Hydropower Restarts As Floods Recede Yet More Rain Looms

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Hydropower projects are gradually coming back online as waters recede, although the flooding has raised concern about more development in the region.

Plants managed by NHPC Ltd., JSW Energy Ltd., SJVN Ltd. and Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd. are operating again after being clogged by silt from the floods, according to the regional grid operator. But nearly 1.6 gigawatts of capacity in north remained off-line as of Sunday, it said.

Meanwhile, the weather department said it’s “very likely” there will be heavy to very heavy rainfall over parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand this week.  

The severe flooding that has wreaked havoc in north has caused fatalities, triggered power outages and damaged infrastructure. While the nation sees hydropower as vital to its energy transition, environmental and social challenges have slowed capacity additions and boosted costs. 

Residents wade through the flood waters in New Delhi on July 14.

There’s also concern that the construction of hydro projects and the supporting infrastructure is exacerbating the impact of heavy rains, which are becoming more common due to global warming, in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region.

The building of roads, tunnels and railroads is weakening the mountains and multiplying the impact of floods, said Mallika Bhanot, a member of Ganga Ahvaan – a citizen forum that works for the conservation of rivers.

“The infrastructure we’re building in the path of a furious river can in no way be a disaster-resilient infrastructure,” she said. “By building more of these projects in the mountains, we’re only paving the way for more catastrophes.”

Among projects that have come back on stream are JSW Energy’s Karcham Wangtoo and Baspa plants and SJVN’s Nathpa Jhakri plant, according to grid data confirmed by the companies.

Generation has also resumed at NHPC’s Salal plant in the Jammu and Kashmir region and it has also partially restarted at its Dulhasti plant in the area, the company said. NTPC Ltd. has operated its Koldam plant in Himachal Pradesh at full capacity, barring a day’s closure on July 11, project head R.P. Ahirwar said by phone.

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