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Luhri Hydro project on Sutlej river, HP, India

After protests of the local inhabitants, ADB and the companies have to change the dam scheme. “Reduction in capacity is not a solution. The project must be scrapped”: local villagers met with investors and officials and made the World Bank withdraw


The Luhri hydroelectric project is planned to come up between the villages of Nathan and Chaba (about 80 km from Shimla (HP). Himachal Pradesh. It would have been a run-of-the-river plant, with the world's longest tunnel for water diversion (38.14 km), bypassing the last 50 km stretch of the flowing Sutlej river, in addition to submerging 6.8 km of the river's path in the reservoir. However, after severe opposition of the last five years from the local communities and environmental groups the project proponents are now in the process of re-designing the project by dropping the tunnel component.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Luhri Hydro project on Sutlej river, HP, India
State or province:Himachal Pradesh
Location of conflict:Area by Village Nathan and Village Chaba (about 80 km from Shimla).
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The plant was planned to generate 775 MW

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Level of Investment for the conflictive projectOriginally, US$ 1150.00 million, out of which US$ 650.00 million from WB. Now design is restructured, thus budget as well.
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:78 villages
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN) from India
Relevant government actors:National Green Tribunal
HImachal Pradesh State
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti is the major local social movement working against this project.
Many other EJOs have been supported and actively being involved; the following have endorsed, together with many other individuals and groups, a letter to the Union Minister of state of Environment and Forests Smt Jayanthi Natarajan, Secertary MoEF and members of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, urging them to reject the Environment Clearance:
Kalpavriksh, SANDRP, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, Bharat Jan Andolan, National Alliance of People's Movements, All India Forum of Forest People, People's Science Institute, Save Rivers Campaign of Uttarakhand, Matu Jan Sangathan, River Research Centre, River Basin Organisation, People's Union of Democratic Rights, Socialist Party, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, Nature Conservation Foundation and ATREE.
Others have supported the cause and the mobilization in different forms and times, like the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and Himdhara.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), 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, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Other Environmental impactsAll impacts have been picked as Potential because the project has not been completed.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Himachal Pradesh should not become the source of electricity of large regions of India. Local development of facilities and alternative sources of income and employment should become government political priority.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The case reported is for sure a case of successful environmental justice for two main reasons: first, local groups opposing the plan defended their arguments in front of the World Bank authorities and led to the withdrawal of WB funds. Second, in July 2015 the project proponent has completely changed the design for the project and has dropped the 38 km. long tunnel component. They are now applying for a fresh environmental clearance for the new project.
However, the project has not been scrapped by the government, and no change in hydropower policies has been envisioned by the state authorities. The environmental groups are now demanding that the last stretch of the free flowing Sultej river be left untouched.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

2006 Rural Electrification Policy

2005 National Water Policy

2003 Electricity Act

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

[1]Mountains of Concrete, S. Dharmadhikary
[click to view]

[2] Power Sector Restructuring: The Often Ignored Aspect of Water Sector Reforms, Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra
[click to view]

Corporatizing Water, Sh. Varghese
[click to view]

Himdhara, "A River under Arrest"
[click to view]

[3] The World Bank drops funding USD 650 m for the LUHRI Hydro project! Victory for the Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti, SADRP
[click to view]

[4] Report of Expert Committee on Uttarakhand Flood Disaster & Role of HEPs: Welcome recommendations, SADRP
[click to view]

Himdhara collective blog, map of Sutlej river basin
[click to view]

Letter to authorities requesting to Reject Environment Clearance
[click to view]

Down to Earth
[click to view]

[click to view]

World Bank data
[click to view]

Milestones in the water sector, by Himanshu Thakkar (SANDRP)
[click to view]

SANDRP blog on WB dropping funds for the Luhri Hydro Project
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India ( and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB (
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1210
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