They plunder rivers & rainforests for megawatts

Little Acre, a rainforest patch protection initiative from the Coorg Consortium for Conservation in collaboration with BCIL-Zed Habitats, Bangalore.

It seems a malaise all over the world. Only a year ago Bhutan announced that it would produce about 6000 megawatt of hydel power to exploit its natural resources in order that it can step up its export earnings by selling hydel energy to India. Of course, the investment in the project was to be made by an Indian partner.

Bhutan has a requirement of less than 1000 megawatts as power demand and therefore does not need to be producing power for its own consumption.

Peru is in a similar situation. At less than 800 megawatts, Peru’s total home requirement of power seems low, barely matching four modern nuclear power stations. But its generation capacity is at 2000 megawatts, with the government exporting the rest to Brazil and Chile.

What is worse, Peru now has big ambitions to turn the country into a regional energy hub with power that it will harness from the country’s Amazonian rivers apart from exploiting its increasingly plentiful supplies of natural gas.

Some of these plans are starting to be put into effect. And they look set to generate some equally big protests form not only Peruvians but also the rest of the world, for the damage that it will cause to large tracts of natural forests of the Amazon.

The name of the game is, of course, money, for billions of dollars are involved in such projects. Green groups are mobilizing against the proposed hydel dams. Their first target is a $4 billion, 2000-megawatt dam in Peru’s southeastern jungle. This will flood around 400 square kilometers of rainforests. Even the regional government is backing the public protests and outrage against the project. Leaders of the local Amazonian tribe complain that it would displace 10,000 people.

Peru’s story is the same as it has been on the Narmada. Peru calls the Maranon River its energy artery. The country estimates that capacity to generate power from this river alone at 10,000 megawatt from 6 dams that Peru wants to raise across the river. Local people say they have not been consulted about the hydel schemes.

The other dismaying challenge that people have is that the government is approving mines and oil concessions, and then consulting with people. Again, a story that is so much like what is happening in multiple mining projects that affect people’s lives in states like Chhattisgarh.

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