Skip to main content

Impact of Himachal's hydropower projects: Half of local sources of water have "dried up"

Damaged orchards in Urni village, Himachal Pradesh
By Our Representative
A just-released report, “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” by a Himachal Pradesh-based civil rights group, Himadhara, has warned that the market for hydropower has been “dwindling over the last few years”, as evident from "falling revenues from the hydropower sector" in the state, where “the installed capacity has risen from around 6000 MW to 10,547 MW in the last ten years”, but “the annual revenue from the sector which was around Rs 1300 crores a decade ago is at around Rs 908 crores in the last financial year.”
Pointing out that the phenomenon is not just confined to Himachal Pradesh and encompasses the entire country, the report says, the hydropower sector’s contribution to India’s total electricity production has halved from 25% to 13% in the last decade, and “in 2016-17 close to 40 hydropower projects were decided to be bailed out of bad loans worth Rs 16,000 crore.” 
The report, prepared by the NGO’s Environment Research and Action Collective, warns, “Uncertainties, hazards and risks associated with hydropower projects in the Himalayan states of the North Eastern India as well as the western Himalayas – namely Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir – have had both environmental and financial implications.”
Focusing on Himachal Pradesh, the report says, “primary evidences” of the impacts of disturbances triggered by construction of tunnels and other underground components for hydropower projects between 2011 and 2018, mainly from Kinnaur, Kullu and Chamba districts, falling in the Satluj, Beas and Ravi basins, show how the North-Western Himalayan state has become vulnerable, a factor reinforced by "geological instability and tectonic movements.”
“Earthquakes, landslides and flash-floods have been recorded as the top three hazards that Himalayan states, like Himachal Pradesh, are most prone to”, it says, insisting, “As per the vulnerability mapping carried out by the State Disaster Management Authority, 9 of the 12 districts of the State have moderate to very high vulnerability to earthquakes. Nearly 97.42%of the total geographical area of the state is prone to landslide hazards, according to the Geological Survey of India.”

Disappearance of springs

Pointing out one of the biggest adverse impacts of because of “hydro-geological shifts” triggered by “construction of tunnels and other underground components for hydropower projects between 2011 and 2018” have been “disappearance of springs – ground water discharges in mountains, locally called ‘chashma’ or ‘dhara’.” 
Decline in local sources of water
A subject of discussion over the last few years given the emerging water scarcities in the Himalayan region, the report says, “The Niti Ayog commissioned a study to understand the causes of drying up of Himalayan springs and how these could be revived. The study highlights that ‘nearly half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal’ in the Himalayan belt.”
The report states, “While it recognises larger changes like global warming as a factor affecting ground water discharge, it also observes that anthropogenic factors and construction activities like hydropower projects have played a role in exacerbating the problem. Springs, in areas where villages are located higher up the mountains, the key source of water for domestic uses as well as irrigation are these springs.”
Pointing out that in Kinnaur, or the upper reaches of Chamba, the farmers would not have been able to practice a profitable occupation like horiculture (growing apples) had these springs not existed, the report says, “The disturbance of underground springs and water aquifers reported mostly by communities in hydro project affected area is considered to be a hydrogeological phenomenon across the mountain regions.”
Referring to the Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment(CEIA) Study for Satluj river, the report states, 58% of respondents (project affected people) have cited reduced water availability as a major concern of hydro power projects” adding, 68% show “concern regarding drying of natural springs and water resources.”
Noting that out of 22 gram panchyat pradhans and up-pradhans 80% respondents expressed their concerns about drying up of natural water resources, the report asserts, “Adverse impacts of HEPs and their allied activities on natural water springs was also reported by the staff of the district Irrigation and public health department that was interviewed for the purpose of the study.”
The report continues, “Information extracted for three hydropower projects, in the Satluj, Beas and Ravi basins, respectively, through the RTI Act, from the irrigation and public health department (which monitors discharge of springs) indicates that the water discharge in villages located along the alignment of project tunnels had dropped significantly.”
“There are total 167 number of water sources in the project affected area in seven panchayats. Out of these 167 water sources 146 are traditional springs and 21 had irrigation and public health (IPH) water schemes on them. The data showed that close to 50% of the water sources had 90% depletion in discharge”, it adds.

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.

Online education 'driving' digital divide: $1.97 bn industry's paid users grow at 6x rate

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Maharashtra, in a new report in the series on Lockdown on Civil Liberties focusing on education has said that there is a huge “push-out” children due during the pandemic, with deepening digital-divide playing a major role.