Plans scrapped to build 38-km-long tunnel for US$1.2 billion Luhri hydroelectric project

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At the request of the government of Himachal Pradesh, India, project developer Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (SJVN) plans to construct a multi-stage project in its revised design of the US$1.2 billion Luhri hydroelectric project. The original design included a 38-km-long tunnel and would have produced 775 MW.

Included in a pre-feasibility study of Stage I for the project, “The government of Himachal Pradesh, in a letter dated May 11, requested SJVN explores the possibility of executing the Luhri hydroelectric project as a multi-stage project instead of the present single stage that has a 38-km-long tunnel.”

Additionally, the World Bank withdrew its US$650 million loan in 2014, in part, because of geological considerations and local objection to the environmental impact from tunnel’s proposed length.

The revised design includes several stages:

  • Stage I involves an 86-m-high dam built at Nirath Village with “one toe power house on the right bank (200 MW) and another toe power house at left bank (19 MW)” in a design that uses less than half the land area required in the initial proposal;
  • Stage II proposes the 43-MW Kepu hydroelectric facility; and
  • Stage III includes the 330-MW Khaira hydroelectric project.

The tunnel component would have affected three separate districts -- Kullu, Mandi and Shimla.

“The project tunnel if built would have been one of the longest for a hydro project in Asia and would have led to the disappearance of the Satluj River for a stretch of 50 kilometers,” said Shyam Singh Chauhan. Chauhan is part of the Satluj Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti, a platform of representatives of districts affected by the Luhri project.

About 78 villages would have been affected as a result of the initial design in addition to effects from the tunnel’s length.

According to Chauhan, there were major issues with regard to tunneling that included destabilized slopes, cracks and damage to houses, and drying up natural water springs.
 

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