Dam Disaster · Uttarakhand

Force Multipliers in Uttarakhand disaster

Given below if the text of the presentation made by SANDRP coordinator on Day 1 at the FICCI-NIDM (NIDM: National Institute of Disaster Management; FICCI: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) 3-day training program on Feb 18-20, 2021 on “Resilient Infrastructure in Hilly Areas: Avalanche, GLOF & Debris Flow” in the context of the Chamoli Disaster of Feb 7, 2021.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 Feb 2021: Case against NTPC for criminal negligence in Tapovan Project?

(Feature image: NDRF personnel carry out rescue and restoration work at damaged Tapovan Vishnugad barrage after the massive flash flood. PTI/Arun Sharma)

Consider these facts: The NTPC, the project developer, failed to appraise that the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project, where maximum damage and deaths occurred in Chamoli Avalanche disaster that started on Feb 7, 2021 morning, is in Paraglacial influence zone. Such an appraisal would have meant a number of implications, including possibly a decision that the project is geologically unviable.

NTPC failed to take any action to save the workers even after it was known upto 10-20 minutes before the disaster struck. Something that Mangshri Devi could do to save about 25 lives, NTPC could not do.

The project had faced several disasters since 2008, but fails to put in early warning system in place. For several days post disaster, reports say that NTPC failed to share even the detailed map of the tunnel where over 30 workers were stuck. NTPC’s disaster management system showed no signs of existence throughout the disaster. Reports say that the barrage gates were closed, which if they were open, it may have helped the flow of the flood debris downstream, which in turn could have possibly meant more time and saving of more lives.

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Hydro Disaster

Tapovan Vishnugad HPP: delays, damages and destructions

(Feature image of rescue operations at Tapovan Vishnugad barrage following Feb. 7, 2021 deluge in Dhauliganga river, Chamoli. PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)

The tragic Chamoli flash flood episode has become latest and one of most vivid examples of how hydro power projects (HPP) are a recipe for disaster in geologically delicate and climatically sensitive regions of Himalaya.

Even 10 days after the deluge the Alaknanda Basin Rivers are following with muddier water. Death toll is mounting. The immense damages to infrastructure including roads, bridges, homes and hydro projects is still to be fully assessed.

The catastrophic event has offered authorities many valuable lessons: not to be blind to the preventable disasters the hydro projects are inviting frequently.

Initial findings have established that the reason behind the flash flood was detachment of snow and rocks. The fact that the hydro projects and other man made mistakes have led to most human casualties and financial losses is undisputable.

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Hydro Disaster

चमोली आपदा: माँ के फोन कॉल्स से बच गई 25 जिंदगियां

फरवरी 7 को चमोली में आई विकराल बाढ़ अपने पीछे भीषण तबाही के निशान के साथ कुछ अहम सबक भी छोड़ गई है जो भविष्य में आपदा प्रबंधन को बेहतर बनाने में बहुत कारगार साबित हो सकते हैं।

ऐसा ही एक असंभव किस्सा स्थानीय महिला मंगसीरी देवी का है जिनका 27 साल का लड़का विपुल कैरेनी एनटीपीसी की तपोवन विष्णुगाड जल विद्युत परियोजना में कार्यरत है।

घटना के दिन विपुल की माँ मंगसीरी और पत्नी अनीता ने ऊचाई पर स्थित अपने गांव ढ़ाक से धौलीगंगा नदी में आई जलप्रलय को देखा। उसके बाद उसने अपने बेटे को कई बार फोन किया जिसके कारण उनके बेटे समेत 25 अन्य लोगों का जीवन बच गया।

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

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Dam Disaster · Landslide dam

Rishiganga Ground visit report reveals landslide dam & raises questions

The first ground visit report of the Rishiganga catchment in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district by Dr Naresh Rana, a geologist after the Chamoli Avalanche disaster of Feb 7, 2021 has been shared by NDTV on Feb 11, 2021[i]. Dr Rana visited the catchment of the Rishiganga to understand the ground situation on Feb 10 ,2021 and this is possibly the first such visit since the disaster.

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CWC - Central Water Commission

Chamoli Disaster: CWC needs functioning, forecasting beyond monsoon

Feature image: CWC’s flow diagram map showing movement of flash flood in Alaknanda valley, Chamoli after landslide induced deluge on Feb. 7, 2021.

The landslide induced[i] flash flood disaster has left long-lasting trail of destruction along the Rishiganga-Dhauliganga-Alaknanda rivers. The flood sludge has filled up the riverbed after damaging infrastructures along the rivers. The rescue work still is underway.

The episode has reignited discussion on vulnerabilities of Uttarakhand, role of hydropower projects and climate change threats. Questions are being raised on destructive projects involving use of blasting, heavy machinery, tree felling challenging the resilience limits of fragile ecology of the region.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 8 Feb. 2021: Will NITI Aayog study the costs of overturning the Radhakrishnan Judgement on Uttarakhand?

NITI Aayog, we learn, has started studies of implications of the Supreme Court and NGT orders on environment issues. In the context of the massive Chamoli disaster now unfolding in Uttarakhand, NITI needs to urgently institute an inquiry as to who all are responsible for overturning the Justice Radhakrishnan led verdict of Aug 13, 2013 about the June 2013 Uttarakhand disaster and role of hydropower projects in the disaster and the costs of overturning that verdict. In fact if the Justice Radhakrishnan verdict were to have been sincerely and honestly implemented to its logical conclusion, the proportions of the current Chamoli disaster and others would have been majorly reduced. So the costs are no doubt huge and mounting. Will NITI Aayog institute such an independent inquiry urgently?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 01 Feb 2021: Dissolving YMC is retrograde

In a shocking and disappointing move, the National Green Tribunal last week dissolved the Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) in Delhi, UP and Haryana along with Justice Pritam Pal Committee and asked the state government to implement the various measures in earlier YMC and NGT reports and directions. This seems like a major set back for the future of Yamuna and other rivers. This seems to have been a direct fall out of the Supreme Court of India Suo Moto taking up the Yamuna pollution issue. This is not going to help solve the seemingly intraceable issue of tackling pollution of our rivers. If the states were interested and capable of implementing the necessary measures, we won’t have required YMC in the first place. YMC was taking a number of useful steps and as we wrote in the DRP lead story dated January 18, 2021, what is required is strengthening the hands of the YMC, but as if our worst fears were to come true, YMC has now been dissolved, even before it could make its mark in achieving cleaner rivers.

It should be noted that our judiciary does not have very remarkable track record in achieving cleaner rivers. In fact the same Supreme Court took up Yamuna case Suo moto in 1994 and not having been able to achieve any better state of Yamuna, after dealing with it for 23 long years, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. Supreme Court had been dealing with Ganga case even longer, and again not achieving better state of the river, handed over the case to NGT in 2017. It seemed like NGT had done something right in setting up YMC, but that also has been dissolved. Its clear that unless the citizens and society does not rise up, there is no hope for our rivers.

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Wetlands

World Wetlands Day 2021: Five new Ramsar sites in 2020 but threats remain

On the Feb 2 2021, the World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands would also complete its 50 years. The global treaty popularly known as Ramsar Convention was adopted in 1971 and came into force in 1975 following decades of negotiations.

The main objective of the treaty is to promote conservation and wise use of all wetlands through regional actions and international cooperation. Currently, the treaty has been accepted by 171 nations including India. There are 2414 Wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar treaty spreading over 254,540,512 ha of lands across the globe.

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