Monsoon fury: 21 of 23 Himachal Pradesh hydel projects ‘violated’ norms, caused flooding downstream

12

In an alarming revelation, 21 of the 23 hydel projects in HP have been found guilty of non-compliance with the dam safety norms, resulting in thousands of people being forced to leave their homes, inundated after the sudden discharge of water from upstream dams such as Pong.

A related presentation was made by the state Directorate of Energy before Chief Secretary Prabodh Saxena, who has vowed legal action, which may include criminal liability, against violators.

The flooding of low-lying areas in Punjab and Himachal has been attributed to the release of water from the Pong Dam in Kangra, besides Pandoh and Malana dams.

Sources said despite requests by the administration of some districts, the authorities at most of the dams had failed to ensure timely release of excess water. What’s more alarming is that the violators include four government projects — Larji on the Beas in Mandi; Jateon on the Giri in Sirmaur; both operated by the HP State Electricity Board; and Sawra Kuddu on the Pabbar in Shimla; and Sainj on the Sainj (a Beas tributary) in Kullu; both under the HP Power Corporation.

Data showed that only the 800-MW Kol Dam in Bilaspur and the 1,045 MW Karcham Wangtoo project in Kinnaur adhered to the norms laid down in the Dam Safety Act and the guidelines of the Central Water Commission. Besides the 23 operational projects with a total capacity of generating 9,203 MW power, six are under construction, which have a capacity of 1,916 MW.

“We will be initiating legal action against the violators. We are seeking an opinion on holding them accountable for criminal liability,” said Chief Secretary Saxena. He admitted that the “lack of monitoring” by government agencies such as the Directorate of Energy was also to be blamed for the violations.

The dam authorities have been found to be erring with respect to the installation of an early warning system, which must have a provision of a broadcasting tailor-made voice to alert people. The alleged failure by the Larji dam authorities had led to the drowning of 24 students from a Hyderabad engineering college on June 8, 2014.

The Directorate of Energy, meanwhile, has been asked to inspect the dam sites to ensure all projects were getting a risk and vulnerability assessment done through experts.