Researchers Estimate 25% Hydropower Projects on Himalayan Rivers Susceptible to Landslide Damage

Researchers from the Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, Germany, have studied data from the damage caused to 41 hydropower projects in Nepal following the massive earthquake in that country in 2015, and have developed a model they used to assess potential future damage to similar projects in the region. They found that one in four projects was likely to suffer extreme damage from landslides caused by earthquakes, and that one in them of these projects were not viable to begin with.


Speaking about their findings, Wolfgang Schwanghart, a geologist and one of the researchers, said, “Our study points to an urgent need to re-evaluate hydropower development in the Himalayas.” He pointed out the need to reconsider the fact there were numerous hydropower projects already existing or planned for development along Himalayan rivers, because while they may present a good opportunity for the generation of power, the entire region is one of the world’s most seismically active.


Addressing the team’s findings after analyzing the data on damages to hydropower projects in Nepal in 2015, the geologist and researcher pointed out that it was not the earthquake itself that caused the damage, but the landslides that followed that led to the loss of property and life. In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, Nepal saw 9,000 people lose their lives, and the country lost approximately one-fifth of its hydropower production capability, with 31 projects being damaged. As Schwanghart put it, “They survived the quake, but got wiped out by moving debris.”

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