Dams · Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Naseeruddin Shah extends support to bold new film on the Ganga

Legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah has extended his support and presence in the film Return of the Ganga, a bold new 3-part documentary film that explores the recent ongoing mad chaotic tension between conservation and exploitation of our land, water and people.


At the heart of the film is the river Ganga being dammed extensively and dried up. The film explores the options we have to save Ganga from over 600 hydro-power projects being built on her. It introspects why for the first time in the 5000-year history of our civilisation, we are facing the death of our very lifeline. Return of the Ganga also explores our choices against the backdrop of vast sweeping global changes. It makes a strong case for clean and renewable energy options and how we can get out and get our act together to ensure good sustainable sense prevails all around and especially in the corridors of power.

Naseeruddin Shah connected with filmmakers Marthand and Valli Bindana and agreed to anchor and narrate in the film. He was moved and affected by the issue and consistent with his effort to support new adventurous filmmakers, extended his involvement. Marthand and Valli are first-time filmmakers and have been working on the project since October 2012. A largely self-funded venture, the film made by this incorrigible 2-person crew, is heading towards completion the end of September. The filmmakers are looking for distribution channels.

Return of the Ganga brings people living by the river in remote regions of the Himalayas, environmentalists, scientists,  renewable and solar energy experts, sadhus, politicians, Indian and international activists all together on a single platform discussing policies and demanding change. Change that will ensure conservation of our priceless natural habitats, and environments.

Featuring in the film are people who have been working in the field for decades – Himanshu Thakkar, Vandana Shiva, Rajendra Singh, MC Mehta, Harish Hande, GD Agarwal, Shivanand, Vinod Tare. International activists also throw in their weight behind this effort with Mark Dubois: River Activist, Tony Seba: author of Solar Trillions, Jason Rainey: Executive Director International Rivers and Brad Meikle: Expert on German clean energy policy. The crew is also trying to involve Union Ministers of Power, Environment and Renewables. Some have been reluctant to speak about this very hotly debated topic.

A short rough trailer can be seen here – http://returnoftheganga.com/

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Floods

2012 Floods Displaced 6.9 Million in Northeast-IDMC: Staggering but Highly Exaggerated

According to a new report, the largest climate induced displacement in the world for the year 2012 happened

Cover of the IDMC Report on Disaster Induced Displacement
Cover of the IDMC Report on Disaster Induced Displacement

in two states of Northeast India, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in June 2012 due to the monsoon floods which displaced 6.9 million people, constituting about 21.2% of the population of the two states[1]. This staggering fact was revealed in the report named “Global Estimates 2012 – People Displaced by Disasters” published by The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) based in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2013. More people were displaced in India by natural disasters last year than in any other country, says the report. A closer scrutiny shows that the figure seems highly exaggerated, raising question mark over the accuracy of the work of IDMC and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who jointly published the report.

IDMC is an international body monitoring internal displacement worldwide. This was established in 1998 by the NRC. IDMC defines displacement as a non volunteer nature of movement. People who are compelled to evacuate their homes in order to avoid the impacts or the threat of a disaster will come under this definition. But from this definition it is also clear that those people who are affected by any disaster but have not evacuated their place living will not be defined as displaced. IDMC states that majority of people who face displacement are internally displaced people (IDPs).[2]

Displacement by type of related hazard, 2012 and 2008-2012

Total displaced

Type of hazard






Storm/ Typhoon



Earthquake(Seismic activity)



Extreme Cold












Landslide (dry)



Extreme Heat




32 400 000

143 900 000

This report states that in 2012, an estimated 32.4 million people in 82 countries were newly displaced by disasters associated with natural hazard events. Over five years from 2008 to 2012, around 144 million people were forced from their homes in 125 countries. The majority of this displacement (98% in 2012 and 83% over five years) occurred due to climate and weather related hazards which include floods, storm, etc.

Disaster-induced Displacement Worldwide in 2012  Source: http://idmcnrc.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/world-map-global-estimates-2012.jpg
Disaster-induced Displacement Worldwide in 2012
Source: http://idmcnrc.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/world-map-global-estimates-2012.jpg

In the year 2012, twenty disaster-induced displacement events were recorded, which were induced by flood and storm related disasters.  Out of these, fourteen happened in Asia which includes the mass displacement in India, China and Philippines. Large scale flood displacements also happened in African countries of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and South Sudan. In fact the Nigerian floods also displaced over six million people.  Hurricane Sandy brought the disaster for the west which rendered 775,000 people homeless in America and 343,000 people in Cuba.

Why Disaster Induced Displacements are Increasing The report says that related and interconnected global changes like population growth, rapid urbanisation and the exposure of vulnerable communities, homes and livelihoods to hazards will increase the risk of global disasters. Even though increasing use of life saving drugs have brought down mortality rate related with weather related hazards, number of disaster survivors getting displaced will not decrease.

Global Disaster-Induced Displacement  Source: http://www.nrc.no/?did=9675023
Global Disaster-Induced Displacement
Source: http://www.nrc.no/?did=9675023

The analysis done in the report shows that disaster induced displacement takes a toll on both high income and low income countries.  However, it is the middle and low income countries where majority of the people were displaced.  The report states that for the year 2012, 96.09% of disaster induced displacement happened in the middle and low income countries, whereas for the period of 2008-2012 it was 98.27%.  The report also identifies that the South Asia region had the highest disaster related displacement (36.4%) for the year 2012. From 2008 to 2012, the highest disaster induced displacements have happened in China (49,782,000) which is followed by India (23,775,000) and Pakistan (14,991,000).

Risk of the Unseen – Climate Change The impact of climate change on disaster induced displacement has been emphasized in the report. The report states that climate change is an important concern which will impact extreme weather events which could lead to more displacement. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report in March 2012, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) in which relationship between extreme weather or climate events (“climate extremes”) and displacement has been acknowledged, “Although data on climate change-forced displacement is incomplete, it is clear that the many outcomes of climate change processes will be seen and felt as disasters by the affected populations. For people affected by disasters, subsequent displacement and resettlement often constitute a second disaster in their lives.”[4] Evidence suggests that climate extremes are becoming more and more unpredictable due to the impact of climate change which has changed the frequency and magnitude of these climate extremes. This could be very serious issue considering the impact climate extremes can have on displacement. The report however fails to point out that while high income countries have been responsible for the climate change to the greatest extent, the impacts of their emissions are being felt by the poorest people in the low income countries and middle income countries.

