The large rivers are dammed for the generation of the hydropower. This power is being promoted as eco-friendly. Which means it doesn’t harm the ecology of the area, which is un-true. The large dams are disastrous for the ecology of an area. It’s harms out-weigh it’s benefits. The large dams which were earlier described as temples of modern India, which are essential for uplifting the economy of a nation without any regard for the environmental degradation. Damming of a river hinders the natural flow of the water. The large amount of water is being stored behind the dams in the form of large reservoirs. This water is less aerated, meaning its dissolved oxygen content is low. The less DO content would result in the death of many aquatic fauna and flora for want of oxygen for respiration. The flowing water keeps taking large amount of oxygen from the atmosphere due to its large surface area. Lesser DO would also mean that water would have reduced capacity to decompose the organic wastes.Flowing water has very good self-purification capacity, which the stagnant water lacks. Besides, the Dammed water is prone to pollution. The river fragmentation has decimated the freshwater habitats and fish stocks threatening the food security of millions of vulnerable people across the globe.The people are displaced from their areas for the construction of the dams. These people are most of the times not rehabilitated properly. These people are losing their land and livelihood. These people are finding it very difficult to adjust in some new place. They are made to suffer. These people are mostly tribals who have lived all their life there. Suddenly, they are made to go to some other place to settle down. These are reluctant to give their lands for the construction of the dams. Hence it causes human sufferings by displacing the people from their roots, to which they are emotionally attached too. The course of the river is altered. The faunal and floral species thriving in this area are gone. As this area under-goes change in land-use pattern from the aquatic to the terrestrial. The downstream areas of the rivers are badly affected, as the natural flow of the water is altered. The crops pattern of the downstream area is affected. The upstream areas where the power generation occurs, they are being given some compensation. Sometimes, in the form of round the clock free or subsidised power supply. The downstream areas which have been using this water for very long time aren’t getting any direct benefits. At times, sudden release of large amount of water from the reservoirs causes floods, threatening the life and property of the downstream areas. This hampering of water supply to downstream areas leads to conflicts between the people of the up-stream and down-stream areas. The power generation capacity of the dams reduces over course of time. As the reservoirs are silted up by the sand and clay which reduces the amount of the water they carry. Hence the power generation capacity is also reduced. A better watershed management is essential for the longevity of the Hydel projects. With these large dams, there is always a threat of dam failure due to engineering fault. The dam failure would cause devastating floods in the downstream areas. These dams store so much water that it is estimated that they could wipe entire city in case of dam collapse. The large dams are even a more threat in seismic areas. Kashmir being in seismic zone V, the construction of large dams might prove disastrous. The small dams have to preferred over the large ones. As the smaller dams have lesser ecological and other affects. The climate is changing very fast. The reservoirs in hot climates are found to emit as much of green house gases as fossil fuel powered power plant. The healthy river ecosystems store and regulate large amount of carbon. In times, when the sources of carbon are ever increasing, the sinks of carbon must be preserved. Healthy river ecosystems are sinks of carbon. Rivers are our heritage. Civilizations have come up on the banks of rivers. These rivers along with their watershed and catchment areas should be kept as undisturbed as possible. Healthy Rivers connected to their watersheds, floodplains, wetlands and deltas are key in developing resilience in the face of climate crisis. If we continue to let the Hydel projects grow in its cynical grab we will leave behind the legacy of suffering and environmental degradation.
We need to gradually enhance the power generation capacity of these clean sources. The investments must be made for the generation of the energy which are least affecting the natural environment.
Alternatives: The small dams must be constructed in place of larger ones. As smaller ones are not affecting the environment much. In place of one large dam, many smaller ones must be preferred. Large dams have become the things of the past. The developed nation states are decommissioning the old dams owing to the harmful effects it has. Wind energy is an important source of energy, which could help in generation of clean energy. But the wind energy generation is still in its infancy and would take time, before it could be a mojor energy generation sector. The wind energy could be harnessed in coastal areas and mountain tops where the wind is present round the clock. Solar energy could also help reduce the burden of energy generation on Hydel projects. But it needs lot of investment to harness solar energy. At this point of time, solar energy could be be used just the supplement the major energy sectors.
Conclusion: It is too early for the renewable energy sources like wind energy, solar energy , tidal energy, geothermal energy etc to replace the major energy generation sectors like hydel projects, thermal power plants and nuclear power plants. The power generation by these non-conventional sectors is too low to meet the demand of the present power consumption. But definitely the future belongs to these non-conventional sources of energy as they aren’t polluting in nature. We need to gradually enhance the power generation capacity of these clean sources. The investments must be made for the generation of the energy which are least affecting the natural environment.
(The author is a freelancer. Views are his own)