The participants of the Two Day “Indigenous Peoples Consultation on Dams and Natural Resources Protection in India’s North East”, held at Agartala from 10 till 11 February 2013, organized by the Borok Peoples Human Rights Organization, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Siang Peoples Forum, Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization, Peoples Movement for Subansiri Valley, Civil Society Women’s Organization, All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen Union, Affected Citizens of Teesta, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Save Sikkim, Initiative for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples, Peoples’ Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram, Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, All Assam Students Union, Save Mon Federation, All Zeliangrong Students Union, Hmar Inpui United Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources, All Tribal Students Union Manipur, Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti, Naga Women’s Union hereby:

Asserts that the land, forests, rivers and all natural resources in India’s North East belongs to the indigenous peoples of the region. Our land and all natural resources are inherent sources for our life, culture, identify, survival and future of our present and coming generations.

Further affirms that the indigenous peoples in the region have the right to self determination over our land, territory and resources possessing undeniable rights over its management and use.

Expresses our concern with the introduction of more than 200 mega dams and other unsustainable development policies and projects in the region without the free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples in the region

Asserts that mega dam constructions already commissioned such as Loktak Project in Manipur, Dumbur Dam in Tripura has already led to widespread dispossession, loss of land, extinction of flora and fauna, demographic impacts on indigenous peoples in the region and other human rights violations.

Taking note of the ongoing and aggressive construction of mega dams such as 2700 MW Lower Siang HEP, 3000 MW Dibang HEP, 1750 MW Lower Demwe in Arunachal Pradesh, 1200 MW Teesta III HEP, 500 MW Teesta IV HEP, 97 MW Tashiding HEP, 280 MW Panang HEP etc in Sikkim, 1500 MW Tipaimukh HEP, 7.5 MW Mapithel Dam in Manipur, 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP, 600 MW Kameng HEP in Arunachal Pradesh which has already led to widespread dispossession, environment devastations, militarization, conflicts and human rights violations

Seriously concerned with the projection of mega dams in India’s NE as climate friendly and seeking carbon credits and profits by dam developers from CDM mechanisms of UNFCCC Concerned further with increasing corporatization of our land and resources and the aggressive efforts to explore and drill oil in the region by corporate bodies, such as oil exploration efforts by Jubilant Energy in Manipur, Gas exploration in Tripura by ONGC, to mine uranium in Meghalaya by UCIL, etc.

Concerned with the increasing militarization of indigenous peoples land while pursuing mega dams and other extractive industries and the complication of conflicts by the destructive development processes and subsequent human rights violations:

Concerned with the increasing involvement of international financial institutions, such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation etc in financing energy and water related projects and in deregulation of related policies to intensify corporatization of our land and resources Concerned with the Government of India’s non application of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 and the recommendations of other UN human Rights bodies, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and September 2011 to respect indigenous peoples’ rights

Recall the obligations of all states to ensure participatory forms of development and to recognize indigenous peoples rights as reflected in the outcome of the UN Rio+20 conference, June 2012.

Calls upon the Government of India and corporate bodies:

• The Government of India and all corporate bodies should respect and recognize indigenous peoples’ rights over our land and resources in India’s North East and also to respect and recognize their self determined development processes in the region.

• Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 and recommendations of all UN human rights bodies in all development processes affecting their land and resources. • Decommission Dumbur HEP project in Tripura and Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project in Manipur

• Revoke all MoUs, Environment Clearances for mega dams in the region, especially for 2700 MW Lower Siang HEP, 3000 MW Dibang HEP, 1750 MW Lower Demwe in Arunachal Pradesh, 1200 MW Teesta III HEP, 500 MW Teesta IV HEP, 97 MW Tashiding HEP, 280 MW Panang HEP etc in Sikkim, 1500 MW Tipaimukh HEP, 4000 MW Etalin HEP, 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP, 600 MW Kameng HEP etc, granted in the region despite peoples vehement objections and also without their consent.

• Conduct a full review of Mapithel Dam construction and other ongoing mega dams constructions for their compliance with social, environment and human rights norms and safeguards as laid down by the World Commission on Dams, UN Indigenous Peoples Declaration, other human rights treaties and as reflected in “The Future, We Want”, the outcome document of the Rio+20 in June 2012.