Displacement in Northeast The report says that that around 900,000 people were evacuated in Arunachal Pradesh in June-July 2012; two thirds of the state’s population. In Assam, the report says, quoting Central Water Commission that as many as six million, 20 per cent of the state’s population, were forced to flee by rising waters. It says, officials claimed the 2012 floods were the worst since 2004 when eight times more houses were recorded as damaged than in an average year.

Rainfall in June 2012 does not corroborate IDMC claims – Monsoon rain is the reason for the floods in June 2012. The table below presents the rainfall figures of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh during June 2012.

1-13 June 14-20 June 21-27 June 28 June – 4 July
Arunachal Pradesh 191.6 (+1%) 64.1 (-47.1%) 249 (+78%) 66.2 (-51%)
Assam & Meghalaya 189.4 (-3.5%) 123.7 (-9%) 251.8 (+105%) 65.2 (-51%)

Note: Rainfall in mm, figures in bracket indicate the % departure from Normal, all figures from weekly and seasonal rainfall maps of India Meteorological department.

It is clear from the above table that rainfall in June 2012 in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh was normal or below normal in all weeks except during June 21-27, 2012. Even the excess rain in this period is not too high to cause unprecedented flood displacement. This raises some doubt about the figures in the IDMC report.

Flood Effected Districts in Assam in 2012 Source: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/assam-arunachal-pradesh-face-worst-ever-floods-recorded-june
Flood Effected Districts in Assam in 2012
Source: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/assam-arunachal-pradesh-face-worst-ever-floods-recorded-june

Assam suffers annually from flood disasters. The havoc of floods paralyses the state for several months every year.  International recognition of this problem is very important for the state. However, that seems to be some significant exaggeration in the figure of displacement in NE India due to floods in June 2012.

The total population Arunachal Pradesh is 1,382,611 according to 2011 census[5] and displacement of 900,000 people would mean displacement of massive 65% population of the state. But we could not find any report or news confirming displacement of this huge extent. There was news about floods in several districts in Arunachal Pradesh in June and July 2012, but none corroborated the displacement figure of 900,000. In fact displacement of 65% population of Arunachal Pradesh due to floods have never been heard of for even the worst ever floods in the state.

For Assam, the flood in June 2012 was recorded as the worst floods in last ten years. The flood in June 2012 was termed as unprecedented by Dr. Partha Jyoti Das, a senior researcher working on flood and environment related issues in Assam. He said that the flood occurred quite earlier than the previous years, i.e. in the first few weeks of June.[6]  However we found it difficult to find any document corroborating the displacement figure of six million in Assam due to floods in June 2012.

On the National Disaster Management website of Government of India (http://ndmindia.nic.in/flood-2012/floods2012.htm) the highest number of people affected during the month of June and July was 1,992,727 (reported on 2nd July 2012). The highest number of people evacuated during this time was 383,421 (reported on 4th July 2012). The highest number of people found in the relief camps was 484,555 (reported on 15th July 2012). The Assam State Disaster Management Authority also corroborated this figure as the highest number of people reported in the relief camps during that period. Two tables providing extent of damage (cumulative figures) and rescue and relief (provisional) are given in Annexure1 and Annexure 2.

A mahout moves an elephant to higher ground as villagers paddle with their belongings through flood waters in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, some 55 km from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, India on June 28, 2012. Source: http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/29/12478381-india-floods-displace-more-than-850000?lite
A mahout moves an elephant to higher ground as villagers paddle with their belongings through flood waters in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, some 55 km from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, India on June 28, 2012.  Source: http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/29/12478381-india-floods-displace-more-than-850000?lite

Figures from Oxfam India, one of the leading organizations providing flood relief in the state also validated the fact that the flood in June 2012 was unprecedented early flood and worst in last ten years. They maintained that due to this flood nearly 2.4 million people have been affected and half a million people have been displaced.[7] The IDMC report also refers to the information gathered from Sphere India and Inter Agency Group (IAG). We found that in a Joint Assessment Report of IAG Assam on Assam Flood 2012 (published on 6th July, 2012) the number of affected people was stated as 2,391,369 in 4,540 villages. In the same report 383,421 inmates were reported to be staying in 650 relief camps in 15 districts of the state.

We had written to IDMC (at the email address idmc@nrc.ch as provided in the document for any further information and referred documents) on June 13, 2013, for copies of the documents referred in end note 11 and in table A2.1, and also request to “provide any other report that provides details and support for the figure of 6.9 million people displaced by flood disaster in North East India in June July 2012”. Our email remains unanswered as we write this.

Dr. Arupjyoti Saikia, an environment historian working on northeast after seeing the report said that “I have no accurate estimate of the people being displaced. But equally the estimate provided by the IDMC seems little awkward. The numbers of people affected in AP is surely less for very natural reasons. Often IDMC reports are criticized for their over-reaction. Official figures matter a lot as this numbers help in procuring relief from the GOI as well as other agencies. I presume GOA reports will come closer to the truth.” Dr. Dulal Chandra Goswami, another senior scholar from northeast, said that the displacement figures for northeast, quoted in the report appear to be highly exaggerated. Dr. Partha Jyoti Das also expressed similar opinions saying that the figures mentioned in the IDMC report for northeast are overestimated. Many reporters may accept the figures in such reports uncritically and report them, which lead to spreading of wrong information. This was evident from the reports published in Down to Earth[8] and Thomson Reuters Foundation[9].

