Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project | UPSC
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“Why Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project can be a worry“
Floods, earthquakes, landslides: Why Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project can be a worry
Formation of glacial lakes driven by climate change and sesimic risks pose threat to nature and life; project’s environmental clearance needs review, say experts
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1:3:Dams :Earthquakes : Seismic activity : Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project
Why Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project can be a worry . Discuss -(GS 3)
We have integrated all the consequences of this issue divided in four parts :
- Seismic hazards
- Glacial hazards
- Flooding events
Let us dive in !
The contentious 3,097-megawatt Etalin Hydroelectric Project (EHEP) — proposed to be developed as a joint venture between Jindal Power Ltd and the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd — in the state’s Dibang Valley has again sparked concerns over damage to ecology and threat of natural disasters.
- AMBITIOUS PROJECT :It is a combination of two run-of-the-river schemes with limited storage requiring concrete gravity dams on rivers Tangon and Dri
“The region is a high-mountain watershed prone to natural hazards because of its unique and complex geological, ecosystem, weather and climatic conditions,”
FOUR SPECIFIC RISKS:
- Seismic hazards
- Glacial hazards such as glacial lake outburst floods
- Flooding due to extreme precipitation events
CLIMATE CHANGE-DRIVEN GLACIAL RISKS
- NEAREST GLACIER : The rivers on which the two mega dams have been proposed are located 80 kilometres from the closest glacier.
- GLACIAL LAKES :The Dibang watershed has approximately 350 glacial lakes with a cumulative area of 50 square kilometres.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLACIAL LAKES :
- LOST MASSES : These glaciers have lost mass and retreated due to climate change.
- LESS VOLUME : They are set to lose up to 40 per cent of their current volume by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2050.
- SUPRAGLACIAL LAKES : One of the consequences of glacial thinning is the emergence of lakes on the surface of glaciers (supraglacial lakes).
- GLOFs entail heavy costs to human life and livelihood. Ex: Kedarnath floods and landslides that claimed 5,500 lives.
CONCERNS ON STEADY FLOW :
Regular glacial melt — climate change will further aggravate these risks.
- Supraglacial lakes have already formed and ice chunks broken off glaciers.
- Climate change-driven glacial melts have severe impact on electricity generation capacity of dams .
- Predictable summer glacial melt of Dibang river will be likely replaced by far less predictable rainfall events and snow-melt runoffs.
STABLE STREAM FLOW ?
- This puts the feasibility of hydroelectric projects such as Dibang Multipurpose Project (DMP) in severe jeopardy, for the electricity generation of these projects depends on predictable and stable stream flow.
- TECTONIC BELT : “This is a tectonically active, geologically unstable part of the Himalayas.
- AGGRAVATE THE INSTABILITIES: In fact, the entire Himalayas are unstable because they are still rising from the Indian plate by pushing against the Eurasian plate.
- TOTAL EARTHQUAKES : Since the 1900s, 34 earthquakes have occurred in Dibang Valley district.
- HAZARDOUS ACTIVITIES : The rate of increase in landslide activity is expected to be greatest over areas covered by current glaciers .
- HEAVY RAINFALLS : “Incidences of heavy rainfall will increase with climate change exaggerate landslides .
IS LARGE HYDEL REALLY RENEWABLE?
- NAMING DILEMMA : Projects of more than 25 MW, should be classified as a renewable source of energy.
- RISKS : The multiple risks and uncertainties mentioned above, however, make this move questionable.
- ACCOUNTABILITY : The ‘renewable’ status is given to grant certain incentives to generators of renewable sources of energy.
Once these lands are used for construction of dams, they’re not usable again.