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Karchham-Wangtoo hydel project, HP, India

The biggest hydropower project in the private sector stuck in financial troubles since its start ignites stiff opposition from local tribal communities.


The Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant is a 1200MW run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station on the Sutlej River in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, between the villages of Karcham and Wangtoo. It is today the largest hydroelectric project in the private sector in India. The history behind this project is of particular relevance for the valley and for the entire state, as the dam played a critical role in the formation of public opinion around hydel projects. From this struggle, in fact, many more local committees have drawn inspiration and a reason for resisting, contesting, not accepting the conditions imposed. The struggle is still ongoing, and will be a legacy for any company who will take over the project in the next future.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Karchham-Wangtoo hydel project, HP, India
State or province:Kinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh
Location of conflict:between Karcham and Wangtoo villages
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The plant has four turbines of 250 MW capacity each installed (made by Austria based Andritz Hydro Company)

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:31 families have lost their land [9]
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Jaypee Karcham Hydro Corporation Ltd. from India
Jaypee Group from India
Jaypee Powergrid Limited from India
Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID) from India
Andritz Group from Austria
Relevant government actors:Directorate of Energy, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), Irrigation and Public Health department, Labour Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Karchham Wangtoo Sangharsh Samiti, Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Hangrang Valley Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, SANDRP, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and Himdhara
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsLabour deadly accidents at construction site
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Local people are looking for support for their livelihoods, such as the non seasonal vegetable farming as well as horticulture. Implementation of the FRA is a major and important demand - because this will give the locals a better access to manage their forests
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While the project was constructed and is in operation it raised, in the Satluj valley and Kinnaur, the struggle by the local people has led to widespread awareness about the issues related to the socio-economic and environmental impacts of hydropower projects. Even vis a vis the articulation of demands and use of democratic and legal spaces to raise the issues has come to a large extent from this conflict.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Forest Rights Act 2006

Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act - PESA 1996

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[10] RTI reply on drying up water sources due to hydel projects
[click to view]

[11] EPW - Kinnaur’s Curse? Environmental Threat from Hydroelectric Projects, by Manshi Asher
[click to view]

Critique to CEA by Himdhara
[click to view]

Cumulative Impact Assessment of the Satluj River
[click to view]

[1] CDM - Project Design Document
[click to view]

[2] Hillpost - Jaypee sells Himachal Hydro Plants to Abu Dhabi Company
[click to view]

[3] The Hindu, Business Line - CEA retains Karcham Wangtoo project capacity at 1,000 MW
[click to view]

[4] Himdhara - PRESS NOTE 12th December 2014: People of Kinnaur challenge Satluj basin impact study as “biased” and “pro-hydro” : Panel silenced by questions raised at Public Consultation
[click to view]


1,300 workers to step up stir against Jaypee
[click to view]

[6] EPW - Seeping Through the Cracks, M. Asher
[click to view]

[7] Himachal panchayats not to vote to protest over Karcham Wangtoo hydro project
[click to view]

[9] Dissent Matters - Andar Se Solid? The making of a fugitive river

By Manshi Asher
[click to view]

Times of India - Jaypee sells 2 hydro power projects for Rs 10500cr
[click to view]

The Economic Times - 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo hydro electric project to be commissioned in Himachal Pradesh
[click to view]

India Water Portal - Drilling the hills to devastation, by Manu Moudgil
[click to view]

The Indian Express - HP: 800 MW of surplus power but no buyers
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Impacts of Hydro power projects in #Kinnaur- A Story by #Etv News (in hindi)
[click to view]

[click to view]

Impact of hydel projects in Kinnaur (mostly in hindi)
[click to view]

Other comments:Jaypee group is already running two Hydro-power Projects of 300 MW capacity Baspa-II in Himachal Pradesh and 400 MW capacity Vishnuprayag Hydro-power Project in Uttarakhand having combined capacity of 700 MW. Karchham-Wangtoo project has always been in financial troubles. In spring 2013, due to its high debt, the company first announced the sale of its two hydro power projects in Kinnaur district, Baspa Stage II and Karcham Wangtoo (The plants are located within two kilometres of each other and share support facilities), to a consortium led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA), the international energy and water company from Abu Dhabi, for Rs 10500 crore but TAQA, besides taking over the debt, would be paying Rs 3820 crore (USD 616 million, based on Mar 1 2014 foreign exchange rate), to acquire a controlling stake of 51% in both the plants. The remaining equity will be held by one of Canada’s largest institutional investors (39%) and IDFC Alternatives’ India Infrastructure Fund II (10%). The two plants are 35 kilometres from the Sorang hydroelectric plant, in which TAQA acquired a stake in 2013. Having acquired these assets, TAQA was about to become the largest private operator of hydroelectric plants in India. The final agreement was celebrated at the UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force in Mumbai on Monday 3 March 2014. According to Hillpost, a Jaypee Group spokesman revealed, “the agreement follows the signing of the UAE-India Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in December 2013 and a commitment made by the UAE to invest USD 2 billion in India’s infrastructure sector at the first UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force on Investments meeting held in Abu Dhabi in February 2013.” [2]
However, this agreement did not go through; JP later engaged into negotiations with Reliance Power in a Rs 12,000-crore deal in 2014. In the meanwhile, JP installed 1,200MW capacity on the plant and negotiated the price according to that, while the Technical and Economic Clearance it got from the government was only for 1,000MW. Both the Central Electricity Authority and the Himachal Pradesh State Government had expressed safety concerns on allowing the plant to operate at that potential so they forced the company to operate at 1,000 [5]. This led the negotiation with Reliance to fail and even a further one with JSW Energy to tremble [3]. Finally, JP reached an agreement with Jindal Steel Works, which is still under negotiations (as per August 2015).
Meta information
Contributor:Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India ( and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB (
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1877
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