Maharashtra’s desperate drought needs some desperate measures Stop westward diversion of water by Tata and Koyna dams immediately


ImageMaharashtra is facing the worst drought of possibly over 4 decades[1]. Thousands villages are already being fed by water from tankers and now there is already move to transport water by trains. Ujani dam has zero live storage as per the latest update. At the same time, Maharashtra is divertingwater from the drought prone Krishna basin AWAY to west flowing rivers of Konkan, ultimately flowing into the Arabian Sea. This should indeed be stopped in this drought year, when Krishna basin is facing one of the worst droughts. The diversions are happening from Koyna dam and also from six Tata dams. Six Tata dams are all in Bhima basin and if these diversions by Tata dams are stopped, the water being diverted will flow into Bhima basin rather than going out of Krishna basin as it is happening now. 


Diversions from Tata dams: Tatas own three hydropower projects in Maharashtra, all in Bhima sub basin of Krishna river basin in Maharashtra. They include 72 MW Khopoli project (involving four dams: Shirawatha, Walwhan, Lonavala and Kundli), 75 MW Bhivpuri project involving Thokewadi dam on Andra river, a tributary of Indrayani and 150 MW Bhira project involving the famous Mulshi Dam. These three projects collectively divert about 1413 Million Cubic Meters of water annually as per the Award of Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal in 2010. What this means is that if these projects were not there or if they stop operating, Krishna basin in Maharashtra can get 1413 MCM of additional water. Today that water is being diverted to west flowing rivers in Konkan that is a water surplus area with over 3000 mm rainfall. (For location of some of these dams, see:http://www.sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects%20_in_Krishna_Basin.pdf, project no 4 and 13 are Tata projects, the third Bhira Power project of Tata too is in Bhima sub-basin of Krishna basin, basically on the Mula tributary, just south of Khopoli and Bhivpuri projects. Koyna project is at no 15, also in Krishna basin.) 


Diversion from Koyna dam: Indeed, Koyna dam is situated in Krishna basin, it has the highest live storage capacity among all of Maharashtra dams, at 2836 MCM, and it has five power houses with total capacity of 1956 MW. Out of this 1920 MW installed capacity comprising stage I to IV would take the water out of the Krishna basin, into the west flowing water surplus basins, and only the smallest of them all, 36 MW dam toe power house would allow water to flow into Krishna basin in Maharashtra. As per KWDT award of 2010, the Koyna dam annually diverts 1911.4 MCM of water AWAY from Krishna basin. 


As per the latest available storage position of Maharashtra Reservoirs, as on January 14, 2013 (see: http://www.mahawrd.org/ and go to Dam storage from the left hand side menu), these Tata and Koyna dams had 2835 MCM of water in live storage. Potentially, all this water and whatever additionally flow into these dams in rest of the year, can be useful for the drought prone areas of Maharashtra, if it is decided NOW that no more water from any of the dams would be allowed to flowthis year into westward Konkan rivers till monsoon arrives. THAT DECISION SHOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN AS SOON AS IT WAS KNOWN THAT MONSOON IS A FAILURE AND MAHARASHTRA IS IN DIRE NEED OF ALL AVAILABLE WATER. WE are already at least five months late in this decision, but now this decision needs to be taken URGENTLY. 


Just the water available in live storage capacity of these dams today is sufficient to provide 100 litres per capita per day for about 7 crore people for a whole year. When people are facing severe water scarcity, it is high time this decision is taken. 


One adverse fall out of this decision would be reduction in generation of hydropower from these projects that would have otherwise happened if the water was allowed to flow away westward to Konkan rivers. But in times of such crisis such decisions needs to be considered. Maharashtra is already facing the possibilities of conflicts and clashes, people and cattle in Krishna basin are already facing dire water scarcity. Care may have to be taken to see what use the water now flowingwestward is put to in the Konkan river basins and this may need to be taken care off where necessary.


The decision to use all available water in the Tata and Koyna dams listed above, only for Krishna basin, by not allowing westward diversion would be a great boon for the people. Sangli and Satara district, immediate downstream of Koyna dam and also vast areas in Bhima basin could benefit from such a decision. This would also be right decision considering that drinking water and basic livelihood water for farmers is supposed to get top priority among all water users. We hope Maharashtra government takes this decision urgently.


Parineeta Dandekar, Pune, www.sandrp.inparineeta.dandekar@gmail.com,             

Prof Vijay Paranjpye, Gomukh, Pune, paranjpye@yahoo.co.uk,               

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune, manthan.shripad@gmail.com,            

Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, ht.sandrp@gmail.com,            



World Wetlands Day 2013: Include rivers in India’s definition of Wetlands, follow the Ramsar Convention

AImages the world and India celebrate the Wetlands Day on the 2nd of Feb this year, we are leaving out a very significant wetland type from protection and conservation under the Ramsar Convention. Our Rivers today are endangered by dams, diversions, hydropower projects, pollution, encroachment, mining, over exploitation, deforestation, climate change and they need urgent protection. Currently rivers have no legal or institutional protection. India had 45041 km of perennial rivers as per Central Pollution Control Board assessment in early 1980s. 

As per the Ramsar Definition, Wetlands are defined as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters” Significantly, it also includes: Permanent Rivers, seasonal and intermittent Rivers and permanent Deltas. Many countries across the world have nominated riverine stretches and deltas as Ramsar Sites. These include deltas like Danube in Romania and Orange in South Africa, Rivers like Maduganga in Srilanka, Murray Darling in Australia, Maruyama in Japan, Krabi in Thailand, to name a very few.

