The water below the Dams in Uttarakhand such as Tehri and Srinagar is relatively clean. Yet these Dams add to pollution in many way.
The first impact is through fishes. Fishes have the capacity to digest the organic matter. Large numbers of fishes can be seen swimming in the clean waters of the ponds. They have eaten up the organic matter in the pond and the water has become clean (See photo below).
Rivers are the habitat of the fishes. Many of these migrate from one stretch of the river to other. For example, the famous Mahseer of Uttarakhand moves up to the cold areas for laying eggs. Then the hatched fish lings flow down with the water to the plains. They grow to maturity in the plains. Mature fishes again move upstream to their spawning areas.
This up and down migration is central to the health of the Mahseer. Dams do not allow fishes to move from plains to hills and therefore the species decreases in the river. Mahseer was previously found up to Uttarkashi. Now it is not found in upstream of Tehri. Mahseer was previously found of up to 100 kg weight. Now it is found only of 800 grams.
Large number of studies indicates that Dams have led to loss of number of types of fishes, turtles and other aquatic animals that were present in the river previously. (See report on International Union for Conservation of Nature; report on convention of Biological Diversity; report on effects of Hydropower projects on Terrestrial Biological Diversity). When we build the Dams like Tehri, the number of fishes and types of fishes downstream becomes less and their capacity to eating up the pollution also becomes less. Therefore the pollutant which enters the river does not get cleaned spontaneously as was getting cleaned earlier. So the first impact of Dams on pollution is by limiting the fishes.
Secret of purity of Ganga:
Second impact of the Dams, specifically on the Ganga, is through Coliphages. The river water contains beneficial bacteria called Coliphage and harmful bacteria called Coliform. Coliphages eat up the Coliform and clean the river.
The Coliphages stick to the sediment in the river bed and remain dormant until they find Coliform around them. Then they become active and start eating the Coliform. Scientists of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have told us in discussions that Coliphages in the Ganga are unique. Normally one type of Coliphage eats one type of Coliform. There are thousands of types of Coliphages and Coliforms present in any river water. The unique quality of the Coliphages of the Ganga is that one Coliphage eats a large number of the Coliform. Coliphages of the Ganga are like the wide spectrum antibiotics—one antibiotic medicine kills a large number of bacteria. This is the secret of the “self-purifying” quality of the Ganga. The water of the Ganga does not spoil because the Coliphages continue to eat the Coliforms.
These wide spectrum Coliphages live in the sand of the Ganga and they are created in the upstream stretches. The sand flows down the Ganga and carries these Coliphages with it to the plains. This sand is arrested in the Tehri Dam and does not reach downstream of the Ganga. (See our earlier post here). The Coliphages are arrested behind the Tehri Dam along with the sand and do not reach downstream.
Indeed, the NEERI report says that they have also found Coliphages downstream of the Tehri Dam. But this is because of the sand that has flown earlier. The reduction in the flow of the sand from upstream to downstream will ultimately decrease the presence of wide-spectrum Coliphages and hurt the capacity of the Ganga to self-purify her-self.
The third impact of Dams is that the downstream stretch of a Dam is often without any water. For example the Vishnu Prayag Hydropower project over river Alaknanda does not release any water from the Dam as seen in the photo below.
The water is taken from the Dam through a tunnel and released through the power house 20 kilometers downstream. The stretch below the Dam is virtually dry till other mountain streams join it. This dry stretch kills all the aquatic life in the river.
We have given the picture of clean water below the Srinagar Dam above. The water is clean in the sense of sewage entering it. However, large numbers of bacteria and mosquito breed in these waters. The city of Srikot located below the Srinagar has seen huge jump in the cases of jaundice because people are drinking infected water.
The fourth impact is that of Damage to the subtle quality of the water. Study by the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto indicates that molecules of the water join together and make beautiful patterns in flowing water and ugly pattern in stagnant or polluted water.
Dams lead to the creation of a stagnant pool upstream. The beautiful patterns of flowing water turn into ugly patterns in this stagnant pool. The remaining beautiful patterns are broken when the water hits the turbines. The Hindus put a pot of water when the do their Puja and the chant mantras around the pot.These mantras enter the water. At end of the puja, the pujari sprinkles the water over the worshipers.
The underlining theory is the mantras enter the water and create the beautiful molecules which are spiritually charged. When we sprinkle this water over worshipers, the spiritual power inherent in that water enters the body of the worshippers. Hydropower is like putting the water of the holy pot in a mixi before sprinkling on the worshipper.
In conclusion there are four negative impacts of the Hydropower Projects on the pollution downstream. First the fishes which clean up the water are harmed. Secondly, the Coliphages which eat the Coliforms get reduced. Thirdly, poison is developed in the pool downstream of the Hydropower Dam. Fourthly, stagnant water behind the Dam and the turbines Damage the spiritual charges that are brought from the upstream.
We must certainly clean up the sewage that is going into the Ganga. But it is also necessary to enliven the water by protecting fishes, Coliphages and spiritual charges. It is like not sufficient to treat the disease of a patient. It is also necessary to give him tonic to revive his energy. Similarly, it is like not sufficient to control the flow of sewage into the river. It is also necessary to strengthen the water by protecting fishes, Coliphages and spiritual charges. In this way Hydropower Projects are adding to downstream pollution of the Ganga.