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Hydro-electric blamed for deadly floods

What made Uttarkhand's floods of 2013 so bad? A report suggests India's power generation programme may be the cause.

Last updated: 30 Apr 2014 09:58
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More than 70,000 people were stranded as a result of blocked or destroyed roads [EPA]

A report into the flooding which killed an estimated 5,700 people in northern India in June last year points the finger of blame at the hydroelectric power schemes in the region.

Between 14 and 17 June 2013 the region was hit by torrential rain.  According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the state of Uttarkhand state received nearly four times the rate of rainfall that would be expected during a normal monsoon.

This contributed to the melting of the Chorabari Glacier and the overflow of the River Mandakini.

Although much of the north of the country was affected, Uttarkhand bore the brunt of the misery that followed. Despite warnings from the Met Department, many people were caught unawares, including many thousands of pilgrims who were visiting holy Hindu sites in the region.

Flash floods and landslides combined to cripple the region. More than 70,000 people were stranded as a result of blocked or destroyed roads.

Although many bodies have never been recovered, the death toll is estimated at 5,700, including 900 local residents.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, while accepting that serious flooding was inevitable, many environmentalists began to question whether there may have been contributory factors.

Fingers of blame were pointed at deforestation and the construction of new roads and resorts in the region. But a report from the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forests suggests that construction linked to the country’s burgeoning hydro-electric  power industry may have played a large part.

The report said that these installations had led to the build-up of large quantities of sediment in rivers which had not been properly managed.

The experts rejected suggestions that the problems were the result of deforestation or the breaching of dams caused by landslides.

Hydro-electric energy contributes nearly 20 percent of the country’s total generating capacity. It is likely that plans for future development will be slowed as environmental objections are raised to new construction.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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