February 8, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss the future of hydropower projects in India. We also look at the deployment of AI lifeguards in Goa, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Hydropower in India: What does its future hold?
If you’ve made the commitment, you’ve got to deliver. India certainly made an ambitious commitment to its climate goals over the past year in tackling climate change. The government’s recent budget announcements in this regard are the latest step. The path won’t be easy or cheap. There are some contentious issues to be dealt with.
With the Joshimath disaster still fresh in the minds of many in the region, what role does hydropower play in India’s renewable energy mission? What’s the ecological cost? Does it outweigh the benefits of getting a clean form of energy?
The history of hydropower dates back to the 1870s when the world’s first hydroelectric power scheme was developed in England. A decade later, Canada and the US built several hydropower stations. The world’s largest hydropower station began operations at the Hoover Dam in 1936, with more than 13MW power output. In the years that followed, hydropower projects began cropping up elsewhere. In 2008, China built the Three Gorges Dam to fulfil its growing energy needs.
Coming to India, we’ve got to go back to 1897 for the country’s first hydropower station. Post-independence, from 1947-67, hydropower capacity increased by more than 13%. There was a boom in building large-scale multipurpose storage dams, primarily for irrigation and generating electricity. In the following decades, from 1967-87, hydropower capacity increased by 18%.
At the time, coal-based power generation was taking over. Most of the large dams built were used for canal-based irrigation. Coal was king and was the source of most of the power. From 1987-2007, hydropower capacity declined to about 3%. With the 1991 liberalisation policies, the doors were opened to the private sector for hydropower. The government saw potential in the north and northeast. Thus came the 1998 hydropower policy.
In 2003, the government launched the 50,000 MW hydropower initiative to accelerate development. Companies would benefit from fast-tracked processes for land acquisition and environmental clearances. Several states followed suit and wanted more private players to jump in. The Himalayan states rushed to offer projects through MoUs. Companies duked it out to win contracts expecting to profit from friendly policies.
The problem that hydropower poses is the environmental and human costs. Building large dams come with a price to the local ecology and people. India took notice of this and introduced the 2007 policy for the rehabilitation and resettlement of people affected by industrial projects. Activists and others began to take note and voiced their opposition through long-standing protests.
The recent Joshimath catastrophe is being seen as a turning point. Many called this a slow-moving car crash that was inevitable. The government’s got its work cut out to balance ecological and human conservation with increasing hydropower capacity and generation to meet its climate goals. So, does hydropower have a bright future in India?
VIEW: Necessary to forge ahead
To take a broader view, hydropower supplied one-sixth of the global electricity generation in 2020. In the past two decades, hydropower’s total capacity increased by 70% globally. It’s considered that half of the hydropower’s economically viable potential is untapped. Over the lifecycle of a power plant, hydropower offers lower greenhouse emissions per unit of energy generated. While some countries have seen contracting capacity, there’s increasing growth in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa.
Hydropower isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s important because it meets the flexibility requirements and peak power supply. India’s electricity issues are well documented, and hydropower is needed to ensure the demand is met. Indian states aren’t taking their foot off the accelerator. There are ten hydropower projects combined in Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to utilise India’s share of water per the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan.
Hydropower can ramp up or down power generation to follow load, meet peak demands, and make up for shoddy generation from other renewable sources. India has more than 12,300 MW of hydropower generation planned by 2026. This, in addition to the other renewable sources projects announced, shows India’s ambitious plans for hydropower.
COUNTERVIEW: Changes need to be made
Tackling climate change is no doubt a priority for all governments worldwide, and renewable energy will be key to that. However, in a rush to tackle an ongoing ecological issue, these projects are doing damage right now. In many developed countries, there’s a move away from large dams, leading to the slow recovery of river ecosystems. In the US, two large dams in Elwha River in Washington State were dismantled.
In India, most hydropower projects are in the north and northeast. There’s understandable opposition and anger, given some of the incidents. The 12th plan stated that hydro projects on Himalayan rivers aren’t viable if they’re seen from a narrow economic perspective. India’s history with large dams has witnessed opposition. In the 1980s and 90s, there was public outrage against the Theri Dam on the Ganga and the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada.
There has been a slew of development projects in hill towns and villages of Uttarakhand. The state has seen repeated flash floods killing thousands. One avalanche in 2021 damaged the NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project. People of the Reni village had to relocate. There’s been no shortage of warnings from environmentalists and experts on the dangers of building large dams for hydropower projects in eco-sensitive areas. Another Joshimath could be what the future holds.