Moreover, displacement in Assam is not only induced by floods but also by erosion. The report does mention “Shelter needs were a primary humanitarian concern as the authorities encouraged IDPs to leave relief camps and return to water-logged villages, destroyed houses and eroded land”.  But this is not completely correct as erosion leads to permanent displacement of people from their original land. Floods lead to inundation of a certain area for a period of time displacing people temporarily from their homes. But erosion displaces people permanently from their land. In displacements induced by floods the displaced people have the option of going back to their houses. Erosion leaves no option for that. People who get affected by erosion have to shift their homes before the actual erosion happens. In 2007 it was stated in the State Assembly that in 15 out of 23 districts in the state 40,414.98 bighas of land was lost due to erosion.  10,075 families have lost their houses due to erosion in that year. Many people who get displaced due to erosion opt to live on the side of the embankments in poor living conditions for years due to their inability to buy new land. They might not come to relief camp during floods which may result in their non-recognition in official displacement figures.

Such kind of reports also need to recognise clearly that among the disaster induced displacement, it is the poor people who are most at risk even in a fast growing country like India and climate change is making them even more vulnerable. Hence there is an urgent need to ensure that the climate action plans address the vulnerabilities of the poor. Unfortunately, Indian government’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) does not even recognise the vulnerable classes of people. In fact NAPCC increases the vulnerability of the poor, since it basically follows the business as usual development path.

This report by IDMC is an important initiative to document the plight of the people who face displacement due to the disasters. Recording and documentation of displacement is very important for policy formulation as well as for all related discussions and debates. The numbers presented are shocking but are clearly unsubstantiated and exaggerated. However exaggerated facts will also not lead to healthy policy formulation. Besides, factual inaccuracies may lead to questioning the credibility of such reports. We hope that IDMC will acknowledge these errors and bring more factual accuracy in their future reports. Such reports also need to highlight the issue of climate justice.

Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

Email: ht.sandrp@gmail.com / meandering1800@gmail.com

Annexure 1: Extent of Damage (cumulative figures) (Provisional)

Name of States/


Date when updated

Population affected


No. of

human lives lost

No. of districts affected

No. of villages affected

No. of cattle/

Live- stock lost

Cropped area affected

(in ha)

No. of houses damaged

Fully Partially
15.06.12 13.06.2012 7 13 326
18.06.12 17.06.2012 66915 11 10 11783 07 02
28.06.12 27.06.2012 386762 14 19 23134.15 141 6592
02.07.12 01.07.2012 1992727 81 27 1564 657558.07
03.07.12 02.07.2012 1233970 95 27 1543 657558.07
04.07.12 03.07.2012 916801 104 27 1281 U/ Assesment
15.07.12 14.07.2012 2391369 125 30 4540 2.55
19.07.12 18.07.2012 2391369 126 30 4540 2.55 awaited awaited
24.07.12 23.07.2012 2391369 126 30 4540 2.55
31.07.12 23.07.2012 2391369 126 30 4540 0 2.55 0 0

Source: Flood Situation Report for June and July, 2012 available at http://ndmindia.nic.in/flood-2012/floods2012.htm


Annexure 2: Rescue and Relief (Provisional) 

Name of States/ UTs

Date when updated

No. of persons evacuated

No. of relief camps opened

No. of persons accommodated in the relief camps










































Source: Flood Situation Report for June and July, 2012 available at http://ndmindia.nic.in/flood-2012/floods2012.htm

[2] As defined by the 1998  Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, internally displaced people (IDPs) are individuals or groups of people “who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of

habitual residence […] and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border.”

[3] This figure is clearly gross error. The total Disaster induced displacement in 2012 by all types of hazards is 32.4 million, so storm related disaster cannot displace 95.7 million people. We have used a corrected figure in the table here, based on total displacement subtracted by displacement by other (than storm) factors.

[4] SREX, p.80. Citing Oliver-Smith, 2009


Where is Maharashtra’s Raju Swami?

This is from, arguably, India’s most celebrated movie, where a reluctant, accidental swami is trapped into going on a fast-unto-death for bringing rains to a drought stricken place. His this fast achieves a string of miracles: uniting the swami with his mother (on the 6th day of the fast), his beloved Rosy (played by Waheeda Rehman, the most beautiful star of Indian Cinema. She falls to his feet just when a journalist asks swami if he has ever been in love) and his closest friend[1] and brings millions to a remote village temple.

It also brings rains.


In an interview to a foreign TV channel, the swami is asked if he believes it will rain due to his fast. The swami says, there are these thousands of people who believe in me and now I have started believing in their faith! This answer sounds a bit democratic, does it not?


Fact is, this reluctant swami did not even believe in God (at least till midway through the fast), as he says in one of his moments of self doubt. In another moment of self doubt, he grabs some bananas offered to the gods in the temple and is seen on verge of eating them.

Before the cruel drought and ensuing fast, swami narrates a story to the villagers, describing a drought that is akin to what the poorest in Maharashtra faced this summer: there has been thirst, hunger, riots, deaths and unrest. Politicians of Maharashtra are fond of saying (though rather incorrectly), that this drought is worse than the one in 1972, which was, not too long after the film was released.

Yes as you may have guessed it by now, the name of the film is Guide, one of the most remarkable films of Indian cinema worth recalling in this centenary year of Bollywood and name of this Swami in the film is Raju, played by the legendary actor Dev Anand.


The swami is in constant dialogue with Raju and in one doubting moment, Raju questions swami, do you really think there can be any relation between hunger of one person and the clouds? Have you too started believing in such things like these uneducated people? And the swami answers, “I do not know, Raju. I have started thinking of a lot of things that I never thought necessary. Question is not whether it will rain or not, question is not if I will live or die. Question is, is there someone who runs this place or not? If there is no one who runs this place, then it does not matter if I live or die. There is no point in living blindly in a blind world. And if there is someone, then it is to be seen if that some body listens to its poor subjects or not.”


This sounds like a search for a functioning and responding Maharashtra government, the search in real Maharashtra this year is yet to end. The drought, as we wrote earlier[2], is largely man-made and was completely avoidable, but there was no sign of a functioning or responsive government taking steps to avoid it. Like the Swami says, bigger question is if there is someone responsible for the avoidable disaster. It is this same question that has haunted drought stricken of Maharashtra.


In another sequence in the film, Rosy asks Raju, resting on her shoulder, have you gone to sleep? And he meaningfully answers, I was sleeping so far, but have started waking up.


