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“Unjustified”: Experts write to Prime Minister Modi against hydroelectric projects in Ganga Himalaya

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Rescue team members work near a tunnel after part of a glacier broke off and flooded Tapovan, Uttarakhand, February 8, 2021. Photo: Reuters / Stringer


  • In 2014, a committee formed on the orientation of the Supreme Court strongly recommended not to build HEP in paraglacial areas.
  • The Modi government has decided to restart the construction of seven HEP ​​in the Ganges-Himalayas, six of which are in paraglacial zones or their buffer zones.
  • The Union Environment Ministry has previously said construction approval must have scientific backing, but experts say the new decision does not.

Bangalore: A group of more than 60 prominent experts and citizens wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against his government’s decision to restart construction of seven hydroelectric power projects (HEP) in the Ganges Himalayas. In 2014, a committee called Expert Body I, formed on the guidance of the Supreme Court, strongly recommended not to build HEP in paraglacial areas. The Union’s Environment Ministry expressed support for the ruling in an affidavit it filed with the Supreme Court that year, adding that future rulings on the matter should have “strong scientific backing.” and solid “. However, the letter says that the new decision by the Modi government to resume construction of the seven projects, six of which are in paraglacial zones or their buffer zones, lacks any scientific support and should be rescinded.

The experts’ letter is reproduced in full below, followed by the list of 64 signatories (as of September 10, 2021, 1:55 p.m.). Some notable endorsers include Ramachandra Guha, Medha Patkar, Ravi Chopra and CP Rajendran.

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Open letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of the Environment and the Media:

Unjustified restart of seven hydropower projects under construction in Ganga Himalaya

Recently, MoEF & CC recommended restarting the construction of seven HEP ​​under construction in Uttarakhand, namely Tehri II (1000 MW), Tapovan Vishnugad (520 MW), Vishnugad Pipalkoti (444 MW), Singoli Bhatwari (99 MW), Phata Byung (76 MW), Madhmaheshwar (15 MW) and Kaliganga II (4.5 MW). The news came as a shock to the citizens, worshipers and environmentalists who have struggled for more than a decade to preserve our national river Ganga and the Himalayas. The deep concern over the fate of these two pivotal ecological systems and symbols defining Indian culture compels us to write this letter. Not least, as a citizen it is also our constitutional duty to protect and enhance India’s natural environment.

In the past, the MoEFF & CC has strongly supported and endorsed the findings of Expert Body-I (EB I), a body formulated on the instructions of the Supreme Court, who concluded that HEPs worsen disasters and cause environmental damage. irreversible. The MoEFF & CC stated in its affidavit (5/12/2014) that it was a cause of pain, anguish and indignation that so many lives were lost and property damaged. Therefore, he said any decision on HEPs should be very solid and solid foundations with scientific support. In direct contradiction to this, the only reasons given for relaunching these projects are that substantial progress and significant investment was done.

Six of the seven recommended projects (except Tehri Stage II) are located in para-glacial zones or in its buffer zone. The EB-I report had explicitly underlined the dangers of the construction of dams in the para-glacial zone, now understood as the region upstream of the MCT. Several subsequent scientific publications also supported the EB-I recommendation against the construction of dams in these areas. The destruction of the HEPs of Vishnuprayag, Phata-Byung and Singoli Bhatwari in 2013 while the HEPs of Rishiganga and Tapovan Vishnugad in February 2021 are recent examples.

The HEP of Madhmaheshwar and Kaliganga are offered on pristine rivers in a para-glacial zone. Scientific publications in recent years have shown that small para-glacial tributaries are more destructive than major rivers. For example, the most serious destruction in 2013 was caused by Khiro Ganga, and in 2021 by Raunthi Gad and Rishiganga. Following the disaster of June 2013, the Madhmaheshwar and Kaliganga rivers are practically blocked by sediment. These sediments are likely to mobilize during extreme hydrometeorological events and therefore likely to impact the Singoli-Bhatwari HEP, whose dam is located just a few hundred meters downstream from the confluence of the Madhmaheshwar ganga with the Mandakini river as this s ‘is produced with both HEPs in February 2021..

