Hydropower has been an old and reliable source of energy in India. Until a few years ago, India considered a hydropower project renewable only when the installed capacity was less than 25 megawatt (MW). But then, in 2019, the government of India decided to consider large hydropower projects as renewable projects too. This makes hydroelectricity a vital part of India's clean energy targets - installing 500 gigawatt (GW) of non-fossil fuel-based capacity by 2030.
However, activists and researchers who have been working on issues related to the displacement of communities due to dam construction, and ecologists who study the impacts of dams on aquatic species and the region's biodiversity, think otherwise. They opine that the terms' clean' and 'green' used to describe hydropower could be misleading, as it does not consider the livelihoods lost and the cost of biodiversity lost at stake.
In this episode, we'll hear about how dams are perceived as a more stable source of energy when compared to solar and wind. We'll also hear about the true cost of relying on this form of energy. Our conversations raise a contentious question: Can hydropower be considered clean and renewable? Or is it simply a case of clean-washing?
Listen to GigaWhat and explore some of the biggest questions, challenges, and opportunities in India's transition from fossil fuel to clean energy sources. Mongabay-India is an online publication dedicated to bringing you stories on science and the environment in India.
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Ammu Susanna Jacob, Research Scientist, CSTEP
Shishir Rao, ecologist
Prakash Bhandari, environmental researcher and activist, Himdhara
A twin-state hydropower project could drown livelihoods and biodiversity
Fish & small hydropower projects in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, India
The return of the mega hydropower projects across India
Host: Mayank Aggarwal
Writer and producer: Kartik Chandramouli
Audio editor: Tejas Dayananda Sagar
Copy editor: Aditi Tandon
Podcast production assistant: Ayushi Kothari
GigaWhat cover art: Pooja Gupta