Jammu and Kashmir's main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Wednesday assured the formulation of a comprehensive action plan for the socio-economic growth of the people of the Chenab Valley.
The party further assured that backwardness and underdevelopment of this region would be removed by implementing this comprehensive action plan.
"The Chenab Valley area is an economically as well as strategically important region in the whole subcontinent due to the availability of huge natural resources in the form of water and forests in this belt," said Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the Chief Patron of the PDP, addressing party workers at a rally in Doda.
The Chenab Valley lying northeast of Jammu city, consists of three main districts - Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar, spread over an area of 4,500 sq km. It was a single district (Doda) up till 2006. The Chenab river and its tributaries flow through the area, making it the richest of all 22 district of Jammu and Kashmir in water resources. Besides, it has a big forest cover and mineral deposits too.
The Chenab Valley lies south of south Kashmir and touches Himachal Pradesh on the eastern side.
Sayeed however regretted, "Instead of improving socio-economic conditions of the local people of the Chenab Valley, the exploitation of water and forest resources has resulted in ecological degradation and destabilization of geological features and a disruption in the peaceful lives of common citizens."
He demanded that the services of international experts should be utilized to maintain ecological balance in this belt. "Instead of giving benefits of the available resources to the residents of the Chenab Valley, the rulers only bartered away the forest and water resources for their personal power," Sayeed said, while pointing towards gross discriminatory agreements signed by successive National Conference (NC) regimes including hydro-electric projects across the Chenab like Dul-Hasti, Salal and Baglihar besides four more projects given a go-ahead in the Kishtwar area on the Chenab's tributaries.
Exhorting party workers to agitate for their genuine demands, the PDP patron demanded that locals should be given priority in the new hydro-electric projects and other developmental activities going on in this belt. "Instead of appointing locals on small petty jobs, the agencies engaged in executing the hydro-electric projects must open training centres here to train the local unemployed youth so as to engage them on technical and skilled jobs", he demanded, adding, "Employment opportunities for locals must be created while constructing hydro-electric projects in this belt."
While demanding free electricity for the people of the erstwhile Doda district, he said that the residents of the Chenab Valley have first right on the water flowing from their area. "It is ironical that other parts of the country benefit from the electricity generated from this region but inhabitants of this belt neither get power nor other basic amenities", he observed, adding, "As the real owners of the water flowing from their areas, the residents of erstwhile Doda district have the right to get free electricity from the projects operating in their areas".