Heavy damage to two hydel projects at the epicentre
Massive floods caused by a glacier breach in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli on Sunday washed away the under-construction Rishiganga hydro project and caused heavy damage to the 530MW Dhauliganga hydel project, officials aware of the developments said.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), under the chairmanship of cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, met on Sunday to review the Chamoli flooding disaster likely caused by a glacial lake outburst. The incident led to the rising of water levels in river Rishiganga, washing away the Rishiganga small hydro project of 13.2MW, according to a note shared by NCMC.
The floods also affected the downstream hydro project of NTPC at Tapovan on the river Dhauliganga, which is a tributary of River Alaknanda, according to people aware of the developments. The force of the water and boulders rolling down from the upper reaches near Raini village completely washed away the under-construction Rishiganga and the debris from there gushed into the Dhauli Ganga river, causing heavy damage to the 530 MW Dhauliganga hydel project, just 10km away.
“The river was flowing 10-15 metres above its normal level and took everything along. Only a few concrete structures on the banks remain of the Rishi Ganga hydel project,” said Dhan Singh Rawat, who rushed out of his house in Raini village after hearing a huge explosion.
Uttarkhand disaster relief force spokesperson Alok Raven said that the rescue teams initially recovered two bodies from the Dhauliganga hydel power project.
Vivek Pandey, a spokesperson for the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police, confirmed that while the Rishiganga hydropower plant was destroyed, the Dhauliganga hydropower plant was damaged.
He said at least 42 workers got trapped inside two tunnels at the Dhauliganga plant. While 12 workers trapped inside one tunnel were rescued, at least 30 others were still stuck inside the other tunnel, he added. Another 170 workers at the two plants were missing, Pandey said.
About two years ago, residents of Raini village told the Uttarakhand high court that the construction of Rishiganga hydel project could cause damage to those living in the area. In the summer of 2019, villagers filed a public interest litigation in the court, which directed the district magistrate Chamoli and member secretary state pollution control board to constitute a joint team to inspect the Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project site with regard to allegations about the impact on the environment and local people.