Home » General » Environment » Hydropower projects can be built in Upper Ganga region: Centre
New Delhi, Aug 28 (SocialNews.XYZ) Eight years after the Supreme Court moratorium on dam construction in the Upper Ganga region, three Union Ministries and Uttarakhand have reached a “consensus” to allow construction for as many as seven hydropower projects, including one of them destroyed in the February 2021 flash floods.
The Ministries of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Power and the state have together reached a consensus on the seven projects to be implemented, according to an affidavit filed by the Joint Secretary, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Sujit Kumar Bajpayee ten days ago in connection with an ongoing case regarding dam projects in Uttarakhand post the 2013 disaster which had witnessed over 5,000 deaths, damage to property and infrastructure projects.
The seven projects are 1,000 MW Tehri stage II project, 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad project, 444 MW Vishnugad Pipalkote project, 99 MW Singholi Bhatwari project, 76 MW Phata Buyong project, 15 MW Madhmaheshwar project, and 4.5 MW Kaliganga II project. Of these, the Tapovan Vishnugad project was destroyed due to flash floods in Dhauli Ganga basin in Chamoli district in February.
Post the 2013 Kedarnath disaster, the Supreme Court had formed an experts committee – termed as the Expert Committee I in the government affidavit – that had documented how the government tweaked rules to accommodate hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and had warned against building more dams, especially in the para-glacial region.
After the government had accepted this report, the Supreme Court lifted the total ban across Uttarakhand and kept on hold two dozen-odd projects – the current seven are part of that list, all under construction, with five of them having environmental clearance and two, being small capacity, not needing it.
In May 2015, the Supreme Court formed yet another committee, mostly comprising government officials and scientists in various capacities, termed as the expert body II in the affidavit. This expert body II had cleared six projects, the government told the court, and said, it will consult other ministries too. Months of to-and-fro letters from one ministry to other, the Environment Ministry finally told the Supreme Court that there is a consensus on seven projects.
However, not all are happy with the decision.
Ravi Chopra, environmentalist and founder director of the People’s Science Institute (PSI) at Dehradun, who had headed expert body I that produced a report on the ‘Assessment of Environmental Degradation and Impact of Hydroelectric Projects during the June 2013 Disaster in Uttarakhand’, said: “Ideally, there should be a complete moratorium on dam constructions in the Himalayas, particularly in Uttarakhand.”
“Many of these dams have been designed on the basis of very little rainfall data. Normally, we need 100 years of data for dam designs, but if not 100, at least have for 30-40 years. Here, for example, Singholi Bhatwari project, they barely have 17 years of data,” Chopra said.
“Even if they had 30-40 or 100 years of data, it would be irrelevant today. We are seeing such a heavy level of destruction in Uttarakhand in this monsoon and perhaps akin to what occurred only in 2013 during the time of Kedarnath disasters. The world climate is changing very rapidly and this is becoming more and more evident every year. Therefore the old data are completely irrelevant for designing our dams.”
“Nature dismantled Tapovan Vishnugad once, how many times more you want to destroy it?” he asked, sounding frustrated.
Chopra also said he stands by the first expert body report and that the report of the second expert body should be ignored “because it was a highly motivated report”.
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