• Stop all false projection of Mega Dams as Climate Change friendly in NE India

• Oppose all bilateral or multilateral secretive agreements and negotiations among States on water and energy issues in India’s North East, especially between India and Bangladesh

• Stop all Uranium mining in Meghalaya, Oil exploration efforts in Manipur without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.

• Ensure that all International Financial Institutions, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japanese Bank for International Cooperation etc investing in India’s North East in water, energy, forestry sector etc should respect indigenous peoples’ rights as per the UN Indigenous Peoples Declaration.

• Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and stop all militarization processes associated with development processes in India’s North East

• Protect the human rights of environmentalists, human rights defenders, dam activists campaigning for just and sustainable development in the region We committed to support and extend solidarity to all initiatives and efforts of the indigenous peoples of NE region to assert our right to self determination over our land, wetlands and rivers, forests and all resources and to define our development priorities based on our needs, wishes and aspirations.


Letter to MoEF: Report on ‘Inviolate’ Forest Areas

The MoEF is seeking comments on  “Report of the Committee to formulate objective parameters for identification of inviolate forest areas”. 23rd Feb is the last day! The comments are  to be sent to secy-moef@nic.inwith subject line “Comments on “Report o the Committee to formulate objective parameters for identification of inviolate forest areas”” as per announcement on MoEF website.The report of the committee can be found at: http://moef.nic.in/assets/Report_on_Inviolate_Forest_area.pdf

Looking at the highly unacceptable nature of the report as it now stands, SANDRP (and its partners) have sent the following letter to the MoEF. We urge as many people to send in comments on this report.

Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan

Minister of Environment and Forests

Email: jayanthi.n@sansad.nic.in


 2. Dr. V RAJAGOPALAN: Secretary(E&F)

Email: secy-moef@nic.in

 Subject: “Comments on “Report o the Committee to formulate objective parameters for identification of inviolate forest areas”: Faulty and exclusionary process to determine criteria for the declaration of inviolate forest areas with respect to coal mining


Dear Ms. Natarajan and Dr Rajagopalan,


We the undersigned would like to put forward our strong objection to the process followed by the MoEF in the drafting of the above mentioned criteria (Report of the Committee to Formulate Objective Parameters for Identification of Inviolate Forest Areas, July 2012) and the short-sighted nature of the approach to identify which forests of India are to be exposed to exploitation by coal mining. Here we would like to point out that the GOM that asked for the expert committee report on this issue was the GOM for environment and development issues in general and if the specific areas need protected since they are inviolate, they should also be inviolate for all purposes and projects?

 This process should be open to public input and engagement, and highlighting that any criteria must take into account the multifaceted nature of human-forest interactions in the country and the millions of livelihoods that depend on the country’s forests, aside from issues of forest cover, forest types, biodiversity, wildlife and endangered species and areas, intact landscapes and hydrological value. Some key missing issues include livelihood issues, cultural issues and interlinking issues with other areas. Another set of parameters missing are: seismically active, flood prone, erosion prone, coastal and such other vulnerable areas. Areas where tribals are in majority should also be excluded without free, prior and informed consent of all the gram sabhas in the region. It is amazing that the social and democratic governance issues get no place in the parameters.

 The grids are not being assigned values of eco sensitivity as per the Pronab Sen Committee report or as per the methodology followed by the WGEEP for the Western Ghats.

 Issue of carrying capacity and cumulative impact assessments and linkages across the areas are key issues.

 The MoEF has kept this process secretive and opaque. By keeping this process behind closed doors and only at internet level in English language, the MoEF has made this process to determine “forest trade-offs” extremely exclusive, expert-driven and narrow in scope. This is contrary our constitution’s stated objectives of upholding democracy and promoting inclusive growth. The fact that this report was finalised in July 2012 and yet only uploaded in the public domain on January 24, 2013, with a period of less than one month for comments, is unacceptable and indicative of the opaque manner in which this critical issue has been approached.

 Our overarching and firm objection is that the MoEF has adopted a non-participatory and undemocratic approach of arriving at these parameters, preferring to work behind closed doors. Our first demand therefore is that these parameters be opened up for extensive public debate, scrutiny and contribution, in such a manner as to hear from those people and organisations that stand to be most affected. This process, of course, cannot be accomplished in less than a month, so we are asking that a new process to achieve the same be announced. Some essential parameters of the process include: translation of the report in local languages, facilitation to ensure that it reaches the communities concerned and affected and a credible independent and transparent process for getting inputs, the process should also be transparent to show how the inputs were used.

