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
NameKarchham-Wangtoo hydel project, HP, India
ProvinceKinnaur district, Himachal Pradesh
Sitebetween Karcham and Wangtoo villages
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe plant has four turbines of 250 MW capacity each installed (made by Austria based Andritz Hydro Company)

While the Jaypee Group has installed a 1,200 MW capacity at the location, its techno-economic clearance is for only 1,000 MW. The final capacity is still to be defined, as well as the electricity tariff.

The Project envisages a concrete gravity dam of about 43m high above the river bed. The dam will have six sluice spillway bays of size 9m (width) x 9m (height). The other main components are a 10.48m diameter, 17.2-km long headrace tunnel; 4.75m diameter four pressure shafts; an underground power-house with 4x250 MW installed capacity; and transformer hall and 909m long and 10.48m diameter tailrace tunnel.

For evacuation of power, a 216 km. long transmission line has been set up with total cost of around Rs.1,000 crore by Jaypee Powergrid Limited, a 74:26 joint venture between Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd. and central transmission utility Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid).
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population31 families have lost their land [9]
Start Date2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesJaypee 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 actorsDirectorate of Energy, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), Irrigation and Public Health department, Labour Department
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKarchham Wangtoo Sangharsh Samiti, Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Hangrang Valley Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, SANDRP, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and Himdhara
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
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
OtherLabour deadly accidents at construction site
Socio-economic 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
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesLocal 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 as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Forest Rights Act 2006

Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act - PESA 1996


Critique to CEA by Himdhara
[click to view]

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

[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]


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

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

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

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

CEA show-cause notice likely to Jaypee on Karcham Wangtoo project
[click to view]

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

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

CEA show-cause notice likely to Jaypee on Karcham Wangtoo project
[click to view]

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

By Manshi Asher
[click to view]

Media Links

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

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

[click to view]

Other Documents

Rally in Kinnaur against hydropower projects on 26th november 09 Source: Dissent Matters
[click to view]

Dam construction Credits: Sumit Mahar, Himdhara
[click to view]

Other CommentsJaypee 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
ContributorHimdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India (www.himdhara.org) and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB ( d.delbene_at_gmail.com)
Last update29/12/2015