In the twentiethcentury big dams and other development projects were often associated withprogress and prosperous economic development for many countries, includingIndia (Khagram, 2005). Dam development projects entice governments with thepromise of hydroelectricity, irrigation, and drinking water for their growingpopulations. They represent an abundant resource to developing countries(Khagram, 2005).
Sincethe Nehru era of modernization in India, there has been an increasing presenceof large development projects in India, such as dams, as well as an emergenceof domestic resistance to these development projects (Shiva, 2002). During thistime Nehru referred to dam projects as ‘the temples of modern India’. However,development projects such as dams often have major impacts, including thedisplacement of large populations of people. In order to successfully implementthese projects with the greatest benefit for all involved, the developmentprocess must closely follow key components of sustainable development andsocial change. If India is to follow the traditional goal of development set bythe famous Mahatma Gandhi, then future projects must intentionally work tofacilitate the ‘rise of all’ (Jain, 2012).
Thecentral part of the Himalayas in India is a target for many large number ofdevelopment activities, be it river valley projects or infrastructuredevelopment (Kandari & Gusain, 2001). The Garhwal Himalaya in Uttarakhandis the location of the Tehri dam project. This massive dam is located at theconfluence of the Bhagirthi and Bhilangna rivers, in the foothills of theHimalaya’s (Bisht, 2009). This ecologically diverse area is very vulnerable toenvironmental and social consequences of dam projects according to publishedliterature.

Photo: The villagesadjacent to Tehri dam project in Uttarakhand state of India
TheTehri dam was completed in 2007, and the recent completion of this projectprovides the opportunity to study the current status of livelihoods of thepeople affected by the dam, and the aftermath of displacement andrehabilitation. The livelihoods of project-affected people (PAP) are still atrisk from the development of the Tehri dam. In the case of the Tehri dam manystudies that have been done on the resettlement and rehabilitation policy. Dueto a large submersion of forest and agriculture land by the reservoir, over18,000 families were classified as affected according to the Government ofIndia. Those who received official designation as Project Affected People (PAP)would receive some form of compensation from the government for their loss ofland (Joy, 2008). Some studies estimate that the number of families and peopleaffected is much greater than the number accounted for by the Indiangovernment’s policies. Some estimates project that nearly 100,000 people havebeen affected by this phase of the dam development. The numbers of familiesliving around the Tehri dam and reservoir who require compensation due toimpacts of the dam are still growing to this day.
Thefocus of this study was to collect current data on the ability of displaced andproject affected people to reconstruct livelihoods in the aftermath of theTehri dam project. Livelihood is defined as the means of securing thenecessities of life. The resettlement and rehabilitation has the potential tocompletely alter the strategies people had used to obtain livelihood and theirability to meet daily necessities for life.
Themain research questions include the following:
§            Do displaced people currently have opportunities to recreatesustainable livelihoods?
§           Have the project-affected people been able to adapt toresettlement in the different areas and utilize the compensation packagesoffered to them?
§           Did R&R policies for project-affected people provide themwith the tools to create and sustain new livelihoods?
Resettlementand Rehabilitation In Tehri Dam Project
Theresettlement and rehabilitation process is largely dependent and affected bythe lifestyle of the families before displacement. The experiences of urbanpeople, who have often received higher education is much different then ruralfamilies who live off of the land and depend on the natural resources aroundthem. The resettlement and rehabilitation policy included specific compensationpackages for rural people and urban people. The R&R packages also differdepending on whether the families were partially or fully affected. Differentpackages apply to cases depending on the percentage of land that was submergedor affected (THDC, 1998). A large number of displaced people used thecompensation they received to resettle in the cities of Dehradun, Rishikesh,and Haridwar. Many of these families received their compensation packages as acombination of land and money.

