundar Lal Bahuguna
Tehri Bandh Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti [Tehri Dam Protest and Struggle Committee]
Committee of Tehri Affected People
Save Himalayas Movement
Matu People’s Organisation
Tehri Bhoomidhar Visthapit Sangthan
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Adhikari, Basistha Raj : 'Tehri Dam: An engineering marvel', Hydro Nepal, Issue No. 5, July, 2009
[click to view]

Forced Displacement: A Gendered Analysis of the Tehri Dam Project in India - Vandana Asthana

Associate Professor

Government Department

Eastern Washington University

Cheney, WA
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] Project current status as at June 2016
[click to view]

[3] A dark tunnel - August 2004
[click to view]

[2] Widespread protests near Tehri - December 2010
[click to view]

[4] Did the Nepal earthquake close the gap? - May 2015
[click to view]

[7] Nepal quake rekindles fears on Tehri dam, Jaitpur n-plant - May 2015
[click to view]

Earthquakes: Prepare and surive - May 2015
[click to view]

[6] Tehri dam oustees to be rehabilitated again; threat of landslides - June 2007
[click to view]

[1] Bhai, Vimal. 'The Tehri Dam Project: A Saga of Shattered Dreams', Water Conflicts in India: A Million Revolts in the Making, New Delhi, 2007.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Himalayan Megastructure: India's largest Hydropower Project - Documentary
[click to view]

Other documents

Towards Failure and Devastation Matu Jan Sangathan explains the saga of the project and the reason of people's opposition
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India
Last update18/08/2019
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