Till now, hydro-projects are evaluated stand-alone. But the Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh now wants to look at these projects in a holistic manner by assessing the projects’ impact on the ecology of the entire basin.
On Tuesday, the ministry decided on the feasibility study for the entire stretch of Bhagirathi and Alakananda before permitting new hydro-power plants in Uttarakhand.
“Since a series of hydro projects are planned, under implementation and operational on Bhagirathi and Alakananda rivers, it has been decided that a comprehensive study may be undertaken on the likely cumulative impact of the projects on the flow and character of the river,” said a ministry official.
A similar study is already underway for Teesta river in Sikkim and West Bengal. The ministry has cancelled Uttarakhand’s three hydro projects - Pala Maneri, Bhaironghati and Rupsiabagar-Khasiyabara - and threatened Srinagar hydro project with withdrawal of permission unless environmental remedial measures - as promised in the project report - are not undertaken.
Six projects on Mandakini are also under the ministry’s scanner. The Bhagirati and Alakananda rivers will be studied by scientists from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee and Wildlife Institute of India in its entirety. The study would fix the requirement of minimum flow from the proposed and already commissioned hydro electric projects on these rivers.