 Without prejudice to the above, we would also like to raise strong substantive concerns related to the parameters that have been suggested, which go beyond the issues of process stated above. While the suggested criteria appear to recognise the importance of forests for their biological, landscape, hydrological, wildlife and forest cover and forest type values, they are completely silent on the issue of the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, their cultural issues and also the inter-linkage issues. As you are no doubt aware, India’s forests are a critical survival resource of millions of Indians. These livelihoods are invariably severely compromised, if not destroyed entirely, by mining, dams and other activities that destroy the forests.

 Such a contradictory approach to India’s forests devoid of their socio-economic context is disconcerting and is also illegal in the context of forest rights act, PESA, Scheduled areas act and Panchayat Raj act. For a country which has a large part of its population dependent directly or indirectly on forests, the future of these same forests cannot be determined solely through the parameters listed in the report.

 The proposed system of weights/scoring is also faulty and arbitrary. The system of averaging the score rigs the process such that a high score on any one parameter (for example, areas notified as Conservation Reserves) is not sufficient to protect the area. By stating that only areas with an average score above 70 will be considered inviolate, the system is in effect discounting the need to protect any area that scores less than 70. This includes, by the committee’s proposal, areas outside the PA network with more than 5 Schedule I species, or areas with occasional wildlife presence, or most Dry Deciduous Forests. The vast majority of wildlife corridors in Western, Central, Eastern, Southern and North Eastern India will fall in these categories.

 Identification of Biodiverse areas through IIRS Data While IIRS data can be one of the useful tools, it cannot be the only one for selection of biodiverse areas. Information and knowledge about the local biodiversity through the involvement of the local communities, academics and civil society should also be used in this process. Under the National Biodiversity Authority Act, Peoples Biodiversity Registers were mandated. Hundreds of villages across India have worked on these registers and documented their biodiversity. The current report cannot just chose to neglect all these institutional and legal mechanisms in place

 A relevant question in this regard is: Do we have sufficient information about for example biodiversity in various Himalayan and Western Ghat forests? New species are being discovered every month even without a concerted effort from the government. Hence, total dependence on IIRS data will be a blunder.

 Wildlife value There is no mention of the aquatic biodiversity in this subject head or anywhere else in the document. Aquatic biodiversity also needs to be taken note of and needs protection. Particularly in the context of protected areas, it needs to be recognised that the aquatic biodiversity within the protected areas would be affected by interventions in the aquatic sources, upstream and downstream of the protected areas and thus would need protection in that respect. Secondly, we have very few protected areas for aquatic biodiversity and we need many more of them.

 Hydrological Value In the committee report there is mention of maintenance of forest cover in the catchment of only first order perennial streams. This, though a step in right direction, is only limited step. It needs to be recognised and understood that the natural forest cover in the catchment of all streams would be of equal importance since destruction of such forest cover has implications for hydrological flow pattern in the downstream areas, aquatic biodiversity in the downstream streams, silt flow patterns in the downstream flows and all the connected water-fish-food-energy securities for the downstream areas.

 This complexity is missed when the suggestion is to declare only the following areas as inviolate areas:

1. The directly draining catchment of the first order streams that are used as drinking water streams for towns and villages,

2. Areas located in direct draining catchments of the first order perennial streams feeding the irrigation and hydropower projects,

3. Areas located within 250 m of the banks of the perennial streams/ rivers, boundary of important wetlands (not clear what is the definition of important wetlands, are all wetlands with area more than 10 ha to be considered as important wetland, is river and its floodplain included in the definition of the wetland?) and storage reservoirs of water supply/ irrigation/ hydropower/ multipurpose projects (does it mean this applies to all natural and man made reservoirs of India, since all such reservoirs are used for one or the other purpose listed here?).

 There is also contradiction when, while on the hand areas within 250 m of the banks of perennial streams and rivers is supposed to be inviolate (and thus get a score of 100), in section 3.6.1 it is suggested that areas within 100 m of the major seasonal streams or rivers should get a score of 70. The trouble is, we do not have ready made baseline data or clear definition as to what areas are supposed to be included when it is mentioned “banks of perennial rivers and streams”. Secondly, there is no clarity as to what would be called a seasonal or perennial river. For example, there are rivers that were perennial but has become seasonal because of human interventions. Then there are some rivers that were seasonal, but have become perennial due to the community conservation actions.

