Hydro-plants blamed for deadly Indian floods

2014-04-29 16:31

(Shutterstock Shutters)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New Delhi - Badly managed hydro-power projects in northern India were partly to blame for devastating floods last year that killed thousands of people and caused extensive damage, an environment ministry panel said in a report obtained.

The panel finding's highlight the problem facing India, one of the world's lowest per-capita energy consumers, as it rushes to expand power generation to meet rising demand.

Governments have long sought to harness the power of rivers despite the risks, in part to diversify away from polluting coal and gas plants that are increasingly costly to run.

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand was hit by its heaviest rainfall on record in June 2013, causing lakes and rivers to burst their banks, inundating towns and villages below.

In a report commissioned by the ministry of environment and Forests, a panel of 11 experts said that hydroelectric plants had led to the build up of huge volumes of sediment in rivers that was not managed properly.

Region-wide assessments

The sediment raised river beds during the floods and was then flushed downstream, aggravating the severity of the flooding.

"Can it be a mere coincidence that the maximum destruction of land and property occurred in areas downstream of hydro-power projects?" the experts asked, referring to three projects in particular.

The official death toll was 900 with more than 5 700 people declared missing, making it the deadliest ever in the mountainous region. Floods or landslides also washed away or damaged 5 000 roads, 200 bridges and innumerable buildings.

The experts rejected suggestions that the extent of the flooding was caused by deforestation or the breaching of dams brought on by landslides, as was the case in previous floods.

Authorities urgently needed to conduct region-wide assessments of the impact of projects, rather than consider individual plants in isolation, the panel said, and should reject 23 out of 24 proposed power projects in Uttarakhand if they were within areas of significant biodiversity.

Companies with hydroelectric interests in the state include Jaiprakash Power Ventures, GVK Power & Infrastructure and state-run NTPC. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, a Delhi-based environmental group, said he welcomed the report but limiting the study to two of the state's river basins had weakened its findings.

"Most of the recommendations are useful but some of them are a bit weak", he said. "We think they should have asked for all work on the 24 proposed projects to stop immediately, they should have said this explicitly".

Hydro electricity accounts for about 18%, or 40 000MW, of India's installed generation capacity and another 14 000 megawatts are under development, government data shows, but its contribution is expected to fall as environmental complaints slow new construction.
Read more on:    india  |  floods  |  environment  |  hydro power  |  renewable energy

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.