Hydro Power Projects

2022: Hydro Power Projects Disasters, Damages & Concerns in South Asia

(Feature Image:- The residential quarters established alongside the Ichar Nullah by the Chinese workers of the Dasu hydropower project were swept away along with their machinery, trucks and dumpers in the swollen nullah. Image: Pamir Times, Text:Dawn. Aug. 2022)

In addition to India, the local people in Himalayan countries of South Asia have been resisting against the hydro power projects. These countries have also been facing accidents and disasters caused by the hydro power projects. At the same time, the increasing construction as well as operational cost and climate change threats have been making the future of hydro power projects risky and uncertain in the region. This annual overview highlights the hydro power projects related accidents, disasters and concerns in South Asian countries. 

NEPAL Hydro projects: Accidents, Resistance & Concerns

Worker missing in hydel tunnel A worker has gone missing following an accident inside the tunnel of the under-construction 86 Mw Solu Khola Dudh Koshi HEP in the Solukhumbu dist. Another worker who was injured has been rescued. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/worker-goes-missing-in-hydel-project-tunnel/  (27 Jan. 2022)

2 engineers killed as hydropower project’s penstock pipe explodes 2 engineers died as a penstock pipe of the under-construction Solukhola Dudhkoshi Hydropower Project in the Solukhumbu dist of eastern Nepal exploded on Dec 26 2021. The pipe had exploded during a test. Falling unconscious after being hit by the water from the exploded pipe, the 2 couldn’t be rescued. https://english.onlinekhabar.com/solukhumbu-engineers-killed.html (27 Dec 2021)

3 die at Bhitri Khola HEP Three people (a woman – wife of a security guard at the project and her two children) died after being buried when asleep, when Bhitri Khola hydropower project’s powerhouse caved in, in Hima rural municipality in the Jumla dist of NW Nepal on July 15 2022. https://english.onlinekhabar.com/jumla-hydro-caves-in-kills-3.html (15 Jul 2022)

Arun III HEP work disrupted The local people have disrupted the work of Arun III HEP for a week now as they have not received the compensation for their land acquired for the project. https://english.khabarhub.com/2022/29/244312/  (29 March 2022) 

HEP Development Violates Human Rights on Likhu River Near the Likhu River in eastern Nepal, Indigenous and local communities are adversely affected by hydroelectric power projects by the Kathmandu-based company MV Dugar Group. The projects have a total investment of 21 billion rupees from 18 different private limited banks but the affected communities continue to await remedy and justice. According to the communities, the projects were illegally conducted without addressing their demands and giving adequate compensation for the damage resulting in their construction.

Affected community members have repeatedly requested support for an independently facilitated dialogue to discuss the impacts of projects and help address their demands for peaceful resolutions to the projects. On December 21-23, 2021, a Cultural Survival staff member in Nepal, along with the Sunuwar Welfare Council, an umbrella organization of Sunuwar Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous community radio and television stations hosted public concerns hearings in three locations and conducted sites visits with a group of Indigenous human rights lawyers associated with Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP). https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/hydroelectric-development-violates-human-rights-nepals-likhu-river  (29 Jan. 2022)

People seeking right to free, prior, informed consent Indigenous & Dalit communities in Tanahu have been confronting the reality of being displaced from their lands since 2013, when they found out that their lands are going to be inundated by the Tanahu Hydropower Project. They are at risk of not only losing their land, but also their identity, culture, & way of life, inextricably connected to the land & natural resources. https://www.counterview.net/2022/10/climate-risk-of-nepals-hydropower.html (6 Oct 2022)

A number of Chinese companies, including those in hydropower projects have been black listed in Nepal for the delay & incomplete works. https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/chinese-companies-blacklisted-in-nepal-due-to-extreme-negligence-and-delay-in-work20220620215543/  (20 June 2022)

No critical examination of flawed EIA Nepal has for decades required an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be conducted for development projects, but their quality and monitoring has been largely ineffective, experts say. The issue came to light earlier this year when the top court cancelled an airport project in part because of its flawed EIA, which included entire passages lifted directly from a hydropower project’s EIA. Experts say the laws and monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure the EIA process is effective in mitigating harm to the environment, but that the political will is lacking. https://news.mongabay.com/2022/08/no-critical-examination-of-flawed-environmental-assessments-in-nepal-experts-say/  (11 Aug. 2022)

