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
NameLuhri Hydro project on Sutlej river, HP, India
ProvinceHimachal Pradesh
SiteArea 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)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe plant was planned to generate 775 MW

One tunnel for water diversion (38.14 km), bypassing last 50 km stretch of flowing Sutlej river submerging 6.8 km of the river in the reservoir

Following the opposition to the project, the proponent submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (July 2015) for the issuing of a fresh terms of reference for the Luhri project whose capacity has been now reduced to 219 MW. In the revised design the SJVN plans to construct three reservoir based projects instead of one large project with the tunnel component. Stage I involves a 86 m high dam to be built at Nirath village. In the new design there is also a reduction in the land area required for the project to less than half of what was required before. Stage II is proposed to be a 43 MW dam project at Kepu and the third stage of 330 MW at Khaira.
Level of Investment (in USD)Originally, US$ 1150.00 million, out of which US$ 650.00 million from WB. Now design is restructured, thus budget as well.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population78 villages
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesSatluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN) from India
Relevant government actorsNational Green Tribunal

HImachal Pradesh State
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSutlej 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.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment 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
OtherAll impacts have been picked as Potential because the project has not been completed.
Socio-economic 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)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt 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
Development of AlternativesHimachal 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 as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

2005 National Water Policy

2006 Rural Electrification Policy

2003 Electricity Act


Corporatizing Water, Sh. Varghese
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Himdhara, "A River under Arrest"
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[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]


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

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

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

[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]

Other Documents

Map of HEP on the Satluj river Source: SANDRP
[click to view]

Local people protesting during a sit-in in March 2012 by Luhri Credits: SANDRP
[click to view]

Site chosen for the HEP plant on the Satluj river Credits: World Bank
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorHimdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India ( and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB (
Last update19/11/2015