Discuss the challenges that lie in harnessing the potential of hydroelectricity in Northeast India.

Hydroelectricity refers to electricity generated by running water. The methods include various forms like pumped storage, run of the river, and impoundment (reservoir).

Potential of hydroelectricity in North East:

  • Northeast Indian rivers account for 40% of the total potential of rivers in India.
  • Barak and Brahmaputra rivers along with their tributaries have vast reach and potential.
  • It can address the issue of energy shortage in the NE region.
  • Alternate/renewable source of energy with no carbon emissions.

Challenges in harnessing the potential:

  • Ecological Challenges
    • Obstructing the natural flow of rivers may cause rivers to change their course. This may lead to floods and disasters.
  • Environmental Challenges
    • Constructing dams would require deforestation of pristine tropical evergreen vegetation covers.
  • Wildlife challenges
    • The northeastern region has rich biodiversity and the construction of dams may cause submergence and flooding of various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of the northeast like Manas, Kaziranga, Nameri, etc, which might lead to loss of wildlife and biodiversity.
  • Social challenges
    • The existence of various tribal groups who have sacred relationships with the land, water, and forests, will be endangered.

Way forward:

Etalin hydroelectric project based on Dihang river in Arunachal Pradesh was stayed by the supreme court on grounds of inadequate Environmental Impact Assessment. Instead of large dams, small hydro and “run of the river” projects seem more sustainable as of now.

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