The Plight of Farmers and Environment for a Transmission Line across Budgam

Video by: Nadiya Shafi | Article By: Sajad Rasool

On a cold day of early spring in Kashmir, dozens of farmers are waiting in the village of Watred Kachwari for a team of social activists and journalists who are supposed to come to see the damage caused to their orchards and farms due to the installation of huge electricity towers carrying 440 DC power line form Punjab’s Jalandhar to the Kashmir valley. This line is supposed to tackle the power crisis in Kashmir valley, which reach a peak during the winter.

Earlier, the Government of India through its Bid Process Coordinator (BPC) Rural Electrification Transmission Projects Corporation Ltd, allotted construction of 440 KV Double Circuit (DC) Jalandhar –Samba – Amargrah transmission line in 2014.

The main source of livelihood come from these agricultural farms, apple orchards and walnut trees. This is the time when they start visiting their farms after harsh winter and begin feeding their trees with manure and fertilizers. However, this time there is no preparation happening as such, the farmers who gave away their lands for this project look sad and agitated.

According to these agitating farmers, they were forced to give their lands for this project, then false promises of compensation were made and if anyone resisted, they were jailed and harassed.

Farmers carry the bank cheques which bounced several times, the copies of affidavits which they were told to sign and a sadness inside them for their coming future. These people went from pillar to post, but to no use.

The trees which were chopped for this transmission line would bring a good income every year, with this project their dreams were shuttered.

Almost 40 farmers have filed a writ petition for being paid less or no compensation against their lands in the J&K High Court against the company, but they don’t expect any justice to happen very soon.

A private company namely Sterlite Grid which has been allotted the project under Build Own Operate & Transfer Model (BOOT) has already completed the execution work few months ago through its subsidiary Northern Region Strengthening Scheme (NRSS 29) which is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the project. For purpose of accomplishment of this project, the transmission lines have been carried through Pir Panchal mountains and through thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural land. An estimated 45,000 forest trees are supposed to be axed out of which 80 % trees have already been felled. Most of the damage has been caused around Pir Panjaal area especially in the areas of Budgam (Yusmarg belt) , Shopian Herpora, Pir ki Gali . 

This multi crore project is benefiting who and at what cost? This question needs answer, it seems.

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