Dam Disaster

Hydro Power Projects, Dams Accidents & Damages in 2021

Feature Image:- NDRF team search at Tapovan Vishnugad barrage as rescue operations continue. Source: Business Standard

Hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in India have been causing avoidable accidents and amplifying disaster potential, thus damaging the rivers eco-system, local environment and lives & livelihoods of communities. There have been several of such incidents across the country in 2021. In this report we put together a state wise account of most such incidents. 

HIMACHAL PRADESH Shanan HEP powerhouse flooded after pipe burst The powerhouse of the 110MW Shanan hydroelectric project in Jogindernagar in Mandi district was flooded with high water flow after a huge bypass pipe connecting penstock burst on April 17, 2021. While power generation was stalled for many hours, the situation was brought in control by the midnight. The valve of the penstock was closed and water was drained out till April 18 morning.

The waterlogged powerhouse at Shanan project in Mandi. The Tribune

Project superintending engineer Harish Sharma said the incident happened during testing when valve of one of the penstocks was opened and a bypass pipe burst while creating required pressure. “There was no loss to human life and nobody was injured. Power generation was affected for 13 hours. We are testing all the machines one by one. Machine number three and four may have suffered some damages,” he said.

As water flow remains low these days, the project can produce maximum of 45 MW power. Sharma said as the project was old, the erosion in the pipes from inside may have decreased the thickness of the metal. “We shall soon scan all the pines and machines for erosion. The whole project is to be renovated soon and we have already initiated the process,” he said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/110mw-shanan-project-powerhouse-flooded-after-pipe-burst/articleshow/82134805.cms  (19 April 2021) Resident Engineer Daljeet Singh told The Tribune that water leakage from the pipe forced them to stop power generation. He said the fault was likely to be rectified in a day or two. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/pipe-bursts-at-mandi-project-generation-hit-241001  (19 April 2021)

On July 17 2020, a similar incident had happened in 100MW Uhl HEP stage-III in Jogindernager when one of the penstock pipes of the project had burst during its commissioning and caused flooding in the powerhouse. The incident had left 20 employees trapped there for hours & the power generation was stopped. https://sandrp.in/2020/05/18/uhl-hydro-project-disaster-needs-independent-probe/

Death & disaster at NHPC Parvati II HEP In a tragic incident, 4 labourers were killed and one was injured after part of an under construction tunnel of NHPC’s Parbati-2 hydropower project collapsed around 5.40 on May 21, 2021. This happened at Pancha Nalla in the Garsa (Bhuntar) Valley of Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district. The accident happened when the labourers were doing drilling work in the 600m-long diversion tunnel (a sub tunnel of the main 31.52 km long tunnel. This description shows signs of neglect of NHPC & the contractors. https://sandrp.in/2021/05/22/deaths-and-disaster-at-nhpcs-parbati-ii-hydro-project/ (22 May 2021)

Seema Sharma writes for Third Pole on the incident and impacts of other ongoing hydro projects in Himachal: Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of NGO the SANDRP, told The Third Pole: “Several such accidents at HEP sites and incidents of loss of lives and property have been happening in the Himalayan region due to landslides, massive soil erosion, illegal muck dumping, slope cutting etc, all triggered by these projects. But there is no central and state authority or monitoring mechanism in place. No punitive action is taken against HEP companies for their negligence.” https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/another-tragedy-raises-ire-at-hydro-projects-in-himachal-pradesh/  (23 June 2021) 

9 killed after boulder crashes into tourist vehicle in Kinnaur 9 people — 8 tourists and their driver — were killed after a boulder racing down a hill during a landslide smashed into their tempo traveller in Sangla valley of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh on July 25, 2021. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/nine-dead-landslide-himachal-pradesh-kinnaur-sangla-7421782/  (26 July 2021)

