DISASTER MANAGEMENT IN HYDROELECTRIC POWER PROJECTS
Energy Future|October - December 2020
Power sector is vital because economic growth of a nation depends on it. The hydropower projects face both natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and cyclones and man-made disasters such as bomb explosion, fires, and terrorist attacks. Such disasters result in extensive damage to infrastructure and cause loss of lives and disruption of electric supply. In this article, Shambhu Ratan Awasthi and Deepak Joshi discuss disaster management in power sector.
Shambhu Ratan Awasthi and Deepak Joshi

Normally projects are planned and designed taking into consideration the latest design norms that are framed with lessons drawn from past disasters. A disaster management plan helps to deal with such disasters promptly without any confusion on role and responsibility.

Power sector is vital for any country because economic growth of a nation depends on it. The hydropower projects have to face natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and cyclones. In addition, they are subjected to man-made disasters such as bomb explosions, fires, and terrorist attacks. Such disasters generally result in extensive damage to the infrastructure and cause loss of lives and disruption of electric supply, which in some cases may be for a long period of one year or even more.

Disaster is defined as an unwarranted, untoward, and emergent situation that results in heavy toll of life and property and is a calamity sometimes caused by ‘force majeure’ and also by human error. Identification of all types of disaster involves a critical review of the ground reality and study of past disasters in similar situations. In India, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 lays down institutional, legal, finance, and coordination mechanism at various levels, namely, national, state, district, and local.

Disaster Management

A proactive approach is necessary to avoid/minimize any disaster. The Central Electricity Authority has issued a Disaster Management Plan (DMP), ‘generic document for developing crisis and disaster management plan for hydropower stations’, for hydroelectric power projects. DMP aims at minimizing the damage and restoring of the normal life at the earliest.

It is felt that in order to avoid/ minimize the probability of disasters in power houses, possibilities of the following may be explored: » Bulk oil devices (e.g., OPU) may be separated from main machine by a strong partition wall.

» In underground power plants, diesel/ petrol vehicles may be replaced by battery-operated vehicles.

» There should be a review of existing hydel power stations (surface/ semi-underground power plants) for provision of emergency exit at the other end of main entrance. In existing hydel projects, emergency exit is rarely provided as the other end is near a river bank.

» Installation of batteries for emergency lighting should be above the maximum flood level so that emergency lighting supply is not disrupted during longer periods of disaster.

» There should be provision for fireproof clothing for power plant personnel so that they can escape in case of fire disaster depending on its severity.

» Fibre boats may also be kept for evacuation of power plant personnel during a flood disaster. The ‘dos or don’ts’ instructions to be followed during disaster may be depicted on daily approach route, working place, all floors, control room, and so on. Its awareness among workers of power stations may be checked periodically.

» Wireless walkie-talkie as an alternate communication system may be provided.

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