Protecting infrastructure

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    sanima_hydropower_submergeAUG 12 – The August 2 landslide in Sindhupalchok district caused an abrupt interruption in the water flow of Sunkoshi river, causing a huge loss of human lives and physical infrastructure. One of the major sectors that was hard hit by the landslide was hydropower.

    The disaster halted the power generation in five hydropower projects–Bhotekoshi (45MW), Sunkoshi (10MW), Sanima Sunkoshi (2.5MW), Chaku (6MW) and Bhairabkunda (3MW). This has caused a shortfall of 66.5 MW electricity in the national grid.

    The landslide in Sunkoshi has raised serious issues for hydropower project development in the country.

    “The situation of Sunkoshi River is unique in itself. It was something that was unthought-of,” says Khadga Bisht, president of Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal (IPPAN). “It is a lesson for all. Now we need a serious focus on the ways to mitigate disaster for hydropower projects.”

    Places vulnerable to landslides should be identified and monitored regularly by geologists and engineers, says Bisht.

    He adds that catchment areas in the places having possibilities of such incidents can be created for preventing the loss. “Wherever it is possible, an alternative drainage system can be created so that the water in such cases can be diverted,” Bisht says. “Even a certain amount of reduction of water in such cases can prevent the intensity of damage.”

    Given Nepal has a hilly terrain, mobilisation of slope failure management professionals can also counter the disasters to some extent, suggests Bisht.

    Experts say that construction of storage type project cannot be a mitigating measure for such kind of incident. “Normally storage type projects can check and balance a certain amount of water. It requires multi-purpose projects with proper drainage systems to decrease the risks,” according to Bisht.

    Water resource engineer Ajay Dixit says the landslide that has occurred in Sunkoshi is a unique phenomenon in itself, and that it will be difficult for any mechanism to keep a proper tab on it.

    “An entire mountain has been demolished, blocking the free flow of the river,” says Dixit, adding that the event came as an eye-opener for many hydropower project developers. “This is a kind of incident that has a very rare probability, and there are lessons to be learnt.”

    The event has portrayed the challenges of countries having mountainous terrain. It is hight time that the experts discussed the ways to identify the disaster-risk areas in advance and develop preparedness programmes to mitigate the loss.

    The landslide havoc has not just triggered the development of physical infrastructures like hydropower projects, but also the projects like highways and big settlement areas, among others.

    Although the government has agencies like Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention, Department of Mines and Geology, Ministry of Irrigation and Ministry of Energy, such disasters cannot be countered by the initiatives of a single agency.

    “There is a need of bringing together the resources and professionals from several agencies having relation in water resources and its management for looking after such incidents in the future,” says Dixit.

    Source : eKantipur