Uttarakhand flash flood sparks questions on India’s hydropower push

SRINAGAR: Environmentalists have urged the Indian authorities to evaluation its coverage of constructing hydropower dams in fast-warming mountain areas, after an obvious glacier collapse this week led to flooding that swept away one dam and left at the least 26 individuals lifeless.

The Sunday flash flood in India‘s northern Uttarakhand state, triggered by what scientists stated they believed was a big avalanche of glacier ice and rock, left as much as 200 individuals lacking within the Himalaya area.

Rescuers this week had been racing to attempt to free dozens of dam building employees trapped in a tunnel by particles carried by the wave of floodwater.

Scientists stated the catastrophe was troublesome to instantly hyperlink to local weather change in a area the place landslides are frequent – although temperatures are rising sooner within the Hindu Kush-Himalaya mountains than in different components of the area.

But Anil Kulkarni, a glacier knowledgeable on the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science, stated world warming and “local factors such as deforestation for developmental projects and large-scale construction activities could have contributed to the disaster”.

Continuing building of hydropower dams within the area wants reconsideration, not simply due to warming dangers however due to broader environmental impacts, stated Sunita Narain, head of the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

About 7,000 megawatts price of hydroelectric tasks are already working or being constructed within the fragile mountains of Uttarakhand, she stated.

The tasks are going forward as India tries to maneuver to cleaner renewable power and supply extra energy for improvement, together with in additional distant areas.

But such efforts must be restricted by “the carrying capacity of the fragile Himalayan region, which is even more at risk because of climate change”, Narain instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

If dam constructing continues, extra disasters like this week’s are probably, she stated.

“There is no question that we are going to see more of this, not less, unless we change the way we do business with the environment,” Narain stated, urging “better-studied decisions on the projects”.


Jigmet Takpa, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, stated that bettering provision of power in India was essential for the inhabitants’s welfare.

“Whenever such disasters strike, people start questioning the government. Though it is their right to ask questions, it needs to be understood that natural disasters are beyond the government’s control,” he instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He stated India’s authorities and folks wanted to work collectively “to develop adaptive strategies to avoid damage”, corresponding to making certain houses should not constructed close to riverbeds.

But Ravi Chopra, director of the Peoples Science Institute, which works on water, setting and catastrophe points in India, stated that with the price of photo voltaic power quickly falling, constructing extra mountain hydropower dams was pointless.

Hydropower produced in Uttarakhand prices about thrice as a lot as equal solar energy, he stated, arguing that “in this time and age, hydropower makes no economic sense”.

Big worldwide funding establishments have largely moved away from supporting controversial massive hydropower tasks, although many smaller-scale dams are nonetheless being constructed globally.

Chopra stated that after heavy rains in 2013 spurred disastrous flooding and landslides that killed greater than 5,000 individuals in Uttarakhand, a committee appointed by the Supreme Court had really useful no dams be constructed above an elevation of two,000 metres (6,500 toes).

But Chopa, who was a member of the committee, stated dam constructing had continued – together with building of the dam destroyed in Sunday’s flash flood.

Sharachchandra Lele, of the Centre for Environment and Development on the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, stated the federal government wanted to rethink its improvement technique for the Himalayas.

“Climate change is aggravating environmental risks of the already environmentally fragile Indian Himalayan region,” he stated.

“Damming of rivers, tunneling for power generation, and indiscriminate road building are magnifying these risks and their impacts.”

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