- Relevance of hydropower in the Himalayan region is put into question after the crisis unfolding in Joshimath and glacier burst over the Rishiganga hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand.
About Hydropower in India
- Hydropower is often considered green energy because it generates electricity from the natural flow of water without releasing any emissions of pollutants.
- It also does not rely on fossil fuels.
- In India, the government has identified hydropower as a key renewable energy source.
Hydroelectric power projects in Himalayas
- Most countries in the region, including India, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan, have built or are planning to build hydropower projects in the Himalaya which is a major water source for much of South Asia.
- Nepal has many hydropower projects in the planning and development stages, including the Arun III Hydroelectric Project and the West Seti Hydroelectric Project.
- In Bhutan, hydropower is the main source of revenue, and the government has set a target to export surplus electricity to India. The country has built several hydropower projects, including the Chukha Hydropower Project and the Tala Hydropower Project.
- In India, many hydropower projects are under construction or in the planning stages in the Indian Himalaya, including the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh and the Teesta Low Dam Hydroelectric Project in Sikkim.
Impacts of hydroelectric power projects
- The development of hydropower projects in the Himalayas particularly in Joshimath and other parts of Uttarakhand, there are also concerns about the potential conflicts over water resources in the region.
- The Himalayas, which is a fragile ecosystem and home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, is already threatened by deforestation, overgrazing, and construction activities that harm the environment and local communities that depend on it.
- The construction of dams can disrupt the flow of rivers, leading to changes in water temperature and chemistry. It can also cause erosion, landslides, and sedimentation which can have a negative impact on the local environment.
- Dams also disrupt the migration patterns of fish and other aquatic species and impact the local wildlife, particularly if the dam’s construction leads to habitat loss.
- Large-scale hydroelectric dams displace local communities, affecting their livelihoods and cultural heritage and impacting the overall well-being of the local population.
What are the alternatives to hydropower?
Micro hydro power projects
- Micro hydro is a small-scale hydroelectric power generation system that typically generates up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of electricity.
- These systems use the energy of falling water to turn a turbine, which, in turn, generates electricity.
- Micro hydro systems can be classified into two main types – run-of-river and storage systems.
- Run-of-river systems use the natural flow of water in a stream or river to generate electricity.
- Storage systems use a reservoir to store water and release it as needed to generate electricity.
Advantages of micro hydro power projects
- They can be used for various applications, including powering homes, businesses, and small communities.
- Micro hydro systems are typically less expensive to build and maintain than large hydroelectric dams and have a smaller environmental footprint.
- They can be located even in inaccessible areas where it is difficult to transmit electricity from larger power stations, and they can provide a reliable source of energy to communities that are not connected to the grid.
- Micro hydro systems can be tailored to minimize the ecosystem’s negative impact and provide sustainable energy solutions.
- As micro-hydropower projects can even have some impact on the environment and local communities, a detailed assessment should be carried out to evaluate the potential impact before proceeding with the project.