Policy ForumEcology

Threats from India's Himalaya Dams

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Science  04 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6115, pp. 36-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227211

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To meet surging domestic energy demand, provide power to the largest population in the world that lacks electricity (>400 million people), and reduce rapidly growing CO2 emissions, the Government of India (GOI) has embarked on a fast-track dam-building program. Over the next several decades, the GOI aims to construct 292 dams throughout the Indian Himalaya, doubling current hydropower capacity and contributing ∼6% to projected national energy needs by 2030 (1). With the use of coal set to expand, India's total carbon emissions are projected to more than double by 2030 (2). New dams can play a dual role, helping to limit emissions while providing power to needy people. But major problems loom. We discuss approaches to these as Himalaya hydropower expands.