Hydro Disaster

India Hydro Power Projects 2020: Violations, Accidents and Corruption

This highlights Disasters, accidents, corruptions and violations taking place in hydro power projects across India in 2020 mostly as reported by media.


Himachal Pradesh UHL hydro project disaster needs independent probe On May 16, 2020, the penstocks of the 100 MW Uhl III project at Lad Bhadol in Mandi in Himchal Pradesh, under testing, burst, leading to flooding of downstream power house. 30 people working at the project were trapped, all were rescued. The power house is about 150 m from the burst point in Chulla village.  https://sandrp.in/2020/05/18/uhl-hydro-project-disaster-needs-independent-probe/  (18 May 2020)

Scam in Uhl-III HEP Mandi MP Ram Swarup Sharma said that a scam had taken place in the purchase of steel pipes for the Uhl-III hydropower project, constructed by Beas Valley Power Corp Ltd, in the Jogindernagar sub-division of Mandi district. He said that a panel of experts organised seven meetings to decide on the purchase of steel pipes but surprisingly awarded the contract to Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) in 2008. He added that the state had already faced huge losses in four other power projects after installing the pipes purchased by the company. He has demanded the state govt to take disciplinary and punitive action on the expert committee constituted by the electricity board. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mandi-mp-smells-scam-in-uhl-iii-hydropower-project/story-iN5Q2M4r4v3D6vsdqbLxBK.html  (12 June 2020)   

Machinery damaged in fire at NHPC Parbati-2 project Serious fire accident and damage took place at NHPC’s Parbati-2 HEP in Kullu district at around 5 am on July 29 after a blast in a machine due to short circuit. The area was engulfed in smoke. At least two engineers fell suffocation. Amount of damage not yet ascertained. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/machinery-damaged-in-fire-at-nhpc-parbati-stage-2-project-in-himachal-s-kullu-district/story-AAX9AkoTNiOgEeeiJpatAL.html   (30 July 2020)

Chamoli Disaster Hydro projects work as force Multipliers in disaster Given below if the text of the presentation made by SANDRP coordinator on Day 1 at the FICCI-NIDM (NIDM: National Institute of Disaster Management; FICCI: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) 3-day training program on Feb 18-20, 2021 on “Resilient Infrastructure in Hilly Areas: Avalanche, GLOF & Debris Flow” in the context of the Chamoli Disaster of Feb 7, 2021. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/26/force-multipliers-in-uttarakhand-disaster/  (26 Feb. 2021)

Tapovan Vishnugad HPP: delays, damages and destructions Reading this chronology of disasters that Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced starting from its environment clearance on Feb 8, 2005 and complete destruction a day before 16th anniversary of the clearance date, there is just one conclusion indicated: Scrap the project. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/20/tapovan-vishnugad-hpp-delays-damages-and-destructions/  (20 Feb. 2021)

Rishiganga HEP: A foretold disaster for River, People & Chipko legacy The disaster is also a wakeup call for the United Nations and its fraudulent Clean Development Mechanism decision making process that end up certifying completely disastrous, unviable and unacceptable projects like the 13.2 MW Rishiganga project as clean development project. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/28/rishiganga-hep-a-foretold-disaster-for-river-people-and-chipko-legacy/  (28 Feb. 2021)  

Blast in Kalpganga HEP killed one, injured five On Aug. 3, 2019, there was blast in the nozzle of turbine of 3 Mw Kalpganga HEP in Salna village of Urgam area in Joshimath causing death of one staff while injuring five others. The incident occurred around 11:45 am when the workers were repairing a fault in the plant. Following the sudden blast the plant was flooded with silt laden water. The force of water current was so strong that a wall of plant was also damaged. https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/chamoli-one-died-during-blast-in-nozzle-of-turbine-19458493.html  (03 Aug. 2019)

Damages to Kalpganga HEP. Image Dainik Jagran.

