Community involvement in the development of small hydro in Uttaranchal, India

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McCandless, Matthew Michael
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The purpose of this research was to determine the potential capacity for improved participation through community-based approaches to small hydroelectric development in the Indian Himalayas. The objectives of the research were: (1) to establish the current roles of the civic, public and private sectors in small hydro development; (2) to examine the potential for learning through participation during the development of small hydro projects; (3) to determine the potential for using community-based environmental assessment in future projects; (4) to investigate the benefits of community-driven small hydro development, and (5) to determine the implications of the findings for environmental policy and decision-making. Data were gathered using Participatory Rural Appraisal methods including semi-structured interviews, transect walks, and landscape analysis. There were five case study projects (Niti, Bampa, Jumma, Malari and Bamini/Badrinath), each in the Indo-Tibetan border region of the Indian Himalayas. The plants are all run of river, and range in capacity from 25 kW to 1.2 MW. Four of the villages had no electricity prior to the development of the small-hydro plants, while one had a prior connection to the state electrical grid (Bamini/Badrinath). The villages are inhabited by Bhotia tribespeople, and are occupied only during the summer growing season. The residents travel to lower altitude villages for the winter months. The most successful project examined, in the village of Malari, was one where community development and energy needs were considered simultaneously, and where the local community was highly involved in planning, construction and operation. The less successful projects were those where community involvement and development, sound planning, and detailed geographic information about the site were lacking in their development and operation; such as was observed in the village of Jumma, where the plant never began operations because it was damaged by an avalanche prior to its inauguration. PLEASE NOTE: As of January 2007 the State of Uttaranchal was renamed Uttarakhand. The change is not reflected in this thesis.
Hydro, Uttarakhand, Public Participation, Indo-Tibetan Border Regions, Bhotia, Community Based Environmental Assessment