The famous film of 1965 ends with the rains and death of the swami (even though it is unusual for a Hindi film hero to die).


Leaving the miracle (and other clichés of the film) aside, with monsoon round the corner, Maharashtra is close to that GUIDE moment which hopefully will end the misery of lakhs of people.  However, this end of misery in Maharashtra will not be due to specific efforts from anyone. For there seems to be no one in sight, ready to take the trouble, leave aside an extreme step like fast-unto-death.

Like Raju’s answer to Rosy, let us hope that people and the administration have indeed woken up to ensure that another man-made drought does not occur. With climate change on us, the frequency of such calamities is only going to increase. But this hope of Maharashtra waking up seems pretty filmy at the moment.

It seemed that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan wanted to be the messiah of Maharashtra when he promised investigation into the irrigation scam and Maharashtra’s deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had to resign. However, Chavan proved to be a fake messiah seeing his refusal to launch any credible investigation into the massive Rs 70 000 crore scam or any noteworthy action against the corrupt. Chavan’s initiative on June 9, 2013[3], inaugurating 1497 cement check dams across the 15 taluksa in drought prone areas of the state and declaring that “small dams are key for drought free Maharashtra” is a welcome step.

His promise of participation and transparency in the scheme will be realized or not is yet to be seen.

And till then, Maharashtra will be waiting for a Raju Guide of its own..

-Himanshu Thakkar



Dams as Pawns: Bhama Askhed, Pune

On 9 April, 2013, the Bombay High Court, in response to a PIL filed by Mohol Taluka Shetkari Sangh ordered the Water Resources Department (WRD) of the Government of Maharashtra to release ‘sufficient’ water to Ujani Dam (the largest dam in the Bhima Basin) within 24 hours to meet the drinking water needs of drought-stricken villages downstream Ujani.

In the 24 hours that followed, WRD zeroed in on the release of 3 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Bhama Askhed and 1 TMC from Andra. The water releases from both the dams were ongoing as on 1 May 2013, when I visited the Bhama Askhed dam. By then, 2 TMC water had already been released. There are no credible reports about how much water from this release has reached Ujani, or how much will eventually reach. When the water was released on 10 April 2013, the Chief Engineer, Bhima Basin had reportedly said that it will take 6-7 days to reach Ujani backwaters, without mentioning the rate of release. 26 days later, the release is still on.


While water releases from a distance of over 205 kilometers for a region like Solapur, which has mismanaged its water to the hilt by using all its water for sugarcane and sugar factories even in this severe drought year, as well as the merits of the High Court decision can be debated, it is important to see the implications of such decisions from the perspective of those at the source: around Bhama Askhed Dam. The choice of Bhama Askhed and Andra Dams was not based on any participatory process, but was a closed-doors decision taken by the WRD, allegedly because it will be politically impossible to release water from dams reserved for Pune’s drinking water (Although Pune dams are still releasing water for downstream sugarcane).

How come the Bhama Askhed dam had 124 million cubic metres (57 per cent of live storage capacity) on April 8, 2013 (practically the end of the irrigation season) in a drought year? In fact, the live storage of the dam was filled up to 66 per cent on the same date in 2012 and 74 per cent in 2011. It seems the dam remains hugely underutilized. One key reason is that Bhama Askhed has no canals built for irrigation, as per the original plans even after 18 years of construction initiation.

Away from the media attention, the project-affected people of Bhama Askhed Dam were on a protest fast at the Dam wall for four days after the release of water from it for Ujani started. Their demand: they have not been rehabilitated even after 13 years of initiating dam filling in the dam. They should be rehabilitated first, should receive water for drinking and irrigation on priority and only then should the water be released for the downstream.

Let us take a look at Bhama Askhed as a representative of dam-centered water management in Maharashtra, a state with maximum dams in the country, to see the extent of fulfilment of the stated objectives of a dam and other underlying realities.

The Dam

Bhama Askhed Dam on Bhama River, a short tributary of Bhima River, received administrative sanction in 1992 with the explicit objective of providing irrigation to 37 villages in Khed, 18 villages in Haveli and 9 villages in Daund talukas of Pune district with a total command area of 29,465 hectares, as per the White Paper on Irrigation Projects brought out by the WRD. It was to have two canals: a right bank canal (RBC) of 105 kilometres and a left bank canal (LBC) of 14 kilometres. Construction on the dam started in 1995.

According to its last administrative sanction in 2012, the cost of the dam has now risen to Rs. 575.84 crore from its initial Rs 112.96 crores in 1992. The dam has a live storage capacity of 7.6 TMC. Canal-work has not been done even according to the claims of the WRD. Right Bank Canal is barely 18 kilometres complete, in patches. Left Bank Canal work is not even initiated. Of the intended 30,000 hectares to be irrigated, not a single hectare receives irrigation through canals, since the RBC work stops just about 200 mts from the dam site, before resuming after a distance, but this discontinuity means water cannot be taken to any of the command area.

Bhama Askhed Dam Pic: SANDRP
Bhama Askhed Dam Pic: SANDRP

Tragedy of the displaced

Bhama Askhed Dam submerged 2,259 hectares of land, affecting three villages completely and nearly 20 villages partially, displacing 1414 landholders, approximately 7000 people in all. When we had a meeting with some of these affected people, the Sarpanch of Roundhalwadi (a fully affected village) said that of the 1414 landholders, till date only 56 landholders have been rehabilitated in the command area of the dam. When affected people were paid compensation, there was a clause that they have to pay back 65 per cent of the compensation amount within 40 days to be eligible later for land in the command area of Bhama Askhed. When a majority among the people signed the compensation papers, this clause was not pointed out to them and most of them being uneducated were unable to read this.

Even among the 111 landholders who paid 65 per cent of the amount, only 56 received land in the command. In every village, there are nearly 20 per cent people who neither received land, nor money for the land and livelihoods that they lost. They eventually moved to the High Court in 2007 and the case is still pending. We met farmers who had lost all their land: fields as well as homes without receiving land compensation till now, and have sent rehabilitation claims four times or more, but have received no response.

