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Tehri Hydropower Plant, UK, India


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.

Villages not submerged in the project's reservoir face the likelihood of landslides as water levels destabilise surrounding hills. In 2010 the THDC sought permission from the Supreme Court to store water above the permitted 820m level to protect downstream cities Rishikesh and Haridwar from flooding. “But what about people living here?”, New Tehri BJP leader Prem Dutt Jual asked. [2] Between September 18 and 20 the THDC took the water level to 832m; on November 7 residents of Sarot, which is at 840m, carried out a hunger strike after 15 houses collapsed in a landslide and owners were not compensated.

“The state government claims it has no money for rehabilitation. But it is entitled to 12 per cent free power generated by THDC. Revenue from this power is supposed to fund rehabilitation, which is not being done,” Bhai, also the convener of Matu Jan Sangathan, said. According to Jual, the actual damage due to the reservoir could be seen up to 1250m.

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]

Tehri Dam, Hydro-power Plant and Reservoir


53,484km2, forest area = 34,434

2001 census pop 8,479,562

Hydroelectric and irrigation dam

Completed 2005, 260.5m high, surface area 5200ha

Reservoir submergence area = 4400ha

Maximum water level = 835m

Full level = 830m

Total land affected = 5465ha

Ag land = 1600ha

Forest land = 2582ha

Other land = 2883ha

Villages affected = 125

Families affected = 14,349

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

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

Associate Professor

Government Department

Eastern Washington University

Cheney, WA

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[5] Project current status as at June 2016

[3] A dark tunnel - August 2004

[2] Widespread protests near Tehri - December 2010

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

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

Earthquakes: Prepare and surive - May 2015

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

[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

Other documents

Towards Failure and Devastation Matu Jan Sangathan explains the saga of the project and the reason of people's opposition

Meta information

Contributor:Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India
Last update25/01/2017



Tehri Dam and Reservoir