Bhubaneswar, Dec 13:
Construction of hydro power projects in a planned manner is unlikely to interfere with the stability of the Himalayan region which not only has the maximum water potential in the country but also the maximum unexploited hydro power potential, a renowned expert said on Friday.
“Scientists fear that the calamity in Uttarakhand a few months ago is a precursor to bigger and more destructive floods. So more storage projects should be taken up in the Himalayan region to avoid such deadly disasters in future,” Dr MM Madan, Director (Hydel) at the GVK Group said while presenting a paper at the annual convention of the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE)) being held at the SOA University here.
Arguing in favour of more ‘run of the river’ (ROR) projects without much interference with natural silt movement down the river, he said the hydro projects could not have in any way contributed to the Uttarakhand catastrophe.
“In fact, the Tehri Hydro Project, which is a storage project, absorbed the excess discharge in the Bhagirathi and helped in saving towns of Rishikesh and Hardwar in the downstream,” he said claiming that the storage dams “are the saviour for the downstream population.”
Stating that hydro power projects were the second largest contributor of India’s energy demand, Madan said it, however, received the least priority as compared to thermal projects despite being the most efficient and economical energy source.
Bemoaning that the power supply position of India was deteriorating day by day due to lack of fuel, poor implementation and poorer hydro-thermal mix, he said that it was essential to have 40-60 mix of hydro, thermal and other sources of energy to have a satisfactory power supply position.
“At the end of the 11th plan, this mix was 21-79, creating imbalance in the power management,” the former executive director of National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) Ltd, said.
Discussing the pros and cons of hydro power development, Madan said today’s hydel plants had an efficiency of more than 90 per cent and they had low operational and maintenance costs once the project was commissioned.
On the flip side were the high upfront costs when building large hydel plants, large displacement and relief and rehabilitation issues, submergence of large areas and subsequent opposition by pro-environment lobbies.
He, however, pointed out that in Norway, hydro power’s share of the country’s total generation was 99 per cent followed by 84 per cent (Brazil), 74 per cent (Venezuela), 59 per cent (Canada), 49 per cent (Sweden). But India’s hydel share of total generation stood at 18 per cent.
Referring to the Uttarakhand disaster, Madan said torrential rain and unplanned construction mainly contributed to the tragedy. The unseasonal heavy rainfall caused the water level to rise in the rivers and the cloud burst triggered a sudden increase in water level.
Stating that the surface air temperature of Indian Himalayas had increased by one degree Celsius in the past one decade, he said it caused the Himalayan glaciers to melt rapidly causing Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) without any warning and formation of several new glacial lakes.
He said that besides rainfall, huge quantity of water was released into the river from melting of ice and glaciers due to high temperatures during the months of May and June.
Claiming that the role of the hydro projects was ‘nil’ in the catastrophe, the expert said large amount of debris generated by road construction and unplanned disposal of the same on the hill slopes caused flowing of muck into the river and raising of the river bed.
The other reasons for the disaster included non-execution of the CAT (Catchment Area Treatment) plan, deforestation and uncontrolled movement of AC tourist vehicles in the region, he said.
Citing the examples of the Bhakra dam, which today generated India’s cheapest power at 22 paise per unit, he said it saved lives and property both in India and Pakistan during high floods in 2000 and absorbed unprecedented quantity of flood waters this year.
Similarly, the Tehri dam retained waters of an engorged Bhagirathi river thereby preventing a 10 to 12 feet rise in Ganga at Rishikesh which could have been ruinous for the town, he said, adding “a right blend of storage dams with ROR projects in each basin can mitigate flood fury.”
Being the top-most body of engineers and technocrats in the country, INAE recognizes excellence in engineering through its awards.
Prof KL Chopra, former head, department of Physics, IIT, Delhi and Col SP Wahi, former chairman of ONGC, will be conferred with Lifetime achievement awards.