15 May, 2021

A Shortcut To Hydro Bombs

Himachal walks the tightrope to power its development with wider roads and hydel electricity at the cost of millions of trees and a reshaped topography. Are the ecological pitfalls accounted for?

Photograph by Sumit Mahar
A Shortcut To Hydro Bombs

Up in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh the traffic stands at a fork. Ahead are two roads, one parading a rich promise, the other flashing ominous signs of an apocalypse. The one tailgating the political will to harness the state’s natural resources ­sustainably for economic growth has the Supreme Court’s go-ahead. The top court cleared 605 projects in the state on February 15, the green light for men in hi-vis jackets and work helmets to press forward with their equipment—shovels, bulldozers, jackhammers and dynamites for stubborn rocks and clay, and chainsaws for millions of trees standing on the way. There are dams to be built to extract electricity; there are roads to be widened for lorry convoys to efficiently ship apples and fruits of labour of farmers in far-flung valleys and hillsides to markets in the nation’s ravenous plains. There is money to be made. The ancient rocks and their sentinel deodars and pines are roadblocks in cold projections of political-economists. But not for environment experts, the rocks and trees are the foundation of the...

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