As in the case of most dam projects, the rehabilitated villages such as Roundhalwadi, Parale, Anawale, Waki lack basic amenities, do not have fully functional drinking water sources, irrigation schemes, assured electricity or proper roads. Some villages like Kasari are surrounded by water on three sides without a proper road.

Affected villages also supported 25-30 settlements of landless tribals: Thakars and Katkaris who mainly depended on the forests and fishing for survival, without owning any land. They received no compensation for losing their livelihoods from fishing and forests. Once the dam was built, fishing contracts were awarded to a city-based contractor in five-year cycles and locals were not allowed to fish in the dam. No one knows what happened to these tribal settlements; they just vanished in thin air!

18 years from initiation of dam construction, the problems of project-affected communities are far from solved. Local farmers have organised protests in 2009, 2010, 2012 and now in 2013. Every time they are given assurances, but the problems remain. In the words of Devidas Bandal, an affected villager fighting the HC case, “We do not say no to releasing water to Ujani, we only ask that we, who lost our lands and livelihoods, also be given water for drinking and irrigation and basic amenities in rehabilitated villages. Is that too much to ask for?”

Water to the industries

In 2005, Chakan MIDC started coming up in a part of the command area of Bhama Askhed Dam, we were told. This was also the same land promised to farmers for resettlement. Now, the land prices here have skyrocketed and affected farmers say that administration will never resettle them here, though this area lies in the command. Letting MIDC encroach upon the command area of a dam already underway, that too on land which has been promised for rehabilitation, is unjustifiable. In addition, Chakan MIDC lifts water directly from Bhama Askhed Dam. This water allocation was never planned. Now, with expanding MIDC and a huge real estate boom in Chakan, the development moves closer and closer to the land reserved for the canals, which should have been ready many years back.

So, for whom has this dam been built?

When quizzed about canals, the WRD officials say that there is resistance for land acquisition for building canals. Some of the farmers in the downstream are lifting water from 26 KT weirs built by the WRD on Bhama and Bhima Rivers for utilising water releases from Bhama Askhed Dam. They seemed to have been encouraged to use the water from the weirs built by the same irrigation department that has not built the canals. Now some of them are naturally resisting land acquisition for canals, since they already have irrigation from the KT weirs, and the irrigation department is using this as a reason for not building canals in the planned command area. In the regions irrigated by weirs, sugarcane flourishes, increasing inequity again. A large part of the area now irrigated thus was not even part of the original command area.

Water for Pune Municipal Corporation

A huge reservoir storing 7.6 TMC water without canals is an attractive proposition for many. According to a Government Resolution (GR) dated December 2011, 1.2 TMC water from Bhama Askhed has been allocated to Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for drinking water purposes. In its explosive growth, Pune city wastes and pollutes water with impunity, has unchecked leakages and huge inequity in water supply. But having a source like Bhama Askhed makes it easy for Pune to forget these worries and simply buy water from the water resource department.

According to the same GR, PMC is supposed to pay Rs. 48.76 crore to WRD for re-establishing irrigation infrastructure. This is at the rate of 1 lakh rupees per hectare, which means that irrigation for 4876 hectares of command area is losing this water. Again, this has been an entirely non transparent and non-participatory decision. While the White Paper laments the funds crunch to take up canal work, it does not mention these unplanned diversions or this added revenue and how it plans to use this for either rehabilitation or the command area.

A dam, which was sanctioned on its claimed potential to irrigate nearly 30,000 hectares in a semi-arid area, is already built at a huge economic and social cost and is storing water earmarked for the command area that should receive this water. But the reasons behind the delay in starting canal works of Bhama Askhed are incomprehensible. The contractors, engineers, politicians, industrialists and even fish contractor have profited, but no benefits accrue to recognised or unrecognised affected population or intended beneficiaries as per the original plans. While unplanned sugarcane, Pune Municipal Corporation and Chakan MIDC have emerged as the unplanned beneficiaries of these dams, the farmers in command, for whom the dam was justified, and the project-affected people have been the losers in this game.

Bhama Askhed is not an isolated example showing water diversions from irrigation projects to non-irrigation uses. Notable examples are Hetawane Dam in Pen and Surya Dam in Dahanu, among many others.

It seems as if the dams have become pawns in the hands of engineers, bureaucrats and politicians, to be used as and when required for whatever ulterior motive they might serve – anything but their stated purpose. It is not a coincidence then that despite spending 70,000 crore rupees on irrigation in Maharashtra for ten years, the irrigated area is showing no net increase and thousands of villages are parched despite building multiple dams in the vicinity.

While participatory, transparent and accountable water management is crucial in all years, its importance is particularly highlighted in a drought year like 2012-13. Let us hope that all concerned, including farmers, media, civil society as well as the High Court look at the complete picture and are able to take collective action on this.

Parineeta Dandekar 
08 May 2013

REad the full artcile here: http://www.indiatogether.org/2013/may/env-water.htm

Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Floods

NDMA Commissioned IIT Roorkee Study on Brahmaputra River Erosion: A Biased and Structural Solution Oriented Report?



Pic:  1  Erosion in Rohmoria in the Upstream of Dibrugarh. Source: The Assam Tribune

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recently published a report named “Study of Brahmaputra River Erosion and Its Control”. NDMA had commissioned this study to the Department of Water Resources Development and Management of IIT Roorkee. NDMA is an apex body constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to prepare the country to face natural and human-made disasters. NDMA is headed by the Prime Minster of India. Under the natural disasters category it includes earthquake, flood, tsunami, land slide and avalanches while nuclear, chemical or biological disasters have been categorized as human-made disasters. This report provides a lot of information and data on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. The information about erosion is also very much detailed and descriptive. The report can be found at http://ndma.gov.in/ndma/latestdisasterupdates/NDMA%20Final%20Report%20Brahmaputra%20River.pdf


Pic:  2 Recent News Reports of Erosion in Subansiri River, One of the Largest Tributaries of Brahmaputra on the North Bank. Source: Dainik Janambhumi

ImagePic:  3 Houses on the side of the Old Embankment in Matmora. Source: Parag Jyoti Saikia