 Moreover as far as hydrological value is concerned, the sustainable existence of value for any sq km grid area would actually depend on what is going on in a much wider area, almost whole of the catchment and also what is happening in the downstream. This reality does not seem to be captured by the suggested methodology. It would not make sense to give value in this sense to only the specific grid, but to protect that much larger area would need to be given implied value and any decisions would need to be keep in mind such inter-linkages.

 The inter-linkages are also important for the implied change in pressures on specific grid element when decisions lead to violation of value of linked grid elements.

 Community conserved areas: Across India, traditional communities have protected stretches of forest, grasslands, wetlands and river through community conservation. As India hosts the CBD this year, we cannot simply neglect Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) even as a signatory to the CBD. All community conserved areas should be declared as inviolate zones.

Fragmentation Similarly, the parameters do not deal effectively with the critical issue of fragmentation of forests as a result coal-mining related infrastructure and ancillary activities – roads, railways, power lines etc. If some areas are recognised as inviolate and the adjoining areas are opened up for mining, there will be demands on the adjoining forests for ancillary infrastructure. Fait accompli arguments will be advanced, as is currently the practice among industry proponents.  Any discussion on excluding mining from critical forest areas needs to take on board cumulative impacts of the land use change which is likely to take place. The MoEF needs to engage with this critical question through widespread debate and consultation as a first step.

Faulty Decision Rules: Decision Rule 1: They have not included already identified ecologically sensitive areas.

Decision Rule 2: A score of 70 is way too high for determining that the grid is inviolate. The rule should be that any area that gets over 70% score with respect to any one of the parameter should be inviolate area.

Decision Rule 3: Only if 90% or more grid from any coal blocks are outside inviolate zone, should there be consideration for such block for mining.

 Compliance A key question in this regard is, who will monitor and ensure that the inviolate forests will remain inviolate? Considering the past track record of the bureaucracy in MoEF, there is little credibility of their ability or interest in keeping such areas inviolate. The example of areas declared earlier as no go areas for mining and how almost of them are now gone is fresh in the minds of the people. We need a credible mechanism involving the local people in ensuring compliance of the decisions. 

Keeping in mind all of the above, we demand that:

 a) The above mentioned criteria be opened up for more detailed scrutiny and debate with an acceptance of the multiple roles played by our forest areas. This process (some essential elements of the process are mentioned above) must be inclusive and broad-based, in contrast to the exclusionary process followed thus far.

 b) That the ministry uphold the spirit of environment justice and the need to safeguard the livelihoods of forest dependent communities as also their cultural issues when making decisions on forest diversion.

 c) That no further forest diversion for mining should be allowed until the conclusion of a transparent and open process as specified in point a) above. This is especially important given the growing conflict in forest areas.

 d) Any further criteria setting process be inclusive and broadbased rather than the exclusive and expert dominated processes like is in the present case. This goes completely against the government’s constitutional commitment to being a sovereign, socialist republic.

 We look forward to your response and the announcement of an open consultation process on the need to protect our remnant forests from coal mining and other activities in forest areas.


Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi 110088 (www.sandrp.in)

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)



GOI Gazette notification of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award on Feb 19, 2013: Clear Partisan attitude: Proof lack of any interest in water, people or environment?

GOI Gazette notification of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award on Feb 19, 2013:

Clear Partisan attitude: Proof lack of any interest in water, people or environment?

The belated gazette notification of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, over six years after the Tribunal declared its award clearly signifies that the Union Government in general and its water resources ministry has no sensitivity or possibly sense for water, people or environment. The fact that it has been notified only under the deadline given by the Supreme Court of India more than once, as admitted by the Ministry in its Press Release, substantiates this point.

However, it also speaks a lot that the Supreme Court which has been sitting on the petitions from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu challenging the final award for all this years, and has been entertaining the petition on this issue all these years, has not found it fit to either dispose or dismiss those petitions, nor asked for this notification earlier. The direction for notification that the SC now gave could and should have been given earlier.

Also in this entire din, neither the concerned states nor the centre has given necessary encouragement and space to the Cauvery Family experiment that tried to bring the farmers from across the states together to understand, appreciate and resolve the issues through dialogue. This is particularly pertinent since people, the users of the water, river and the connected ecology were not a party before the tribunal. The people have not been heard by the tribunal, only the states have been, assuming that states represent the interests of the people, which is far from correct assumption. Nor do the people have any place in the regulatory system put forward by the Tribunal.

