Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hydro-power Madness III

Mt. Jichu Drake at 6,989 Mtrs. is Bhutan’s sixth highest peak. The lake at the base of this mountain is the primary source of the Pachhu (Paro river), that partially drives the turbines of Chukkha and Tala Hydropower Projects. When I first visited the area in 2004, the peak was fully laden with snow and the base of the mountain and its lower portion had a huge cover of frozen ice – it looked so azure that it was almost eerie.

During my next visit to the area seven years later in February, 2011, the peak had totally lost the ice and most of the snow on it had melted. The photo below was taken during my second visit in February, 2011 (I cannot find the photo that I took in 2004). As you can see, the peak has lost most of its show and ice - in fact three-fourths of the mountain has now no snow at all.

Two of the photos below are that of our third highest peak, Masagang at 7,194 Mtrs. The first one was taken in 2011 and the second one was taken on 12th December, 2016. Look at the difference between the two: the latest photo shows that there is almost no snow on the peak.

The two photos below show the source of Chamkharchhu. The first one shows the huge reserve of snow and ice underground. The second shows the hole in that depository. The rate of melting of the ice and snow is way faster than the replenishment. This means this reserve is going to run dry in times to come.

Miles and miles of depost of ice and snow under the ground, that feeds the Chamkharchhu

Hole in the ground of the ice and snow deposit - the melt is faster than replenishment

At this rate of snow and ice melt, how long do you think our high peaks and glacial lakes will continue to feed our river systems that turn the hydropower turbines?

Do you still think doing Chamkharchhu Hydropower Project and other hydropower ventures are going to be sustainable?

As I said in my last post, the issue of hydropower projects in our context has more to do with economic disaster that is being caused, rather then the fear that it will cause environmental degradation. I fully recognize that the cause of the environment cannot be allowed to constrain human development and economic benefit to the people.

But our experience so far with our hydropower ventures have been that it not only damages our ecosystems but is also all set to cause us economic enslavement.

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