Ganges feeds power plant, risks dolphins

Besides irrigating thousands of acres, the Ganges waters also run nuclear reactors. One of them is the 440MW power plant near Narora.

About 300km downriver from Devprayag, Ganges is a mere shadow of the mighty river of legend, with four barrages at Narora, Bijnor, Haridwar and Rishikesh.

There is not much water in the Ganges past Bijnor anyway, but even that is diverted to feed the nuclear power plant at Bulandshahar of Uttar Pradesh.

Each of the power plant’s two pressurised heavy-water reactors has a capacity of 220MW. With commercial operations from 1991, the reactor is not subject to IAEA safeguards since India is not a party to the non-proliferation treaty of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear plant faced the possibility of a complete meltdown and consequent disaster in 1993 after about 28 months in operation when turbine blades malfunctioned resulting in a major fire.

Such a meltdown would have a major threat for the environment and much of the aquatic life of the Ganges including the Gangetic dolphin which finds just a few stretches of the river to be its ideal habitat.

That includes what is called the Upper Ganga River between Brijghat and Narora. This is one of just 9 stretches of eight rivers where the World Wildlife Fund of India says the Gangetic dolphin is most at home swimming in deep waters, preferably near confluences.