The Kinnaur district witnessed several landslides in 2021 raising concerns over mindless “development” projects including Hydropower projects, indiscriminate building of roads in mountains, blasting, tunnelling, mining, dumping of waste into the rivers and valleys, deforestation, building townships, all without any credible impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance. https://sandrp.in/2021/08/16/drp-nb-16-august-2021-landslides-in-himachal-worsened-due-to-mindless-development-projects (16 Aug 2021)

Massive diversion of the rivers viz Sutlej, Baspa and its tributaries, cutting and flattening of the land, tunnel boring, blasting, hollowing of the mountains,  diversion of the forest lands, movement of heavy machines and even dumping of the debris tonnes along the river beds and fields are some of the activities bound to destabilise the ecology and biodiversity in Kinnaur. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-why-are-himachal-mountains-crumbling-down-experts-speak/390054  (31 July 2021)

Kinnaur villages’ people are saying that the work on the tunnel excavations is causing major landslides & their lives are at continuous threat. https://thedailyguardian.com/kinnaur-people-protest-as-hydro-project-induced-landslides-become-frequent/  (04 Aug. 2021)

Kinnaur has been hit by several landslides, the last such incident happened on August 11. Villagers blame the hydropower dams and have reignited their protests against these projects. https://en.gaonconnection.com/himachal-pradesh-kinnaur-landslide-hydro-power-projects-water-trees-environment-himalayas-climate-change-floods/  (12 Aug. 2021)

Many activists and villagers of Kinnaur and neighbouring areas have said in their protests that the spate of hydro projects, whether under construction, planned or proposed on the Sutlej, by some estimates stated to be over 100, are quite beyond the carrying capacity of the river and the region, and will ruin the beautiful river by converting it into a long series of tunnels and reservoirs. https://www.thestatesman.com/opinion/fragile-hills-need-to-be-left-alone-1502993657.html  (12 Aug. 2021)

In a State where hydro power projects, dams and construction activities are increasing, landslides too are becoming common. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-rumbling-hills-of-himachal-pradesh/article36023130.ece  (21 Aug. 2021)

HIMDHARA’s interactive timeline plotting accidents in & around hydropower sites in Himachal. Key problem: wrong siting, poor EIAs, safety violations & negligence in a fragile landscape being devastated due to the push for growth. https://www.himdhara.org/hydropower/interactive-timeline-the-clean-energy-hazardscape/

Urni village in Kinnaur district has become an example of how disasters have increased due to hydro projects. Urni is situated on a steep rock on the right bank of the river Sutlej. In the local language it is called Dhak. Landslides have been active here for almost a decade and a half ever since the construction of 1091 MW Karcham Wangtu HEP started in early 2000s. The project has 4 tunnels passing just below this village. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/natural-disasters/flood/ground-report-from-himachal-a-village-destroyed-by-hydro-power-project-79785  (20 Oct. 2021)

Landslide DAM on Chenab Google Earth imagery shows scars of several landslips, landslide along the river in the past. The incident reveals how vulnerable is Chenab valley to such disasters where series of hydro power projects are planned on Chenab and key tributaries like Meyar, Chandra, Bhaga rivers.

Raj Bhagat P “Illustration drawn on Google Earth shows debris & barrier lake that has formed upstream. There are few villages downstream -evacuated but some bridges could be lost if lake bursts” https://twitter.com/rajbhagatt/status/1426440669699080196?s=20&t=NV-sbI6kqaqp1zIMejOqtQ

The site of the proposed 102 MW Rashil hydro project lies about 6 km upstream to the landslide lake site. Currently there is 4.5 MW Thirot hydro project in operation on a right bank tributary of Chenab about 7 km downstream. The other proposed hydro projects can be seen in the map. https://sandrp.in/2021/08/14/landslide-dam-on-chenab-river-in-himachal-pradesh/  (14 Aug. 2021)

“As many as 16 mega and 30 micro power projects are proposed in Lahaul & Spiti at different locations on the banks of Chenab and other rivers in the area, which will only bring doom to the area if these projects are executed,” Sudarshan Jaspa, president of Lahaul Spiti Ekta Manch remarked. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/lahaul-residents-oppose-power-projects-on-chenab-river-basin-301191  (24 Aug. 2021)

Cloud Bursts in Monsoon 2021 The media reports show that HP has seen at least 30 cloud burst incident in 2021 out of which 12 took place in pre-monsoon months of May and June and 18 during south west monsoon months.

