Dams by the dozen

As if there were not enough dams and barrages diverting water from the Ganges, the Indian government is planning to build even more structures on this holy river as well as its tributaries.

According to the official information of the Indian government, the newly formed state of Uttarakhand alone is set to get more than 40 new dams that link with the Ganges.

The Indian government is keen to use the hilly region of this new state carved out of Uttar Pradesh as a centre of hydro power generation.

One such project is the 330MW Alaknanda hydro power project about 10km from Srinagar in Uttarakhand which connects to India’s northern power grid.

The huge $728 million-project is expected to generate about 1,514 GWh of energy every year but the fruits are unlikely to benefit the locals or even those living in the state, says Jayhari Shrivastava of the Srinagar University.

“The government is doing this for the rest of the country, not for us, although our demand is really little.”

People have had to relocate, he said, pointing to the Srinagar dam. “A vast stretch of fertile land was gobbled up by the reservoir.” In the process, Shrivastava said the government was destroying ecology and environment of the region.

“But above all, this is not for the hill people. See locals don’t really want these types of dams and hydro projects here.”

The Alaknanda hydroelectric project is expected to reduce the northern grid’s dependence on fossil fuel.

The entire project includes construction of a 320-feet dam besides a head race tunnel, six intake tunnels, a desilting basin, a power house, a tail race channel and a switchyard.

College teacher, Pramod Jagwan says these infrastructures are “against nature.”

“They are producing electricity, blocking the river flow. At the same time, it hampers lives and livelihoods of the locals.”

He stresses that Uttarakhand, being a small state, does not really need large dams like Tehri or Srinagar. “Our population is limited. We don’t need so many power projects here damaging our ecology and environment.”