According to the International Hydropower Association (iha), about 60 percent of all renewable electricity is generated by hydroelectric energy and the sector produces about 16% of total electricity production from all sources, including nuclear and fossil fuels.
This is an impressive amount of energy, but we need even more if we want to effectively mitigate climate change. Now, Hydropower projects are emerging throughout the Himalayan arc, which covers territory in Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. In fact, the Himalayas have a steep terrain and abundant water resources that can produce enough hydroelectric power for all of South Asia.
There is a problem, however. The area is at high risk of earthquakes and more environmental disasters.
In light of this, a group of 60 Indian scientists and conservationists wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month with a request to stop “more hydroelectric projects in the Himalayas and the Ganges, whether under construction, new or proposed. “The report further warns that” rising temperatures and rainfall could increase the occurrence of floods and landslides on glacial lakes over moraine-enclosed dams “in the high Asian mountains.
Several hydropower projects in the region have already been severely damaged by floods and landslides in 2013 and February 2021.
According to CP Rajendran, a paleo-seismic specialist and assistant professor at the National Institute for Advanced Study, Bangalore, who signed the letter to the prime minister, the region is too volatile to handle hydropower projects and is only exacerbated by global warming.
Rajendran said Sci Dev Net that he believes that elevated temperatures caused by climate change could increase the fall of rocks in the Himalayas. “Mountain permafrost holds rocks together and helps stabilize steep slopes, but warming over the past few decades could affect its role as a slope stabilizer,” he explained.
So, is there a way to take advantage of the natural landscape of the Himalayas to produce hydropower safely?
Basanta Raj Adhikari, an assistant professor at the Institute of Engineering at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, also told Sci Dev Net that engineers can develop smaller hydropower projects that generate electricity from the natural flow of river water, eliminating the need for dangerous large dam or reservoir.
He argues that this would go a long way in avoiding the disasters that could come with the “expected major Himalayan earthquake”,