At least four HEPs including Brahmaganga, Bane-Sangam, Tiroth, Chamera II have faced minor or major impacts but report detailing damages and official confirmation is not available in public domain. The disaster might have affected more hydro projects as most of the cloud bursts have happened around various built or under construction HEP locations. Given proliferation of hydro projects in most of river valleys, cloud burst disaster has become significant threat to structural safety of these projects endangering lives of local people.   https://sandrp.in/2021/10/21/himachal-pradesh-cloud-bursts-in-monsoon-2021/ (21 Oct 2021)

399 persons have died since June 13, as many as 54 persons lost their lives in landslides, 10 in cloudburst and flash floods, one in lightning while 33 were drowned from June 13 to Sept. 17, 2021. The state suffered a total loss of Rs 1,035.51 crore and 12 roads, including Shimla-Mandi highway and Shimla-Kinnaur highway, were blocked. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/rains-likely-to-last-till-early-october-in-himachal-312331 (17 Sep 2021)

Leakages in Bajoli Holi HEP tunnel The leakages in Bajoli Holi HEP tunnel during testing on Dec. 27, 2021 night caused landslips and damages to some houses and common properties. The ground above the tunnel developed cracks creating panic among villagers who were forced to spend a sleepless night. Fear has increased among the villagers of Jharauta. The victims said that they had visited the spot in the presence of company officials. https://www.divyahimachal.com/2021/12/ground-cracks-due-to-leakage-in-tunnel-panic-among-villagers-due-to-testing-of-bajoli-holi-hydro-project-in-bharmour/  (29 Dec. 2021)

This video report says Bajoli Holi HEP tunnel in Jharauta village of Chamba district has been leaking continuously for over a week causing landslips and damages to homes, village properties.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PpUy6uvDNQ  (03 Jan. 2022)

Activists have questioned the seepages from the 180 MW Bajoli-Holi power project at Jharauta village in tribal Bharmaur that triggers landslides, damage to homes. The fact finding report prepared by the NGO “Himdhara Environment Research and Action collective” after a visit to the area on Jan 3-4, 2022 stated that villagers had warned of poor geology during project planning. While releasing the report, the NGO said this is not a first of its kind incident, these hazards are occurring at every stage of the project – during the construction, due to intensive blasting, during the testing and then long after commissioning.

The NGO said that close to two weeks after, the seepages and resultant landslides continued even as no substantial action was taken by the project authorities or the local administration. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/green-activists-now-raise-red-flag-over-hydel-power-project-in-chamba-dist/articleshow/88924178.cms  (16 Jan. 2022)

HIMDHARA report says that as per local testimonies, people first noticed the seepage on the left side of the village on Dec 19. After that more seepage appeared, triggering a landslide, even as cracks started showing up. The seepage was present when the team reached the spot. Subsequently, three families had to be evacuated. On the same day, a committee headed by the Nayab Tehsildar was set up by the administration to assess the damages. Angry Jharauta residents demanded that the project work be immediately shut down and a team of safety experts be sent to the area. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/tunnel-testing-triggered-seepage-landslides-in-chamba-village-report-101642280235273-amp.html  (16 Jan. 2022)

HIMDHARA said that the Directorate of Energy should send a team of safety experts to the site of seepage from the tunnel of the Bajoli Holi HEP, which was damaging the houses of villagers. Citing a 2015 study of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), Negi said that 56 % of the power projects in Himachal faced a serious threat of landslide hazards. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/send-safety-team-to-tunnel-seepage-site-govt-urged-361659  (16 Jan. 2022)

