Why small hydroelectric projects are not the answer to India’s clean energy woes | The News Minute


The Indian state considers these small hydropower projects to be the ecologically benign and sustainable counterpart to large hydropower projects. The Draft National Mission on Small hydropower states that “Small hydro projects are run-of-river and are environmentally sustainable. These projects do not encounter the issues associated with large-scale hydro projects. There is no deforestation, resettlement or rehabilitation.”

Such projections, however, hide the threat to livelihoods, culture, land and biodiversity posed by these projects. SHPs, particularly those that are run-of-the-river and are under 25 MW in capacity, are classified as sources of clean and renewable energy. As a result, run-of-the-river small hydropower projects, that don’t require more than 5 hectares of land, are exempt from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a mandatory requirement for other development projects. Further, SHP developers are eligible for subsidies and tax breaks from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), significantly reducing their capital cost.

Dammed for Life

India is rich in fast-flowing rivers that cascade down craggy peaks of the Himalayas – popularly known as the water towers of Asia. But building small hydropower projects in the fragile, geologically sensitive landscape of the Himalayas poses new challenges.

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