North India Hydro Boom Leaves Communities High and Dry

Forests destroyed by illegal debris dumping for Tidong I project. Retrieved from:

“Rivers and streams are being diverted from one valley into another, with serious impacts. The 800 MW Parbati-II Hydroelectric Project is one such example. The Parbati River is  just one of a number of rivers and streams being diverted through a long tunnel from the Parbati valley into the Sainj valley.  A part of the Great Himalayan National Park was de-listed to permit the project to go forward, despite the fact that the area was a prime nesting site for the rare Western Tragopan bird, for the conservation of which the park has been set up. Another project will devastate a local apple-growing community by drying up about 35 of their water springs.

Projects are being built and proposed at higher and higher altitudes and closer and closer to the snowline (and the Chinese border). The Kashang projects start around 3,000 m. (10,000 feet). If one is to go by the ecological devastation caused by projects at lower altitudes, the prospect of what will happen to the fragile Alpine ecosystem is frightening. Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator of SANDRP, says that the projects will change the microclimate which will result in accelerated melting of the snow and glaciers. The strategic implications of having these projects so close to the border with China are not being discussed in the public domain.

Cascade dams do not leave any stretch of the river flowing free.  Sutlej River originates from Lake Rakshastal in China. It enters India in Kinnaur District of the State. Within 7 kms (4.3 miles) of entering India it flows from one tunnel into another. All these projects are so-called run-of-river projects. It is funny (in a sad way) how these projects are proposed. It is said that the powerhouse of the proposed 261 MW Yangthang-Khab project will be submerged in the reservoir of the proposed 1020 MW Khab-Shaso project. Both project proponents are in a race to acquire all permissions and sanctions before the other to win the battle of the duelling dams.”

Read more: International Rivers


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