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Vyasi HEP dam reservoir on Yamuna turns into 'watery grave' for aquatic eco-system

By Bhim Singh Rawat* 

Vyasi hydroelectric power (HEP) on Yamuna river is latest example of how the hydro power projects being pushed in the name of clean and green energy sources are failing on all fronts and proving a costly affair for the river, people and the nation.
The people who still think that the Run of the River (RoR) projects do not require a dam and cause no submergence of land; must visit the Vyasi HEP to witness the about 4 km long reservoir behind the 86-meter tall and 200-meter-long dam there.
The dam reservoir today has become a watery grave for the aquatic eco-system evolved around and accustomed to a free-flowing river.
For the fish in the river upstream of the dam, the river downstream the dam which once was their inherited territory is a forbidden space now.
Same is true for the riverine flora including native trees hundreds of which are still standing tall but lifeless along the dead pool of the Vyasi dam.
And yes, all the fertile farms and beautiful homes of Lohari a tribal village along the Yamuna bank are submerged in the same river which once nurtured them.
The villagers feel rooted out not just from the piece of land but from their long-lasting culture, customs and in essence from their very existence.
They struggled hard for months to get their legitimate screams be heard by the very government they elected and trusted. Dejected but determined they continue to stay close to the drowned habitats demanding land for land and defending their tribal status.
The children with lovely memories of their lost village now can’t help their eyes getting moist when they are asked where is their village.
Unaware of the cost they paid, some innocent young kids love to make toy houses, temple, school with stones and refused materials closed to their drowned birth place.
Yes, the government has started building shelters but not for the displaced but for the migrant workforce hired to build another monstrous dam Lakhwar in the upstream.
Locals say some Rs 3,200 crore contract has been given to L&T company for civil construction work and after monsoon the work on the 204 meter tall dam would start.
Back to the Vyasi HEP, the project is unable to produced 120 Mw (60X2) energy for which it was pushed over a decade costing about Rs. 1800 crore.
Now, the ‘visionary officials’ lament lack of sufficient flows in Yamuna for the gross under performance of Vyasi HEP and hide behind Lakhwar dam to correct all the wrong.
The giant 120 MW Vyasi HEP with a trail of destruction while in the making is nothing more than a show piece now. Fill the dam for half a day to run it in the other half at half the installed capacity appears to be the face-saving mantra the UJVNL has worked out.
And, once the roaring river now degraded into a feeble stream downstream the dam being fed by some 5 cumec of e-flows including the seepages.
Last year when the UJVNL started taming the river, downstream the dam dead fish could be seen spread over the riverbed, they used to thrive on. Same is going on but at lower scale to fresh water species rehabilitating the river downstream the Vyasi HEP dam which more than often is reduced into a flowless water channel.
And downstream the power station the hungry water rushes though the riverbed ready to erode the banks and the bed and swept away whoever ventures in thus making the riverscape a danger zone for fishermen, farmers, tourists and all.
An annoying siren blared out around noon hours and as the day passes more silt-free water is released into the river making it more aggressive.
One can witness the same river in three different forms – a dammed, a flowless and a raging river along a 20km long stretch between Lohari and Dak Pathar barrage courtesy the failed Vyasi HEP.
Habitats of people above the dam have been drowned and below the dam people have been put in a danger zone & in between the project lacks water to run at full capacity.
Meanwhile, focus is being shifted to Lakhwar to cover up for all the failures and threats of Vyasi HEP.
*Pix by the author. Source: South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People



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