This reports deals with a very serious issue of erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin in Assam. Erosion should not be confused with floods even though both are annual phenomena in the Brahmaputra river basin. Erosion can be seen to have a more severe impact than floods because erosion leads to permanent loss of land and property. During floods land and houses are submerged for a period of time. But erosion displaces people from their land and property for good. Erosion inflicts severe damage to agriculture, economy and cultural relations of people. Erosion compels people to migrate to different places. Villages get eroded one after another and people living in those villages have to move to another location with their belongings. But this may not be possible and affordable for all those who lost their land in erosion. So for many of them, living on the side of embankments in very poor living conditions remains as the only option. Erosion also leads to migration of rural youths to urban areas in search of jobs. In the last few decades erosion has posed as a greater threat to the people of Assam than floods. The severity of erosion can be seen from the Table 7 of the report in which Satellite Based Estimation and Comparison of Area Eroded In Brahmaputra during the Period 1990 to 2007-08 and 1997 to 2007-08 have been presented.


Map of the Study Area from the Report

The study divides the river length into twelve segments from Dhubri to Dibrugarh and that is why there are 12 reaches mentioned in the table.  It is clear from this table that the while the erosion prone length of the river is 10% higher along the South Bank of Brahmaputra compared to the same along North Bank. Areas facing erosion is 123% higher in South bank during the last decade (1998-2008) of the study period. The highest erosion area/per km of erosion prone bank is upstream of Dibrugarh, where the river enters the plains from the hills.

Areawise division into 12 reaches in the river

North Bank

South Bank

Total Erosion Length

(in km)

1990 to 2007 – 08 (in sq. km)

1997 to 2007-08 (in sq. km)

Total Erosion Length

(in km)

1990 to 2007 – 08 (in sq. km)

1997 to 2007-08 (in sq. km)

1. Dhubri







2. Goalpara







3. Palasbari







4. Guwahati







5. Morigaon – Mangaldai







6. Morigaon – Dihing







7. Tezpur







8. Tezpur-Gohpur







9. Majuli-Bessamora







10. Majuli Sibsagar







11. Dibrugarh







12. U/s Dibrugarh














The Study Report:
There have been a lot of studies done on the river, to find a solution to the issue. But what comes as a surprise is the attempt to shy away with some of the crucial issues of the riverine eco-system in the northeast. But before going into crucial issues, a brief note about the report is provided.

The March 2012 study is divided into two phases. The first phase is named as ‘Sattelite Data Based Assessment of Stream Bank Erosion of Main Stem Brahmaputra and Its Major Tributaries’. In the second phase processing and analysis of the hydrological data of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries has been done.

In the first phase of the study information and data of 18 years (1990 to 2008) has been put together. The study pertains to a reach of 620 km on the main stem of Brahmaputra River, i.e., its entire course in Assam from upstream of Dibrugarh up to the town Dhubri near Bangladesh border.  23 major tributaries (13 northern and 10 southern) within India have also been considered. The data for this whole area was collected using an integrated mechanism of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System.

In the second phase of the study a new method of analysis called Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) has been used. The data processed through this analysis has been used for modeling the rainfall-runoff process and runoff-sediment process for the study area.

The report identifies inherent ‘sediment overloading’ of the river fluvial system as the main cause for river bank erosion vis-à-vis channel instability in Brahmaputra. The report recommends by proposing river training works for two pilot areas on Brahmaputra River. The first site is in Bhuragaon of Morigaon district and second one is near the Guwahati airport.

Critical issues:

The team of investigators for this study was led by Prof Nayan Sharma of the Department of Water Resources Development and Management at IIT Roorkee. This is a very descriptive report from the point of information and data about the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries. But even then there are several things that the report does not mention at all.

The report mentioned that inherent ‘sediment overloading’ as the prime cause for erosion in the river Brahmaputra. But another study named “River Bank Erosion and Restoration in the Brahmaputra River in India” has identified several other factors responsible for bank erosion.[1] That study states “The salient hydraulic and bank material factors responsible for bank erosion of the Brahmaputra system are i) rate of rise and fall of river water level, ii) number and position of major channel active during flood stage, iii) angle at which the thalweg approaches the bank line, iv) amount of scour and deposition that occurs during flood, v) variability of cohesive soil in bank material composition, vi) formation and movement of large bed forms, vii) intensity of bank slumping, and viii) progression of abandoned river courses to present-day channel.”

Identifying only ‘sediment overloading’ as the main reason for a dynamic river system like Brahmaputra seems an over simplification that overlooks the critical issues.


Pic:  4  A view of the Balijan Tea Estate Eroded by the Brahmaputra in Rohmoria in Dibrugarh district of Assam. Source: The Hindu

Even though the report identifies sediment overload as the prime cause of erosion, it has provided insufficient analysis as to why the sediment load is actually increasing in Brahmaputra. The report rightly states “Accelerated erosion has occurred in this region due to intensive deforestation, large – scale road construction, mining and cultivation on steep slopes.”

Pro Hydro Bias: Here the report completely ignores case of hydropower development in Arunachal Pradesh and its impact on Brahmaputra and its tributaries. The report nowhere mentions about the proposals for 168 hydroelectric dams in Arunachal Pradesh and its impact in the rivers in Assam. In the recent times, the state has witnessed mass protest against hydropower development in Arunachal Pradesh. In fact the report shows a pro-hydro bias when it laments that “less than 5% of the existing hydropower potential” have been put to use so far. At a time when people are demanding for cumulative impact assessment of dams on the rivers of Assam, reports like this attempt to create confusion among people. It is to be noted that when Assam was witnessing the mass protest against big dams, it was Dr. Nayan Sharma who appeared in the electronic media advocating for big dams.


