At least two under-construction hydro power projects in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district were severely impacted by Sunday’s flash flood, with fatalities reported among personnel deployed at these sites.
Several other projects on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins in northwestern Uttarakhand have also been impacted by the flood.
Seven bodies had been recovered by late evening, and over 150 workers were reported missing. Around a dozen workers at the two sites on the upper reaches of the Dhauliganga river had been rescued.
The flooding, which occurred in the vicinity of Joshimath, swept away the barrage used to divert water at NTPC Ltd’s under-construction 520 MW-capacity Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project on the Dhauliganga, it is learnt.
Sources said that while the civil structure survived the flood, at least a couple of gates of the spillway have been swept away. A boring machine was stuck inside a tunnel of the run-of-river plant, they said.
“An avalanche near Tapovan in Uttarakhand has damaged a part of our under-construction hydropower project in the region. While rescue operations are on, (the) situation is being monitored continuously with the help (of the) district administration and police,” an NTPC spokesperson said.
A 30,000-cumec (cubic metres per second) rush at the time of the flood triggered a 10-15-metre-high wave front wherever the river was narrow, which resulted in a massive downward thrust.
The privately-owned 13.2 MW run-of-river Rishi Ganga Power Project on the Alaknanda was among the first to be hit by the surge, leading to extensive damage. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said 30-odd workers at the site and two police personnel were missing.
Another under-construction project, THDC Ltd’s 444 MW Pipal Koti Hydroelectric Project, a downstream leg of the Tapovan Vishnugad project located further downstream of the site of the flash flood, did not see any loss of lives.
No work was taking place, and there were no personnel at the Pipal Koti site at the time of the flood, a source told The Indian Express.
Reports from the ground indicated that GVK Group’s 330 MW Shrinagar HEP dam on the Alaknanda river in Tehri was also affected. The company denied this, but said it was on alert.
“Our plant has not been impacted. It is located almost 150 km from where the glacial burst happened. We have been asked to be on alert by the state government, and we are following their instructions,” a spokesperson for the company said.
The 400 MW Vishnuprayag Project of the Jaypee Group, upstream of the flash flood, is reported to have escaped damage.
A spokesperson for NHPC Ltd, the country’s biggest hydro power developer, said the company did not have any projects in the area, and that all of its stations in Uttarakhand, including its Dhauliganga power station, were safe.
The Tapovan Vishnugad Project is to be equipped with four 130 MW turbines, and a 200-metre-long and 22-metre-high barrage with four gates across the Dhauliganga river.
Hydro power development in India has had a controversial history, given the ecological impact of large projects involving storage structures and dams. There are over 50 hydro projects — including operational, under-construction, and proposed units — in Uttarakhand’s Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins. The total catchment area of these basins up to Devprayag in the lower reaches is estimated to be 19,600 km. The terrain is predominantly hilly, and both basins are characterized by rugged river drainage, with deep, steep valleys separated by linear narrow ridges, and slopes that are steep and quite unstable in certain regions.
Following protests over rampant construction, the Uttarakhand government had scrapped the 600 MW Loharinag Pala project in 2010.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines