This article has been written by Munis Nasir student at Jamia Hamdard.
Uttarakhand had gained its statehood from state of Uttar Pradesh in the year of 2000. Uttarakhand has been famous for its geographical locations. Thus it attracts a good amount of visitors every year. But the more beautiful scenic locations it have, the risk of getting affect due to climate change is always there in such areas. Moreover the construction and many projects in such areas had disrupted harshly the geology and ecosystem. For instance the Committee set up in August 2019 for the construction of roads for Char Dham Yatra stated that the road destruction in the area had done irreversible damage to the Himalayas in that region. A direct damage had been done to the geological structure of the area. The Committee even pointed out that more than 50,000 tress had been cut for the roads which had created slopes. All the dumping of the waste material in the forests, rivers and villages added to the damage. At the end rivers and water bodies were left polluted and no initiative was taken to take care of the waste material.
On 7th February 2021, an unpredicted tragedy happened in Uttarakhand. A massive flood in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand has lead to a massive destruction in the area. The water level went up in Alaknanda and Dhauliganaga rivers followed by an avalanche near Rishiganga Power Project at Raini village. Further the flash flood in the High Himalayas wiped out two hydroelectric power plants in the area. A great loss of money and lives has been caused by the disaster. 13.2 MW Rishiganga hydropower project and 520 WW Tapovan- Vishnugad project went downstream.
With this tragedy a weak-decision making process by the committees can be said. A lot of concerns need to be acknowledged to gain protection from these type of tragedies in future. It is to be noticed that this tragedy had happened in the month of winters which means destruction was limited due to scale of less water. If this type of any tragedy had happened in summer with large amount of water, the destruction remains to be unpredictable.
Further these are some of the over the river projects where water is stored and then released, the natural flow of the river has been affected badly. River should be kept first and then the needs.
Role of Hydroelectric Power Plant
Hydroelectric power plants are used to produce a high amount of kinetic energy from the gravity of the falling water. When the water comes from a high point to a low point, the energy utilised helps to rotate the turbine to produce electricity. The rotation of the turbine comes into action when the following water strikes the blades with a force. So in order to achieve a good amount of kinetic energy, hydroelectric power plants are generally constructed in the hilly areas. Further in the way of river of hilly areas, a dam was generally constructed to create the required force. From this dam the water is allowed to fall in the downward motion. Also with the help of a dam, flow of water is controlled through turbine blades. Thus, turbine rotates when water comes in contact with the blades and hence the alternator rotates.
The advantage of such a hydroelectric power plant is that it does not require any fuel. So it can be considered as clean and efficient way of producing electricity. Moreover it is environment friendly and does not contribute any pollution into the atmosphere.
Hydroelectric Power Plants in Uttarakhand
Recent Chamoli tragedy has lead to the direct damage to the Rishiganga Project downstream in the fragile mountaneous region of Uttarakhand. In 2019, study of journal Science advances claimed that due to rising temperatures because of global warming, the glaciers of Himalayas are melting twice as fast since the beginning of the 21st century. The researchers in their analysis said, “This melting of glaciers has created a potential threat of water supply for hundreds of millions of people in countries including India”.
With the increase in the unstoppable construction of hydel power plants and other sort of activities like road construction has directly affected the climate change. Thus making the area more likely to be hit by vulnerable of earthquakes and cloudburst. Further various reports till 2018 claimed 42 hydel power plants operational and 203 more in a stage of approval. However the Centre had been scrapping some of the projects due to high level protests by the activists. For instance, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) dropped two of their projects proposed on the Ganga river.
However it’s not only the NGOs and activists stopping the Government about these type of projects, but scientists also. In 2019, Earth scientists from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), in a research published about giving a high concern over the Modi Government Rs.12,000-crore project of Char Dham Mahamag Vikas Pari Yojana. The project aims to connect with four pilgrims in the fragile mountainous region. Moreover 2 scientists named as T Siddique and SP Pradhan warned about the inadequate excavation without proper consideration of eco sensitive terrain which may lead to a situation like that of Kedarnath disaster of 2013.So apart from having risks and high costs hydroelectric power plants construction keeps on going.
Humans have entered into the destruction of nature. The more we are taking from the nature, the less we are giving in return, which in total have made us the victims of the climate change and related problems. Further large intervention of the humans for their benefits has increased the probability of natural hazards. Even as per the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel report on climate change, the consequences of our intervention can be clearly seen. The Report stated that Himalaya are under considerable threat due to global warming pressures, atmospheric aerosol pollution and also land use change. The Report also predicted that by 2100, 50% of the Himalayan glaciers are likely to melt away with a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in the average temperature.
Disclaimer: This article is an original submission of the Author. NLR does not hold any liability arising out of this article.