Why are EIAs so ineffective? The author explores why, despite EIAs being an established part of decision-making under Nepali law, they are rarely effective in reducing environmental harm caused by projects such as roads, dams and airports. Officials and developers speak frankly on how the process has become a box-ticking exercise. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/nature/why-are-eias-so-ineffective-nepal/  (15 Nov. 2022)

Community-Centred Flood Early Warning System Dinanath Bhandari In their design and implementation, all EWSs should aim to integrate the concerns of local people and be inclusive of gender, cultural, linguistic, and other social aspects. In order to achieve the goal of minimising risks, an EWS is basic, but it is equally important to work with communities to save lives, properties, and livelihoods. While these challenges must be systematically addressed, the EWSs established in Nepal have helped reduce human casualties. https://soanas.org/community-centred-flood-early-warning-system-in-nepal/

BHUTAN: Hydro Power Project Concerns

Unviable hydro stories from Bhutan, NepalIn Bhutan, the government is worried about the cost of power from under construction large hydro projects and viability of selling such high cost power and also implications of the high debt for the nation. In Nepal, after several extensions, GMR is still unable to achieve financial closure or Power Purchase Agreement for the Karnali Hydropower project. Same is the situation with the West Seti Hydropower project. The Pancheshwar Hydropower that was in news during the last Uttarakhand assembly elections is no longer in the news this time. The writing is once again there for anyone to read. https://sandrp.in/2022/02/21/drp-nb-21-feb-2022-unviable-hydro-stories-from-india-bhutan-nepal-us/  (21 Feb. 2022)

Stalled, delayed, cancelled Hydro in BhutanPuncturing the prevalent notion about India Bhutan Cooperation on hydropower projects, there is news this week (in fact the news on this score has been coming for more than a couple of years, but Indian media seems to be practising a self-imposed ban on putting out such stories) that hydropower projects have been stalled, delayed, reconfigured, and even cancelled in Bhutan. This is broadly in line with the increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects.

Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, has reported about such projects quoting the National Council recommendation to the government of Bhutan to expedite the decisions about the stalled projects like the massive Punatasanchchu-I HEP and the Kholongchu HEP. It has also reported that the government of India conveying to Bhutan that India has sufficient electricity supplies, suggesting that the proposed Nu 200 Billion Sunkosh Hydropower project may not have any definite dateline and hence likely to not go forward. The happenings at the geologically unstable site selection for Punatsanchchu project involving India’s Central Water Commission, Wapcos and Geological Survey of India among others is in fact major scandal and how the whole issue has been dealt with so far. The happenings at the Kolongchu HEP being executed by the SJVN (erstwhile Sutlej Jal Vidhyut Nigam Ltd) as the first ever joint venture project in Bhutan in terms SJVN not giving the promised contracts to Bhutanese companies also does not bode well for Joint Venture projects in future. Both Punatsanchchu and Kholongchu HEPs are stalled and delayed for long, increasing the cost of the projects and power from the projects. While all this is broadly in line with increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects, a lot of this can be avoided by increasing transparency and accountability in governance of these projects. https://sandrp.in/2022/07/04/drp-nb-040722-stalled-delayed-cancelled-hydro-in-bhutan/  (04 July 2022)

Troubles in joint hydropower projects On Feb. 6, 2021, “it was found that the dam site of the much delayed P-1 project would have to be abandoned” after a cost of 23 billion Nu (around 301 million U.S. dollars) “with the proposal of building a barrage site,” said the report. Over the years, the newspaper also “reported extensively about the various difficulties caused in formalizing Joint Venture power projects due to unreasonable demands” by the Indian side. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/asiapacific/20220312/25756e866cab42b08922e572d7d37706/c.html  (12 March 2022)

Hydro projects comprise 73% of total external debt However, delays in hydropower projects could pose risks and could raise Bhutan’s debt. The cost of the 2 major ongoing hydropower projects in Bhutan, 1,200 MW Punatsangchhu-I and 1,020MW Punatsangchhu-II escalated to Nu 93.75B from Nu 35B & Nu 89.77B from Nu 37B estimated in 2009 respectively.