Some of the noteworthy features of Final CWDT award are:

– Meagre allocation of 10 TMC for environment flows in this major river system, which comes to just 1.35% of the assessed annual flow of 740 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet or Billion Cubic feet) at 50% dependability (much lower than the usual 75% dependability assessment for other rivers).

– No calculation of groundwater use in inter state water allocation when ground water is increasingly the mainstay of our water use.

– No clear priority for drinking water and livelihood supporting irrigation water.

– No stipulation that environment flow should not be reduced in any lean season.

– Water storages below 3 TMC is not brought into calculation, so the whole assessment is biased in favour of BIG projects.

– No clear encouragement for System of Rice Intensification and water efficient cropping pattern across the basin.

For further comments see: https://sandrp.in/rivers/Article_Cauvery_Tribunal_Verdict_0207.pdf

Significantly, the SC order of Feb 4, 2013 is clear that this notification is without prejudice to the ongoing proceedings in the apex court. So there is no sense of finality as yet. The gazette notification in any case comes into force in 90 days, so sometime in May 2013, by which time Karnataka would have had its state assembly elections. So there is a lot of electoral and power politics that this issue will see.


1. PIB PR: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=0

Ministry of Water Resources notifies the Final Award of CWDT

On January 4, 2013, Hon’ble Supreme Court noted that party States did not have any objection to the final decision of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) being notified. Accordingly, Hon’ble Supreme Court in its decision dated February 4, 2013 directed the Central Government to publish in official Gazette the final decision given by the CWDT dated February 5, 2007 by February 20, 2013.  Accordingly, Ministry of Water Resources has notified the Final Award of CWDT dated February 5, 2007 on 19th February, 2013.  Details of the notification may be seen at http://www.wrmin.nic.in.

2. MWR Notification on CWDT: http://www.wrmin.nic.in/writereaddata/linkimages/CWDT_Gazette7023249620.pdf

3. Feb 2007 Article by Himanshu Thakkar on Cauvery Award was titled Cauvery Tribunal Award 2007: Why it fails the tests of science, efficiency and equity?: https://sandrp.in/rivers/Article_Cauvery_Tribunal_Verdict_0207.pdf (this article was published then at: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/feb/06guest.htm)

4. Full CWDT award is available at: http://mowr.gov.in/index3.asp?subsublinkid=376&langid=1&sslid=393


Hague Court gives ONE ALL verdict in Kishenganga dispute between India and Pakistan

The Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague has given its partial (final and binding on the issues on which it has decided) award on the India Pakistan dispute on the 330 MW Kishenganga hydropower project in Kashmir. Out of two references filed by Pakistan against the project in India, the PCA ruling is in favour of India for one (whether India can divert the waters of Kishenganga for hydropower project) and in favour of Pakistan for the other (whether India can reduce the level in the reservoir below minimum draw down level for sediment flushing). The PCA is yet to decide about the environment flows that India must release downstream from the diversion site. It would be interesting to see how PCA decides this and also about the manner of release of the flows, ideally the releases should be through a properly designed and well researched fish ladder. We will have to wait for this till the end of the year 2013. See details below.

Court of Arbitration Issues Partial Award
in First Arbitration under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960

THE HAGUE, February 19, 2013.

The Court of Arbitration constituted in the matter of the Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration (Pakistan v. India) has rendered a Partial Award in respect of the dispute between Pakistan and India under the Indus Waters Treaty concerning (1) the legality of the construction and operation of an Indian hydro-electric project located in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir; and (2) the permissibility under the Treaty of the depletion of the reservoirs of certain Indian hydro-electric plants below “Dead Storage Level.”1

In its Partial Award, which is final with respect to the matters decided therein, without appeal and binding on the Parties, the Court of Arbitration unanimously decided:
1. that the Kishenganga Hydro-Electric Project (KHEP) constitutes a Run-of-River Plant under the Treaty, and India may accordingly divert water from the Kishenganga/Neelum River for power generation by the KHEP in the manner envisaged.

However, when operating the KHEP, India is under an obligation to maintain a minimum flow of water in the Kishenganga/Neelum River, at a rate to be determined by the Court in a Final Award.

