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‘Blasting by hydropower cos making Uttarakhand vulnerable to earthquakes’

Most hydropower construction companies, in order to clear the mountains for the projects, are involved in blasting and heavy drilling of the rocks, spreading high-intensity vibrations strong enough to disturb the area’s tectonics and making the whole area susceptible to earthquakes of magnitude ranging from 7 to 8.

‘The Himalayan rocks of Uttarakhand are highly fragile. There are several hydro-power project companies which are engaged in mild to very heavy blasting and drilling, which makes the area vulnerable to earthquakes. Already, several tremors have been felt across the state, much of which can be fairly attributed to such hydro-power projects,’ a senior official of the ministry of environment and forests told this correspondent, requesting anonymity.

‘The environment ministry alone cannot deal with the issue. We have asked the Ministry of Earth Sciences to look and act into this serious issue from all sides. We can only assess the impact on environment by a hydro-power project but its impact on the area and mountain’s stability has to be examined by the earth sciences ministry. They have a major role to play,’ the official said.

At present, around 45 hydro-power projects are in operation in Uttarakhand, while around 200 more small and big projects are proposed in the state. Most projects are situated in Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudarprayag and Pithoragarh districts.

PP Dhyani, director of GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, said, ‘There are complete and proper set of guidelines on construction and development in the Himalayan region which have been circulated to all stake-holders but they are not implemented and enforced by the state. Blasting not only destabilises the whole rock structure but also disturbs the whole Himalayan ecosystem.’

‘The ministry’s notification bans use of dynamite for blasting while making roads, hydro-power plants or any other project in the Himalayan region but it is still done widely. Only very light drilling is permitted but the rules are extensively flouted in the absence of any regulatory mechanism in the state,’ said Dhyani.
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