Reportedly posing massive threat to the indigenous species living in the Himalayas are the increasing number of dams that are either under construction or being planned in the near future.
While more than a thousand dams are already operating in northern India, Nepal and Bhutan, many more projects are on their way.
AdvertisementThough dams help in provide clean energy, improve flood control and give access to drinking water, they are nevertheless posing a serious threat to endemic species in the world's highest mountain range, New Scientist reports.
According to the report, hydroelectricity supplies about one-fifth of India's power, but even so nearly 300 million of the country's inhabitants have no access to electricity, and more dams could help plug the energy shortfall.
But according to a study conducted by Maharaj Pandit at the University of Delhi, India, and R Edward Grumbine at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming, extinction is looming for the flora and faunal species of the Himalayas.
"We project that about 1700 square kilometres of forests would be submerged or damaged by dams and related activities", says Pandit.
He and Grumbine predict that such deforestation will result in the likely extinction of 22 flowering plants and 7 vertebrate species by 2025. This number would rise to 1505 flowering plants and 274 vertebrates by 2100 if construction work continues, the report said.
Another recent study suggests the dams will be bad news for many of the Himalayas' 300 species of fish. Jay Bhatt and colleagues at the University of Delhi studied distribution of fish species in 16 Himalayan rivers, and found that those richest in biodiversity, with the greatest number of endemic species, were also those where dams will be concentrated.
"Dozens of dam projects are already caught up in litigation due to faulty environmental impact assessments, displacement of people, inadequate compensation, destruction of traditional water and livelihood sources, and loss of biodiversity," says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.