Govt overlooks glacier studies, claim experts | India News


DEHRADUN: In 2017, scientists at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) had filed a detailed report on floods in the Himalayas, including the Nanda Devi Valley. This was among many reports on glaciers in the region that were never considered for any new power project.
“We fail as scientists when the government overlooks our suggestions and assessments,” Pradeep Srivastava, senior scientist at the institute who had led the 2017 study, told TOI on Sunday, hours after a glacier broke off, fell into the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers, and swept through villages. “The primary reason these disasters strike is that the concerned authorities don’t pay heed to scientific advice while setting up power projects on rivers that originate from glaciers, like the one on the Rishiganga.”
The spaces where scientific advice can come from is also shrinking. “India does not have a single institute that can assess the current state of glaciers. WIHG had a Centre for Glaciology, which was shut down last year,” DP Dobhal, a retired scientist from WIHG who had headed the 2013 Kedarnath tragedy evaluation, told TOI.
In Uttarakhand, with its estimated 12-GW hydropower potential (the country’s second highest after Arunachal Pradesh), this is especially important. But how new power projects over glacier-fed rivers are approved is something scientists said they were wary of. Srivastava said, “The government does not consider any glacier study while setting up a new power project in the hills. It should be mandatory … If we filed reports, they would not be considered.”
The government agency which monitors the upper Himalayas through satellite data, meanwhile, said these events cannot be predicted with certainty. MPS Bisht, director of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre, said, “Natural calamities can never be ascertained by anyone. However, research and ground assessments can help save lives and public property.”



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