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From Gaura Devi to Rishi Ganga Hydel Project

Movement continues in Reni village

By Our Staff Reporter
Garhwal Post, August 6, 2008

Joshimath, 5 Aug: Scene one: On 26 March 1974, Gaura Devi with other women of Reni village in Chamoli Garhwal hogged worldwide attention by adopting a noble non-violent method of saving trees by hugging them and saying, “First cut us, before cutting down our trees.”

Scene two: The forest that made Reni famous worldwide now faces the hard test of time. This time, a hydropower project has emerged as a threat to Reni village and its forests.

Reni villagers have launched a movement against the Rishi Ganga Hydel Power Project. They have been staging demonstrations against the project since 2006. They allege that the blasting done for the project has ruined their peace. The blasting has resulted in erosion and the historic place from where the Chipko Movement gained fame is now in total neglect.

Bali Devi, former President of the Mahila Mangal Dal, rues, “We have requested the power company not to carry out blasting in the wee hours of the day. They do this at any time of the day, even as early as 4 a.m.”

She claims that the houses in the village have suffered cracks and no government official and public representatives have visited to understand the problem.
The Rishi Ganga Hydro Power Project, being constructed on the confluence of Dhauli Ganga and Rishi Ganga – is facing the criticism of the villagers for its approach towards the environment. The villagers are demanding that the District Magistrate, Chamoli, visit the village and assess the ground reality and sufferings of the local people.

Reni, located 26 kms from Joshimath, is home to 36 families. The total population of the village is around 150.

The women fought for environment conservation in the 70s and now they have launched a similar agitation. “The power project has had an adverse effect on our village. The Mahila Mangal Dal planted hundred of trees. Our forests are facing degradation due to the project. The tunnel is passing under our village and we are feeling threatened,” said another villager.

Reni village launched a movement in the 70s to save its trees and now it is demanding better rehabilitation and environment conservation.