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Energy Minister RK Singh's claim on hydropower projects reduce landslides is wrong

01:50 PM Feb 22, 2023 IST | Ground report
energy minister rk singh s claim on hydropower projects reduce landslides is wrong

Union Minister for Energy and New and Renewable Energy R K Singh recently said that a committee, set up by the government to check whether hydropower projects create a negative impact on the environment, found that they actually reduce the occurrence of landslides.

Speaking at the Elecrama industry event, R K Singh said: ‘I had set up a committee to examine whether hydropower is really harmful to the environment. And the committee’s report found that hydropower reduces the occurrence of landslides.’


He further added that they ‘have studied a number of hydropower projects and found that wherever hydropower projects are established, the number of (incidences of) landslides has decreased and the level of vegetation has increased.’

Stop construction of hydel projects: Green activists to Centre

Recently, Several local environmental groups and activists have urged the central government to halt the construction of power projects in his district, which has at least 22 small and large hydroelectric projects. Otherwise, Himachal Pradesh could face a similar fate to Joshimath in Uttarakhand, they warned.


The development model for these environmentally sensitive states must be reworked, taking local needs into account, said Mansi Ashar, founder of the Himdhara environmental group.

“The frequency of natural calamities like landslides in the Himalayan region has multiplied due to massive ecological destruction carried out in the name of development work,” Asher said.


Record flash floods, downpours and landslides in Himachal Pradesh have claimed more than 1,500 lives in the past five monsoons, according to a report by the state’s disaster management authority.

Environmental groups said that several towns situated above hydroelectric tunnels, such as Nathpa, Kandar (both officially declared unsafe), Shalaring, Kachring and Nigulsari, are heavily affected by landslides and rockfalls.


Himalayan regions are located in high-risk seismic zones IV and V, which are areas of high risk of damage and very high risk of damage, respectively.

Hydropower projects environment-friendly option misguided

Therefore, India’s push for hydropower projects as an environmentally friendly option is misguided, said Shripad Dharmadhikari, an analyst with research organization Manthan Adhyayan Kendra.

“But unlike coal, where emissions are proportional to the capacity of the thermal plant, in hydroelectric dams, the methane emission differs between plants. In the Himalayas, one suspects that the emissions would be high because there has been a lot of environmental degradation due to the dams. ‘

During the Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand in February 2021, large chunks of glaciers fell 1,800 meters from Ronti Peak in the upper Himalayas and cascaded down the mountain. This then mixed with rock and sediment, resulting in a massive debris flow that destroyed roads, bridges, and hydroelectric dams. Nearly 200 people lost their lives in this disaster.

‘Our understanding of what ‘clean’ comes from a very limited and narrow notion that dams don’t emit smoke,’ said Dharmadhikari of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra. ‘But large dams have caused far greater social and ecological damage, including deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and the displacement of communities that are often neglected.’

Disaster is a costly wake-up call

Environmentalists who have been studying Himalayan glaciers for decades have linked this deadly disaster, like many others before it, to climate change, adding weight to growing calls for aggressive climate action in the region.

However, pinning the blame for the flash flood solely or mainly on the ongoing climate crisis risks mistaking the failure of national and international agencies involved in construction projects in the region to act on lessons learned from past disasters.

Less than 10 years ago, in 2013, flash floods killed more than 5,700 people in Uttarakhand. Back then, experts were quick to establish links between the disaster and the numerous hydropower construction projects in the high-mountain valleys of Uttarakhand, arguing that these projects had exacerbated the intensity of the flooding. 

“Disaster is a costly wake-up call,” Peter Bosshard, International Rivers policy director, said after that deadly flood. ‘It shows that nature will strike back if we ignore the ecological limits of fragile regions like the Himalayas through the reckless construction of dams and other infrastructure development.’


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