2. Except in the case of an unforeseen emergency, the Treaty does not permit India’s reduction below “Dead Storage Level” of the water level in the reservoirs of Run-of-River Plants located on the rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Treaty. This ruling does not
apply to Plants already in operation or under construction (whose designs have been communicated by India and not objected to by Pakistan) The Court expects to be able to render its Final Award determining the minimum flow of water India would be required to release in the Kishenganga/Neelum River by the end of 2013.

For full Partial Award of PCA dated Feb 18, 2013 and Press Release of PCA on this dated Feb 19, 2013, See: http://www.pca-cpa.org/shownews.asp?nws_id=351&pag_id=1261&ac=view


Jan 2013 issue of “Dams, Rivers & People”

Highlights of  the Jan 2013 issue
Jan-Feb Issue of Dams, Rivers and People
As “Dams, Rivers & People” completes ten years, we are happy to bring it to you in brand new format. Please do let us know how you like it.

Analysis of MOEF’s EAC on RVP: The Expert ApprovalCommittee

The Ministry of Environment & forest (MoEF) has constituted different Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC) for the appraisal of various developmental projects including River Valley & Hydroelectric projects. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects (RVP) has not rejected a single one of the 262 hydropower and irrigation projects considered by it. This is one of the clues that EAC has strong pro project and anti people bias

Nyamjang Chu

MoEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects:Project wise details (April 2007 to Dec 2012)

This document presents decisions of meetings of the EAC during the period from Apr 2007 to Dec 2012. The document is organized region wise, then statewise, and finally as per project. This list provides evidence for the information provided in the lead article about the functioning of the EAC.

Man holding a Mahseer

Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation finds place in Indian Biodiversity Congress!

Indian Biodiversity Congress lays stress on Freshwater Biodiversity conservation. Looking at the huge and at time irreversible impact of dams and hydropower projects on aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, Indian Biodiversity Congress has made some specific recommendations to the MoEF

People protesting against Luhri HEP

Reject Environment Clearance for the proposed 775 MW Luhri hydropower project

This letter to the MOEF draws attention to the many inconsistencies in the EAC’s approval of this project on the Sutlej River. It points out that the EIA is ‘inadequate, full of contradictions and misrepresentations’ and recommends blacklisting of the agency involved

Photo of plants in a wetland

Include rivers in India’s definition of Wetlands, follow the Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Definition of wetlands includes permanent, seasonal, and intermittent Rivers.Despite this, Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 EXCLUDE Rivers from the definition of Wetlands, thus ensuring that no riverine stretches will be nominated for protection.

South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and People

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Hilsa is India’s Salmon

Just like Salmon is special to the United States, Hilsa fish is special to Indians. Its declining rapidly. Causes of this decline are well know. Hilsa is anadromous fish and needs to complete its lifecycle from sea to river, which is now impossibles through the hurdle of dams. This article highlights the facts well, however, its sad to see that institutions like CIFRI and ICAR are still not ready or brave enough to tackle the main issue of dams. They are busy funding more research projects about Hilsa. The gap between research and burning reality is widening..


SANDRP worked on a report which uniequivocally proved that large dams and infrastaturye projects have been behind fishery collpases in many Indian Rivers: https://sandrp.in/dams/Impacts_of_Dams_on_Riverine_Fisheries_in_India_ParineetaDandekar_Sept2012.pdf


Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation finds place in Indian Biodiversity Congress!

IBC Recommendation to MoEF: Safeguarding Riverine Biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services of rivers and inland water bodies


Dams, hydropower projects, diversions and hydrological modifications to rivers and inland water bodies are having a huge negative impact on biodiversity and dependent livelihoods across India. Biodiversity Assessments for such projects is nonexistent or fundamentally inadequate or flawed including in in ecological hotspots like Himalayas and Western Ghats. Environmental Impact Assessments are severely flawed. Credible mitigation measures for endangered, threatened, endemic or rare fish and other biodiversity are not in place, even Endangered and iconic species like Ganges River Dolphins are under threat from absence of flows in the downstream and hydrological obstructions. Downstream impacts are neither part of social impact assessment nor part of resettlement and rehabilitation measures. All these  gaps are leading to incremental, cumulative negative impacts on biodiversity and local communities which depend on riverine biodiversity for their livelihoods.

