Flash floods after a glacial lake outburst in India have killed at least 18 people and damaged some hydro-power plants, rekindling worries about the detrimental impact of climate change on human lives and properties.
(Bloomberg) — Flash floods after a glacial lake outburst in India have killed at least 18 people and damaged some hydro-power plants, rekindling worries about the detrimental impact of climate change on human lives and properties.
More than 150 people are missing in the northeastern state of Sikkim, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The hilly region is forecast to get more heavy rains Thursday, the weather office warned.
The flooding in the region is the latest calamity in a series of natural disasters the South Asian nation has faced in recent years. It highlights the risk of a warming planet on mega hydropower projects and heavy construction in the Himalayan region.
The 1,200 megawatt Teesta-3 power plant of Sikkim Urja Power — once held by marquee investors such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and a symbol of the Narendra Modi government’s thrust to revive hydropower projects — has been damaged by the floods, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper. State-run NHPC Ltd. has shut down all units of its 510 megawatts plant in the basin and said it will be able to assess the extent of the damage only after the water levels recede.
“Due to climate change, such disasters are only going to increase,” said Mallika Bhanot, a member of Ganga Ahvaan, a citizen forum that works for the conservation of rivers. “But hydropower projects are accentuating it by blocking the path of the river.”
Sikkim is not alone. Uttarakhand, one of the country’s biggest hydropower producers, has also been a victim of extreme weather incidents. The state suffered one of its deadliest floods in 2013 that left more than 5,000 dead. Flash floods there in 2021 swept away a small dam project and badly damaged a larger one downstream, besides killing several workers on the site.
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There has been a rush to build such power units as the government puts hydropower in the category of renewable energy and offers some financial support. Several projects, which remained stranded for years due to social and environmental concerns, have received construction approvals.
The floods in Sikkim swept away 23 soldiers, the Indian Army said on Wednesday. Six bridges, two government buildings and 16 roads were also damaged, according to the disaster management authority. The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have been deployed to help in rescue and relief operations in the state, it said. Several teams of the National Disaster Response Force are also working in the affected region.
–With assistance from Pratik Parija.
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