Photo: The water inTehri dam
One ofthe reasons project-affected people have been having a difficult time creatinglivelihoods from the rehabilitation and resettlement package is thedisconnection between their original lifestyles and livelihoods, and thecompensation provided. As Professor Painuly pointed, subsistence farming wasnot part of any rehabilitation package. The packages did not match up with theway of life of rural communities from the Tehri district. Therefore, in theprocess of adapting to the resettlement site the traditional culture is lost(Painuly, 2012).
Due tothe difficulties of adjustment, adaptation, and the struggle to reconstructlivelihoods in unfamiliar environments, the happiness and wellness ofproject-affected families is not benefited. However, counseling fordisplacement is unheard of and not included in the rehabilitation andresettlement policy or process. Since all the necessary stakeholders are notinvolved, particularly the voice of the people, the perspective of wealth,poverty, livelihoods, and lifestyles may differ greatly between those creatingthe policy and those affected by the rehabilitation and resettlement.
UnexpectedImpacts of the Tehri Dam Project
One of the unexpected or unplannedconsequences of the Tehri dam are the amount of communities that were notinitially entitled to compensation or R&R, but have become project-affectedpeople. Mr. Suyal described this as a loophole in policy concerning thecommunities on the east side of the reservoir. There are many communities alongthe slopes of the reservoir, which extends for 42 kilometers along theBhagirathi and 25 km along the Bhilangana Rivers (Joint Expert Committee,2011). Consequences imposed on the communities located around the reservoirwere not initially addressed by the THDC policy. One of the most immediateconsequences created soon after the reservoir began to fill was a disconnectionof travel routes and transportation. Old Tehri Town served as a hub and sourceof immense resources for the surrounding towns and villages. The filling of thereservoir, therefore, reduced their inability to access necessary facilities,such as health services, education, markets, and more. This disconnect hascreated is a perpetual burden of posterity on the surrounding people (Painuly,2012).
A lack of access to educationalfacilities, specifically higher education, has become a common problem for thecommunities surrounding the reservoir. Education facilities were submerged bythe reservoir and specifically Old Tehri Town was a hub for higher education(Madan Negi, Juyal). This puts these communities at a big disadvantage as theyoung generations find it more difficult to access schools, if there are anyavailable at all. The town of Madan Negi reported that the increased distanceor lack of access to higher education has especially affected the femalestudents in town. In the town of Upu some government school teachers no longercome to the local schools because of the large distance they must travel (Rana,2012). In the village of Sarot, the Pradon reported that their local primaryschool was submerged and a new school has not been created.

Photo: The earthen damat Tehri
A lack of transportation and efficienttravel routes also prevent easy access to district headquarters, healthsystems, markets, and so many other everyday necessities for the communities ofTehri. At present the THDC has completed one bridge and is also providing boatsto transport people from one of the reservoir to the other (Ghildiyal, 2012).In a Supreme Court case that began in 2005, the project-affected people aredemanding the completion of 3 bridges (Bhatt, 2012). In 2011 the Supreme Court providedfunding for the bridges, but currently only the Dobra Shanti Bridge is inprogress (Bhatt, 2012). However, being cutoff from markets continues to causean inability to sell cash crops because they are perishable (Bhatt, 2012). Thisaffects the ability to sustain livelihoods because they are unable toparticipate in the process of buying and selling from the local markets. Theincrease price of all goods because of transportation costs is causing largeamounts of out-migration in these communities (Bhatt, 2012). Many people on theeast side of the reservoir have begun leaving and more continue to contemplateabandoning their homes.
Development-induced natural hazards areanother impact of the Tehri dam project. “Landslides are one of the majordevastating natural hazards and annual catastrophe for Mountain inhabitants anddownstream population specifically in Himalayan environment…” (Rawat, 2003).The Uttaranchal state of Himalayan region contributes less than 2% ofgeographical area of India, but has suffered from 60 major landslides since1970. During these events about 3,500 people have lost their lives along withunrecoverable losses of cattle, agricultural fields, houses, and other valuableproperties” (Rawat, 2003). The reservoir level frequently changes depending onthe season and production of electricity being created by the Tehri dam. Duringpeak electricity demand the reservoir level is very low and some of thesubmerged lands and villages are exposed. However during the monsoon season,specifically in 2010, the reservoir filled up past its allowance of 830 M (JEC,2011). The Joint Expert Committee was then created by the State of Uttarakhandin 2011 to assess the impacts of the high reservoir level. This has lead toincreased instability in the slopes all around the reservoir and created newdangers and consequences for the surrounding villages and towns.
The perception of the project-affectedpeople is that THDC did not have a plan for this situation, and was forced torelease water from the dam to bring down the reservoir level. The floodwaterthat was released then damages were reported and multiple locations includingthe Koteshwar dam. This added to the fear of the people and the danger ofunstable slopes in the towns and villages surrounding the reservoir. Afterassessing many locations along the reservoir, recommendations were made torelocate the communities in unstable areas before the next monsoon season andkeep over towns and villages under monitoring (JEC, 2011). This report is now beingutilized in the Supreme Court cases as evidence for the increasing number ofproject-affected people.
One of the other major consequences ofthe Tehri dam project unintentionally found by this study is the increasingnumbers of project affected people even after the Phase 1 and 2 of the damconstruction have been completed for years. Many displaced people claim thatthis is due to a lack of scientific studies completed around the reservoirbefore the project began. There is general perception and consensus that THDCdid not implement appropriate planning, monitoring of the areas around the damsite, which has lead to continuation of environmental, social, and economicproblems for many regions in the Tehri district. More rigorous and in-depthplanning was needed and involving the communities of Tehri before developmentbegan. Transparency between the people and the government is asked for, butinstead people observed corruption related to the THDC (Ghildiyal, 2012). Otherstakeholders such as NGO’s are needed to assist the people and also serve asfacilitators in this process. However no situations of this were discovered andno NGOs were currently working with the displaced people (Panwar, 2012).
Water Accessand Quality
The access and quality of drinking waterfor New Tehri Town as well as the surrounding villages and towns in Tehridistrict have drastically changed since the construction of the dam andreservoir. The New Tehri Town receives drinking water directly from thereservoir. Mr. Thapliyal, who was born and raised in a village in Tehri Garhwalinformed me that he could drink from any natural mountain spring in Tehri, butbecomes ill after drinking the water from New Tehri Town. The water from thereservoir is not clean according to locals who consume it. Communities in NewTehri Town believe that THDC does not treat the water before it is piped totheir homes. Studies completed during dam development even state that it iswell recognized that reservoirs provide fertile breeding ground for disease carryingvectors (Hanumantha Rao Committee, 1997).
The community of Kem Sari, located inNew Tehri Town, receives very inconsistent water from pipes that THDC providedoutside of their homes. The water is on for two hours a day, but sometimes theygo for multiple days without water. Some of the children have gotten sick fromdrinking the water on repeated occasions and have required visits to thehospital in New Tehri Town as well as Dehradun. The community is completelydependent on the water that is transported to them from the THDC pipes. Whenthe water does not come for days they are forced to send their children togather water from other sources.
Another water access issue facing thecommunities around the reservoir is that the natural springs are no longerproviding water since the reservoir was created. One particular area facingthis problem was the Pratap Nagar block on the east side of the reservoir, aswell as communities on the west side of the reservoir. In the village of Saroton the northwest side, the Pradon of the village reported that the naturalspring they had used for generations has been submerged by the reservoir. For aperiod of time they used a water pipeline, but this was washed away during amonsoon season and they now rely on hand pumps installed by the government, butthere were also issues with the pumps. The reservoir affected the productivityand therefore utilization of the natural springs by the local people. Now theyare dependent on pump-wells that have been installed by the government based ona scheme (Bhatt, 2012).
Along with drinking water, the unknownchange in the water level of the reservoir has created many complications forthe local communities. The dangerous change in water levels has prevented orlimited access to the riverbed and fresh water sources. This causes manyimpacts such as an increase in accidents along the edge of the water. Peoplehave drowned due to the sudden changes in water level (Suyal, 2012). Furthermore, without access to the river, people no longer have access to usethe riverside for traditional cremation ceremonies. This is a widespreadtradition of the Hindu religion. Now people are traveling to Rishikesh orHaridwar for these ceremonies (Bhatt, 2012).
Conclusion& Way Forward
The Tehri dam may been seen as acatalyst of dam development in the Himalaya’s of Uttarakhand and continues apattern of decreased access to natural resources from the local communitiesover the surrounding resources (Painuly, 2012). As this state addresses thefuture of development in the Himalaya’s, it is absolutely critical tofacilitate the creation of new livelihoods for displaced people. In situationsof large-scale development, and especially in the case of the Tehri dam, thefunctionality of the local region is greatly altered. The Tehri district isattempting to adapt in order to provide for their communities again, now thatthe environment and landscape of this region has changed immensely. Communitiesthat are still located in the Tehri district, and specifically around thereservoir, are attempting to reconstruct their livelihoods. Project affectedpeople who have resettled in the other locations are also struggling with theirnew environments and way of life. In the event of development projectscompensation in the form of money and land is not enough.

