Experts write to PM against resumption of stalled HEPs

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 | PNS | Dehradun

A group of 64 personalities including politicians, lawyers, environmentalists, researchers, scientists, academicians and others have written to the Prime Minister and Minister of Environment raising concerns at the planned resumption of the construction of seven under construction hydro electric projects (HEPs) in Uttarakhand namely Tehri II, Tapovan-Vishnugad, Vishnugad-Pipalkoti, Singoli Bhatwadi, Phata Bhyung, Madhmaheshwar, and Kaliganga II referring to the severe repercussions that will follow.  

The concerned citizens have cited the findings of the Supreme Court directed Expert Body- 1(EB-1) which had concluded that HEPs can cause irreversible environmental damage. One of the prime issues is that six out of seven projects (except Tehri stage II) proposed, lie in para-glacial zones or near it. According to the reports of the EB-1 and various other scientific researchers, the construction of dams in such areas is accident-prone. They cited the recent examples of the destruction of Rishiganga and Tapovan Vishnugad HEPs in February 2021. 

The Madhmaheshwar and Kaliganga HEPs are proposed on virgin rivers in a para-glacial zone which causes problems because small para-tributaries are more destructive than big rivers. One of the most severe destructions was caused in June 2013 and following which Madhmaheswar and Kaliganga rivers are clogged with sediments. These sediments can get mobilised during the hydro-meteorological events and impact the Singoli-Bhatwari HEP, causing disaster. 

The reconstruction of Phata Bhyung and Tapovan Vishnugad would require new investigations, DPRs, and clearances since the situations are changed from their original construction timeline. Also, the construction of Tehri II would recycle the river water that emerges out of Tehri I dam without allowing the Ganga to revive itself. 

In the age of cheap and effective solar power, the cost of fresh designs, damages suffered and reconstruction that will come with Phata-Bhyung and Tapovan-Vishugad make such projects obsolete, they said. Given all the examples and reports the reconstruction of such dams would prove to be a serious error. The loss of life caused by earlier environmental devastations should be taken as a warning. India has been cautioned to be one of the hardest hit in the climate change crisis according to the IPCC and if change is not implemented now, it could be too late. The signatories to the letter further state that in its earlier decision, the PMO on February 25,  2019 had stopped all new or existing construction of the HEPs and a similar decision is wanted by the group of 64 presently. The signatories include Banaras Hindu University chancellor Justice Giridhar Malviya, historian Shekhar Pathak, Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Tamta, Supreme Court appointed expert body (2013) chairman Ravi Chopra, activist Rajendra Singh, Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of Ganga Sewa Abhiyanam, ex-secretary of MoWR and GR, Shashi Shekhar and others who have endorsed the letter including environmentalist Medha Patkar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former RSS ideologue and founder of Bharak Vikas Sangam, KN Govindacharya among others.

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