The flashfloods in Uttarakhand that left at least 38 people dead and over 200 missing has created unease in Bandipora villages located around the Kishanganga hydel project.
An entire village of Budwan in Gurez valley had to be relocated for the construction of the dam site in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district for setting up 330 MW Kishenganga hydroelectric project executed by the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC).
“The dam spread almost 4 kilometers from Mala Bridge and left people in the surrounding villages apprehensive,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, the Block Development Council (BDC) chairman for twin villages of Kanzalwan and Bagtore.
According to him, village Nyle within half a kilometer from the dam is slightly uphill but the five villages which include Kanzalwan, 4 km from the dam and other small villages of Zalindora, Chuntiwara, Dachi and Gulshanpora villages of Bagtore which lie in the plains are under “direct threat”.
Ahmad said that the locals had been persistently urging the administration during all the government programmes to relocate them to safer places.
“People here who were already threatened, now live in a renewed fear after the Uttarakhand mishap,” Mukhtar said. “They have been asking if same could happen with them too.”
However, the government officials rejected the claims of the villagers saying that the representations for relocation had only been made by people in Bagtore village as they live close to the Line of Control (LoC) and often find themselves caught in skirmishes between India and Pakistan.
“No such representation for shifting due to dam has been made,” SDM Gurez, Mudasir Ahmad told Greater Kashmir.
The water from Kishanganga is diverted from the dam in Gurez to Bandipora through a 30-kilometer Head Race Tunnels (HRTs), cutting through mountains.
The tunnels, however, have been a constant headache for the villagers living in the vicinity of the power project as seepage from the tunnels hasn’t stopped since the Kishanganga project began the trial run in 2018.
A day before the project’s first unit was commissioned on March 20 in 2018, there was seepage and water entered Mantrigam village, adjacent to the powerhouse, triggering fear of dislocation among the locals.
Despite claims of “corrective measures” by the authorities, the seepage has not stopped yet.
The seepage has also wreaked havoc in the nearby villages, destroying apple orchards.
The seepage has damaged over 100 apple trees of Muhammad Azad’s orchard.
The fate of over 20 other orchardists living in Karalpora village is not different.
“The authorities have been compensating us since then but our orchards have been ruined,” Azad said.
The ChakMantrigam which sits just below the HRTs and adjacent to the powerhouse is also gripped in fear.
“We don’t know when the mountains will collapse and bury us all,” Shakeel Ahmad, a villager said. “With Uttarakhand mishap, the fear among the villagers has grown.”