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Rescuers Search for Workers Trapped at Hydropower Site in Flood-Hit North India

2021-02-09 10:41:40

Rescue workers continue to battle mountains of slush and debris at a hydropower construction site in north India that was damaged by flash floods that have killed at least 11 people.

The rescue team of Indo-Tibetan Border Police is working to clear out a tunnel passage, where it expects more than 30 workers trapped, said Vivek Pandey, the spokesman for the police force. The Tapovan tunnel is the only easy entry point to NTPC Ltd.’s Tapovan Vishnugad project in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

The flood has also damaged other parts and entry points to the 520-megawatt electricity project. The rescue team has recovered 11 bodies, the state’s Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said in a tweet earlier today.

Images of the devastation brought back memories of 2013 floods in the same state that left thousands dead or missing and reignited debates on the environmental sustainability of hydropower, a source of electricity India considers important to balance the increasing addition of intermittent renewable power into the grid.

NTPC said it is still assessing the damage, adding it has insurance protection for the loss. The state-run generator, predominantly dependent on coal, is making a clean energy push and seeks to expand use of non-fossil fuels for making power.

The incident was caused by a sudden surge in river levels, sending flood waters gushing downstream and leaving behind a trail of devastation. Besides the NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad project, the Rishi Ganga hydropower project was also damaged.

Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd. said it halted operations at its Vishnuprayag project after slush brought along with flood waters choked the tail race tunnel of the 400-megawatt project. The company expects to resume operations in a few days.

Shares of Jaiprakash Power slumped 5.5% in Mumbai on Monday, its steepest dropped in seven weeks. NTPC fell as much as 3.5% in early trade before recovering to close 0.8% higher, although still under-performing the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex.

Climate change may be a contributing factor, as the heating planet speeds up glacier melts, according to Anjal Prakash, a lead author at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Temperatures in the region are rising faster than the global average because of the high altitude, he said. The government should increase research and monitoring to avoid future disasters and improve climate adaptation, he said.

“Temperatures are rising in the Hindu-Kush Himalayan region and the rise in global temperature will have more impact in the Himalayan region due to elevation-dependent warming,” he said.

–With assistance from Jessica Shankleman and Jeanette Rodrigues.

Photograph: The entrance of the Tapovan tunnel blocked with debris during rescue operations at NTPC Ltd.’s Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Photo credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.

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