The fears of residents of Raini villagers who had warned against the construction of the Rishi Ganga hydel project and the potential damage caused by it came true on February 7.
The hydel project, some meters away from where the villagers live, was completely washed off after a glacier break on Sunday. The incident claimed at least 14 lives while another 170 are feared missing. Many were feared swept away in the floods, including those who were working near the river.
The large pile of mud which was not disposed of upstream of the project, as per environmental norms, came down with water creating havoc in the area, Hindustan Times reported. The scenes reminded people of the horrifying 2013 Kedarnath deluge that killed thousands of people.
"The only bridge connecting the village separated by the river has also been washed away," Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said. Four other bridges were also swept away.
In 2019, the villagers had filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Uttarakhand High Court which ordered the state government to monitor the construction of the hydel project in Maini village of Chamoli.
The Court had ordered the district magistrate of Chamoli and member secretary state pollution control board to form a joint team and inspect the Rishi Ganga Hydroelectric Project site in the district. The court had asked the authorities to focus on the allegations raised in the PIL and the effect on the environment and the villagers due to the stone crushing activity.
The court had also stayed the blasting in the project area till further orders.
The PIL was filed by a man identified as Kundan Singh on behalf of the scheduled tribe villagers from the village. Stone crushing and blasting activities in the terrain led to wild animals to flee and enter Raini village, the PIL alleged.
The Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project (RGHEP) is a run-of-river hydroelectric project proposed for the development on the Rishiganga river, a tributary of the Alaknanda River in the Chamoli district. The project site is located in close proximity to the Raini village.
Several environmentalists had opposed to back-to-back dams in Uttarakhand claiming it was killing river Ganga and the local ecology.
"Anyone can come and blast the hills here for building a hydel project in name of development. Nobody cares for ecology and impact of its devastation on the locals," Ravi Chopra of People's Science Institute said. "Today's incident is just another example of what we have done to our hill ecology," he said.
Experts have said that residents of Raini village had raised an alarm in advance. Even the court issued two orders, but nothing was done by the government.
"I got a call from my petitioner in Raini village telling me that what we had been worried has finally come true and Nature has replied to the apathy of the government," Abhijay Negi, the counsel of Raini village said.
Also Read: At least 14 Dead, 170 Missing After Glacier Breaks In Uttarakhand, Tapovan Dam "Completely Washed Off"