Environment

Hydro power projects in Himalayan region face flood risk

A view of the Himalayan glacier.

A view of the Himalayan glacier.

Potential hydro power projects in the Himalayan region would need to factor in chances of increased floods from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers, says an analysis of Himalayan glaciers and their possible future impact on livelihoods in States adjoining the region. The results are part of a modelling study by Swiss researchers on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

According to the study, 441 hydro power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China, that is, 66 per cent of the constructed and the potential projects, are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks. This means they could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. Almost a third of these projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for, says a study.

“If hydro power projects were to be situated close to these glaciers, they would have to account for higher water flows,” said Dr. Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva, lead scientist with the study. “But that does not mean they cannot be built. It might need extra design or safety features.”

India accounts for 129 of the hydro projects analysed. India’s environment and water resources ministries are engaged in a tiff with the power ministry over the construction of hydro power projects in Uttarakhand. Broadly, they deal with the impact of these projects on the local ecology and on the natural flows of the rivers they are built upon.

Dr. Stoffel said there was a paucity of data regarding the health of the Himalayan glaciers, and depending on their location within the Himalayan range, there were varying rates of glacial melt. The findings come even as researchers note that global warming could cause glaciers to melt rapidly, which is already evident in an increase in the number of glacier-fed lakes in Himachal.

In the Beas basin, six lakes in 1989 increased to 33 in 2011, and in the Parvati Valley catchment area, there was an increase from 12 lakes (in 1989) to 77 lakes (in 2014). Most of the Himachal Pradesh lakes were relatively small or with a capacity of a million cubic metres, and only a few of them had a capacity larger than 10 million cubic metres.

Collaborative research

The Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme, which coordinated research into the Himalayan glaciers and their potential impact downstream, is set to receive an additional $3.5 million CHF (Swiss Francs; approx. Rs 24 crore) in funding for the next phase of the programme.


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Printable version | Oct 3, 2022 3:37:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Hydro-power-projects-in-Himalayan-region-face-flood-risk/article16692152.ece