Small hydro power projects which have mushroomed in Uttarakhand and elsewhere across India are not environmentally friendly as they are often made out to be and need regulations, experts said. Uttarakhand might be losing large tracts of its pristine environment due to presence of a large number of small hydro power projects in the state, a technology touted as eco- friendly, said researchers attending a conference held by Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based organisation engaged in research in the field, here today. Small hydro power which is widely regarded as an environment friendly source of energy can have severe impact on the ecology and calls for strict regulation to minimise its adverse impact on the ecology, they warned. The conference discussed the environmental impact of small hydro power (SHP) specifically in Uttarakhand region, and how to combat it without hindering the growth of the sector, CSE's Deputy Director General and renewable energy team head Chandra Bhushan said. "The idea is to establish systems that will allow development of SHP without compromising the environmental integrity of the area. This conference was organised to discuss and debate those systems," he said. Asked what problems they are trying to combat, Bhushan said, "Deforestation done to construct project facilities such as roads, power houses and transmission lines.
There is increased soil erosion, disruption of local fauna and flora, disturbance of hill slopes." There are 70 hydro projects under various stages of development on Bhagirathi and Alaknanda basins in Uttarakhand out of which 40 of 180 MW fall under the small hydro category, said a report titled 'Green Norms for Green Energy: Small Hydro Power' which was released at the meet. Together, these projects could affect about 70 per cent of the length of the two rivers. This means that for 70 per cent of its length, the river will either flow through a tunnel or be impounded as a reservoir, the report said.