As we noted here last week, over 600 million people lost power in India last summer, setting a modern record for the number of people affected by a blackout. Well before that, though, India’s government was grappling with growing pressure to increase the dependability of its electricity service — for the growing numbers who have intermittent power and the 400 million who live without it.
As a solution, the government proposed constructing 292 dams throughout the Indian Himalayas — roughly a dam every 20 miles. If completed, the 7,000- to 11,000-megawatt dams would double the country’s hydropower capacity and meet about 6 percent of the national energy needs projected for 2030 (based upon 8 percent annual growth of the nation’s domestic product). The dams, the reasoning goes, would provide electricity to needy people as well as offset carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Scientists and citizens alike are crying foul, however, pointing out that the dams will probably displace millions and wreck ecosystems throughout the Himalayas.