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Padma Devi and the snow removal team at the Allain Duhangan hydropower plant in India have a job that never ends. This suits them fine.

It is a job that never ends. Every season has its challenges.

Seven women are bent over picks and shovels on a dirt road almost 3,000 metres above sea level.

The road leads up to the intakes for the Allain Duhangan hyrdopower plant in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

The women clear the road after avalanches and rockslides, and shovel slush, mud and stones of all sizes.

When this stretch is cleared, they move further up the mountains to clear new sections of a road that is steep and full of hairpin turns.

MapAllain Duhangan

> Hydropower plant in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India.

> Production: 802 GWh

> Capacity: 192 MW

> Owned and managed by Malana Power Company Limited (MPCL), which is owned 49 per cent by Statkraft and 51 per cent by Bhilwara Energy

Plenty of snow

The weather in the area is extreme, and causes excessive wear on the mountain roads.

"Every season has its challenges, and this is a job that never ends," says Padma Devi on the road team, but adds that the road provides work and income that comes in handy.

"There is plenty of snow in winter," she says.

"When winter is over, we need to hurry to remove the snow so that people can get up to the intakes before the melting starts in earnest. Once we're done with that, we have a few months before the monsoon season begins. Meanwhile we carry out repairs on the road as best we can."

The snow removal team

Parkash Thakur

Parkash Thakur is supervisor of the snow removal team at the Allain Duhangan hydropower plant.

Manual work

Parkash Thakur supervises the group. He explains why clearing sometimes has to be done manually.

"We use excavators as far as possible," he says. "But when the machine has done its job, it's not so easy to distinguish between road and snow. Removing the slush must be done manually, otherwise deep furrows will form and the gravel road may even be washed away completely."

With 22 years' experience in road clearing under difficult conditions, Thakur knows exactly when it's time to call in the manual team.

"We maintain a total of 25 kilometres of road," he says. "It is a demanding but important job. Early access to the upper parts of the power plants is very important for proper operation."

Text: Alf Berg
Photo: Alf Berg
The article has also been published in Statkraft's magazine People & Power no. 1/2016