The current account deficit rose in 2021-22. This was attributed to a decline in energy generation & lower hydro exports & a significant increase in imports. At Nu 162.197B, hydro-debt contributed 73 % of the total external debt. https://kuenselonline.com/is-bhutans-economy-at-risk/  (25 June 2022)

NC asks govt to expedite decision on delayed hydro projects The govt is waiting response from the Government of India on the issues of two hydropower projects under construction, Punatsangchu-I and Kholongchu Hydropower Projects. The National Council (NC) recommended the government expedite a decision on the problems faced by these projects to avoid any further delays and cost escalation. The NC stated that over the past few years there has been growing concern on the repeated delays and inordinate cost escalation in the construction and completion of hydropower projects. The recommendations came with the Budget Appropriation Bill 2022-2023 that National Council forwarded after review and deliberation to National Assembly.

For example, PHPA-I began construction in 2008 and was expected to complete in 2016. The initial estimated cost was Nu 35.148 billion (B) which has now escalated almost three-fold to Nu 93.756B. The dam construction at PHPA-I cost Nu 24B from 2013 to 2019, in total it has cost around Nu 45 to Nu 50B incurring interest during construction. During the re-deliberation on the Budget Appropriation Bill for the financial year 2022-23 at the National Assembly (NA), Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the detailed project report on the feasibility of construction of a barrage at PHPA-I is submitted to GoI and that the government was waiting a response. He said that the government is anticipating a decision on the construction of barrage within two months after meeting of the authorities of two countries in July.

Kholongchhu Hydropower Project commenced in 2015 and was scheduled to complete in 2020. The initial cost projected was Nu 33.05B and estimates of cost on completion have increased to Nu 54.818B. On the delay in the construction of Kholongchhu project, Lyonchhen said that the agreement between joint ventures mentioned that the 20 % of capital work would be awarded to a Bhutanese contractor. He said that from the Indian agency side, they want to execute 100 % of capital works and award 20 % in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings at the site. However, from the Bhutan side, they requested 20 % of capital work for the construction of tunnels. “The two agencies could not come to a consensus on the capital work award,” Lyonchhen said. There are four members each from the companies in the committee and the chairperson has no voting right according to the agreement if they come to voting. Kholongchu is the first joint venture company formed between Druk Green Power Corp (DGPC) and India’s Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. Lyonchhen also mentioned that DGPC withdrew from the project and requested the Cabinet for intervention since it will have issues in the future. “We felt that DGPC can execute the tunnel construction and their requests are valid,” Lyonchhen said. Lyonchhen said that the govt has directed the economic affairs and foreign affairs ministries to discuss with GoI the award of 20 percent capital work to Bhutanese firm. However, Lyonchhen said that the major issue with the project is after completing the project it has not mentioned clearly the export tariff rates and the rate is comparatively less. “Govt of Bhutan is requesting a slightly higher export tariff rate.”

SUNKOSH PROJECT: Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the govt cannot give a timeline for the project commencement. The Sunkosh project is estimated cost about Nu 200B. Lyonpo said that with solar and hydrogen energy evolving, there is less demand for electricity. “The govt of India has also said that they have secure energy.” Lyonpo said that the govt has also already informed the people that it is not possible to start the project immediately and not to wait for the project. “Government has also directed the dzongkhag administration not to stop any activities. It is difficult to come in 5-6 years,” Lyonpo said. https://kuenselonline.com/nc-asks-govt-to-expedite-decision-on-delayed-hydropower-projects/  (28 June 2022)

Outgoing Ambassador of India to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj On Punatsanghchu I: “The PHPA-I Project is facing a geological issue, which merits a detailed technical examination to ensure a safe, reliable & robust way forward. We have received the barrage proposal from the Royal Govt, and it is being examined by Hydro experts in India. Very soon, we shall be holding further discussions with the Royal Govt of Bhutan on a technically sound way forward.”

