By: Bhawani Negi
At a time when there is a mad race to exploit every little stream flowing down the slopes of Himachal Pradesh, there is one voice talking restrain – a person who has been part of the hydro-electric movement in the state and yet talks about judicious exploitation of the rivers. RL Justa recently traveled to Sweden under the “Transfer of Technology Programme” to review the master plans of Satluj/Baspa rivers and feasibility of Sawra-Khddu Hydel Project/ Baspa-I Hydel Project in Himachal Pradesh. Not that the journey to Stockholm was a personal achievement, even at age 67 Justa feels a sense of responsibility to contribute towards the growth and development of the state and thus has been involved in working out a sustainable model of hydro-power generation.
Life was not an easy road for this veteran who hails from a small village Kundli in Kotkhai region. At a very tender age, Justa lost his parents and had to depend on his kin. The hardships faced in early age made him resolute and determined to causes he held close to his heart. He believes that man himself can make or mar his future and a person should follow the policy of ‘no shortcuts’ to achieve big things in life.
He served the state of Himachal Pradesh for almost four decades and retired as additional superintendent engineer (civil). After retiring from government services, he resolutely employed the expertise and experience gained during his stint with the state government for larger social cause.
During his service period as an assistant engineer in 1970s, he got involved in civil works of Nogli Power House for capacity building under Prof. S C Katoch, the then chairman of state power board (Himachal Pradesh). He was commended for his dedicated services to the project and proudly expresses his happiness for possessing appreciation letters issued by Prof. S C Katoch himself.
Based on his long-time experience in the field of hydro-power generation, his understanding of related issues makes him among a handful of experts who can guide the government find a sustainable model of power generation in the state. He relates hydro-power, environment and tourism to development and aesthetics of the society.
According to him, rivers are ‘white gold’ of the state and judicious exploitation of this resource is the need of the hour. He appreciates developmental activities carried out with implementation of hydropower projects. However, he is little wary and cautions that such developmental activities should not cost ecological imbalance.
When asked about the sustainability of present and future projects, he is quite assured of their future, but his only rancor is that too many projects are proposed on the single rivulet. He further elaborates his concern and tells that too many projects on a single rivulet would threaten the very existence of rivulets. “These rivulets, which are vital to the local people and have been used as traditional sources for drinking, irrigation, livestock and running water mills, today face a threat on their existence,” he said. He disapproves 100 percent exploitation of hydro-potential of a resource and has been advocating keeping some hydro-based projects in reserve for the future generations. He further adds that, “The state of Himachal Pradesh should take a lesson from countries like Sweden and Norway on efficient utilization of hydro-based projects. It is to be noted that these countries have left 20 percent of their total hydroelectric potential unexploited as a measure of environmental safeguard”.
On micro and mini hydroelectric projects proposed on the rivulets, he says that if these projects are carried in slapdash and without proper planning they hold a Pandora’s Box for both the environment and local populace. He proposes a solution on this matter and stresses that instead of many projects on a single stream; only three small projects should be allowed on one stream.
He holds many responsible positions owing to the vision and expertise he brings with him. He was nominated twice as member of HP Government Grievances Committee, Shimla (2003-07), and he has also served as state general secretary, Himachal Pradesh Diploma Engineers Association, for 15 years and is presently associated with it as honorary member. Besides, he holds the distinction of being a lifetime hydropower consultant to Yuvraj Sahib, Rajkot, Gujarat.
This visionary at the age of 67 wants to give his vision and ideas to the future generations and for this he is presently writing a book on hydro-power development in Himachal.
Edited by: Akhilesh