Almost a year after 24 engineering students from Hyderabad drowned in the swirling current of the Beas when a hydroelectric dam released water in the river without any warning, the Himachal government has now instructed all hydropower plants in the state to deploy search and rescue personnel downstream of the reservoirs to deal with emergencies.
The move follows a review of safety measures taken by dams by the energy directorate after the water level in reservoirs began to rise due to melting of glaciers. The government has asked hydropower stations to strictly comply with the instructions to ensure the safety of those residing in areas close to and downstream of reservoirs as well as visitors. The prime objective is to instil confidence among the public as also to protect public property and safeguard the huge capital investments made on power projects.
Experts have underlined the need for proper planning, selection of suitable sites and analysis of hydrological data before setting up hydropower stations. “There should be in-built safeguards to ensure stability for a hundred years. There has to be proper quality control and materials used in construction should conform to specifications,” said an energy department official.
The experts also stressed upon installing proper warning systems at all hydel plants apart from fencing in hazardprone areas, particularly along river stretches frequented by both visitors and locals.
“The need to conduct mock drills and station rescue teams along river banks was also emphasised. Dam employees should be regularly updated with safety norms,” the official said.