Tunneling for hydropower project using the blasting technique can have massive impacts. It has a series of direct and indirect impacts which have already been documented. Among the most serious impacts is drying up of the natural drinking water springs and the reduction in sub-soil moisture. This directly impacts the drinking water availability for the local villagers as well as agriculture and horticultural productivity, which is critically dependent upon the presence of sub-soil moisture. Blasting for tunnels and other underground components of hydroelectricity projects creates vibrations that have resulted in cracks in houses situated near these components.
Importance of impacts of tunneling and blasting becomes very important since all run of the river (ROR) projects involve tunneling and blasting. Proponents claim that ROR hydropower projects are environment friendly, but most people do not know that the tunneling and blasting adds an additional dimension to the impacts due to ROR hydropower projects and these can be very serious. Most environmental and social impact assessments or cumulative impact assessments do not even assess these impacts. Many times the proponent get away claiming that the impacts are not due to the projects, when in reality all evidence shows that these are very much caused by the tunneling and blasting being done as part of the construction of these projects.
This photo essay documents the impacts of tunneling and blasting for hydropower projects mainly in Kinnaur (part 1 of photo essay does the same for projects in Chamba district) of Himachal Pradesh. In Kinnaur the photo essay includes such impacts of 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo and 1500 MW Nathpa Jakhri hydropower projects. It is noteworthy that impacts are not only limited to large hydropower projects, but also to what is defined as small hydropower projects (projects below 25 MW installed capacity). This should also help puncture the misconceived notion that small hydropower projects are environmental benign and they do not need environmental and social impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance.
These photo essays are indicative of the kind of impacts tunneling and blasting can have in the process of building hydropower projects in the Himalayas. What they indicate is relevant not only for Himachal Pradesh, but entire Himalayas and all projects that involve such tunneling and blasting. We hope these photo essays open the eyes of state governments, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Union Ministry of Power, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Electricity Authority, state environment departments, hydropower developers, EIA consultants, chairman and members of Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, media, judiciary, civil society and all others concerned.
Karcham Wangtoo Hydro Power Project, Kinnaur
|Project||Jaypee Karcham Wangtoo HEP|
|Villages||Choling, Yulla, Urni, Runnag, Meeru, Chugaun|
|Pictures taken on||25 May to 2 June 2014|
Nathpa Jhakari Hydro Power Project
|Project||Nathpa Jhakari HEP|
|Villages||Nigulseri & Jhakari|
|Pictures taken on||29/05/2014 & 03/06/2014|
For Part 1 of the photo essay related to tunneling impacts of hydropower projects in Chamba district, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/photo-essay-on-the-impacts-of-blasting-and-tunneling-for-hydropower-projects-in-chamba-district-in-himachal-pradesh-1/
 The photo blog also appears here: http://www.himdhara.org/2014/08/06/photo-essay-when-mountains-are-hollowed/
 For a detailed article on this issue, Seeping through the cracks, see: http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/seeping-through-cracks.html