Uttrakhand Floods – Strict implementation of environmental laws may have prevented the tragedy

English: Backstage Pass Tour for Wikimedians a...

The Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MOEF) report for Uttrakhand on Biodiversity and effects of Hydro projects in the state and the CAG report on hydropower development through private sector participation pointed to risks due to the rampant hydropower projects in the state of Uttrakhand. The report by the CAG was for the year 2008-09 and the MOEF report (primarily on effects on biodiversity of the state) was for 2012 .

The salient points / extracts from the CAG report which discusses 42 operational hydro power projects and 203 under construction / clearance stage projects.

  1. Negligence of environmental concerns was obvious as the muck generated from excavation and construction activities was being openly dumped into the rivers contributing to increase in the turbidity of water. The projects seemed oblivious of the fact that such gross negligence of environmental concerns lead to deterioration of water quality and adverse impact on the aquatic biota. (Page 25, Summary).
  2. The plantation activity was highly deficient, as 38 per cent of projects reported hardly any plantation; posing severe hazards both for natural ecology and stabilization of hill slopes. (Page 25, Summary)
  3. Insufficient Environment Clearance were there in many hydropower projects. (Para 5.1)
  4. Consent for operation also not received by many projects (Para 5.1)
  5. Audit analysis revealed that, negligence in applying appropriate construction norms and structuring the project without appropriate technical counter measures may expose projects to enhanced seismic vulnerability. (Para 5.5)
  6. The adverse consequences of such floods are acute as they can not only damage the project structures but can cause loss of lives in low-lying down stream areas. Civil construction in projects is required to factor in this natural threat. Also the bigger the project, the greater should be the efficacy of the preventive measures. Audit scrutiny of project records revealed that no specific measures had been planned / designed in any project to cope with the risk of flash flood. (Para 5.7)

The highlights / analysis of the MOEF report are –

  1. Page 16: Bhagirithi Basin: The river is 217 kms and 32 hydro projects are coming up on this river. 9 projects are already commissioned and 4 are under construction. 19 projects are proposed. In essence every 6.5 kms there will be a Dam on this river.
  2. Page 18: Alaknanda Basin: 38 projects are coming up with 8 already commissioned  and 10 are under construction. 20 projects are proposed. The length of the river is 224 kms, hence roughly every 6 kms there will be a dam.
  3. Due to these 70 projects roughly 6192.285 ha of Forest Land will be affected and 10,073.78 ha of forest land will be underwater. (table 3.2)
  4. Page 25 (table 3.5) provides the details of % of river length affected. More than 50% of the river and their tributaries were affected.
  5. Impact of these Hydro Projects (Page 107) –
    • A min of 47% of the total river stretch will be affected
    • Out of 76 species of fish 66 will be affected
    • Due to the dams 17 migrant fishes will be affected which will affect their breeding cycle and hence survival.
    • Habitat loss of ~16000 ha for forest animals.  Some to the Rare, Endangered & Threatened species that will be affected are snow leopard, common leopard, brown bear, black bear, musk deer, cheer and Himalayan monal

______

References:

1) http://www.cag.gov.in/html/cag_reports/uttranchal/rep_2009/pa_cont.htm

2) http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/SEA-Hydro-Report-1604.pdf

2) http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-06-20/india/40092568_1_flash-floods-power-projects-river-water

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