Pic:  5  Erosion protection work at Nimatighat on the Brahmaputra in Jorhat District on May 5th 2013.       Source: http://www.prokerala.com[2]  

Bias for Structural Intervention: This report advocates for structural intervention for flood protection and reiterates the need for more embankments. Lots of analysis has been done on the ill effects and poor performance of embankments. Embankments essentially transfer the problems to the downstream. There are ample examples of how structural interventions made for erosion protection have failed. We can take the example of Rohmoria, located in the upstream of Dibrugarh town in this regard. There were a series of structural interventions made to control erosion but it failed.[3]

The embankments proposed in this report for the two pilot-study areas are proposed to be constructed using geo synthetic bags. The geo-synthetic bags will be put inside polymer rope gabions[4] and installed in the critical toe of the bank line. The efficacy of controlling erosion through geo-tube embankments still not established, but even then geo-tubes have become the buzz-word for flood protection in Assam. The Asian Development Bank has offered a loan of $12 million for erosion protection through construction of geo-tube embankments. But Assam government engineers working on Brahmaputra and its tributaries are critical of ADB’s programme of erosion control through geo-tube. In a report published in regional news paper on March 2010, it was stated that revetments like geo-bags cannot be successful in Brahmaputra because it creates a permanent deep channel along the existing river bank.[5] The report also stated that geo-synthetic bags which were installed for bank protection in Palashbari-Gumi area were washed away by Brahmaputra. This area is in the downstream of Saraighat Bridge and close to Guwahati airport area where one of the pilot projects has been proposed.

Impact of Structural Interventions Ignored: The report provides structural solution for erosion control but ignores erosions which were a result of structural interventions in the river. Studies on Brahmaputra basin have shown that during and after the construction of bridges in the river Brahmputra erosion and floods have increased in the downstream areas.[6] In the case of Saraighat Bridge, unprecedented flood and erosion was witnessed in Palasbari and Gumi area. Morigaona and Nagaon districts suffered the same after the construction of Koliabhomora Bridge. Construction of Naranarayan Setu, led to flood and erosion in Dakshin Salmara, Pancharatna and Mancachar.

Similar fears have been expressed for the fourth bridge on Brahmaputra which is under construction between Bogibeel of Dibrugarh district and Kareng Chapori of Dhemaji district. The river is nearly 9 km wide at this point. But for the construction of this bridge, the river had been shrunk to almost 5 km through the boulder spurs. This is posing a great threat of flood and erosion for the downstream areas which include famous river island Majuli and Matmora, where India’s first geo-tube embankment was constructed. Engineers who are involved in the construction of the dykes of the fourth bridge had been reported saying that Matmora area would come under severe threat due to the increased river pressure in the area. The report completely ignores all these facts and shows ‘sediment overloading’ as the cause of erosion.

Besides, the study gives a feeling that erosion in the river Brahmaputra operates in ceteris paribus[7]. The report made no mention about climate change and how it is going to impact a river like Brahmaputra which is flowing right from the Himalayan mountain range. At a time when impacts of climate change are taken into account for every possible environment related matters, ignoring this is another major lacuna of this report.

These critical lacunas put a question mark over the usefulness of the otherwise informative study. Credibility of IIT Roorkee reports have been questioned in the past too.[8] NDMA may keep this in mind and focus on more basic issues. For starters as monsoon sets in and rounds of floods start along Brahmaputra, NDMA’s flood forecasting links have stopped functioning for five days as we publish this in the 1st week of June 2013.

 Parag Jyoti Saikia 

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

Email: meandering1800@gmail.com

[4] Gabions are sausages made of Polymer ropes that are appropriately woven by a special process to fabricate the Gabions in various sizes. Gabions are generally available in a prefabricated collapsible form. Images of polymer rope gabions can be found here – http://www.garwareropes.com/polymer_rope_pro_g.htm

[6] Mahanta, C; Mahanta, A., ‘Bridge over The Brahmaputra’ Economic and Political Weekly, pp 579-581, 2006

[7] Ceteris paribus is a Latin phrase which can be literally translated as “holding other things constant” and usually rendered in English as “all other things being equal”

Expert Appraisal Committee · Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests

EAC’s norms for Eflows need to Change: Submission from civil society

The following submission has been sent to the Expert Appraisal Committee, River Valley and Hydro Power Projects, Ministry of Environment and Forests, India. The current norms recommended by EAC while clearing hydropower and irrigation projects are hardly leaving any water for the rivers (eflows), thereby destroying rivers as well as livelihoods.

  Norms on e-flows followed by EAC need to change

 Respected Chairperson and members,

As you know, the Inter ministerial Group on Ganga Basin was constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests through an order issued on June 15, 2012. It has subsequently submitted its report to the MoEF in April 2013.

While there are several issues about IMG’s report and recommendations, some of the recommendations are the minimum, urgent stop gap measures that need to be implemented by the EAC. IMG’s recommendations are relevant for nearly all rivers across the country. All of the rivers have rich social and religious values and a large proportion of population depends on them for livelihood. Hence, the recommendations of IMG logically apply to all the rivers. In line with the IMG Report recommendations, we urge the EAC to modify its recommendations about eflows and environmental impacts as suggested below:

1.           Eflows

a.           Eflows to be based on daily uninterrupted flows, not seasonal flows

The IMG report states that: “An important component of the e-flows regime has to be mimicking of the river flows so as to keep it very close to the natural flows. Cumulative norms even on seasonal basis do not meet this objective. Daily inflow norms may, however, enable a sustained river flow as well as have large flows in the high season and hence are more suitable.” (emphasis added)

IMG has thus recommended that all dams and hydro projects should release water based on daily inflows, following the % releases recommended in each season, but the releases must change as per daily inflows.

 b.           Eflows as 30-50% of daily lean season flows

The IMG report recommends that releases should be 50% of lean season flows where average lean season flow is less than 10% of the average high season flow. Where average lean season flow is 10-15% of the average high season flows, the releases should be 40% of inflows and where 30% for the rest of the rivers.

In keeping with IMG recommendations, we urge that the EAC should be recommending 50% average daily flows in lean season as eflows.

c.           Independent, community-based monitoring of Eflows releases

Monitoring of eflows releases from operating projects is crucial, given the fact that it is currently entirely in the hands of the proponent without any monitoring of compliance by the MoEF. In such a situation, proponents are not releasing any eflows as pointed out by the one person Avay Shukla Committee Report, recent CAG report of Himachal Pradesh.