Photo: The erosion atthe banks of dam site
Well-planned and implemented methods ofadaptation, and assistance in the creation of new sustainable livelihoodsshould be provided to project affected people. A longer-term perspective isrequired to successfully assist communities to adapt in the face of developmentprojects. Many communities may become dangerously dependent on outside sourcesfor assistance, especially the local and national government, if their methodsof livelihood are no longer viable.
It is suggested that the resettlementand rehabilitation policies should facilitate the creation of newself-sustaining livelihoods. If this strategy were to be implemented thegovernment would not have to address an increasing demand to fulfill the needsof project affected people. In order to have a successful policy, allstakeholders must be involved and engaged in the development process.
Often times the stakeholders who areleft out of development conversations are the local people who are directlyimpacted by development. Instead, local stakeholders need to be integrated intothe policymaking and implementation processes. The traditional livelihoods andculture need to be taken into consideration when development plans are beingcreated. Project affected people require long-term policies and support toprotect them when government supported development impacts their livelihoods.Development plans should be made that will directly benefit the localcommunities and improve communication and connectivity, health and educationfacilities, and livelihood opportunities that are sustainable for futuregenerations.


During the study a number of individuals and institutions werecontacted for their inputs and views. The study team also did personalinterviews with the people those either were associated in someway with TehriDam project or are among the affected from this project. Following people wereinterviewed:
Mr.Devraj Bhatt, Mr. Shanti Prasad Bhatt, Mr. Sundar Lal Bahuguna and Mrs. VimlaBahuguna, Mr. Lalita Prasad Ghildiyal, Dr. N D Jayal, Mr. Premdutt Jayal, Mr.Madan Negi, Dr. Verendra Penuly, Mr. Jai Prakash Panwar, Mr. Narendra SinghRana, Mrs. Parvati Devi, Mr. Vikram Singh Rana, Mrs. Kalawati Rawat, Mr. VinodSuyal, Mr. Chandra Mohan Thapliyal.

See More