Damocracy: “The world is killing its rivers!!”

Damocracy: “The world is killing its rivers!!”

As the film ‘Damocracy’ will be featured in the upcoming travelling International Film Festival on Water “Voices from the Waters” in Bangalore on 30th August 2013, we thought it timely to reblog our earlier blog on the film.

Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP will be delivering a keynote address at Voices from the Waters on ‘Governance of Rivers in India’.

More details about the festival and the program:


brahmaputra · Climate Change · Indus

IWMI report on Glaciers and Snow cover in Himalayas in Changing Climate: Significant Impact on Seasonal flow of the Rivers in India

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has recently published a study named  Glacier Systems and Seasonal Snow Cover in Six Major Asian River Basins: Hydrological Role under Changing Climate, authored by Oxana S. Savoskul and Vladimir Smakhtin which claims that the hydrological role of the melt-water resources in six major rivers e.g. Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Syr Darya, Amu Darya and Mekong of the Hindukush-Himalayan region (HKH) has been comprehensively assessed for the first time on a basin scale. Reviewing already published studies, this report draws some interesting conclusions regarding the role of glacier and snow meting for six river basins which includes three major rivers basins of India.

The map below shows area of the river basins included in this study. In this report, the term ‘melt-water resources’ has been used to cover glacier systems and seasonal snow cover. This report uses 1961-1990 status of melt-water resources as the baseline and compares with the 2001-2010 using the following characteristics: specific glacier runoff (average depth of annual discharge from glacier-covered area), basin total glacier runoff, shares of renewable and nonrenewable components in glacier runoff, total seasonal surface snowmelt from non-glaciated areas, portion of seasonal snowmelt lost for the recharge of groundwater aquifers, the contribution of glacier runoff and seasonal snowmelt to mean annual flow (MAF).

Map from the report showing the boundaries of the study basins (red line), state borders (light yellow line) and snow-covered high-altitude belts where glaciers are located (white spots
Map from the report showing the boundaries of the study basins (red line), state borders (light yellow line) and snow-covered high-altitude belts where glaciers are located (white spots)

The authors have used Glacier mass budget-based methods and hydrograph separation techniques which they stated as suitable for basin-scale assessments instead of the temperature-index methods. They say that application of these two methods in semi-distributed models can give the highest currently possible accuracy of +30%. The authors opine that many of the studies done previously had confused between the ‘snowmelt’ and ‘glacier-melt’ because these studies have not dealt with terminologies and methodologies in detail. The report states that there is a scarcity of glacier runoff estimates in peer-reviewed papers, “An analysis of publications on modeling runoff from large- and medium-scale glaciated catchments….. indicates that not many of these dealt with modeling glacier runoff per se. Even fewer report their evaluations of glacier runoff separately from snowmelt, if at all.”

For the three of the six river basins studies and which flow through India, i.e. Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra the total annual glacier runoff for the period of 1961-1990 was 41 km3,16 km3 and 17 km3 respectively. But in the recent periods of 2001-2010, total glacier runoff was reduced to 36 km3, 15 km3 and 16 km3 respectively for the three basins, see Table 1 for details.

It is clear from the table that while Indus and Brahmaputra basins have similar percentage of  area under glaciers and snowmelt, the reduction in the glacier and snow cover area are more pronounced in Indus basin. Besides, in all the three basins the reduction in glacier area is more pronounced that the snow cover area. However, the contribution of glacier melt and also snow melt to run-off is much higher in Indus basin compared to Brahmaputra basin, showing the greater role of precipitation in Brahmaputra basin. Within the Indus basin even though seasonal snow covers 28% of the total area, much than the 2.6% occupied by glaciers during 1961-90, the contribution of two sources to Mean Annual Flow is almost same. But a question arises, has the contribution of glacier melt to the runoff increased in any of the basins in the recent decade? The answer is surprisingly, no.

Table 1: Recent changes in the glaciers and seasonal snow and their contributions to MAF

Basin Part of basin area(%) covered by Contribution to MAF (%)
Glaciers Seasonal Snow Glacier runoff Seasonal Snowmelt




28 18




6 4



2.7 27 2


2001 -2010


1.8 25 15 16


6 3



2.2 26 2


For the Ganges basin, the report says that heavy summer precipitation almost solely determines MAF volume for the basin. Maximum seasonal snow area in the Ganges basin makes just 6% of the entire basin area. Similar situation were reported for the Brahmaputra basin, where the lower parts of the basin i.e.  Southeastern Tibet and Eastern Himalayas where nearly 75% of the basin’s glaciers are located, witness heavy summer monsoon rains. Regarding Indus basin the report says, “Precipitation in the IndusBasin is more evenly distributed between the seasons, but is highly variable spatially – similar to Brahmaputra and Amu Darya, where annual precipitation in some catchments is tenfold (3,000 mm) of that in the other glacier-covered parts of the basin (300 mm).”

Reviewing already published documents the report states “it appears that the research in High Asia is concerned much more with CC impacts than with objects of the impact. Yet, understanding of the expected basin-scale changes in glacier runoff in response to climate change remains largely unclear.”