“Heavy rains in the Helang area had flooded Kalpganga. The water had led to silting in the turbine, rendering the power plant dysfunctional. The workers were clearing the silt when the accident took place,” said a local police officer, who refused to be named. The plant run by UJVNL had been damaged severely in the 2013 and became functional only last year.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/1-dead-5-injured-after-blast-at-joshimath-power-plant/articleshow/70516158.cms  (04 Aug. 20219) 

Jammu& Kashmir Rs 84.41 cr loss due to SEWA-II plant shutdown NHPC had informed that the Sewa-II power station (120 MW) in Kathua district has been under complete shutdown from Sept 25, 2020, to March 31, 2021, for damage of head race tunnel (HRT). “Anticipated financial loss due to shutdown will be Rs 84.41 crore,” a BSE filing said. The shutdown will cause tentative loss of 157.4 million units (MUs) in generation (design energy) and 35.61 per cent in NAPAF (Normative Annual Plant Availability Factor), it had stated. The three generating units of the project were commissioned in June-July 2010.  https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/nhpc-to-suffer-rs-84-41-cr-loss-due-to-sewa-ii-plant-shutdown/78514767  (06 Oct. 2020)

This is due to some damage in its head race tunnel (HRT). https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/nhpc-shuts-120-mw-plant-in-j-k-till-march-21/78418025  (01 Oct. 2020) NHPC was also in the dock over sudden release of water from the hydro projects in J&K.  https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/3857872030907108

Arunachal Pradesh Damages to NHPC’s Subansiri Lower Dam Project The rains in the upstream areas of Arunachal Pradesh intensified the flow of water at the river Subansiri and caused major damages to the NHPC’s under-construction Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project (LSHEP). 

A highly placed source informed that a wave of the river water collapsed the guard wall of the powerhouse: “Following the collapsing of the guard wall, the entire powerhouse was flooded within no time”. The source claimed that the flood water had been flowing above the construction of the main dam that caused devastation in the downstream areas.

Ever since the beginning of monsoon season, the flood had caused major damages to the construction of the NHPC’s project several times. Taking cognizance of the repeated collapse, the indigenous organisations, students’ unions and the conscious natives of the state have been strongly criticising the mega dam and demanding re-examination of the project. https://www.time8.in/flood-causes-major-damages-to-nhpcs-subansiri-lower-dam-project/  (22 July 2020)

Landslide near Subansiri Dam: Image North East Now.

On May 27, people were alarmed as the landslides took place around 200 meters away on the right side from the under-construction mega structure of the 2,000-MW LSHEP dam at Gerukamukh. Cracks were also developed on the hills near the construction site as heavy rains lashed the area for almost a week. Landslides also took away a portion of the road leading to the view point of the dam 300 meters away from the construction site. However, the road has been in abandoned condition as movements to the view point of the dam were closed in 2019. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/landslide-near-subansiri-dam-triggers-panic-along-assam-arunachal-boundary.html  (29 May 2020)

Rina hydel in need of repair, threatens village The Rina mini hydel power station, with an installed capacity of 2,100 kw, commissioned in 2008, if not repaired soon will be a threat to the village, said Rina-Hipo segment Gram Panchayat Chairperson Mardo Rina, and asked the govt to sanction fund for the station which was damaged in Sept 2020 and the year before.

The department stated that civil structures of the plant were damaged by a landslide caused by a cloudburst. The 2020 landslides led to destruction of the newly constructed downstream apron of diversion, the water intake structure, the fore-bay tank, and the retaining wall of the powerhouse. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/02/22/rina-hydel-in-need-of-repair-threatens-village/  (22 Feb. 2021)

Landslide on NHPC’s Teesta V Dam in Sikkim, June 27 2020

Sikkim Landslide on NHPC’s Teesta V project damages the Dam This photo is possibly the worst advertisement for a hydropower project with landslide rocks sitting on top of the dam. A massive landslide reportedly damaged the 55 m high dam of the 510 MW Teesta Hydropower Project of NHPC, possibly in late hours on June 26, 2020 or early hours of June 27, 2020. This is a major blow to NHPC, considered India’s premier hydropower company.  https://sandrp.in/2020/06/27/landslide-on-nhpcs-teesta-v-project-in-sikkim-damages-the-dam/  (27 June 2020)

There was a repeat incident at this project for the second time in the same monsoon. Another video dated 23 Sept. 2020 shows there was landslide in the area following heavy rainfall disrupting the traffic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_ZqyyhoyQI (23 Sept. 2020)

Telangana Srisailam hydro project disaster of Aug 2020 In a fire disaster at Srisailam Left Bank Hydropower Project in Telangana on Krishna River that struck at 10:30 pm on Aug 20, 2020, nine people died. This article, while providing some details of this tragedy, also gives some other instances where fire disasters have struck at other hydropower projects in India.

