'Dams, hydroelectric projects don't harm environment'

Dams, hydroelectric projects don't harm environment; calls for study to find that: R K Singh

Currently, India is developing around 14,000 megawatts of hydropower generation capacity

Power Minister R K Singh. Credit: PTI Photo

Power Minister R K Singh on Wednesday brushed aside apprehensions that water storage or dam projects, which also generate hydro electricity, harm environment, and urged experts to commission an authoritative and scientific study to find out the truth.

Speaking at a symposium on sustainable development of dams and river basins, Singh said, "I have not seen science of environment being harmed. I see science of progress in this (water storage). Punjab and Haryana developed and they are where they are today because of Bhakra Nangal dam."

He further said, "If you ask any person in Bihar, then his dearest wish is to construct large dams on the river Kosi in Nepal. Wherever we constructed large dams, we have improved the lives of people...generations. This is the message we need to convey."

He brought attention toward pushback to water storage or dam projects in the country by NGOs (non-government organisations) or civil societies which claim that these would harm environment.

The minister said, "In our country, there is a decade or two of push back (to water storage projects) by NGOs without any authoritative study that says that dams are harmful to environment."

Currently, India is developing around 14,000 megawatts of hydropower generation capacity.

He said, "In water resources, in the past decade also, we have faced headwinds in harnessing our water resources. There was concerted movement against harnessing the water, dams, against any project which sought to harness our water resources."

He said the movement still persists. "That push back against dams still persists. That is something which we have to address."

The minister urged all to first accept that humans have been harnessing water right from the time our civilisation began.

"The earliest dam started on the Nile (in Egypt)...harnessing water was there before Christ (BC). It is not that it is happening now," he said.

The minister stated that the proposition is that if some how you stop the natural flow of water, then it harms the environment.

He added that the water storage projects do not stop the natural flow of the water and just the excess flow of water is harnessed through storage so that it can be used as and when needed.

"Does that harm the environment? Is there any study? I think you need to commission a study and examine whether it actually harms the environment... I think we need to come out with an authoritative study on this," the minister said.

The minister also said that in some areas, it is essential to set up water storage projects like Brahmaputra river. If India does not do it, its rival China would do it, he added.

He said, "They (China) are planning construction of large dams. So, we have to start construction of large dams. If they construct large dams before us then they can squeeze our (water) supplies in Assam and North East."

He also said every developed country has exploited 80-90 per cent of their hydro power generation potential.

India needs balancing power for renewable energy, and the balancing power has to come from pumped hydro storage projects, he added.

Currently, thermal power provides base load or balancing power because renewable energy like solar and wind energy does not generate power round the clock. Thus, there is a need for constant supply of power to the grid.

The minister also said, "I believe that harnessing water resources and harnessing water resources are central to our lives and livelihoods.....since inception of civilisations."

He said life flourishes beside the rivers valleys, as it was evident from any old civilisation like Indus Valley, and life started on earth because of water.

The essential requirements for life are water and energy, he added. 

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox