With several hydroelectric power projects on the river Chenab already functional in this mountainous region, the erstwhile Doda district craves for electricity, even as much of the energy generated in the projects provides power to homes and cities elsewhere.
Several hydroelectric power projects on the River Chenab have been sanctioned, set up and made functional in the region comprising districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban. However, when it comes to providing better living conditions to nearly a million people of the Chenab valley, successive governments, have shown least interest.
Although the region is home to power generation, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has not given preference to this area even in the power sector, said a local civil society activist. "People of the Chenab valley have to face scheduled power cuts for between 10 to 12 hours on a regular basis. Due to overloading, Power Development Department (PDD) officials go for unscheduled power cuts for hours together as well", he lamented.
Baghliar, Dul- Hasti and Salal hydroelectric power projects are functional in the region, having tapped capacity of 3,000 MW. The area is estimated to have a potential of 5,000 MW, which has already been identified by the state government.
As per sources in the PDD, there are 42 un-electrified and 353 partially electrified villages in Kishtwar while the number of un-electrified habitations is over 1,000.
As per official figures, the three districts of the Chenab valley are merely getting 129.76 MW of electricity per month, which is the lowest compared to other parts of the state. They said district Doda is getting 40.17 MW per month, 43.62 MW are supplied to Ramban district and 45.97 MW to Kishtwar.
However, officials claim that the demand for electricity has increased in entire Chenab valley" and the department does not have a proper system in place to meet the need". "In all three districts of the Chenab valley, we have only a set of two 20-MW transformers installed in the electricity divisions. We need better infrastructure at the ground level which is missing and people have to suffer", they said.
Resultantly, at present, we have to make ten-hour power curtailment in both metered as well as unmetered areas, said a PDD official.
Despite the huge potential for electricity generation, many areas are yet to be electrified in the Chenab valley including the areas of Kishtwar like Marwah, Warwan, Dacchan, Padder.
Local residents say that they have not benefitted from the projects undertaken by the NHPC "as they have failed to ensure infrastructure development that could benefit the local population". "The corporation earns at least one crore rupees a day from Kishtwar but none of its is spent for the welfare of locals", said another local social activist.
He said that the NHPC has constructed schools and hospitals "but only to benefit their employees". He said not a single patient has been treated by the authorities among the local public and no reservation has been provided for local children at the Kendriya Vidyala School.
Moreover, the locals claim that Chenab Valley has had to suffer on the environmental front due to the construction of hydroelectric power projects.
"The entire stretch from Baghliar in Ramban district to Pul-Doda in Doda district including Kishtwar has started sinking and the road network has been
damaged", they said, adding that "As per the Geological experts analysis that this has happened due to the stagnation of water of the Baghliar project reservoir which has entered loose soil".
After the construction of the Dul-Hasti project, all natural water reservoirs of Kishtwar town and adjoining areas dried up, the locals claimed.