| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI India's greenhouse gas emissions
could be 40 percent higher than official estimates if methane
released from dams is taken into account, according to a new
Methane -- about 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide
in terms of the amount of heat it traps -- is released from
reservoirs, spillways and turbines of hydropower dams as a
result of rotting carbon-containing vegetation.
But India, already one of the world's top polluters, has
never measured methane emissions from its 4,500 large dams and
has therefore never taken it into account in official data.
According to a study by scientists from Brazil's National
Institute for Space Research, methane equivalent of 825 million
tons of carbon dioxide is released annually by India's dams.
"I am quite positive that surface methane emission
estimations are correctly estimated," said Ivan B.T. Lima, lead
author of "Methane Emissions from Large Dams as Renewable
Energy Resources: A Developing Nation Perspective."
"I am confident that Indian dams might be altering
atmospheric methane although not precisely to what extent,"
Lima told Reuters in an e-mail interview.
India's carbon emissions, which excluded the contribution
of methane from dams, were around 1,890 million tons in 2000,
according to the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based
Government officials say methane emissions from dams is not
"In India, the practice is that all the vegetation is
removed before the water flows into the reservoir," said
Prodipto Ghosh, a former environment secretary.
"So given that these are our practices in dam construction,
you would believe any such study to be deeply flawed."
India, whose economy has surged between 8 and 9 percent in
recent years, currently contributes around four percent of
global emissions as its consumption of fossil fuels gallops.
But as a developing nation, it is not required to cut
emissions, said to be rising 2 to 3 percent annually, under the
Kyoto Protocol despite mounting pressure from environmental
groups and developed nations.
India, which has the largest number of dams in the world
after the U.S. and China, has constructed many to service its
farm sector, which makes up around 22 percent of the country's
GDP and employs 70 percent of the workforce.
The dams have also been used to help power industry and
bring electricity to some of the country's 1.1 billion people,
most of whom live in villages.
But the dam constructions have frequently sparked protests
for displacing tens of thousands of poor people, ravaging prime
forests housing rare flora and fauna as well as destroying
Activists said India's dam emissions were a serious concern
and urged the government to conduct its own investigation.
"Dams are always considered to be a clean source of energy
but can we really call them clean when they are contributing so
much to global warming?" asked Himanshu Thakkar from the South
Asia Network on dams, rivers and people.