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Small hydro projects not eco-friendly: Study

Statesman (New Delhi), 15th JUne, 2013
 

Small hydro power projects which is considered as an alternative to medium and large power projects built alongside big dam in Uttarakhand and elsewhere in the country are not environment friendly, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

 Experts at a conference in the Capital said that the the power projects which have mushroomed in Uttarakhand are not as 'green' as they are often made out to be. These plants have grown at a rapid pace across India and in the last seven years, one plant coming up every week. "They are promoted by the government as ‘green energy’. But without proper environmental regulations, they are causing major ecological impacts in many places," said Mr Chandra Bhushan,  Deputy Director General, CSE adding that the sector desperately needs to have proper environmental norms.

According to the CSE report, in the last seven years, 366 SHP worth 1,600 MW has been installed in the country. There are more than 300 projects under various stages of implementation with a capacity 1,250 MW.

The CSE report has done a detailed analysis of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. The state has a SHP potential of 1,710 MW. The report says that there are 70 hydro projects under various stages of development on the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda basins in Uttarakhand. Out of these, 40 (worth 180 MW) fall under the small hydro category.

"Together, these projects could ‘affect’ about 70 per cent of the length of two rivers. This means that for 70 per cent of its length, the river will either flow through a tunnel or be impounded as a reservoir," said Mr Bhushan.

Mr Bhushan further said: “We are looking at deforestation done to construct project facilities such as roads, power houses and transmission lines. There is increased soil erosion, disruption of local fauna and flora, disturbance of hill slopes. These plants can leave long stretches of a river dry, and they can affect fish and other aquatic populations adversely.”

Based on energy and tariff analysis, CSE has recommended ‘ecological flow’ norms for all hydropower projects, including SHP, in Uttarakhand. “Our analysis shows that it is economically viable to have uninterrupted ecological flow of 30 per cent during monsoons and 50 per cent during lean season. This will allow our rivers to flow as well as allow sustainable development of SHP ”. Says Bhushan. CSE report has also found that the SHP projects are not even adhering to the minimum environmental norms that exist today. For instance, many project developer do not even obtain a ‘consent to establish or consent to operate’ from the State Pollution Control Board. There are regulations for muck disposal and afforestation however these are never followed.