On Kholongchu HEP: “Similarly, on the Kholongchhu Project, we have noted the concerns of the Bhutanese shareholder… the Govt of India had agreed to the Royal Govt’s request to offload 20 % of major works to Bhutanese contractors… we are of the view that it would be a lost opportunity if the project doesn’t take off. We are looking forward to the visit of Lyonpo Loknath Sharma to India in July 2022, to hold detailed discussions on the future of the Project.” https://kuenselonline.com/both-countries-should-ensure-minimum-cost-and-avoid-delays-to-maintain-viability-of-future-hydro-projects/ (14 Jul 2022)

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma shares the outcome of his 4-day visit to Delhi (July 18 to 21) Punatasangchu II: The main agenda was to attend the 16th Authority meeting of Puna-II HEP. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face authority meetings couldn’t be held for more than two and half years. As such, there were several pending project-related issues to be discussed and decisions to be made, so as to enable the project management to push the project forward. Further project authority meetings are to happen twice a year at alternate venues between Thimphu and Delhi. The Authority members could deliberate on the cost to completion and commissioning dates.

PHPA I: The GoI has entrusted an independent committee to review the barrage detailed project report (DPR) for PHPA-I, and has requested the govt of Bhutan to provide time till the independent committee submits their finding. The GoI impressed that their decision will be based on the outcome of the independent committee. It is also agreed that the pending decision on PHPA-1 is costly and overrun to both sides, thus, efforts will be made to conclude including the Authority meeting for PHPA-1 by a month’s time. The Bhutanese delegation impressed on the need to firm up the decision on the barrage option since the current dam site is not feasible. To this effect, the GoI side informed that the DPR is still with the Central Water Commission & an Independent Committee is being instituted to review the DPR. The GoI side maintained that only after completion of review & receipt of the report from the committee, would then be possible for the two Govts to sit together and discuss a way ahead.

Kholongchhu HEP: Both the parties agreed to work towards closing the Joint Venture company as quickly as possible & to initiate a discussion on the way forward for the project. https://kuenselonline.com/india-bhutan-decide-to-close-kholongchhu-joint-venture/ (23 Jul 2022)

Govt halts 2,560MW Sunkosh project The Bhutan govt will for now not pursue the 2,560 MW Sunkosh hydropower project, the country’s biggest, according to the economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma. This means that developmental activities like the construction of roads, bridges and plantation of cash crops, which were halted before, will be allowed.

Explaining the rationale behind not pursuing the project, the economic affairs minister said that technologies were changing fast and that the long-term benefits of hydropower projects must be studied properly. However, Sharma added that small storage hydropower projects would be pursued and their benefits studied before starting large projects like Sunkosh.

The govt on July 8 inaugurated 3 small hydropower projects, one each in Lhuentse, Zhemgang and Haa, with a combined capacity of 104 MW. The Sunkosh project did not make it to the agenda of the recent talks between the economic affairs minister & his Indian counterpart. https://kuenselonline.com/government-halts-2560mw-sunkosh-project/ (6 Aug 2022)

Lost paradise? The hydropower projects and developments along the banks of Punatsangchhu river have scared the birds away. The last herons sighted in the zone was in 2018. No herons were sighted in Zone I for the past two consecutive years. Going by the study, it is evident that disturbance caused by construction activities is affecting their breeding grounds.

The Kuri-Gongri basin until Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse was once a rich habitat. Last two years coincided with the construction of the Kholongchhu hydropower project. https://kuenselonline.com/lost-paradise/  (10 Aug 2022)

Female construction workers harassed at work: NCWC study Women working at hydropower sites, road, and bridge construction reported bullying and harassment at the workplace according to National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) study released recently. The study titled “Assessment of Gender Issues in Major Hydropower, Road and Bridge Construction Project sites in Bhutan 2021” reported that the victims said that no gender-based violence (GBV) awareness programmes were held for the women and girls living in the vicinity of these workplaces.

The report stated that women face sexual harassment at 9.23 percent, 12 percent, and 11.11 percent at hydropower construction sites, road construction sites and bridge construction sites respectively. The data indicate that, during the past three years between 2019 and 2021, 12.14 percent, 14.78 percent, and 9.23 percent respectively, of women at hydropower sites reported bullying and sexual harassment. https://kuenselonline.com/female-construction-workers-harassed-at-work-ncwc-study/  (10 Dec. 2022)

MYANMAR Hydro Power Projects

Dam displaced: A heavy social cost to incur Hydropower in the Himalayan river system has traditionally been a contentious issue.

