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Hydel projects in Himalayan states being planned, built without due diligence

By Shankar Sharma

A series of news items in the last few days, which have focused on the floods and droughts associated with the weather events across China, Pakistan, Europe, and India, have highlighted some of the risks and costs to the global communities from the weather  uncertainties.
  As a summary, it can be stated with certainty that the rainfall pattern will more than likely not follow any regular pattern, and the inflows in a river, especially into dams, will be an issue of serious concerns in the overall management of the dams related issues, and of water availability to the dependent communities.  As a corollary, the operation of hydel power stations will be subjected to a lot more uncertainties than previously unknown so far, which makes it a lot more difficult in the management of electricity generation from such power stations.  Hence, it should become evidently clear that to rely more on hydel power in the changed climate conditions, will not only be risky for the overall management of the power system, but will be a lot more costly and risky to the local communities.
In this larger context, it should have become obvious to our policy makers to desist  from building more of such dam based hydel power plants.  But many additional hydel projects in Himalayan states, such as the one in Dungarin Himachal, are being planned and built in our country without due diligence, and without taking such credible risks into objective account, even though they are not essential to out power system management, and are of unacceptably high societal costs.  It will be hard to estimate the consequences of costs and risks to the project impacted communities and to the country as a whole, it suffice to say that they will be massive as compared to the meager benefits, especially in the context that new and renewable electricity sources such as solar and wind power along with energy storage battery systems are not only eminently suitable but are of least cost to the society. 
Those of us who are working to preserve rivers, from across the country should consider coming together and start arguing against the very need for hydel power plants in view of the better alternatives such as Solar, wind biomass, and energy storage batteries.  At the ongoing pace of adding hydel power plants, we may not be left with any free flowing river stretch soon, which can only mean unimaginable consequences to our people.  People familiar with the costs and benefits of hydel power plants, can provide many credible arguments in this context.
In this larger context, multiple dam based hydel projects being planned in Karnataka should be of serious concern to its people.
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*Power & Climate Policy Analyst based in Karnataka 

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