In this annual review, SANDRP compiles the hydro power related accidents, disasters and damages in North West and North East Himalayan states during 2022. It also covers relevant reports revealing gradual decline in power generation by hydro power projects amid growing concerns over physical and financial viabilities of new projects. There are also reports highlighting the looming climatic and geological threats over these projects. It is good to see that taking lessons from Chamoli disaster in Feb. 2021, NDMA has officially asked central govt not to rely on hydro power.
(Feature Image: Massive landslide at Lower Subansiri hydro project dam site. Source North East Now 28 Oct. 2022)
Over the course of past two years, series of disasters and accidents have taken place at construction site of the controversial 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project resulting in damages to project structure and death of construction workers thus raising questions over its safety and sustainability. Since 2005-06, the largest ever under-construction hydropower project is being developed by NHPLC Ltd (formerly known as the National Hydro Power Corporation Limited), a central government company in geologically fragile, seismically vulnerable and biodiversity rich area in the face of pending judicial case[i] and very strong opposition from people across the Assam.
The latest disaster in form of a massive landslide affected the project site on October 12, 2022 further delaying the repair works which were being carried to recover damages caused by the flash floods, landslips at dam site in last week of September 2022.
(Feature Image:Kishtwar: Rescue operation underway after a landslide at Ratle Power Project site in Kishtwar district, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. At least one person was killed and five are feared trapped, according to officials. Photo: PTI/ TIE)
The landslide incident at Ratle HEP in Chenab basin in Jammu & Kashmir in Oct 2022 has again revealed how hydro projects in geologically vulnerable areas have been increasing disaster potential of the already disaster vulnerable areas, killing and injuring the workers and people. The exact reason for the mishap at project site are still unknown. As usual neither NHPC nor JKSPDC have made public information concerning reasons for the tragedy.
Refusing to learn any lessons from such disasters, the administration has set-up routine internal probe under inspector level official. This only shows sheer lack of intention to make the developers accountable and continue to push financially unviable and environmental unsustainable hydro projects at the cost of human lives and tax payers’ money.
(Feature Image:- कुल्लू की मणिकर्ण घाटी के चोज गांव में बादल फटा है. मलाणा डेम साइट के पास से भागता युवक. Source: News 18 Himachal Pradesh)
Hydropower projects are force multipliers when cloud burst happens close to them. In 2021 at least 11 HEPs (4 each in Uttarakhand & Himachal, 2 in J&K and 1 in Ladakh) projects had faced cloud burst induced deluge and damages in lesser or greater degree.
In the latest such incident, the 100 MW Malana II Hydro Electric Project (HEP) in Parbati Valley in Himachal Pradesh has been affected by flash floods following cloud burst in Malana village area in early hours of July 6, 2022. The operational project is located on Malana stream, a tributary of Parbati river in Kullu district. This incident seemingly coincided with another devastating cloud burst near Choj village in Parvati valley located about 15 km south west from Malana.
Two workers of 450 MW Shongtong hydropower Project[i] were killed when the trolley they were using overturned inside the tunn[ii]el of the under-construction project near Ralli in Kalpa Tehsil of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The police have registered a case in connection with the incident.
(Feature image: Rescue operation at Tidong HEP tunnel. Image source: Divya Himachal)
Early morning around 5.45 am on Saturday, May 7, 2022, five labourers were stuck while coming out from the 180 m deep tunnel of the under construction 100 MW Tidong Hydropower project[i] in Murang Tehsil of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh when debris fell into the tunnel (according to one report) and the lift in which the 5 labourers were coming out over turned[ii]. The trolley with 5 workers inside pressure shaft of adit 2 tunnel slipped off its track. The workers were coming out as their shift had ended.
March 14 marks 25th anniversary of International Day of Actions for Rivers, a unique campaign dedicated to indigenous communities striving to protect and preserve their rivers from a whole range of destructive anthropogenic activities. The Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) are among key threats affecting rivers eco-system and riverine communities greatly, in multiple ways.
The resistance against destructive, unviable HEPs growing stronger in India. Over the past one year there has been several protests against hydro projects across the country particularly in Himalayan states. On the occasion of International Day of Actions for rivers celebrating people’s resistance, SANDRP has compiled top ten stories of such community led opposition during the year, along with relevant additional stories. .
The border areas of Pithoragarh witnessed large scale destruction[i] following series of disasters on August 30, 2021 night. The event[ii] unfolded after unprecedented rainfall in the region causing flash floods in local streams and Kali River also known as Sarda. The affected areas included villages in Darchula district of Nepal located across Kali River which forms natural boundary here between India and Nepal.
On August 25-27, 2021 the most of hilly districts in Uttarakhand witnessed intense rainfall events causing widespread destruction. Media reports and local people suggest at least seven cloud burst incidents occurring in quick succession over Binhar range in Pacchawadoon and Mussoorie hills dividing Ganga and Yamuna basins in Dehradun district. The resultant deluge has also affected the under construction Vyasi Hydro Electric Project (HEP) areas in Vikas Nagar tehsil highlighting that the project is unprepared to cope with existing & emerging disasters.
(Feature image showing July 24 landslide blocking mouth of NTPC’s main tunnel. Mahadeep Panwar/Atul Sati via social media.)
The 520 MW hydro power project (HPP) Tapovan-Vishnugad having proved a recipe for disaster during Chamoli deluge on February 07, 2021, continues to jeopardize the local environment and play havoc with the lives and livelihoods of people in Joshimath area.
National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the developer of the project was seen working round the clock, close to para glacial zone without installing any Early Warning System (EWS) and providing adequate safety equipment to workers before stuck down by the catastrophic event resulting in death of over 200 innocent workers there.
It has been 15 years, since the project was started in November 2006, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2978.48 crore with 2012-2013 as planned commissioning year, however the project is still far from completion.