Stop Singoli Bhatwari Hydro Power Project

Figure 1 Alaknanda, Bhagirathi and Mandakini rivers flowing from Holy temples

Hydropower| Alaknanda| Mandakini| Bhagirathi| Environmental Impact

We have been opposing Hydropower projects on the Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi on the grounds of the negative environmental impacts of these projects are much greater than the benefits. In this post we will examine the monetary value of the environmental cost of the Singoli-Bhatwari Hydropower project being made by Larsen and Tubro on the Mandakini River.

Figure 2 Construction of Singoli-Bhatwari Hydropower project by L&T

The first major impact is of Land erosion. The EIA of the project says downstream of the Dam, reduction in sediment load in the river can result in increased erosion of river banks and breadths and loss of flood plains through erosion and decreased over bank accretion.

So, this is an admission by the environment impact assessment report of this project that indeed erosion can take place. How do we evaluate?

Figure 3 Soil erosion due to Singoli-Bhatwari Project of L&T

Uttarakhand| Rivers| Singoli-Bhatwari| Land Circle Rate| EIA| GDP| Copper| Thorium

Mr. Sajwan has assessed that the land loss due to land slide and disasters in Uttarakhand in 2010-2013 was 246642 hectares in four years. Off this he has assessed that 33.9% or about 83660 hectares was due to the rivers. Off this we assumed that 5% only is contributed by the Hydropower projects or 4183hectares in four years. This contribution of 4183 hectares is made by seven Hydropower projects with an average capacity of 400 megawatts. Reducing this impact to one seventh for the Singoli-Bhatwari project and further one forth, because the capacity of this project is only 100 megawatts against the average capacity of the 400 megawatts of the other projects arrive at the figure of 15.5 hectare of land erosion due to this project in four years which comes to four hectare per year for this project. The circle rate of land in this area 10125 per square meter which comes to rupees 40 crore for four hectares lost due to this project.

The second major impact is of water quality. The EIA of this project gives a list of environmental impacts. The main one is that there may be a decrease in self-purifying capacity of the water. Question of the valuation of the deuteration of the poor quality. Professor M N Murthy of Institute of Economic Growth has assessed that the monetary value of the deuteration of the health due to water pollution in the country is about 1.9 % of our GDP. The GDP of the Rudraprayag district was 2022 crores. 1.9% of this is 38.4 crores.

Figure 4  Value of deterioration in water quality due to hydropower is Rs 38 crore per year.

However not all of this can be attributed to this Singoli-Bhatwari project. At the same time the Singoli-Bhatwari Project has impacts much beyond health which was assessed by Professor Murthy. In particular the spiritual charges brought by the river from Kedarnath will be destroyed in the turbines. The self-purifying capacity of the river is generated by absorbing copper, thorium and elements by rubbing the stones and it is also contributed by vegetations that grows on its banks. The river will be flowing in 12 kms in a tunnel, therefore these beneficial impacts will not be taking place in this distance. In view of these impacts which have not accounted by professor Murthy, we take it that the value of 38.4 crores is reflex the deuteration of the water quality due to these impacts as well.

Biodiversity| EIA| ZSI| IUCN| Black Bear| Fishing cat| Common Leopard

Figure 5 Leopard and fish cat will be affected adversely by hydropower

The fourth major impact of the project is on biodiversity. The EIA of the project says, according to ZSI criteria three vulnerable species i.e. Common Leopard, Leopard Cat and Fishing Cat are found in the area. On the basis of IUCN, Himalayan Black Bear, Fishing Cat are vulnerable and otter is invulnerable category. Therefore, the impacts of the project on biodiversity is accepted. We are giving three studies in table below which have value of the biodiversity impact in three reserve areas for the local people at rupees 25 per house hold per year.

Figure 6 Value of biodiversity loss due to hydropower is Rs 27 crore per year

For the entire country they have accessed an average of Rs. 6 per house hold per year. We reduce this impact for this project by 1/4th, because the vulnerable species is less and project is so what smaller and we come to a value of 1.50 per year for the impact of biodiversity with 27.2 crore for household the total value comes to Rs. 40.8 crores per year.

The fourth impact of this project is on aesthetic value or beauty of the river. IIT Roorkee has assessed that the monetary value of the aesthetic beauty of the river is Rs. 1172 per family for entire Ganga river. This consists of 2525 kilometres of the Ganga and 3638 kilometres of its tributaries or the total length of 6163 kilometres. Singoli-Bhatwari project will affect 12 kilometres of this distance. On a pro-rata bases the impact of Singoli-Bhatwari will be Rs. 2.22 per household or 27.2 crores house hold Rs. 60.4 crores per year. We have calculated elsewhere the monetary value of other environmental impacts at Rs. 9.6 crores making a total of 29.2 crores.

This is the monetary value of environmental impact of the project. Against this the benefit from 12.5% free power that is supplied to the Government of Uttarakhand if 20.2 crore the benefit from employment is 1.4 crores or a total of 21.6 crore. We are not including the benefit from the generation of electricity because the cost of generation from this particular project is about 8 rupees per unit which electricity is available in the market in 3-4 rupees per unit. Rather there is a loss but we ignore it.

Figure 7 Benefits of electricity from hydropower are much less than environmental costs.

In conclusion the monetary value of environmental cost of this project as calculate out is 189.2 crores per year. Whereas the benefits are only 21.6 crores per year. Therefore, the project is not beneficial for the country. In fact, we need to take a similar examination of all the hydropower projects in the country that it at least this project should be closed forthwith because environmental impacts are far in excess of the benefits from this project.