India’s rivers are some of the most scenic, biodiversity rich, culturally significant and truly iconic ecosystems in the world. Despite this, Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 (the only legal instrument explicitly for wetlands protection), shockingly EXCLUDE Rivers from the definition of Wetlands, thus ensuring that no riverine stretches will be nominated by states as proposed Ramsar Sites for protection. Section 2 (g) of the Rules says wetlands does not include “Main River Channels”.

The only riverine Ramsar Site in India is the Upper Ganga Stretch protecting last remaining populations of Gangetic Dolphins. We do not have any explicit protection for Rivers through our Protected Area Network, or through Frameworks like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). More and more biodiversity rich riverine stretches are falling prey to short sighted profit driven projects like dams, hydropower projects and barrages. Important rivers like Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Teesta, Tawang chu, Nyamjangchu, Lohit, Siang, Dibang, Narmada, Krishna, Cauvery, Godavari, Chalakudy, Rivers of Western Ghats, etc. are being destroyed by cascades of dams being sanctioned by authorities like the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, its Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects, Forest Advisory Committee without credible appraisal, or transparent and accountable regulation. As SANDRP’s analysis released on Feb 1, 2013 shows, EAC of the MoEF has not rejected environmental clearance for a single hydropower or irrigation project it received, in all of its 63 meetings since April 2007. 

At the same time, even designated Ramsar wetlands are in peril in India due to the dams and unregulated water abstarctions .

Looking at the rapid pace of river degradation & urgent need for protection, this World Wetland Day we urge:
• The MoEF to amend Wetlands Rules (2010) to include Main River channels in its definition of Wetlands, in line with Ramsar Conventions definition of Wetlands.
• All states to nominate important rivers, riverine stretches and deltas, in a participatory manner, for protection and conservation under the Ramsar Convention.
• Legal protection to rivers, also mandating that no more than 50% of the water from a river can be taken out by any project at any given point of time, as directed by the Allahabad High Court. 
• Communities be given key role in protection of rivers and wetlands, currently lacking in the Wetlands Rules (2010)

Kumbh Mela, the World’s biggest cultural gathering is happening at Allahabad, the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, as we write this. Sacred rivers where this is happening are at a grave risk. Four years after the setting up of the National Ganga River Basin Authority under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, the state of the Ganga River, and its associated floodplains has only gone from bad to worse. Our rulers would be happy, it seems, if all our rivers become mythical, hidden and unseen, like the Saraswati. 


Analysis of MoEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects The Expert APPROVAL Committee has zero rejection in six years

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects (RVP) has considered a total of 262 hydropower and irrigation projects in close to six years since April 2007 when the new committee was set up to its latest, 63rd meeting in December 2012. An elaborate analysis of the minutes of the 63 meetings of the EAC of MoEF for RVP shows that It has not rejected any project in this period. Even in case of the two projects that it declined to recommend clearance for the Terms of Reference (TOR) of their Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), it has basically asked the developers to come back with reformulated proposals. It seems the committee is actually an Expert Approval Committee, since it seems to have expertise in approving rather than appraising the projects objectively. Attached files give the analysis in detail.

Contrary to the impression given by some including the Prime Minister (talking about license raj), PMO (seeing MoEF as road block to development and investment) and others spreading the impression that MoEF is Green Terror, road blocking development projects, this analysis highlights that reality is completely contrary to this: that the EAC and MoEF have been pro projects, pro private developers, at the cost of ecology and local communities.

The analysis highlights that in less than 6 years, the EAC has recommended TORC (Terms of Reference Clearance of stage 1 clearance) for hydropower projects proposed with installed capacity of 49458 MW, which is about 25% more than what India has installed in about 66 years since independence. During the period, the EAC has recommended EC (final Environmental Clearance) for hydropower capacity of 16084.5 MW, which is about three times the hydro capacity of 5544 MW added during the just concluded 11th five year Plan. During the period, EAC has given TORC for 3.28 million ha of CCA and EC for 1.59 million Ha of CCA. Here we should note that since 1991-92, there has been no addition to the net area irrigated by major and medium irrigation projects at all India level as per Govt of India figures. In light of that fact and considering the overcapacity already built into a number of basins across India already, such clearances by EAC are highly questionable.

The analysis concludes that:
• During these 63 meetings, EAC has had zero rejection rate. It has not rejected any of the projects that came to it for environment clearances.
• The EAC did not give the TOR clearances to two projects, but closer reading shows that these are only temporary “NO”s, so even these are not rejections.
• The EAC has never rejected final Environment Clearance to any project.
• Even when other committees have recommended that certain projects not be cleared, the EAC has found reasons to reject such recommendations.
• Many of the projects thus approved by the EAC have been rejected by other statutory authorities, mostly for reasons that were within the mandate of EAC.
• The EAC has never rejected any EIA, or asked for fresh public hearings, even when EAC was given evidence of serious deficiencies in the EIA or public hearing process.
• From the analysis of the meeting it seems the EAC has shown strong pro project, anti environment and anti people bias.
• The functioning of EAC has seen violations of legal, environmental and EAC’s own norms, inconsistencies and lack of appreciation of key issues like cumulative impact assessment, biodiversity impact assessment, services provided by the rivers, carrying capacity, environment flows and comprehensive social impact assessment.
• EAC has somehow refused to make amends in its minutes or refused to review its decisions even when significant errors have been brought to its attention.

As the EAC on River Valley Projects meets for the first time in the New Year on Feb 1-2, 2013, we have sent these documents to the EAC, including concerned MoEF officials, requesting their attention to the analysis, its conclusions and feedback. We believe this analysis provides a picture about how the EAC been functioning for the last six years and also provides and opportunity for course correction where necessary.

Detailed, State-wise Analysis:

Click to access TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf

Click to access EAC_meetings_Decisions_All_India_Apr_2007_to_Dec_2012.pdf