For decades, Uttarakhand’s Lohari village in Dehradun district has been home to a tribal community called the Jaunsars. They live mainly in the foothills of the western Himalayas and are believed to be descendents of the Pandavas.
Now, residents of Lohari allege they are being forced to abandon their homes to make way for the Vyasi Hydroelectric Project, the biggest dam project on the Yamuna river. The foundations of the project were laid in 1972, when a land acquisition agreement was signed between villagers and the government for the construction of the dam.
Displacement due to dams and development projects is not uncommon. It can also be traumatic and dehumanising. Those displaced often struggle to get the compensation that was promised when the project was commissioned.
But there are other issues too. Environmentalists say laws and studies are often violated and ignored to ease the paths of such projects. These projects can also assault ecology and riverine populations, while impacting people’s livelihoods and their culture. According to the South Asia Network on Dams, River and People, there have been 20 floods in India since 2009 as a result of dams “breaking”, or excess water being released from them.
As one Lohari resident said, how can this be development when people are being displaced?
In this report, we explore the impact of projects like the Vyasi dam on people and the environment. If the state government claims to have designed a rehabilitation plan, why are locals so angry and upset?