Friday, May 2, 2014

Hydropower plants partly blamed for deadly India floods

Terra Daily via AFP: Hydropower projects in northern India were partly to blame for devastating floods last year that killed thousands, a government report has concluded, in a warning to other Himalayan nations investing in the alternative energy source.

Floods and landslides caused by early monsoon rains tore through the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand last June leaving more than 5,500 people dead or missing, and destroying villages and towns. The world's second most populous country has turned to hydropower projects in the Himalayas for electricity as it seeks to curb its reliance on coal-fed plants as well as reducing its crippling power shortages.

Pakistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal are also eyeing expansion of hydropower in the Himalayan range to varying degrees, often in ecologically fragile areas. In a report commissioned by the Indian government, a panel of experts said some of the more than 30 hydropower projects had caused a build up of sediment in Uttarakhand's rivers, including soil dug up during construction and dumped on the banks.

When record-high rainfall hit the region, rivers burst thei
r banks, sending tonnes of water as well as the sediment downstream, exacerbating the flooding that washed away roads, bridges and whole buildings. "The damage was due to a combination of the quantity of flood water and the sediment loads carried by the rivers," the report obtained by AFP late Tuesday said.

"Muck (sediment) management is a crucial issue. Current practices need to be reviewed and technically sound and ecologically sustainable ways of muck management in Uttarakhand have to be proposed to protect the people and the terrain from a June 2013 type of situation," it said....

Flash floods in Uttarakhand in 2012. Shot by European Commission DG ECHO, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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