Ujh Multipurpose Hydro Electric Project in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir has been cleared by the forest advisory committee specially formed by the environmental ministry for the Ujh project. The project envisages utilizing water from the river Ujh. The river is a tributary of the Ravi, one of the three eastern rivers of the Indus Basin System, which finally ends up in the Indus River
The Ujh Project will also lead to the inundation of 57 villages and the displacement of 3,700 families. Dungara is one of the tiny villages in the district of Kathua in the state. Farming is the mainstay, with rice, fruit, and mulberry, used for silk production, the main products.
But their lifestyle is set to be threatened by the Ujh Project, the Indian government’s ambitious multipurpose hydroelectric project on the river. The villagers are angered by what they have seen as an unjustified disruption of their life.
The Ujh Project will displace over 8,600 people living in 3,700 villages. The gross area that is likely to be submerged in 34.5 square kilometers (13.3 square miles). The number of trees to be felled was originally 296,00 but field officers confirmed that the actual numbers could go up to 338,000.
Local Uprising Against Dislocation Due To The Ujh Project
A non-profit has moved against the Ujh Project. The Village Social Development and Welfare Committee chairman, and the village headman, SP Sharma said that the Ujh Project has no supporters in the region. But the government is not willing to heed the voice of the locals.
While that land has been acquired for dam construction, the loss as a result of the construction of the dam and the ensuing submergence will mean displacement for the people who have been living there for generations and are used to a certain lifestyle.
The women of the village are the most affected by the news of the Ujh Project, and the impending uncertainty. Tripta Sharma, a villager, said that they had been living for long on these lands and were quite satisfied. They were not interested in moving to the land offered by the government.
She said that they were not certain of carrying on with the life they had led for generations. They haven’t been given an assurance that they would get to keep their buffaloes and cows. She said that villagers are more concerned about their livestock than own their safety. The pressure of relocation has taken a toll on their mental health, she said.
Tita Devi, who heads a development body in the area, believes that the future of the children of the village will be jeopardized due to the project. The villagers farm on these lands for their needs and also sell the surplus to the market.
The compensation that the government has offered was not sufficient to compensate them for the loss. And the villagers did not want to live on compensation forever, she added.
She is also most worried for the next generation. She said that they live, and earn in the village. The uncertainty of relocation will hit them the hardest.
The government has offered displaced families resettlement benefits and compensation for existing structures and home plots.
While the committee has promised compensatory jobs for the displaced people, the villagers have no faith in such paper promises. Panna Lal, a local resident affected by the project, says that the Ujh Project has brought life to a standstill for the villagers.
Ujh Project Strategically Important For India
The Ujh Project is the culmination of the Indo-Pakistan Indus Water Treaty of 1964 and would allow India to utilize the total portion of the waters of the River Ravi.
But while the government says that it is completely in sync with the project, which was considered nationally important and could lead to the building of several dams and aid in irrigation measures.
The government claims that the Ujh Project would irrigate over 77,500 acres (31,380 hectares) and provide over 18.92M cubic meters (668.1M cubic feet) of water in the region.
But villagers who are faced with submergence were not consulted before the project. They fear that the proposed location is unsuitable for the dam. Jitender Badwal of Dodwara says that the river has no natural source of water, such as a glacier. He said that the dam was being constructed due to political compulsions.
Environmentalists and climate experts say that the Ujh Project would come at an enormous environmental cost. Tow Himalayan dams were washed away in flash floods in the neighboring state of Uttarakhand recently, killing over 100 people, with an equal number missing and feared drowned.
India has signed the Paris deal, but hundreds of thousands of trees are being cut for environmentally unviable projects. Experts say that the government is under pressure to show development ever since the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir was scrapped to make way for a federally-controlled state.
Activists say that even the rehabilitation figures are based on the 2011 census which is misleading, and the compensation and rehabilitation figures should be set right.