New Delhi: More than 140 workers engaged with state-run NTPC Limited are still missing at 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project site a day after a glacier near Raini village above Rishiganga river in Uttarakhand burst causing a flash flood on February 7, said sources who spoke to PSU Watch on the condition of anonymity on Monday. However, an official spokesperson for NTPC said that it is difficult to confirm the numbers as of now because rescues operations are still on. The flash flood erupted when a portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of Joshimath in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district and damaged the Rishiganga dam on Alaknanda river.
The Rishiganga power project (130 MW), which was situated upstream on the Alaknanda river, was the first hydropower project on the course of the river to be washed off. Three other projects which were downstream — under-construction Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project, Pipal Koti (4×111 MW) project owned by NTPC, and Vishnuprayag (400 MW) project owned by Jaypee Group were affected.
A source within NTPC, who is currently stationed at the site of the Tapovan hydropower project said that the situation is dire, and the whereabouts of only 30-40 people are known. "The rest are missing. And we don't know if we will be able to get out of here or not," the source said. "An avalanche near Tapovan in Uttarakhand has damaged a part of our under-construction hydropower project in the region. While rescue operation is on, the situation is being monitored continuously with the help of district administration and police," NTPC had said in an official statement on February 7.
Media reports have claimed that seven dead bodies have been recovered so far from the NTPC project site. The actual figure could not be confirmed at the time this report was published. Personnel from Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed at the disaster site.
Out of India's total installed power-generation capacity of 373.43 GW, hydro-power accounts for around 12.23 percent. Hydropower has long elicited controversy because of the risks and the environmental damage associated with it, especially in earthquake-prone, fragile mountainous terrains. Earlier in June 2013, heavy rain coupled with flash floods in several areas in Uttarakhand had killed over 5,000 people and caused major damages to villages, livestock and dams. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had argued that several mountainous areas such as Uttarakhand should be left untouched because dams and river water diversions had caused significant damage to the river length and destroyed the original content and quality of the river downstream.
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