‘Power projects need a closer look’

July 22, 2013 12:00 am | Updated 05:11 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The jury is still out on whether the existing and under construction hydro-power projects in Uttarakhand exacerbated the impact of floods there, but a group of environmentalists claim that the projects have had an adverse impact on the environment. They have written to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to suspend the environment clearances for these projects and institute an independent inquiry to assess their claims.

In their letter to the Ministry, the group has claimed that the hydro-electric plants (HEP) in Uttarakhand have played a “significant role in increasing the proportions of disaster” in the State. Citing examples, they have referred to a 330 MW project under construction in Srinagar, which has been “illegally” dumping muck into a river and piling heaps on the slope without an adequate retaining wall.

“Moreover, it is learnt that the project closed the gates of the dam on the evening of June 16, 2013, but opened them up suddenly early next morning, which led to flooding of hundreds of houses and buildings in the downstream Srinagar town. The piled muck heaps were washed into the town. The town was submerged in not only water, but also 10-30 feet of muck. The project itself has suffered damages,” the letter stated.

The group also claimed the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari and the 76 MW Phata Byung HEPs are both under-construction projects on Mandakini river in Rudraprayag district and have been illegally dumping muck along the river banks, which was carried by the river to the downstream villages and towns up to Rudrapayag and beyond. “The operators of the 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda River did not open the gates in time, leading to the reservoir behind the gates filled with boulders. The river then bypassed the project and created a new path, creating a huge flash flood in the downstream area and also eroding the banks and the road. Lambagad market and Govindghat township have suffered massive destruction of private property and public property, including the bridge to the Hemkund Sahib trek, endangering the lives of pilgrims and tourists,” the letter read.

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