The biggest such incident happened at Russia in Aug 2009, the same year that Srisailam experienced its biggest disaster, though of different kind on Oct 2. The underlying theme of such disasters is our total disinterest in learning any lessons from such disasters. https://sandrp.in/2020/08/21/srisailam-hydro-project-disaster-of-aug-2020/  (21 Aug. 2020)

-The fire in the underground hydroelectric power station came after multiple red flags were raised about the poor maintenance of accompanying structures, including the structural integrity of the dam itself, on which the plant is built. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/hyderabad/telangana-powerhouse-fire-srisailam-dam-death-toll-6564812/  (22 Aug. 2020)

Non-functioning of Srisailam hydro project caused an estimated loss of Rs. 350 crore revenue for the TS power utility in the 66 days. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2020/oct/28/srisailam-plant-stares-at-revenue-loss-of-rs-350-crore-after-fire-mishap-2215815.html  (28 Oct. 2020)


Himachal Pradesh 4 NHPC, BHEL officials held for Rs 1.2cr theft in hydel project Four officials of NHPC and Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) have been booked in connection with theft of 58 metallic bars costing Rs 1.23 cr from a store of Parbati hydroelectric power project in Kullu, police said. A senior manager of NHPC on Sept 28, 2018, had lodged a complaint with Banjar police station of Kullu that the bars had been stolen from the store of their Bihali power house.

Ram Kumar, resident of Chattisgarh, who is assistant manager in Parbati-III HEP, Pranav Kumar, resident of UP who is a manager in a project in Uttarakhand; Nayan Kumar, a resident of UP who is an assistant manager with a project in J&K; and Rahul Srivastava, a resident of UP who is a duty engineer with BHEL; had been booked under sections 420, 467, 468 and 120B of IPC on Feb 28, 2021. “The accused have been arrested. Two other accused, including the senior manager who complained and a store in-charge, have been granted interim bail. Investigation is continuing,” police said.  https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/himachal-pradesh-4-nhpc-bhel-officials-held-for-rs-1-2cr-theft-in-hydel-project/81265599  (01 March 2021)

Jammu & Kashmir CBI begins preliminary probe into Rs 9K cr hydro project CBI started preliminary enquiry into allotment of the Rs 9,000 crore hydro power project in J&K, allegedly done by flouting all central government guidelines governing such allotments, according to top sources. The proposed 1,540 MW Kiru hydro power project is to be completed in two stages, with stage one costing Rs 4,948.26 crore and stage two Rs 4,287.59 crore. The complaint being probed by the CBI alleged that the Chenab Valley Power Projects (CVPPL) allotted the project in grave violation of rules and guidelines, and was done under the influence of some top bureaucrats, top sources said. The CVPPL allotted the project for execution to a joint venture company.

– The CVPPL board of directors had cancelled the tender process with specific reasons. “A powerful lobby within the J&K administration forced the corporation for re-allotment of the cancelled tender after over-ruling resistance from within the board. A senior bureaucrat who recorded his dissenting note against re-allotment was transferred on Jan 3, 2020,” said the complaint. After cancelling the tender process, the board had no legal authority to re-allot it and that too through a manual process, it has been alleged. “Even when the process of re-allotment of cancelled tender was marred by violations and irregularities, the authorities released a huge amount as mobilisation advance to the beneficiary company,” says the complaint. The CBI has been requested in the complaint to seize records with regard to the tender evaluation and re-allotment to prevent those involved from tampering or destroying them. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/cbi-begins-preliminary-probe-into-rs-9000-cr-hydro-power-project-in-jk/77324115   (03 Aug. 2020)


