The glaciers in the Himalayan landscape are not only melting at a faster rate because of climate change, they also pose a threat to the hydro power plants in the region, says a study by the Indian Space Research Organsiation (ISRO)
Dr SP Sen, executive board member of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), says that once the melting increases it would certainly have impact on the hydro-plants. “But, it is very difficult to quantify the amount of effect at this stage. Many factors influence the amount of water flowing into a reservoir. It may be because of more melting of snow or higher rainfall,” he told HT.
The study, ‘Glacier Retreat in Himalayas’, carried out by the ISRO’s Space Application Centre in Ahemdabad, had examined 466 glaciers in Chenab, Parbati and Baspa river basins and had found that the glacier area has gone down from 2,071 square kilometres in 1962 to 1,628 square kilometres in 2006.
In 45 years, 450 square kilometres of glaciers have vanished, meaning that the amount of ice lost is equal to 18 times the size of the city of Shimla. Studies carried out in other glacier zones like Gangotri have detected similar trend of glacier retreat resulting from global warming, a point highlighted in a recent ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ assessment report.
The ISRO study published in Current Science comes at the time when Himachal Pradesh government plans to attract investment worth Rs. 80,000 crore for private hydro power plants on build-operate-transfer basis.
Dr Sen, however, added that the impact of climate change is taken into consideration while planning hydropower projects. “We will have to understand the long term impact. Coming years will be important for hydro projects,” he said.
The study says there is one hydro power plant in Baspa basin and another big project is under construction. In Parbati basin number of small hydro projects are functioning and another bid one is coming up.