Short Note on Tehri Dam Movement

Another major controversy erupted around the Soviet aided Tehri Dam in 1972 situated in Garhwal Himalayas. The Tehri and Narmada movements evoked the conscience of people all over the world. The project was targeted on two Himalayan Rivers, Bhagirathi and Bhilangana. The larger plan aimed three storage reservoirs at Bhagirathi at Tehri, Kotli Bhel, a little downstream and Utyasu at another tributary of the Ganges, Alaknanda. The Tehri Dam was expected to be 260.5 m high and be the fifth highest dam in the world and submerged around 6200 ha. of land and more than 9 villages in the vicinity. The reservoir would extend up to 45 kilometers in the Bhagirathi valley and 25 kilometers in the Bhilangana valley with a water spread area of 42.5 sq. kilometers. The Soviet financed project would cost about Rs. 3000 crores. The Planning Commission gave its approval in 1972.

The main controversy emerged because Tehri is a geologically vulnerable area and prone to seismic activities and tectonically risky area. The seismic activity may entirely destroy Deoprayag, Munikireti, Hardwar and Rishikesh. Thereafter, 35 Gaon Sabhas in the Tehri district jointly passed a resolution to oppose the project. Despite all opposition, the Uttar Pradesh decided to go ahead with it. The environment movement took the shape of public protest to oppose dam in the form of Tehri Bandh Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti (TBVSS). Its first resolution opposing the construction of dam was passed unanimously in January 1978. Mass protest followed the construction of diversion tunnels by UP Government.

In August, 1980, V.D. Saklani, freedom fighter and lawyer requested the Planning Commission to review the project. Later, Sunderlal Bahuguna initiated a fierce movement. Sunderlal Bahuguna fasted for 56 days that resulted in stopping the blasting operations. The opposition led to suspension of construction of dams in 1990. Leaders like Sunderlal Bahuguna supported the cause but the movement failed to gather adequate support at national as well as international levels.

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