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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 18:06 GMT
India goes ahead with Tehri dam
Bridge, dam and river
Large dam construction is a controversial issue in India
By the BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow

The authorities in the northern Indian town of Tehri have resumed construction work on a controversial dam nearby.

The work has already begun to flood some parts of this ancient Himalayan foothill town.

The flooded areas include the house of a leading civil rights activist who has spent two decades protesting against the dam.

Townspeople say they are upset by what is happening and feel acutely insecure.

Man, child and graffiti
Rising waters increase uncertainties
The main stream of the region's Bhagirathi river reversed the direction of its flow after officials shut the gates of two water tunnels on Wednesday.

Authorities say the tunnels have been closed to build crucial sections of the main dam.

But the alteration has created an artificial reservoir nearly four kilometres long and 25 metres deep.

Tehri's main town is located uncomfortably close to the swelling waters, which have already submerged parts of the town.

Bahuguna evicted

The office-cum-home of one of India's leading environmentalists, Sunder Lal Bahuguna, situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi, has gone under water.

Large dams have been condemned by high-profile protesters like award-winning author Arundhati Roy.

But the authorities seem determined to go ahead with this project.

Local people say the only bridge linking the old town with the new, and the rest of the country, is equally threatened by the rising waters.

Nearly 10,000 residents of the old town face a very real possibility of losing their homes.

Arundhati Roy
High profile protests annoy Delhi
They say dam authorities have stopped the river's natural flow to intimidate them into leaving without staking a claim to a rehabilitation package.

There was some relief when authorities opened an upstream diversion channel but locals say a second diversion tunnel should be opened to release the reservoir's water.

Authorities firm

The district magistrate, Radha Ratudi, told the BBC that her administration was working to ensure normal food supplies and transport services.

She said rehabilitation efforts had been stepped up and strongly denied reports of any strong public protest.

The 200-year old town of Tehri is expected to be totally submerged by next November.

Leading Indian scientists and environmentalists have been protesting against the dam on several grounds.

One of the reasons is seismic danger.

The dam is being built on the edge of the central Himalayan seismic gap, around 45kms from the epicentre of a 1991 earthquake.

But the authorities say they have taken adequate precautions to protect the dam.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Dam commission 'good for democracy'
16 Nov 00 | World
Human cost of dams 'too high'
16 Nov 00 | World
'Dams damage environment'
16 Nov 00 | South Asia
Narmada: A history of controversy
25 Oct 00 | South Asia
Protest against India dam ruling
23 Oct 00 | South Asia
Protest against controversial dam
18 Oct 00 | South Asia
Go-ahead for India dam project
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