IBC recommends that:

  • EIA notification 2006 should be amended urgently to include all hydel project above 1 MW capacity, all large dams including those for drinking water, industrial use, irrigation above 1000 hectares and flood control structures under its purview
  • Cascade of Hydropower dams in any river basin, including in the Indian Himalayas and Western Ghats should be reviewed, cumulative impact assessment including carrying capacity and river basin studies should be mandatory. No further projects should be considered before such studies in any basin having two or more projects. The studies should be done by credible independent agencies having no conflict of interest.
  • Recommendations of studies like Wildlife Institute of India’s report on Cumulative Impacts of Hydel Development on terrestrial and aquatic ecology of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins should be accepted and 24 hydel projects should be immediately scrapped for their irreversible negative impacts on biodiversity, as recommended by the WII study.
  • Process of Environment Impact Assessments should be made stringent, consultants with conflict of interest should be blacklisted. More scientific inputs and peer reviews should be brought in these studies.
  • Participatory Studies about environmental flow requirements of rivers, free flowing distance of rivers between two dams (should be more than 5 km as suggested by additional chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh in a report to high court) and downstream impacts of dams should be undertaken by the MoEF with participation from scientists and communities across the country. In the absence of these studies, more projects should not be sanctioned.
  • Fish Diversity and dependent livelihoods of inland fisherfolk are being greatly jeopardized by current dam development, in the absence of any mitigation measures. We urge the MoEF to undertake studies about efficacy of current fish farms and hatcheries, studies on fish ladders and passes and impacts of dams on fish diversity in India and not sanction new dams in areas of great fisheries diversity like Western Ghats and Indian Himalayas in the absence of mitigation measures and studies
  • Dams affecting community conserved areas and conservation reserves should be scrapped like 780 MW Nyamjangchhu Project in Arunchal Pradesh affecting last wintering sites of Black-necked Cranes, a community reserve.
  • Free-flowing rivers of India need legal protection as reservoirs of rare biodiversity.
  • Ramsar and other wetlands should get legal protection from impacts due to upstream abstractions.
  • In every state and ecological zone, certain rivers should be left as no go zones for dams and hydropower projects.
  • Community conserved riverine stretches and community fish sanctuaries should get legal protection.

India Pushing for a Water Treaty with China?

This is indeed very interesting, welcome news if India starts pushing China for a water sharing treaty:

India for water sharing pact with China
Feb 10 – Water is emerging as a new possible irritant between China and India, which has proposed a bilateral mechanism to deal with it, reports PTI.

In a significant move, India is pressing China to have either a water commission or an inter-governmental dialogue or an treaty to deal with water issues between the two countries.

This comes in the wake of Chinese move to approve construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet, in addition to the one being built without informing New Delhi.

Following the Chinese move, a high-level inter- ministerial committee, comprising officials from External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry, Department of Space among others met here to take stock of the situation and decided to take it up with China.

The issue was once again taken up when a senior Chinese embassy official met MEA officials to give details on the construction proposal.

“Though, the issue (of having a bilateral mechanism) has been part of our discussions earlier also, the recent move by Beijing has further pushed the matter. There is a need for some mechanism to deal with water issues between the two countries on the lines of what India has with other countries like Pakistan,” sources told PTI.

While India has an Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan under which the two countries share information and cooperate on the matter, a Ganges Treaty with Bangladesh establishes a 30-year water-sharing arrangement and recognises the neighbouring country’s rights as a lower-level riparian.

Recently, the Chinese cabinet had approved a document which mentions construction of three dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra.

Reacting to the Chinese move, the official spokesperson in MEA has said India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra river. “As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the river, India has conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels.”

The official spokesperson also stressed the need for China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.Image


Cutting off nose to spite the face: Whose nose and whose face?

This article throws light on the dynamics behind Forest Advisory Committee giving ok to 800 MW Tawang II in its meeting on Jan 21-22, 2013, putting aside its own earlier recommendation. It has yet to give ok to the 600 MW Tawang I (the article seems incorrect there) , but it is only a matter of time, it seems. FAC meeting had just three members present out of the designated seven members, only one non govt member was present, namely Prof  N P Todaria known for pro project bias and issues of conflict of interests. The Tawang II project has already seen violation of the Forest Act and this was brought to the notice of FAC, but they chose to ignore it. They do not even acknowledge the receipt of the submissions in the meeting. But this wont stop the project facing strong opposition on ground and also legal challenges.

To push these projects in the name of being one up on Chinese announcements is worse than cutting off the nose to spite the face. It actually takes away whatever little force there was in questioning the Chinese announcements. The Govt is clearly taking anti people, anti environment steps and that too in haste.

