Friday, June 8, 2012

Kashmiris fear hydro scheme could leave city high and dry

Roshan Din Shad in Alertnet: Residents and environmental experts in Muzaffarabad, Pakistani-administrated Kashmir’s main city, fear the diversion of a major river to generate hydroelectric power will deprive local people of water for drinking and waste disposal, and could alter the region’s climate.

The Neelum River gushes down into Muzaffarabad from the Indian-controlled part of the disputed Himalayan territory, running through the middle of the city. It transports away urban sewage discharged into it and provides the inhabitants’ water supply.

But Pakistan’s largest hydropower project of recent decades threatens to lower the river level, leaving too little water to deliver those vital services. “How we can live here if this river is reduced to a stream with sewage abandoned on its bank?” asks Shoukat Nawaz Mir, who owns a three-storey house on the banks of the Neelum River.

...Some 32 km of tunnels are being dug out, into which 86 percent of the river’s water will be diverted. When completed in 2016, the water will be used to produce cheaper electricity in a large hydropower scheme with installed capacity of 969 megawatts. The diverted river water will be discharged into the Jhelum River 28 km south of Muzaffarabad....

The Jhelum River runs through Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, shot by Badkhan, public domain

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