IMG recommends: The IMG has considered the need for an effective implementation of the e-flows as cardinal to its recommendations. It is recommended that the power developer must be responsible for developing a monitoring system which is IT-based and gives on a real time basis the flow of water in the river, both at the inflow and in the outflow after the river gates in the river stream. This should be

(a) monitored by an independent group

(b) reviewed yearly by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the first five years and

(c) put in public domain the e-flows. This real time public monitoring of e-flows will be the key.

We urge that that EAC recommends similar monitoring norms for all projects. Effective monitoring cannot be done if local affected population is not a part of this process, hence, in addition to above points, EAC should recommend that eflows should be monitored by an independent group which has at least 50% participation of downstream communities facing the impacts of these projects.

d.           Assessing eflows only through participatory and true Building block Methodology (BBM)

The IMG states: “Considering environment, societal,  religious needs of the community and also taking  into taken in to account the status of river Ganga as national river, the IMG recommends adoption of Building Block Methodology (BBM) for assessing the e-flow requirements on a long-term basis. This recognizes the fact that the riverine species are reliant on basic elements (Building Block) of the flow regime, including low flows, and floods that maintain the sediment dynamics and geo-morphological structure. It also includes an understanding of the functional links between hydrology and ecology of the river systems.”

However, the EAC is accepting any eflows assessment as BBM, simply looking at the label provided by EIA consultants, without applying its mind. We have pointed out that BBM purportedly used by consultants like WAPCOS in Lohit Basin Study is not BBM in any sense.

We urge the EAC to:

·                     Recommend methodology of BBM assessment clearly at the time of granting TORs (This is available from WWF or here: King, J.M., Tharme, R.E., and de Villers, MS. (eds.) (2000). Environmental flow assessments for rivers: manual for the Building Block Methodology. Water Resources Commission Report TT 131/100, Pretoria, South Africa. ),

·                     Recommend sectors which should be included in BBM study of a specific river (downstream users, fishermen, geomorphology experts, ecologists, etc.) clearly at the time of granting TOR. Downstream users should form a part of the BBM Group in all circumstances.

·                     Check whether these sectors are duly represented in flows studies

And only then accept the study as being based on BBM methodology. The current practice of EAC of accepting any shoddy assessment as BBM is serving neither the rivers, nor the communities, nor is it expanding India’s experience with BBM.

e. Release of Eflows

It is not just how much the releases are, but how the releases are made that decides if the releases are useful for the rivers, biodiveristy and the society. Unfortunately, EAC has given no attention to this issue.

In this context, one of the guideline of the IMG says, “Fish passes may be made an integral part of hydropower projects. Regular monitoring for their effectiveness be done by project developers.”

EAC should follow this and make well designed eflow release mechanism mandatory part of the EIA study and post-construction monitoring.

2. Free flowing river stretch between projects

Currently, the EAC has a very lax norm of recommending 1 km distance of the river between two projects. In many cases, the EAC is not following even this minimalist distance criterion. Nor is it following recommendations of civil society, or expert committees of having minimum 5 kms of free flowing river before it meets the downstream project/submergence.

In this regard, the IMG notes “There is a clear need to ensure that adequate river length is available to meet the societal needs and River gets adequate time during its flow to regenerate itself.” 

The EAC should include, as part of EIA and TOR a detailed study of:

·                     “Time” required by the river between two projects to rejuvenate itself and how much distance the river need to have such time to rejuvenate itself.

·                     Ecology (including livelihood fisheries) downstream of a project and how it will be affected by modified flows while granting TORs to hydro projects.

·                     Social and cultural use of the river downstream the project: presence of religious sites, river sanctuaries, etc. while granting TORs to hydro projects.

Based on this, the EAC should recommend distance of free flowing river that needs to be maintained downstream a specific project. This should be applicable even if this was not stated at the time of deciding TOR.

3.           Recommend Free flowing and Pristine rivers in all basins

World over, there exist norms and laws to protect free flowing rivers as “Pristine, Wild or Heritage Rivers”. EAC has been recommending damming most of the rivers in the country in the recent years. The EAC should recommend that some rivers should be maintained in their pristine, undammed (or with the current stage of development, no further) condition.

In fact, the IMG has specifically recommended: “ The River Ganga has over a period of years suffered environmental degradation due to various factors. It will be important to maintain pristine river in some river segments of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. It accordingly recommends that six rivers, including Nayar, Bal Ganga, Rishi Ganga, AssiGanga, Dhauli Ganga (upper reaches), Birahi Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga, should be kept in pristine form and developments along with measures for environment up gradation should be taken up.”

Unfortunately, currently the EAC is actually clearing projects when Cumulative Impact Studies or Basin Studies on such rivers are not completed or are on-going (Example: Chenab Basin Projects, Satluj Basin Projects, Lohit Basin Projects). We have pointed this out to the EAC on number of occasions, without any response.

We urge the EAC to recommend a few ecologically and socially important rivers in each basin as pristine rivers, to be protected from any projects at the time of clearing basin studies or cumulative impact assessment studies. At the same time, the EAC should analyse the present development stage of a basin while clearing specific projects and should recommend some rivers in pristine state. In places like North East India and western Ghats, certain river basins may need to be left in pristine state.

 4.           Recommendations to the MoEF about eflows from existing projects

The IMG has made a clear recommendation in this regard: “The suggested e-flows should be applicable to the existing power projects in operation in these States.” IMG has given maximum of three years for the projects to achieve e-flows.

We urge the EAC to make a recommendation to the MoEF to look at existing projects and recommend eflows norms on the same lines as those for new projects in time bound manner.

As the World Environment Day is drawing close, we are sure that the EAC will look at its role of protecting the Riverine environment and communities and will take proactive steps in this regard.

Looking forward to your point-wise response to the issues raised above.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,


Himanshu Thakkar and Parineeta Dandekar, 

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (ht.sandrp@gmail.comparineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

Samir Mehta, 

International Rivers (samir@internationalrivers.org)

Dr. Latha Anantha, 

River Research Centre, Kerala (rrckerala@gmail.com)