New dams to burden Uttarakhand, heighten disaster risk

Districts worst hit by the floods are also the ones with maximum hydropower projects in the pipeline 

 
By Ravi Bajpai, Ankur Paliwal
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

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Intensive construction activity that has been going on in the Himalayas is one reason why floods in Uttarakhand turned so devastating. Indiscriminate construction of hydel projects is one such activity. While these projects are needed for development, building them causes a lot of damage.

The projects involve blasting of hillsides, excavation, debris dumping, movement of heavy machinery and diversion of forests and rivers. This can cumulatively impact the Himalayan ecology. Experts say that the way forward is to reassess hydel power needs in the state and make hydel energy sustainable.

According to the website of Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited, 45 hydropower projects with a total capacity of 3,164 MW are operational in Uttarakhand, and around 199 big and small projects, with total capacity of 17,559 MW are proposed or under way in the state.

Hydropower projects in different districts
It may not be a mere coincidence that the districts where maximum devastation has taken are also the districts with maximum number of operational, under construction or proposed hydropower projects.

For example, Uttarkashi with five operational projects, will have 37 more projects—these are either under construction or proposed. Similarly, highest number of under-construction or proposed hydel projects are in Pithoragarh and Chamoli districts, which have maximum number of operational hydropower projects.

Number of hydropower projects in different districts. Use drop-down menu for full data.

Source: Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited
 
Which districts will generate more hydropower
In terms of capacity addition, too, the districts which experienced maximum impact of floods—Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Tehri and Pithoragarh—will see maximum power capacity addition. For example, Rudraprayag which has only two small projects totalling a capacity of 0.7 MW as of now, will see a capacity addition of as much as 1,075 MW.

Similarly, Pithoragarh which already has the maximum operational capacity of 290.55 MW, the under-construction and proposed projects would add capacity of 3,994.8 MW. It does not matter whether the projects are big or small, both can affect the ecology if not planned in a sustainable manner.

Hydropower generation capacity of different districts. Use drop-down menu for full data.

Source: Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited
 

 


A selection of reports and documents on hydropower development at Uttarakhand

Statement on the Uttarakhand Catastrophe

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