New designs in 18 projects to assuage environmental concerns

government is expected to make significant changes in the basic design of 18 hydro projects , which are part of total 24 projects which have been stuck due to environmental reasons and allegedly aggravating the 2013 flash floods. The move follows a recent consensus reached by the Union environment and water ministries on the issue of allowing these projects and presenting a united stand before the Supreme Courtwhere the matter will be heard next month. Sources in the state government said that a committee of experts has been constituted from various departments which is working on a report that will be presented before the SC next month. All the three union ministers related to environment, river and power will also submit before SC next month.

SN Verma, managing director of Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (Hydro power corporation) said, “All the 24 projects, including six which have been cleared by the state and environment ministry, are yet to get nod from the Supreme Court. In the 18 projects, the design would facilitate longitudinal connectivity, minimum water flow during the lean season and biodiversity conservation.”
He said, through new designs, the waves of upstream water would be able to mix with downstream alognwith sediments. He said that the environment ministry has given instruction to release water in different categories of the amount to ensure that the river does not become dry even in the lean season from September to March. He said, the flora as well as fauna which live in the river will be conserved as well.
However environmentalist Ravi Chopra, who also headed a committee constituted by Supreme Court over these 24 hydro-power projects said, ” Unlike Longitudinal connectivity and minimum flow, the biggest issue is environmental flow. River has certain characteristics and pattern which changes during day and according to the season. So we want the portion of that flow in the same manner in river after the hydro project is set up. There are several calculation and processes which exist and, have been suggested in our report to actualize this .”
With regard to minimum flow even during lean season, he said, Union water ministerUma Bharti has already stated that 1000 cusec water flow would be ensured in the river throughout the year. On the issue of biodiversity conservation, he said, the hydel project not only disturb the biodiversity inside the river but also outside, on the banks and in the water shed. Thus the impact of massive construction is far beyond the river beds. He emphasized on sustenance of ecology instead. He gave example of hydro power projects on Alaknanada river and Vishnuprayag which badly affected the habitat of rare and endangered animals such as snow leopard, musk deer and brown bear of Dhauli Ganga valley through massive constructions.
Source: The Times of India City

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