A consultant’s study* for the World Bank into effective river basin planning in the hydro-rich states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in India has raised the option of establishing need to development authorities.

The draft recommendations report highlighted the need for data sharing, improved yield estimation, utility and construction coordination, and the benefits of greater involvement of communities and qualified third parties, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

These needs were identified in trying to establish the key challenges facing India in meeting its ambitious hydropower development programme, and the hurdles are primarily in the river basins of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the report notes.

A key message of the change in approach the study advocates is a shift from project-based planning to co-ordinated planning of many schemes to optimise energy and economic potential of the river basins in the states.

The study referenced the experiences of developing the Satluj and Alaknanda river basins, both to list many risks faced – ranging from geological, hydrological, flood estimation and environmental flow needs to siltation, upstream storage design and cascade optimisation – to useful progress in overcoming the challenges.

More systematic approaches to river basin development are required in other parts of the states, and the study said that establishing specific development organisations charged with such authority, and receiving sufficient funds, should be considered.

* The study – ‘River Basin Development Optimisation’ – was undertaken on behalf of the World Bank by Hydro Tasmania Consulting at the request of the governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.