Monday, May 25, 2020

Regional

Dams dammed nature in the Himalayas

Y.S.RANA | May 13, 2020 12:14 PM

CHANDIGARH: “The earth we abuse and the living things we kill; will, in the end, take their revenge, for in exploiting their presence, we are diminishing our future, ” once said Mannes. How these words are proving true in the present time.  With one dam for every 32 kilometer in the Himalayas, country is heading to have one of the highest dam densities in the world. It is not a thing of rejoice because such large-scale dam building, while adding megawatts of electricity to run our life, could also wipe out vast swathes of biological diversity in the ecologically fragile region, a study has revealed.

The report also stated that the dam density of 0.3247 per 1, 000 kilometer square area is nearly 62 times more than the current average global figure means average one dam for every 32 kilometer of river channel which is 1.5 times higher than the figures reported for rivers in America.   

Hundreds of dams are being constructed or proposed across major river basins of the Indian Himalayas which have cumulative hydropower potential of one lakh megawatts. The government has planned to harness half of this potential through projects in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Large scale and small power dams are being built on rivers and on their tributaries in Himalayas is damming the nature. Hill states contribute 66 per cent of total power generation in the country.

There are 536 small hydro projects on its rivers with total capacity of 2267.81 mw power generation. So far 112 small hydro projects have been installed in the state generating 375.38 mw power and 40 such projects are implementation with power generation capacity of 137.7 mw. Prof A.D Ahluwalia, former chairman, Department of Geology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, said that the construction of hydro projects and colonization of Himachal had brought the biodiversity in danger. Not respective the majesty of Himachal is itself a travesty, destroying its biodiversity that acts as a bulwark for the region.  It is a matter to ponder over seriously that over the few decades, the same questions persist—who is paying the price and who is benefitting?            

Most dams are located in species-rich areas of the Himalayas, says Dr Maharaj K Pandit, head of the centre for inter-disciplinary studies of mountain and hill environment at Delhi University which carried out the study. The results of the study have appeared in the journal Conservation Biology.’

There is every possibility of losing habitat and species by submergence and a plethora of construction activities causing elimination o species already on the verge of extinction and fragmented of forest areas. Thus, it  will be detrimental to the survival of species.  Ninety percent of valleys would be affected and 27 per cent of dams would affect dense forests. Such impacts are being overlooked by every successive government in the current regulatory process.  Hundreds of dams pose threat to endangered 725 flowering plants; 71 birds species; 22 mammals; 20 fish; 10 reptiles and 8 amphibians. It is also said that these endangered species would go extinct by 2025 due to dam building in Himalayas.

We are at a cross road where two roads diverge—the road we have long been travelling, is deceptively easy, a smooth super highway on which we progress with great speed but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road, which is less travelled by, offers our last chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth, choice is yours.


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