This is more so because of the extensive knowledge gaps that exist in the context of its business economics, impacts of global warming & climate change on hydrological flow regimes, tectonic and seismic sciences, the critical ecosystems-livelihoods linkages, & most critically, the social costs associated with displacement, inadequate or lack of rehabilitation, livelihoods losses % eventually escalated conflicts. Hydropower projects in Myanmar in the Salween river systems ticks all these boxes. https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/dams-as-displacers-a-heavy-social-cost-to-incur/ (4 Jul 2022)

Protesters call for a stop to new Shan State dams To mark the International Day of Action for Rivers on 14 March communities across Shan State posted slogans on river banks calling for a stop to any new dams. Members of the Civil Society Organisation Action for Shan State Rivers and its networks posted slogans such as “Stop damming our rivers” and “Save our rivers” on banners and rocks along the Salween and other major rivers in Shan State. “The rivers are our lifeblood which must be saved for future generations,” said a community member from Tangyan Township. Action for Shan State Rivers  marked the day by issuing a statement calling on foreign dam-builders to stop colluding with Burma’s murderous regime and pull out of Shan State because any new dams earn revenue for the military regime & cement its energy partnerships with neighbouring countries.  https://www.mizzima.com/article/protesters-call-stop-new-shan-state-dams (15 Mar 2022)

PAKISTAN Hydro Power Projects: Disasters and Damages

Authorities unable to detect fault in NJHPP HEP tunnel National Assembly Committee on Water Reprocess was on July 14 2022 informed that authorities are unable to detect the fault in Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant Project (NJHPP) tunnel after the passage of 8 days, and it may take a month for finding it out. On July 6, there was a malfunction in the NJHPP, Secretary Water Resources said. NJHPP has two tunnels. A tunnel which is 3.5 km long, is blocked. He said that first, water will be extracted from the tunnel. This process of extracting water will be completed in a month. https://nation.com.pk/2022/07/15/authorities-unable-to-detect-fault-in-neelam-jhelum-hydrpower-tunnel-mps-told/  (15 July 2022)

The 969 Mw NJHPP had to be shut down due to “major cracks in its tailrace tunnel”. It commissioned in early 2018. The fault that could well point to much deeper engineering flaws. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40186251/the-neelum-jhelum-shutdown (16 Jul 2022) https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/973735-damned-dam (15 Jul 2022)

NJHPP shut for 13 days There is need for foreign consultants, but the project authorities do not have funds for it. https://www.thecorrespondent.pk/featured/consumers-suffer-rs350m-additional-burden-as-neelum-jhelum-plant-shut-for-13-days/  (20 July 2022)

Chinese-built power plant shutdown The NJHPP was constructed by a Chinese firm. The repairs of the Rs 508 B project are likely to take over six months. https://theprint.in/world/chinese-built-power-plant-shutdown-triggers-misery-in-pakistan/1062998/  (31 July 2022)

Investigation into NJHPP’s ‘failure’ To investigate the “failure” of the NJHPP, the Ministry of Water Resources will work with the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and hire foreign investigators. The ministry will identify the individuals accountable for the project’s “failure”. The investigation would establish whether the “failure” was the result of poor design or shoddy construction. Wapda has been tasked with examining the harm that the recent catastrophic floods did to the Mohmand dam. https://dailytimes.com.pk/991445/investigation-into-neelum-jhelum-projects-failure-begins/  (02 Sept. 2022)

17 international firms have not responded to Request for Proposals (RFP), sources close to Secretary Ministry of Water Resources said. The joint teams of NJHPC, Project Consultants and CGGC (the project’s original contractor) have reached a blockade in the tunnel. The teams approached the blockage point, both from the outlet side using the dewatered tunnel, and from the powerhouse side, by using boats. The location and extent of the blockade has been assessed as 251 m from the powerhouse (spanning 42 m), whereas the rubble from the collapsed area was found spread along the tunnel up to chainage 570 m.

China Ghezouba Group Company (CGGC) was contacted, and the Company has agreed to undertake these works as a separate contract, amounting to Rs 2.5 billion plus day-work. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with CGGC on Aug 22, 2022, after which the contractor has begun mobilization. Contract agreement is expected to be signed, shortly.

In July 2022, the powerhouse was shut down due to the following possible causes: (i) there is a high probability of failure of shotcrete lining leading to rock fall in the tailrace tunnel; and (ii) the high pressure noticed in the powerhouse may be attributed to such blockage created in tailrace tunnel due to possible rockfall. Tunnel dewatering started on July 10, 2022. Truck mounted mobile dewatering pump is ready to be used in the main tunnel as clearing of mud in access tunnel has been completed on July 22, 2022. https://www.brecorder.com/news/40195233/wapda-to-hire-experts-to-probe-failure-of-njhpp (2 Sept. 2022)

Fault in NJHPP Federal Minster Qamar Zaman Kaira on Nov 14, 2022 informed the National Assembly that the fault in Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Plant is having 68 km of tunnelling system, out of which length of water tunnel is 51 km (48 km headrace tunnel and 3.5 km tailrace tunnel). In tailrace tunnel at one location from 251m to 293m d/s from the powerhouse, there is a blockage about 42m in length due to tunnel collapse. https://www.nation.com.pk/15-Nov-2022/fault-developed-in-neelum-jhelum-hydropower-plant-would-be-fixed-in-six-months-kaira  (15 Nov. 2022)

NJHPP damage of Rs22.5bn The NJHPP, which is non-operational since July 6, 2022 in the wake of blockage that appeared in the TRT, has seen an estimated damage of Rs22.50 billion (Rs2.50 bn construction cost and Rs20 billion as business loss). “The project will now come on stream by the end of February 2023. Till February 2023, the project would brave a business loss of Rs20 billion,” a senior official of the NJHPCL said. When asked as to who will bear the loss, either the govt or NICL (National Insurance Company Limited), the official said that both the heads, TRT and business loss, are covered under the insurance agreement, so Wapda will not bear the loss. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1012157-non-operational-neelum-jhelum-hydropower-project-tunnel-collapse-causes-total-damage-of-rs22-5bn  (21 Nov. 2022)

The tunnel of NJHPP might collapse at any time and the consequences could be disastrous, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra)’s chief warned on Nov 22 2022. In reply to queries by senators at a meeting of the upper house’s Standing Committee on power, Tauseef Farooqui said the biggest worry was “what will happen if the rest of the tunnel collapses”. He said while restoration work has started, there is no guarantee that the tunnel wont collapsed during the work.

The project’s CEO said he was hopeful that restoration work at the tunnel would be completed by June next year. He informed the committee that a team of international experts had submitted two preliminary reports after inspecting the tunnel. They have identified eight causes of the tunnel collapse, but no conclusions could be drawn before submission of the final report, Muhammad Irfan said in statement to the Senate committee. https://www.dawn.com/news/1722567/neelum-jhelum-projects-tunnel-could-collapse-warns-nepra-chief  (23 Nov. 2022)

Diamer-Bhasha Dam on the Indus River that was supposed to serve as the country’s future lifeline has been caught in a scandal after it was revealed that Rs 9 billion (or $40 million) was raised from the public for its construction – but much more was spent advertising it.

According to Pakistan’s Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), Rs 14 billion or $63 million has been spent on advertising the dam, which is nowhere close to being completed. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/trends/pakistan-collected-40-million-from-public-to-build-dam-then-spent-63-million-on-advertising-it-9182731.html  (15 Sept. 2022)

Flood delays Mohmand Dam by one year In the wake of devastating floods, the Mohmand Dam’s completion, which is under construction in KPK, has been delayed by one more year. Its cost overrun is estimated to increase by Rs20-25 billion. This is because the coffer dam constructed for diversion tunnel had breached when the Swat River faced high flows after unprecedented heavy rains, senior officials at WAPDA and Ministry of Water Resources said.

With the breach of the cofferdam, the under-construction diversion tunnel of the Mohmand Dam also sustained huge damage during floods after torrential rains last month. The News, Sept. 2022.