UTTARAKHAND Factors that worsen the Chamoli Disasters Abstract: While Uttarakhand is vulnerable to disasters, climate change is increasing these vulnerabilities. Major human interventions like hydropower projects and highways implemented without an informed or democratic decision-making process act as force multipliers during such disasters. The violations of legal and other prudent norms in their implementation further increase the damages. The absence of necessary monitoring, early warning systems and the overall disaster management system add another layer of damages during the disasters. The lack of the ability to learn lessons from disasters and lack of any accountability ensures the perpetuation of the situation. https://sandrp.in/2021/03/18/the-factors-that-worsen-the-uttarakhand-disasters/  (18 March 2021)

Force Multipliers in Uttarakhand disaster Given below is 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 & destructions The tragic Chamoli flash flood episode has hugely damaged two HPPs: the operating 13.2 MW Rishiganga at Raini village and under construction 520 MW Vishnugad Tapovan about 8 km downstream. While the Rishiganga project is located in para glacial zone about 2000 meters above sea level, Tapovan Barrage FRL is 1803 m. Experts have been raising alarm bells including their structural safety since the beginning. But these concerns have been brushed under the carpet by the developers and government agencies.  https://sandrp.in/2021/02/20/tapovan-vishnugad-hpp-delays-damages-and-destructions/  (20 Feb. 2021)

Rishiganga HEP: A foretold disaster The February 7 2021 Chamoli deluge has completely destroyed Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project (HEP). The 13.2 MW run of the river project has also become graveyard for over 50 innocent workers and villagers. The damages to homes, bridges, forest and river eco-system is additional which cannot be restored easily.

In fact, the disaster is among the threats against which experts and locals had been warning the authorities repeatedly. Sadly, the past history of struggles and destruction shows that not only the state government but the judiciary also failed to address the pleas of locals and assess the disaster risks in a timely manner. https://sandrp.in/2021/02/28/rishiganga-hep-a-foretold-disaster-for-river-people-and-chipko-legacy/  (28 Feb. 2021)  

80 bodies were recovered and 204 people continue to be missing following Feb 7 Chamoli disaster, Lok Sabha was informed on July 20. Most of the human casualties took place inside Tapovan Vishnugad project tunnel and at barrage site. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parliament-proceedings-80-dead-204-missing-after-feb-7-avalanche-in-uttarakhand-govt-informs-lok-sabha/article35421784.ece  (20 July 2021)

Migrant Workers Most Vulnerable to Himalayan Disasters Rishika Pardikar raises right questions, there is absolutely no attempt to protect the rights of the migrant or local workers. https://www.ecowatch.com/himalayan-disaster-migrants-2652503182.html (12 Apr 2021)

Tapovan-Vishnugad HPP after Chamoli Disaster The Tapovan-Vishnugad having proved a recipe for disaster during Chamoli deluge on Feb 7, 2021, continues to jeopardize the local environment & play havoc with the lives & livelihoods of people in Joshimath area. Moreover, given the scale of destruction and looming threats, the project would not see completion possibly even in another decade. Despite all this, the developers, state & central govts are pretending to overlook the writing on the wall and blindly pursuing the unviable project. https://sandrp.in/2021/08/23/ntpcs-tapovan-vishnugad-hpp-after-chamoli-disaster/ (23 Aug 2021)

The 24 July 2021 landslide at the Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric scheme in Uttarakhand, India. Image from Science the Wire.

