A month before the United Nations Climate Change Conference began in Glasgow, more than 300 organisations across 69 countries urged governments not to use climate funds for “false climate solutions” such as new hydropower dams. They urged that these dams be removed from all the Nationally Determined Contributions targets pledged under the 2015 Paris Agreement that aims to combat global warming.

The appeal included 26 environment groups from India, which has been promoting hydropower projects in the belief that they are clean and sustainable. Environmentalists point to studies (here and here) conducted in the past decade that have shown that hydropower dams are major emitters of methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times-34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In 2019, India declared large hydropower plants as “renewable energy” resources – earlier, only projects smaller than 25 MW were deemed as renewable energy resources – thereby providing incentives to developers such as easier debt repayment terms and funding for associated infrastructure like roads and flood defences.

In August, the environment ministry also recommended restarting the construction of seven under construction hydropower plants in the Himalayan region that had been halted for various reasons.

Experts have, however, pointed out that hydropower dams pollute and also precipitate natural disasters. “The idea of clean, green, sustainable hydropower, as an alternative to coal,…

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