No more TBMs, blasting for tunnel work in Himachal power projects

The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to ban the use of Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) and explosives in the execution of hydel power projects in the state. The government, however, has turned down the demand of environmental groups and locals seeking a complete ban on all new projects in the Sutlej basin in view of the Uttarakhand tragedy.  The government though will strictly enforce the scheme to provide direct cash transfer benefits to the project-affected families, which is one per cent share of the revenue generated from power sale.

A three-day meeting of the state's power department with the Satluj Basin stakeholders had recently seen protests from NGOs active in the region. "The government has tried to ensure transparency in the ongoing study and invited valuable inputs from the locals and other stakeholders on the Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment Study (CEIA) of the Satluj basin. We have involved experts from the Indian Council of Forest Research Institute (ICFRI), Dehradun, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, and the Directorate of Cold Water Fisheries Research (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) Bhimtal, Uttrakhand.They all went for public consultation meeting at Jhakri on December and also visited all projected affected familes," said R D Nazeem, Director (energy) in Himachal Pradesh.

Chief Engineer (Power) Subash Gupta tried to explain the government's stand on issues raised by the NGOs and locals with most of them against the development of hydro-power projects in view of the Kedarnath tragedy. "One of the measures is to assess the CEIAs of all river basins inspite of the fact that state governments are not bound to conduct such kind of studies. Himachal is the only state conducting basin studies at its own cost," he said.

On the issues raised by various NGOs that the government should allow developers to use Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) and ban blasting, the chief engineer (energy) explained that since the Himalayas were younger mountains, the use of TBM is not suitable for tunnel excavation and has been found to be a complete failure which further delays a project considerably.

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