Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) and its contractors, who were putting up the generators in the GVK project on the Alakhananda river, suffered losses, too. Large amounts of water and silt have been deposited on the turbines and the generators of these plants, pushing back the expected completion by at least a couple of years, according to estimates.
GVK Alaknanda Hydro Power’s 330-Mw project was nearing completion after surviving several legal disputes and government flip-flops over a disputed temple.
But, the raging Alaknanda had other ideas. Last Monday, swelled by incessant rains over the weekend, the river breached the articificial embankments in front of the sluice gates. Vikas Rishi, an immigrant worker from Bihar, who is on the rolls of the BHEL contractor Steel Builders, has shot the breach on his mobile camera. “On Monday, water levels started increasing since 10-10:30 am. By the evening, the entire area was flooded.”
The video shows workers screaming and blowing whistles as the water breaches the far end of the barrier. Within minutes, it gobbles up the entire space up to the reservoir.
Towards the right of the erstwhile embankment, a huge area of land, which people say was the size of a football field, has been washed away. “A BHEL store that stood on it was completely washed away. Valuable equipment worth crores of rupees is gone,” said one of the eye-witnesses.
The staff on the project site said work was close to completion. “We had completed work on three of the four generators. Water and sand have filled them now. Even the turbines are filled with them,” says Rajiv Samar, an electrician from nearby Kirti Nagar, who had worked on the project for the past two years. “All the work has gone waste. The debris has to be first removed for work to start again. We are set back by two-three years.”
Excavators and tippers are busy reclaiming parts of the submerged areas as the flow has reduced considerably.
The dirt track along the project’s canals is being used as a makeshift route for vehicles plying up hill towards Rudraprayag. GVK’s onsite official declined to comment.
A GVK spokesperson did not give details about the loss figures and insurance claims that were sought through email.
Officials in the know said L&T Power Development’s 99 Mw project, which is coming up on the Mandakini river near Rudrapryag suffered heavy damages too. ”The project involves the construction of a 22 metre high barrage, 11.87 km long head race tunnel and a surface powerhouse. Three Francis turbines of 33 Mw each will be used to generate 472.18 million units of energy in a 90 per cent dependable year,” according to the company website.
The project has obtained all clearances and has achieved financial closure. It is under construction and is expected to be commissioned in 2014, the website added. Company sources said they are in the process of assessing the damage and the final estimate has not been made yet.
An email questionnaire sent to the L&T spokesperson did not elicit any response.