With the breach of cofferdam, the under-construction diversion tunnel also sustained huge damage. According to the PC-I, they said, the Mohmand Dam was to be completed and commissioned in Dec, 2025 at the cost of Rs311 B. But because of the flood that also hit the coffer dam and diversion tunnel, the cost of the project is estimated to increase by Rs20-25 B following the cost escalation to be incurred on purchase of material and required items during the period of one more year. The construction work on the dam began on Sept 20, 2019. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/991759-flood-delays-mohmand-dam-by-one-year (16 Sep 2022)

Balochistan Dams have burst in Balochistan, leading to about 60 deaths as monsoon floods create havoc in Pakistan. https://owsa.in/pakistan-floods-dams-burst-in-balochistan-and-floods-across-sindh/  (11 July 2022)

2 dams collapse amid relentless rain Jara and Tabina dams collapsed in the Toba Achakzai offshoot in the Tasharbat, Zemel Shadizi, Mako Kech, Zemal, Ghabarg, Adozai, Farakhi and its suburban parts. After the dams’ collapse, the floodwater wiped out cattle, crops and farmlands in the affected areas. Land connectivity to Toba Achakzai was disconnected from other parts of the country for four days.

Heavy downpour in the province completely tore down 6,077 houses and partially damaged more than 10,000 homes — and these are just the official statistics. 16 dams sustained minor or major damages during the rains. A National Highway Authority official mentioned that the Hub Bridge was built in 1962 & after the heavy rains filled the dam, it overflowed and in turn, damaged the bridge. https://theprint.in/world/two-dams-collapse-in-balochistan-amid-relentless-rain/1062397/ (30 July 2022)

Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said that 7 dams have broken due to rains in Balochistan, while many dams have been filled with water. The areas have come under water and communication with many cities has been cut off, the floodplain is also moving towards Sindh from Jhal Magsi.  https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/pakistan-7-dams-collapse-in-balochistan-due-to-torrential-rains20220731215929/  (31 July 2022)

Two more dams in Balochistan’s Chaman were breached due to torrential rains, collapsing hundreds of houses. Two dams Amrit and Brij were also broken in the Union Council Jalgah of Dobandi and a large number of houses collapsed. The number of dams that have broken due to rains has increased to 18 in Qila Abdullah district. https://timesofislamabad.com/25-Aug-2022/rains-in-pakistan-breached-two-dams-collapsing-hundreds-of-homes  (25 Aug. 2022)

Major bridge on KKH washed away after fresh flood in Uchar Nallah, Kohistan. Chinese laborers’ camp also damaged severely by the fresh flood that came down at around 2am last night.  There are reports that the flood debris blocked the Indus River for several minutes. Chinese laborers are building Dassu Dam. https://twitter.com/pamirtimes/status/1553961941642665984?s=20&t=o2xtkRuRpORc4IHrfF9JVQ (01 Aug. 2022)

The residential quarters of Chinese workers of Dasu hydropower project suspended in the air after erosion of Ichar Nullah embankments in Upper Kohistan on Monday. (Right) Rescue personnel search the rubble after roof of a house collapsed in Maday Baba area of Mardan. — Dawn

The residential quarters established alongside the Ichar Nullah by the Chinese workers of the Dasu hydropower project were swept away along with their machinery, trucks and dumpers in the swollen nullah. However, no damage to human life was reported. An official of the Dasu dam project told Dawn that the Frontier Works Organisation had moved machinery to the area to out up a suspension bridge to resume traffic but the task would be take five to seven days to complete. He, however, said the calamity didn’t affect work of the Dasu dam, which would continue. https://www.dawn.com/news/1702725  (02 Aug. 2022)

Hydro Power Projects Threats and Impacts

Climate change adding layer of vulnerability to fragile Himalayas The Himalayas are inherently vulnerable to heavy rains, flash floods, landslides etc, as these are new mountains which are still growing and are seismically very active. Climate change has added another layer of vulnerability. It is acting as a force multiplier and making landslides, flash floods and cloudbursts more disastrous, said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator SANDRP.

