Power plants will dry up Ganga in U’khand: CAG
Pradeep Thakur | TNN
New Delhi: There would be no water in large stretches of the famed Alaknanda and Bhagirathi riverbeds if the Uttarakhand government goes ahead with its plan to build 53 power projects on these two rivers which join at Dev Prayag to form the Ganga, the Comptroller and Auditor General has said.
A CAG inspection report submitted to the Uttarakhand governor says that already the riverbed is completely dry at Shrinagar (Garhwal) and what flows downstream is the water released by a power plant from its tunnel and those diverted from tributaries. If all projects are allowed to go through, the aquatic life and biodiversity of the river basin will be virtually erased.
Sources said the report also expresses fear that all villages settled along the river basin will be uprooted once the rivers go dry, leading to mass migration and cultural erosion. The CAG comes down hard on the state government whose power policy of 2006 allows a private player to divert up to 90% of the river water to power turbines, leaving only 10% to flow in the natural course of the river. The norm worldwide is to divert a maximum of 75% of water from a river to prevent the river from drying and to maintain its natural course.
The government’s auditor undertook a detailed review of dam construction and its impact on the Ganga early this year, following protests by environmental and citizens’ groups. Though not officially released __ as it’s yet to be tabled in the assembly __ a copy of the report has been sent to the Centre.
Sources said the report attacks the hydro-power policies of the Uttarakhand government for sanctioning at least 53 hydel power projects on the two rivers, which when completed would translate to a dam every 5-7km of the river stretch. While five power projects are already operational out of the 53 sanctioned and under construction, more than 200 are in the pipeline.
As a result of such intense damming, the report says that 3 to 4 km of the riverbed around each project will have no water. The report also casts doubts on the state government’s intentions in launching the plan, given the fact that a majority of the projects had been awarded to companies that had neither the financial capacity nor were they remotely connected with constructing of power plants.