The development of a breach in a coffer dam of a mega hydro power project being built on Alaknanda river on Monday has once again brought to the fore the issues governing the development of hydro potential in Uttarakhand.
While the Uttarakhand government has expressed its concern and seriousness on the issue,the activists are once again questioning the hydro power policy of the Uttarakhand government.
Uttarakhands power secretary Shatrughan Singh told The Indian Express,We are very serious on the issue. I will be sending a team of officials to the site to investigate what has happened and what needs to be done in the future.
The breach had developed on the coffer dam following the sudden rise in the levels of the Alaknanda river following incessant rains over the last two days. Although,no loss of life was reported,experts feel that such breaches can lead to washing away of human settlements.
The first question that arises is the lack of a monitoring mechanism on hydel projects. The government should involve the local people in the exercise as they have personal stakes are present near the dam sites all around the year, said Dr Ravi Chopra,an expert on the water resource management who has been actively working in Uttarakhand.
A former IITian holding a doctorate from the United States,Chopra told The Indian Express,It has been my personal experience that the companies constructing hydro power projects are indulging in shoddy construction practices and the planning and designing of such projects is based on inadequate data.
Referring to the GVK Group of Companies that is building the 330 MW project on the Alaknanda river at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore which is expected to be commissioned next year,Dr Chopra said,They have been violating the norms and this was pointed out to the government by the activists of the Nadi Bachao Andolan last year. They have been dumping muck in the river.
He said that companies with no experience of working in the Himalayan terrain should not be allowed to build projects on rivers that have furious flows. Such breaches can lead to further dumping of debris and mud in the river waters which in turn harms the water quality and the aquatic ecology, he said.
However,the Project Co-ordinator of the GVK group of companies Santosh Reddy dismissed the charges that his company was flouting any norms. We are following all the norms that are laid down by the authorities. We also have sufficient information and know how regarding execution of projects undertaken by us, he said while talking to The Indian Express.
Regarding the situation at the site where the coffer dam had been breached,he said that things are under control. We are trying to analyze how the incident happened and this is only possible when the water level recedes, he said and added that coffer dams are temporary dams which can develop such breaches whenever there is a rise in the water levels.
People living on the banks of the Alaknanda in Srinagar in Pauri district were shocked on Monday morning to see parts of the coffer dam plunge into the river. The administration had sounded an alert and had asked the people to keep away from the river banks.