The Pinder is the last free-flowing tributary of the Alaknanda, one of two headwater streams that come together to form the river Ganga. Three large dams are currently proposed in the Pinder Valley, which is inhabited by 20,000 people. In the advanced stages of planning, the 252 MW Devsari hydropower project, with a 35-meter-high dam and 18-kilometer diversion tunnel, will reduce the river to a mere trickle. Proposed dams downstream will further obliterate fish habitat and impact people engaged in collecting and selling sand, limestone and driftwood.
The valley is precariously placed in a highly seismic zone that is also prone to landslides. “In most years, residents of the valley are isolated for weeks. Our report also calls for due precaution and analysis by the authorities before any further discussions on the matter,” says Vimal Bhai, convener of Matu Jansagathan, an anti-dam collective working in Uttarakhand, a north Indian hill state. He is an activist and writer; you can access a recent interview with him by clicking here.
Matu Jansangathan and Bhu Swami Sangharsh Samiti are actively campaigning to keep the river free flowing. They have written a report (Don’t Hinder the Pinder, Feb 2016) detailing the circumvention of due procedures in the scoping and appraisal of hydropower projects, as well as highlighting the cultural sacredness of the river. During the course of the campaign, the author took several videos which showcase the manner in which the dam company did not involve, inform and consult people as per due procedure. Another video documents the public hearings, which have been conducted in a farcical manner as the administration and dam company worked together to ignore the concerns and questions of a large number who gathered to protest the project. Later, local people invited well-known environmentalists to conduct a “people’s public hearing.“
As a start, the report calls for scrapping the Devsari hydropower project. But advocates demand the government allow this last wild tributary of the upper Ganga to remain unimpeded by dams. India and other South Asian countries should pass an act to protect culturally-significant wild and scenic rivers, like the Pinder, that play host to rich biodiversity.