The environment clearances to Tawang I and II were given in one EAC meeting within just one agenda, for details, see SANDRP EAC analysis: https://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf and https://sandrp.in/env_governance/EAC_meetings_Decisions_All_India_Apr_2007_to_Dec_2012.pdf.


A Damned Race For Power

How we threw away the green rulebook in our obsession to keep up with China
Jay Mazoomdaar


Photo: Pijush Dutta

WITH MORE than 80 percent forest cover, Arunachal Pradesh is one of the last repositories of virgin wilderness where new species are still discovered every few months. The state also faces a 15 percent power shortfall. So, a section of Arunachal’s political leadership is desperate to harness the vast potential of its numerous fast-flowing rivers. More than 140 MoUs have been inked to set up hydro-electricity projects (HEPS) in the state.

In Tawang district, this power rush reached an absurd high. Seven rivers flow through the Tawang basin, where as many as 13 HEPS have been proposed across just 2,085 sq km. There is hardly any agricultural land left in this hilly district where the armed forces and civic infrastructural facilities occupy more than half the area. Once the HEPS come up, even the remaining cropland by the rivers will be lost. Besides, 13 HEPS will require a peak workforce of more than 1 lakh people, double the population of the district. One can imagine what the influx will mean to the Monpa residents, whose indigenous rights are protected by the Constitution.

A part of the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity hotspot, Tawang is also one of the 200 globally important eco-regions and the only place on earth that hosts all varieties of Rhododendron. It is also home to the red panda, snow leopard, mountain goat and 150 species of birds. The impact of intensive blasting, tunnelling and submergence required for building 13 HEPS in this pristine landscape will be an environmental disaster.

Only nine years ago, then chief minister Gegong Apang announced a plan to set up a 2,000 sq km bio-reserve. As political priorities changed rapidly in Itanagar and New Delhi, Buddhist monks from the Monpa community made the Tawang monastery the centre of resistance. Since April last year, Save Mon Region Federation has repeatedly defied Section 144 and clashed with the police to demand that all 13 proposed HEPS, including the 600 MW Tawang-I and 800 MW Tawang-II, be scrapped. As recently as Christmas Eve last year, a violent showdown led to several arrests and injured protesters.

While both Tawang-I and II already had the required green clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the pressure from the local communities and the obvious irrationality of setting up so many HEPS in such a tiny basin made the Forest Advisory Committee recommend a cumulative impact study instead of evaluating each project on its own. That was last September. In just four months, the table was turned.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan came under strong pressure from various infrastructure ministries and the PMO. Her high-profile face-off with Finance Minister P Chidambaram on the proposed National Investment Board (NIB) forced the PMO to dilute the NIB’s overriding powers and rechristen it a Cabinet committee. But soon enough, it was time for quid pro quo.

The NHAI claimed the first pound of flesh by making the MoEF allow work along the non-forest parts of the projects, pending forest clearance. With the coal ministry already breathing down her neck, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia paid Natarajan a visit. Then, China announced three new dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) along the border.

While construction of a 510 MW plant at Zangmu in the Tibet Autonomous Region is going on since 2010, the three new projects — at Dagu (640 MW), Jiacha (320 MW) and Jiexu (unspecified) — took the cumulative yield to beyond 1,470 MW. The Indian answer, insisted the power ministry, had to be fast-tracking Tawang-I and II and generate 1,400 MW.

So, the MoEF promptly wrote to Arunachal CM Nabam Tuki to proceed with the basin study and the Tawang HEPS were granted stage-I clearance without bothering for any cumulative or specific impact study. There is a rider of a consolation though: the other 11 HEPS will have to wait till their cumulative impact is assessed. That is until China decides to come up with a few more dams.



National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems omits Rivers?

Image While the National Wetland Conservation Program and National Lake Conservation Program did not include rivers in their purview, even the newly announced 900 crores National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems seems to have ignored Rivers. The National River Conservation Program,under the MoEF includes hardly 35 polluted riverine stretches. That is the only specific protection rivers get apart from some failed plans like GAP and YAP.

While Rivers in India provide habitats to endangered biodiveristy, and provide numerous goods and services, they continue being overlooked and abused ..http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_cabinet-nod-to-rs900-crore-wetlands-development-plan_1797394