Phata-Byung and Tapovan-Vishungad can in no case be considered as 50% complete. They suffered extreme damage and still lie under the rubble today. Their upstream geomorphology and catchment ecology are completely obliterated from what they were at the time of project design and approval. They would require further detailed surveys, new CMAs and new authorizations if they were to be considered for reconstruction. Local reports suggest that the construction of Vishnugad-Pipalkoti is also less than 50 percent. Tehri 2 HEP, if built, would immediately recycle water from the river that emerges from the Tehri 1 dam without allowing even a stretch of minimal flow in which the Ganges could revive. Studies by NEERI have shown that Tehri 1 has already compromised the self-purification property of Gangajal. Tehri 2 would only deteriorate it further.

Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than the global average. An increased frequency of downstream flooding, glacial lake flooding and other disasters is therefore expected. We recently saw Rishi Ganga HEP being wiped out within minutes by the flooding of the Rishiganga River. Tapovan-Vishnugad and its tunnels were buried under tons of debris a few minutes later and still remain in a deplorable state. The workers lost their lives in a tragic and horrific manner and many corpses could not even be recovered from the tunnel. ICIMOD had already predicted in 2009 that, Valuable infrastructure, such as hydropower plants, roads, bridges and communication systems, will be increasingly threatened by climate change. Entire hydropower production systems established on many rivers will be threatened if landslides and flash floods increase, and hydropower production will be affected if there is a decrease in already low flows during the dry season.

New designs, damage costs and reconstruction will make the energy produced by Phata Byung and Tapovan-Vishugad prohibitive, especially compared to the cheap solar power available today. The cost of recovery in the valley after the 2013 Kedarnath flood was estimated at Rs. 6,259 crore (around $ 1.1 billion). Perhaps the MoWR is already aware that electricity generation costs at Tapovan-Vishnugad and Singoli Bhatwari have currently climbed to Rs.23 / unit and Rs.16 / unit respectively.

Considering all these facts, reports and studies, it would be a serious mistake, if not a doomed exercise, to implement other HEPs in the Himalayas and on the Ganges, whether they are under construction, new or proposed. The safety of the lives of our people is at stake here, and is paramount. The Himalayas are the sentinel of India and the Ganges river supports nearly half a billion people in its basin. Jal Shakti’s ministry argued that, along with the conservation of water flow, the protection of the watershed, the forest cover and the protection of global biodiversity is essential because the ecosystem services of theThe Ganges-Himalayan basin is extremely important and has a direct and indirect impact on the overall food and water security and climatic conditions of the whole country.

We strongly emphasize that the world is in the grip of a climate change crisis. The recent IPCC report declared a Code Red for Humanity. He particularly warned that India would be one of the hardest hit countries.

Also ever present in our hearts and minds is the death of Baba Nagnath, Swami Sanand and Swami Nigamanand who sacrificed their lives in prolonged fasts, to ensure the aviralta and nirmalta by Mother Ganga.

Our collective Consciousness and Science both demand that the decision to restart these seven projects be overturned, keeping in mind many factors that have been overlooked, in the best interest of our nation and the government’s stated goal of rejuvenation. the Ganges. There are alternatives for power generation, but there are no alternatives for our long-standing cultural and civilizational identity – the Ganges and the Himalayas.

The PMO has already taken a welcome and judicious decision at its meeting on 2/25/2019, that:

  1. No new hydroelectric projects will be undertaken on the Ganga River and its tributaries in the state of Uttarakhand.
  2. All projects for which work has not started in the field will be abandoned. vs. Considering the lost revenue and opportunities for the state of Uttarakhand, it was decided that the state of Uttarakhand could be compensated for projects that are abandoned and on which work has already started.

We conclude with the observation of the Jal Shakti ministry itself: As can be seen from the views of experts and expert organizations indicated in the previous paragraph, HEPs will negatively affect the ecology of the Himalayas, resulting in irreversible loss of the Himalayan ecosystem and the river. national Ganga which is the identity of the nation. and symbol of faith and heritage.

We sincerely hope that you will reconsider the recent recommendation from MoEF & CC to restart construction of the seven HEPs.

Yours sincerely,

Sources

1/ https://Google.com/

2/ https://science.thewire.in/environment/unjustified-experts-write-to-pm-modi-against-hydro-projects-in-ganga-himalaya/

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