On 17-18 Jun 2021 Raini was affected by devastating floods, which destroyed the lower part of village. On 24 Jul 2021 substantial landslide hit Tapovan Vishnugad HEP at site of tunnel portal near to Selang village. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/07/30/tapovan-vishnugad/  (30 July 2021)

Feb 7 incident, according to a report by geologists from the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Initiative submitted to the Chamoli dist magistrate in July, has destabilised Raini village. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/uttarakhands-raini-village-declared-unstable-and-unsuitable-for-habitation-101627995151451.html  (3 Aug. 2021)

The landslide at Tapovan Vishnugad power house tunnel below Selang village is still active https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=4658530290891483&id=100002036746060 (9 Dec 2021)

Uttarakhand State Disaster Management officials served a show cause notice for highlighting lack of early warning system as major reason behind human casualties during Feb 2021 Chamoli Disaster. https://www.etvbharat.com/hindi/uttarakhand/state/chamoli/notice-issued-to-research-team-for-citing-weak-weather-early-warning-system-as-reason-for-raini-disaster/uttarakhand20211229182251914  (29 Dec. 2020)

7 HEPs ‘vulnerable’ to damage from disasters RMSI, a global disaster risk management firm said in its advisory dated Feb 11, 2021 that although this event damaged two hydropower projects, many other hydropower projects are vulnerable to natural disasters caused by floods, cloud bursts, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), avalanches, landslides, and rockslides, in the Himalayan region. The advisory lists Vishnuprayag (400 MW) on Alaknanda; Tehri (1000 MW) on Bhagirathi; Vishnugad Pipalkoti (444 MW) on Alaknanda; Naitwari-Mori (60 MW) on Tons; Phata Byung (76 MW) on Mandakini and Singoli Bhatwari (99 MW) also on Mandakini, Lata Tapovan (171 MW) on Dhauli Ganga. Each of these projects costs ₹7 to 8 crore per MW.

– “RMSI applied its understanding of the Uttarakhand geography with its machine learning-based models for landslide and avalanche and hydrodynamic models for flood and GLOF to do a quick review of the hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. We found several of them at risk from these hazards,” said Pushpendra Johari, senior vice president sustainability, RMSI. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/7-hydel-projects-vulnerable-to-damage-from-disasters-101615400975589.html  (11 March 2021)

Aging Bhimtal Dam Raising Serious Safety Concerns All is not well with Bhimtal dam in Nainital district. On March 8, 2021 morning, the fillers from its protection wall wobbled out. It sparked panic among local residents living near the largest lake of Kumaon region. For past couple of years they have been concerned about the structural safety of the aging dam. The 138 years old dam has already been in news for vertical cracks and recurring seepages. https://sandrp.in/2021/04/01/uttarakhand-aging-bhimtal-dam-raising-serious-safety-concerns/ (1 Apr 2021)

Irrigation canal damaged after leakage in Maneri Bhali HRT A part of Margao’s irrigation canal collapsed after heavy leakage from the Head Race Tunnel (HRT) of the 304 MW Maneri Bhali Stage II project. The incident also caused deep cracks in surrounding farmlands  creating panic among Margaon, Chamiyari villagers who demanded project managers to treat the tunnel at the earliest and repair the irrigation canal.

मनेरी भाली स्टेज टू परियोजना की सुरंग से रिसाव – फोटो : अमर उजाला

The project was completed in 2008. It has a 16 km long tunnel from Joshiada Barrage to Dharasu Power House. Even during the commissioning, the tunnel faced leakage problems. For the last three months, there was leakage from this tunnel in Gamri Gad near Margaon. The leakage increased since the commencement of power generation at full load from all the four turbines of 76 MW at Dharasu Power House on May 21. https://www.amarujala.com/dehradun/maneri-bhali-stage-two-project-portion-of-irrigation-canal-razed-due-to-leakage-from-tunnel-villagers-in-panic  (28 May 2021)  https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/story-chamoli-jaise-aapda-ka-uttarkashi-mein-khatra-maneri-bhali-hydro-power-project-phase-two-tunnel-leak-dharasu-power-project-uttarkashi-4069028.html  (28 May 2021)

