Post the Uttarakhand flash floods that killed nearly 1000 people in the Garhwal hills, activists and politicians are once again debating whether hydro power projects proved fatal for Uttarakhand. The chief minister Vijay Bahuguna has come in support of hydro power projects.
The three under construction hydro power projects - Palamaneri, Bhairoghati and Loharinag Pala on Alaknanda River - were scrapped in the last three years after protests from environmental activists and saints.
Ravi Chopra of People Science Institute (PSI) who has been at the forefront of the anti power project movement, says that power projects - even the run of the river (considered considerably environment friendly) project - are only ravaging the fragile ecology of rivers.
“The eco-sensitive zone that has been notified by the union environment ministry for the 100 kms stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi, proves our point that ecology needs to be protected” Ravi Chopra says.
Matu Jan, another group of activists claims that hydro power projects are ruining the Ganga basin. The group underlines that the water from the upper reaches of Alaknanda Ganga came unannounced and demolished the Vishnuprayag project.
“The Himalayas cannot support big structures. The government and planners must understand the floods as an indication from nature,” says Briharshraj Tadiyal of Matu Jan.
However Avdhash Kaushal of Doon based NGO - RLEK - does not agree with the theory.
“Uttarakhand can stop building dams, but is the rest of the country willing to ensure larger income transfers for the privilege of keeping this hill state in pristine glory?” Kaushal asked.
Kaushal who supports the "run of the river" project claims that Tehri Dam proved futile after the June 16-17 flash floods.
The Tehri Dam authorities also claim that after flash floods water inflow in Tehri dam from Bhagirathi and its tributaries reached about 7000 cumecs(approx 2.50 Lakh cusecs), of which a mere 500 cumecs(approx 17.60 thousand cusecs) was released from the Tehri Dam Reservoir, and the remaining 6500 cumecs of water stored in the reservoir.
Noted environmentalist Sunder Lal Bahuguna, who has had stood against the Tehri Dam project since the 1970’s, sticks to the point that hydro power projects are ultimately going to prove ‘disastrous’ for the state.
Amid all this hullabaloo, chief minister Vijay Bahuguna says he still strongly supports the power projects for the state.
“World over more than 40% energy generated is from hydro power. We are doing an environment impact study of every river, so that we have a ready data base about the environment condition” Bahuguna recently told HT in an interview.
The CM adds that government will focus on commissioning small hydro power projects, so that state becomes power-sufficient in the times to come.