Uttarakhand Implementation of Ganga E flows: All projects violating even tokenistic norms A review of the Central Water Commission (CWC) monitoring reports of all four quarters of 2019 reveals that all the eleven projects that were being monitored in Ganga basin have violated the mandatory Environment flows notification in each of the four quarters of 2019 at some time or the other. The reports are of poor quality with CWC forgetting which states are in Ganga basin and even relative location of the projects. NMCG’s E-flow norms are flawed and absolutely minimalist, but even they are being violated by almost all projects one way or the other. And there are no consequences so far even after the norms become legally mandatory from Dec 15, 2019. https://sandrp.in/2020/03/19/implementation-of-nmcgs-ganga-river-e-flows-in-2019-all-projects-violating-minimalist-norms/  (19 March 2020)

Hydro projects violating Ganga flows norms At least 4 of the 11 projects on Ganga mandated to release minimalist flows are flouting norms, says a report by the Central Water Commission (CWC). The non-compliant ones are: Maneri Bhali-2, Vishnuprayag Hydroelectric project, Srinagar Hydroelectric project and the Pashulok barrage project. “After monsoon period many of the projects are not meeting the mandated e-flows,” the CWC report says. Power company GVK, which runs the Srinagar project, has challenged the e-flow notification in the Uttarakhand High court. D.P. Mathuria, a senior official in the National Mission for Clean Ganga, said the government would be sending notices to the offending companies. Violating the e-flow norms can mean closure of the project or a hefty fine but the government isn’t contemplating such action yet.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/four-hydro-projects-violate-ganga-flow-norms-cwc/article30695064.ece  (31 Jan. 2020) This investigation highlights the opacity of CWC & that government minimum water flow standards for the Ganga are far too low to sustain the river & its people.  https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/2020/03/24/hydro-projects-flout-rules-to-maintain-minimum-ganga-flow/  (24 March 2020)

Vyasi Hydro is draining muck and Rs. 40 lakh geo jute work into Yamuna With information from local people, this report exposes how the under construction Vyasi Hydro Project on Yamuna River in Uttarakhand constructed muck dumping site on the river bed against all norms, then spent lakhs to cover it with jute, which got washed away in the first rains on June 20, 2020. The muck has been flowing down into the river, affecting the river and people, but for all these violations, known to the EAC and MoEF, UJVNL gets decorated with recommendation for clearance for Lakhwar dam, just upstream! https://sandrp.in/2020/06/24/vyasi-hydro-is-draining-muck-and-rs-40-lakh-geo-jute-work-into-yamuna/  (24 June 2020)

Lacking proper monitoring & poor compliance, hydro projects continue to violate norms right before, during & after their construction. Here under construction Vyasi HEP tunnel muck again spilling into Yamuna river at Hathiyari, Dehradun. https://twitter.com/Indian_Rivers/status/1343188469732892672?s=20  (24 Dec. 2020)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

3 thoughts on “India Hydro Power Projects 2020: Violations, Accidents and Corruption

  1. Your report gives an idea about the gross carelessness of both government agencies and people, one has forced its eyes shut while rampant corruption is on while the other is inching towards its own disaster, encroaching on water bodies.
    Most cities use dying water bodies as landfill sites to raise buildings later on, in order to meet new demands, while completely forgetting where will the water come from for its inhabitants..
    Another angle was raised in Haryana when builders were asked not to use underground water for building towers.
    I guess, such chain of events have no solution in case of over populated country. If only consciousness have something to tell us.


  2. Report about hydro projects disaster 8s half truth. There may be misappropriations in building up and in allotment of the projects but it’s not true that hydro development has become a source of disaster. You require fresh air and electricity round the clock how it is possible in both cases.
    Mind it , if bhakta was not built our country could not have a sufficient food grains and enough water to drink.
    Third world war will be fought for drinking water and if we don’t have enough storage capacity it will not take much time to happen.
    It’s very easy to make critics of any development, but to create it requires lot of efforts .


    1. Sir, There is little doubt that hydro power projects, both under construction and operation phase are increasingly becoming source of disasters and are acting as force multipliers in disasters. They are not even economically viable now. They actually reduce water recharge also. Bhakra is an entirely different story than what we are made to believe, but we need to ensure optimal benefits from existing projects while avoiding disastrous projects in future.


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