- What is a Hydroelectric power plant? History, Hydroelectric Plants in India – India Energy Portal
- Growth of Hydropower in India: Role of the Private Sector – ORF
- Hydropower Oldest Giant of Renewable Energy Going Ahead With Bright Future – Hindustan Times
- Hydropower in India: Balancing global carbon benefits with local environmental costs – ORF
- Does Hydroelectric Power Have a Role in India’s Decarbonisation Plans? – The Wire
- Renewing the debate on hydropower: Is India really on track to achieve her renewable energy goals? – The Leaflet
- Time to learn from Joshimath – Sunday Guardian Live
- U’Khand’s Joshimath: Down the Slippery Slope of ‘Development’ – National Herald
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Hydropower will play an important role in India’s future.
b) Hydropower will play a limited role in India’s future.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
What is the significance of Siddique Kappan’s pledge to combat draconian laws?
For the Left:
Does the opposition hold enough firepower to corner the government on the Adani issue?
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
World Bank pushes for green development (Himachal Pradesh) – The World Bank team, led by Regional Director (Sustainable Development), South Asia Region, John Roome, and the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the state’s green agenda and the steps that need to be taken to reach the goal of becoming a “Green Energy State” by 2025.
Why it matters: There were also discussions about the World Bank’s future strategy for implementing various programmes in the State with a focus on sustainable forest management, community forestry, ecosystem services, disaster management along the basins, water resource management, nature-based tourism, and payment for ecosystem services. The World Bank agreed to offer assistance in carrying out the suggested initiatives.
43% of female factory workers employed in TN (Tamil Nadu) – Researchers at Ashoka University’s Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) have identified significant gender inequalities in India’s manufacturing sector in a report they released. Less than a fifth of the eight million persons who worked in Indian factories in 2019–20, according to statistics from the 2019–20 Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), were women.
Why it matters: The author of the research, Dhruvika Dhamija of CEDA, discussed the substantial regional and sectoral disparities in the limited percentage of women working in manufacturing. She noted that out of the 1.6 million women employed in India, 0.68 million (or 43%) were employed in Tamil Nadu’s factories alone. In fact, the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala employed over three-fourths (72%) of all women working in industries.
Soren urges centre to provide housing to the poor (Jharkhand) – Meeting Union Minister for Rural Development Giriraj Singh on Monday in New Delhi, Chief Minister Hemant Soren asked the Central Government to build homes for the 8,37,222 households enrolled under Awas Plus under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin. The CM further requested that the Union Minister release the money that Jharkhand owes under the 15th Finance Commission. He also spoke about the Union Budget 2023–23’s lowering of the MNREGA budget.
Why it matters: The CM pointed to the fact that the beneficiaries of the scheme belong to the lower economic strata and are in urgent need of housing. Thus, he urged the Union Minister to make a decision quickly and allot the houses. He also mentioned that a lot of people have been excluded from the initial list of beneficiaries because of data mishandling by the government in 2019 and appealed to rectify the error.
Goa’s beaches obtain AI lifeguards (Goa) – According to a state-appointed lifeguard services organisation, Aurus, a self-driving robot powered by AI, and Triton, an AI-based monitoring system, are being deployed to improve lifesaving skills on Goa’s beaches. According to a Drishti Marine spokeswoman, the adoption of AI-based help comes in response to an increase in beach-related events brought on by the growing number of domestic and international tourists visiting Goa’s coastline.
Why it matters: The new component will aid in better crowd control and monitoring at the beaches. Over 1,000 rescue operations along the coastal belt in the previous two years needed the agency’s life-saving robots’ aid. The main goal of the Triton system is to offer a fully AI-based monitoring of no-swim zones, warning visitors of the threat and informing the closest lifeguard.
Manipur to soon host its first international match (Manipur) – The Khuman Lampak Stadium will play home to Manipur’s first official football international games next month as part of a tri-nation friendly contest between India, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan. The games are scheduled for the 22nd, 24th, and 26th of March.
Why it matters: The tri-nation friendly tournament is one of several games India will play during the FIFA international period to get ready for the Asian Cup the following year. The 35,000-capacity Khuman Lampak Stadium, where the matches will be played, has also been hosting several I-league matches. In August of the previous year, it served as the site of Durand Cup group stage matches. The players would gain significant experience and training from the friendly games.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
1.88 crore – According to the Tourism Minister of Kerala, P A Mohammed Riyas, Kerala hosted a total of 1.88 crore tourists in 2022.