One of the topics very few people talk about is the gradual and definite destruction of India’s rivers. About the social, human and environmental cost of imposing the mindless policies of development on the river systems of India. About the epic conflict staged between development and conservation, power and people, with rivers, forests and social life at stake. About the need for the alternatives and sustainable solutions.
The means of producing power (hydroelectricity and fossil fuels) are causing not just ecological loss but also severe and adverse social effects. For example, a significant number of villages in Uttarakhand, the stretch of the Ganges near their village does not have any water for the major portion of the year.
Through many stretches in the hill state of Uttarakhand, the river Ganga has totally disappeared or been reduced to a trickle owing to numerous hydro projects.
With water having been diverted to parallel tunnels feeding power plants, the main course of the river at many stretches is today devoid of any water.
A new dialogue needs to be fostered.
A dialogue about the renewable energy future for India which can meet its energy requirements without compromising the ecology and people’s lives.
There is an ongoing battle between various factions over the once unshackled rivers of India.
Those who want to harness hydropower to generate “clean” renewable energy are at cross purposes with the local people displaced by dams as well as environmentalists.
Hydropower is a leading source of power in India. It has seen accelerated growth since the 1990s. But is it as green as it is touted to be?
Hydropower continues to be the second leading source of power and constitutes 16 percent of India’s electricity.
This is second only to thermal-based energy which comprises of over 70 percent of electricity in the country. In India, hydropower plants operate at barely 32 percent of their capacity.
Hydropower is seen as clean in terms of air pollution, but the ecological impact of any dam on a river is immense, irreparable and long lasting.
The government just sees the direct cost-benefit ratio in terms of money invested and the revenue generated and assumes all negative impacts can be mitigated through technology.
Large hydropower dams underperform their stated installed capacity because the actual flow in the river is much less than the design flows due to continuous deforestation in the catchments of the rivers.
Hydropower is poised to meet significant energy demand in the next few years, yet many other environmental and social costs associated with large hydropower dams affect its sustainability and are ignored.
Here is a film that raises the issue of how unprecedented rainfall and fragile Himalayan geology combine to pose a safety risk to all riverine infrastructures.
This was seen during the Uttarakhand floods in 2013 where many hydropower projects, be it their barrages or tunnels, were damaged and in some cases, exacerbated the impacts of the flood.
Director: Valli Bindana