The Bhagirathi (left) joins with the Alaknanda (right) in Devprayag and is known as the Ganga from this point onwards. Photo: Wikipedia
Good news for the River Ganga! India has cancelled a 600 MW hydropower project on the Bhagirathi River, one of the main tributaries that come together to form the sacred river, citing environmental and religious concerns. Though the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project would not have involved building a huge dam, as Circle of Blue reports, the run-of-river project still would have diverted a 16 kilometer stretch of the river through pipes to generate electricity.In addition to stopping the project, construction on which had been on hold for over a year after scientist AD Agarwal nearly died in a hunger strike protesting the plan, a 135 kilometer stretch of the Bhagirathi River upstream of the town of Uttarkashi will be designated an 'environmentally sensitive area', prohibiting future hydro or similar development projects.
The Bhagirathi River already is constrained by the 2.4 GW Tehri Dam and hydroelectric project (pictured below), completed in 2006 downstream from Uttarkashi. At 260 meters tall it is one of the largest dams in the world.
photo: Arvind Iyer via flickr
Dams' Output May Be Lowered by Changing Precipitation, Snowmelt Patterns
It's impossible to overstate the symbolic importance of the River Ganga within Hinduism and from a practical resource perspective to the people who live within its watershed. Part of the tragedy of further constraining the flow of the river is that in an effort to develop more lower-carbon power sources--something India certainly needs, and is a great opportunity for the nation--is that changing precipitation patterns, coupled with melting glaciers, brought about by climate change may well lower the future output and viability of these projects.
In addition to the religious and environmental concerns, part of the opposition to hydropower projects on the Ganga and her upper tributaries rests in the fact that much of the power from these projects will be exported, leaving local people with all of the burden and little of the benefit.
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More on Hydropower:
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Scientist's Hunger Strike Halts Work on Himalayan Dam