Worker’s death at 120 MW Vyasi HEP On April 15 a labour working in Vyasi hydro power project fell to his death at Hathiyari the location of power station. They allege lack of adequate safety gears and the work has reportedly been stopped since then. Workers say that despite repeated pleas companies and UJVNL not providing safety gears to labour and there are many vulnerable spots posing threat to their life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRJYWlws1t0  (18 April 2021) https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/dehradun-city-post-martum-offter-mla-interfare-21565600.html  (17 April 2021) https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/dehradun-city-the-farmers-cleaned-the-premises-on-tuesday-21448412.html  (10 March 2021)

2 workers missing from Chhibro power house tunnel Two workers engaged in whitewashing work in Chhibro Power House tunnel in Vikas Nagar, Dehradun, are missing since July 17. Police and SDRF teams are searching for the missing workers. The relatives of the workers created a ruckus outside the gate of the power house. They alleged that UJVNL and the contractor did not provide safety kits to the workers. https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/dehradun-city-two-workers-who-went-to-work-in-the-tunnel-of-chhibro-power-house-missing-21842083.html  (18 July 2021) https://www.amarujala.com/dehradun/uttarakhand-news-two-laborers-working-in-chhibrau-hydroelectric-tunnel-of-kalsi-missing  (18 July 2021) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-JcuImRqNE

Cloud Bursts in Uttarakhand during SW Monsoon 2021 There were at least 26 cloud burst incidents across 9 districts of Uttarakhand during south west monsoon months of 2021. These are in addition to the 24 such incidents in pre-monsoon month of May 2021. While cloud burst induced landslides and heavy rainfall have damaged Chardham All Weather Road project at several locations, the resultant flash floods have also affected areas, infrastructure around 4 hydro power projects of Dhauliganga in Pithoragarh (Aug 30), Vyasi HEP (Aug 26) in Dehradun, Maneri Bhali (Jul 19) in Uttarakashi and Tapovan Vishnugad (Jun 23) in Joshimath Chamoli. https://sandrp.in/2021/10/12/uttarakhand-cloud-bursts-in-sw-monsoon-2021/ (12 Oct 2021)

Cloud Bursts around Vyasi HEP On Aug 25-27, 2021 most of hilly districts in Uttarakhand witnessed intense rainfall events causing widespread destruction. Media reports and local people suggest at least 7 cloud burst incidents in quick succession over Binhar range in Pacchawadoon & Mussoorie hills dividing Ganga and Yamuna basins in Dehradun dist. The resultant deluge has also affected the under construction Vyasi HEP areas in Vikas Nagar tehsil highlighting that the project is unprepared to cope with existing & emerging disasters. https://sandrp.in/2021/09/17/uttarakhand-cloud-bursts-around-vyasi-hep/ (17 Sep 2021)

Disaster around NHPC’s Dhauliganga project There were at least two cloud burst incidents and landslides leading to human casualties and much of devastation on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border. Several buildings at Tapovan colony of NHPC Ltd were also flooded due to formation of an artificial lake across Kali river.

Artificial lake on Kali river just downstream NHPC, Tapovan colony. (Image source: Dainik Jagran)

The incident has once again proven how vulnerable are the hydro power projects and associated infrastructures to increasing disasters in geologically unstable region in changing climate. Meanwhile, NHPC has publicly shared no information on the disaster impact, damages and losses which shows it continues to function in non-transparent, unaccountable, irresponsible manner.   https://sandrp.in/2021/09/27/uttarakhand-disaster-around-nhpcs-dhauliganga-hydropower-project/  (27 Sept. 2021)

A large portion of Tawaghat-Sobla-Darma road at Chirkila, the dam site of Dhauliganga HEP was submerged in the dam. https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/pithoragarh-part-of-tawaghat-sobla-darma-road-broken-21970783.html  (28 Aug. 2021)

J&K, LADAKH According to media reports there have been 14 cloud burst incidents in J&K (12) and Ladakh (2) during south west monsoon season 2021. The cloud burst at Kiru, Sangrah have damaged Kiru HEP road in Kishtwar and a mini hydro project in Kargil. The Aug 2 cloud burst happened in Upper Sind HEP area, there is no information of its impact on the project. https://sandrp.in/2021/11/04/monsoon-2021-cloud-bursts-in-jammu-kashmir-and-ladakh/ (4 Nov 2021)

ARUNACHAL PRADESH  Rina hydel in need of repair 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, & asked the govt to sanction fund for the station which was damaged in Sep 2020 & the year before.