– The fragility of the mountains has increased due ill-thought human interventions dams, hydropower projects, highways, mining, deforestation, buildings, unregulated tourism and pilgrimage. “We do not do any honest environmental impact assessment, nor do we keep in mind the carrying capacity of the mountains. We do not even have a credible disaster management system in place for the Himalayas,” Thakkar said. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/climate-change-adding-layer-of-vulnerability-to-fragile-himalayas-experts-122072300104_1.html  (23 July 2022)

Climate change threatening Himalayan hydro projects More than 650 hydropower projects planned or under construction in the Himalayan region are at risk from hazards related to melting glaciers, warns a study published recently in Nature Geoscience. Many of the new projects are significantly upslope compared with existing ones, in locations closer to glaciers and glacial lakes in high altitude areas, making them more hazard-prone, and the study notes. Those hazards include landslides, rock-ice avalanches, debris flow and Lake Outburst floods, all of which could increase with glacier melt and slope destabilisation. The biggest threat may be Lake Outburst floods, including landslide-driven lake outbursts and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFS), said Dongfeng Li, a scientist with the National University of Singapore and the study’s lead author. Glacial lake outbursts refer to the sudden release of water from a lake formed by glacial melt. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/times-special/how-climate-change-is-threatening-himalayan-hydropower-projects/articleshow/94545599.cms  (30 Sept. 2022)

Hydro power –Most controversial of all RE sources Manoj Misra https://thedialogue.co.in/article/85vFKc3N6GmB9qzUSfbP/hydro-power–most-controversial-of-all-re-sources-  (07 Sept. 2022) 

Investors in Central Asia hydropower must address human rights Ella Skybenko, Sofya Manukyan The hydropower industry model in Central Asia is broken. This month, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) published new research compiled over the past decade from Central Asia and the Caucasus, revealing that negative impacts on human rights and the environment are rife in hydropower projects. Our findings also show apparent impunity among the companies and investors behind them.

The BHRRC focused on Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Georgia for this research due to their geographical importance, particularly as upstream countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their use and management of rivers has a significant impact on water access and other environmental factors across the region.

Between 2012 and 2022, the BHRRC has recorded allegations of more than 90 incidents of human rights abuse and damage to the environment in just 13 hydropower projects in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Harm to local communities, both in terms of public health and safety and socio-economic impacts, was one of the most commonly recorded impacts, as well as worrying reports regarding governance, transparency and labour rights. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/investors-central-asia-hydropower-must-address-human-rights/  (26 July 2022)

HEPs associated with reduced economic production; greenness This research provides a global-scale evaluation of the impact of dam construction by using a variety of global spatial databases. In particular, it provides insight into the impacts on economy, population, and greenness of 631 recently built hydropower dams by region and dam size. It suggests that 631 recently built hydropower dams were associated with reduced local economy, population, and greenness in areas within 50 km of the dam sites, particularly in the Global South. This is contrary to claims that dams improve the livelihoods of people as well as ecosystem services. The research highlights that policy interventions are needed to address impacts on populations and urban land near small and medium dams. https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2108038119  (07 Feb. 2022) https://phys.org/news/2022-03-hydropower-impact-theyre-built.html  (15 March 2022)  

Dams becoming more dangerous to build as good sites run out With viable hydro sites scarce, dam builders around the world are pushing into high-risk areas, often based on outdated climate data. Since 1882, when the first commercial hydro plant began operation on the Fox River in Wisconsin, utilities have focused on economically viable spots where rivers flow fast enough to spin turbines. But 140 years later the most suitable sites—especially in the developed world, where financing is easier—have already been tapped, and builders are moving into more hazardous regions such as the Himalayas or deeper into protected areas like the Amazon.

The Rishiganga hydro project in Chamoli, Uttarakhand after the landslide. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Swiss Re, which insures hydroelectric projects around the world, insists on 10 years of recent, uninterrupted climate data before offering policies, says Rubem Hofliger, its head of Latin America. “The risk you had in the 1980s isn’t the risk you have in the 2020s. You take a shorter period,” he says. “The problem with developing countries is the lack of data for an adequate index.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-03-15/the-dangerous-future-of-hydroelectric-power  (15 March 2022)

10 reasons why hydro dams are false climate solution Not only does hydroelectric power fail to prevent catastrophic climate change, but it also renders countries more vulnerable to climate change while emitting significant amounts of methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases. A river is a spectacular living corridor that feeds forests, fisheries, coastal ecosystems, and farmlands; transports life-sustaining organic matter and nutrients; provides drinking water; fosters cultural connection; and prevents carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. A river supports staggeringly rich biodiversity. One major way we negate rivers’ many benefits is by building dams. Here are 10 key reasons why dams are a false solution to the climate crisis. https://www.alternet.org/2022/04/hydropower-dams-false-climate-solution  (06 April 2022)

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

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