Accepted paper:

Responses of the people to the hydropower Sarkar in Uttarakhand Himalayas


Shruti Jain (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss the differential responses of the people of the state of Uttarakhand Himalaya to the numerous hydropower projects coming up there and the social, cultural, political and religious forces influencing these responses.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing upon a field work carried over a period of four years in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India that boasts of 558 hydropower projects, this paper based on my doctoral research chronicles the mountain people's complex responses to these projects. Given the number of these projects, these being run by the corporate, their practices and the complicity of the state, it will be discussed how the region has become like an occupied territory and an internal colony. The paper looks at how the responses of the villagers are shaped by their perception of the rivers and forests, embedded in their culture, their songs, and folk tales. The policy discourse, however, remains limited to concepts like that of e-flows and emanates from a very different perspective. The Ganges and the Yamuna rivers, considered holiest in India, emerge from Uttarakhand hills. However, for the mountain villages, equally sacred are the smaller rivers, hence the resistances are most vibrant when the projects have come up on these. Uttarakhand has a rich environmental history and the people have repeatedly questioned the development in form of hydropower projects and have rallied for the revival of age-old self-governance mechanisms, traditional and sustainable practices of irrigation, electricity generation and water management. However, immediate gains in terms of employment and compensation are also valued by certain. This paper will delineate these nuances in the responses to the hydro-projects and look into the influences of the different socio-political, cultural and religious forces upon these.

panel P14
Hydroscapes and hydrosocial states: culture and the political ecology of water governance