The hydel power station (L) and the intake point (R). Arunachal Times

The department stated that civil structures of the plant were damaged by a landslide caused by a cloudburst in the area. 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. The department had already written to the government for funds for repairing all segments of the plant. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/02/22/rina-hydel-in-need-of-repair-threatens-village/  (22 Feb. 2021)

Landslide damages Subbung HEP power channel Heavy rainfall has raised the water level of the rivers in Siang district, and various circles in the district have reported damages to agriculture and horticulture fields and bamboo groves due to inundation, with unprecedented flooding of the Simang river on Aug 26, 2021. The power channel/water conducting system of the Subbung hydropower plant has been damaged due to landslide, affecting power generation. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/08/27/heavy-rainfall-causes-damages-in-siang/  (27 Aug. 2021)

Turbid rivers Tongam Rina on causes and concerns behind rivers turning turbid episodes in the state. The latest-Kameng is third such incidents in last four years and it continues to remain silt laden even after a week. While the Siang’s turbidity was attributed to natural phenomenon, it was not the case with the Panyor (Ranganadi) river as it turned turbid in February 2019, thanks to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited’s mismanagement and wilful disregard of the river and the people living downstream. During maintenance, the corporation released silt from the 405-mw Ranganadi hydroelectric plant, leading to extreme turbidity downstream, particularly in Kimin area. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/11/08/turbid-rivers/  (08 Nov. 2021) https://sandrp.in/2021/10/31/muddy-kameng-river-waters-mass-fish-death-in-oct-2021/  (31 Oct. 2021)

ASSAM Guard wall of dam collapses in Subansiri Heavy rainfall in Assam has resulted in the collapse of the guard walls of the under construction 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam of the NHPC hydropower project. The guard walls had been constructed to protect the dam from overflowing water. This has caused a fear of floods among the people living in the surrounding area. The Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project (SLHP) is located at Gerukamukh in Dhemaji along the Assam-Arunachal Border. In July 2020, two guard walls had broken down at the SLHP. Recently, the Subansiri River had overflowed and submerged the powerhouse of the SLHP by breaking through the guard walls. In addition, the heavy rainfall has caused a landslide at Tunnel Road.  https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/assam-news/guard-wall-of-dam-collapses-in-subansiri-in-assam-552189  (27 Aug. 2021)

NHPC claims in a press release: “On Aug 26, 2021, the overflow started over dam spillways with the increase in the discharge of the order of about 9500 cumec, the overflow of about 3000 cumec from all the nine spillway blocks started in addition to the maximum discharge (4550 cumecs) being passed through all the five diversion tunnels… All the dam structures and power house structures, coffer wall and diversion tunnels are absolutely safe and working properly”. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/assam-flood-waters-of-river-subansiri-inundate-several-villages-nhpc-allays-fears.html  (27 Aug. 2021)

MAHARASHTRA Mahim Kelwa Dam leakage: Another case of negligence Heavy water leakage has been detected from the Mahim-Kelwa dam at Zanjroli in Palghar district, Maharashtra causing danger to a few villages situated downstream, officials said on Jan 8, 2022. A massive three-metre breach was detected in a 41-year-old earthen dam with a 3.34 Million Cubic Meters capacity at Zanzorli in Palghar. About 1200 litres per minute was being discharged downstream. https://sandrp.in/2022/01/09/mahim-kelwa-dam-leakage-in-maharashtra-another-case-of-negligence/ (9 Jan 2022)

Mahim Kelwa Dam Leak in January 2022 (Photo from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFPYgOi6JFY)

