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Aging dams– a serious danger to the country

Aging dams-- a serious danger to the country
Bhakra Dam

CHANDIGARH—Recently, a disaster that struck Uttrakhand once again reminds us that nature takes its toll. Disaster after disaster, the same questions persist. Who is paying the price for development and who is benefiting? If these questions have not been answered then the definition of policies are flawed. With one dam for every 32 km in the Himalayas, India is all set to have one of the highest dam densities in the world. It has 4407 large dams of which more than 1000 would be older than 50 years by 2025. Bhakra Dam and Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh have already crossed fifty years of their age. At least there are 100 large dams in the country that are 100 years old, there are around 500 dams which are between 50 and 100 years.

Himachal Pradesh is following the footsteps of Sikkim which would have the highest dam density in the world. The state has a wide network of rivers—Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Beas, Satluj and Yamuna. All over the state, large and small power dams are being built on these rivers and their tributaries. Hydro projects in hill states contribute to 66 per cent of total power generation in the country.

There are 536 small hydro projects on these rivers in Himachal Pradesh with a total capacity of 2267.81 MW power generation. Around 112 small hydro projects have been installed in the state generating 375.38 MW power and 40 such projects are under implementation. Satluj River and its tributaries have 35 dams dotting its flow. Other major projects such as Baira Siul Dam; Bhakra Dam; Chamera Dam; Nathpa Dam; Pong Dam; Pandoh Dam and Ranjeet Sagar Dam have been constructed.

Himachal Pradesh has announced for setting up commercial small hydro projects through private sector participation.

“Development’ has brought colossal damages. Displacement is the inevitable fallout of any such project, with villagers having to cope with the loss of settled lives; their houses and fields are flooded, their livelihoods jeopardized, depletion of groundwater level, drying up of natural resources besides destroying natural environment that acts as a bulwark for the region. Sixteen projects with an installed capacity of over 8800 MW have been cleared on a Chenab basis without any cumulative impact assessment.

As per a recent report, India is at number three in constructing dams in the world.  It has 3600 large dams with a height of over 33 meters. The country had constructed 3300 dams after Independence. But only 2.2 per cent of dams generate power continuously and 3.5 percent dams serve the purpose of irrigation, power and water altogether. Around one crore hectares of fertile land swallowed by these dams, five lakh hectares of forest land destroyed and around four crore people have been displaced by these dams.

Keeping the colossal damage, India must analyze the costs versus benefits of these dams and conduct safety reviews in order to ensure the operational as well as ecological safety of the structures and the safety of those who inhabit the areas downstream. Photo:Source: indiatvnews.com.

By YS.Rana: Principal Correspondent.

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