28 out of 35 seismographs near dams are useless, govt admits In response to a question, the Water Resources Minister revealed that 28 out of 35 seismographs installed near major dams in the state are not operational. These devices detect and record earthquakes. During its review of seismographs near all major dams in the state, the committee discovered that many analogue seismographs installed throughout the state do not have spare parts or are old. The government is planning to install digital seismographs. https://theprint.in/india/maha-28-out-of-35-seismographs-near-dams-are-useless-govt-admits/787718/  (25 Dec. 2021)

ANDHRA PRADESH Pulichintala disaster shows improper maintenance, operation In another dam related disaster in Andhra Pradesh, a flood gate of K L Rao multi-purpose irrigation project also known as Pulichintala Dam was washed away on August 5, 2021 raising flood alarm in downstream areas along the Krishna river. The gate was fixed.

However, there is no official statement regarding exact causes, financial losses, damages to dam structure and downstream flood impact caused by the apparently avoidable dam disaster. The rule curve seems to be violated in operation of every dam and the gates do not seem to have been properly maintained. An independent enquiry needs to be set up to find out what lessons we can learn and how we can fix accountability for the disaster. https://sandrp.in/2021/08/12/andhra-pradesh-pulichintala-dam-gate-disaster-shows-improper-maintenance-and-operation/  (12 Aug. 2021)

Dam Induced Flood Disaster in Nov 2021 After Pulichintala dam gate disaster of Aug 5 2021, Andhra Pradesh has witnessed another dam induced flood disaster in 2021. Part of Annamayya dam in Pennar (also called Penna) river basin got washed away resulting in widespread destruction in downstream areas on Nov 19.

Damaged Annamayya dam on Cheyyeru river in Kadapa (Source:NaveenReddy@navin_ankampali)

Around the same time, there were more incidents of damages to dams and dam induced flooding in Kadapa, Chittoor, Anantapur districts of Rayalaseema and adjoining Nellore district. Firstly, the collapse of Pincha project ring bund contributed to Annamayya flood disaster. Then, one of metal bunds of Mylavaram project was washed away. Fourthly, the sudden releases from Veligallu and Buggavanka dams in Kadapa and Kalyani dam in Tirupati resulted in flash flood destruction in downstream areas. The leakages in Rayalacheruvu tank bund in Chittoor district could have turned into a big disaster. https://sandrp.in/2021/12/05/andhra-pradesh-dam-induced-flood-disaster-in-november-2021/ (5 Dec 2021)

KARNATAKA Portion of wall connecting KRS dam collapses Amid allegations of illegal mining causing damage to the iconic Krishna Raja Sagara dam, a portion of the wall beneath the stairs connecting Brindavan Garden—a popular tourist attraction—to the area where the idol of Goddess Cauvery is installed near the dam, collapsed on July 18, triggering panic among those residing in the vicinity. According to authorities, around 30 stones supporting the stairs had fallen off, resulting in the collapse of a portion of the wall. “This could have happened due to the incessant rains in the last few days as the mortar, used in construction works those days, may have turned weak in the recent years,” an officer said. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/portion-wall-connecting-karnataka-s-krs-dam-and-brindavan-gardens-collapses-152650  (20 July 2021)

MADHYA PRADESH CAG raises concern over pending dam repairs Of the 28 dams that were found to have major deficiencies of multiple kinds, deficiencies in 20 are yet to be rectified even after 11 to 69 months of their being pointed out, a report by the CAG of India has found. The rectification of deficiencies of dams has a direct bearing on the safety of these dams. “Estimates for repairs of only eight dams were prepared but estimates of the seven of them were not even sanctioned by the higher officials,” the CAG report on economic sector for 2018-19 said. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=907848  (24 Dec. 2021)

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

2 thoughts on “Hydro Power Projects, Dams Accidents & Damages in 2021

  1. Almost one year into Tapovan Joshimath disaster and more hydropower projects have been given green signal.
    Isn’t it enough evidence of negligence for human tragedy and loss of public money for unviable projects?


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