The report does an analysis of assessments done on impact of climate change on water availability in Himalayas and concludes that many assessments rely on poorly verified sources. The report refers to the statement made by Cruz et al. (2007) “The current trends of glacier-melts suggest that the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra and other rivers that criss-cross the northern Indian plain could likely become seasonal rivers in the near future as a consequence of climate change…,” This statement was admitted as a typing error after publication but even then this has been reiterated as an apocalyptic vision in NGO reports.

Using the Table 2 given below, the report states that glacier contribution is a minor item in the annual river water budgets in the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins. The report says “The impact of climate change was found to be more prominent on seasonal rather than annual water availability.” It is clear from the table that, in the recent decades non-renewable component in all three basins have gone up while renewable and total volume of water from glacier melt have come down. It is also noteworthy that, even though Brahmaputra basin has more area under glacier cover than the Ganges basin (see Table 1), the volume of water from non renewable glacier flow was more in both periods in the Ganges basin. Besides, the percentage of increase in nonrenewable glacier runoff components during 2001-10 is highest among all three basins, signifying that glaciers are melting fastest in Ganga basin.

Table 2: Contribution of renewable and non-renewable components to glacial runoff

Basin Glacier runoff components Total Glacier runoff (km3) Total Glacier runoff contribution to MAF (%)
Renewable (km3) Nonrenewable (km3)




8.14 41.2




4.74 15.7




4.29 17.0


2001 -2010



11.62 36.1




6.95 15.0




5.05 15.7


The reports also states, “Glaciers and seasonal snow in CC-impact assessments should be perceived as natural water reservoirs with gradually diminishing storage and flow regulation capacity, both on intra-annual and inter-annual scale. Potential changes of precipitation regime coupled with effects of temperature rise on evapo-transpiration will impact future hydrological regimes of the major rivers much more significantly, affecting both MAF and flow seasonality.”

The authors of this report clear some fog around climate change and Himalayan glacier system and snow-melt. One lacuna of the report is that even though the report discusses glacier run-off it makes no mentions of glacier lakes and glacier lakes induced floods. There are several incidents of glacier lake induced floods happening in the basins discussed. There is evidence to show that in the recent flood devastation in Uttarakhand in India glacial lakes played significant role.

Parag Jyoti Saikia

with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar

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


Uttarakhand Flood disaster: Supreme Court’s directions on Uttarakhand Hydropower Projects

On August 13, 2013, while disposing off a bunch of petitions[i] regarding the controversial 330 MW Srinagar Hydropower Project on AlaknandaRiver in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court bench of Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra have given some welcome directions on the Uttarakhand hydropower projects.

Perusal of the full judgment[ii] shows that the decision is disappointing on the Srinagar project issue, since the court has directed that the project be completed and disposed off all objections to that, while asking for implementation of the Environment Managemnet Plan and conditions etc. However, there are several contradictions in this regard that seems to have escaped the attention of the court, and a review petition on that part could be field by the petitioners. Importantly, Prof Bharat Jhunjhunwala, who argued the case in person, should be thanked for the role he played in this case.

Courts’s concerns on Uttarakhand Hydro Projects However, the most pertinent and interesting part of the order starts at the bottom on p 62 with the title “Court’s concerns” and goes on till the end of the order on p 72.

In these pages, the order notes that AHEC (Alernate Hydro Energy Centre at IIT Rurkee) has not done the cumulative impact assessment it was asked to do. This is very important to note. The order says, (para 46), “We have gone through the Reports and, prima facie, we are of the view that the AHEC Report has not made any in-depth study on the cumulative impact of all project components like construction of dam, tunnels, blasting, power-house, Muck disposal, mining, deforestation etc. by the various projects in question and its consequences on Alaknanda as well as Bhagirathi river basins so also on Ganga which is a pristine river.” After this clear statement from the Highest Court, no one should rely on this report now on.

We are glad that this statement of Supreme Court supports what SANDRP has been saying for years[iii].

This part the order also refers to the BK Chaturvedi Committee (appointed by the National Ganga River Basin Authority in June 2012) report submitted in April 2013 to emphasise that, “The River Ganga has over a period of years suffered environmental degradation due to various factors.” The court should have directed that the MoEF should make the report of the BK Chaturvedi committee report public since the MoEF has not yet done that. The committee itself stands discredited[iv] since none of the independent members of the committee accepted the report.

The operative part of the order says:

“(1) We direct the MoEF as well as State of Uttarakhand not to grant any further environmental clearance or forest clearance for any hydroelectric power project in the State of Uttarakhand, until further orders.”

This means that environment or forest clearance to any hydropower projects of any size in Uttarakhand cannot be given either by MoEF or by the Government of Uttarakhand till further orders.

“(2) MoEF is directed to constitute an Expert Body consisting of representatives of the State Government, WII, Central Electricity Authority, Central Water Commission and other expert bodies to make a detailed study as to whether Hydroelectric Power Projects existing and under construction have contributed to the environmental degradation, if so, to what extent and also whether it has contributed to the present tragedy occurred at Uttarakhand in the month of June 2013.”

This direction has two parts: A. assessment of cumulative impacts of existing and under construction hydropower projects[v] to the environment degradation in Uttarakhand and B. Whether the projects have contributed to the Uttarakhand flood disaster, if so to what extent.

Only a credible independent panel with sufficient number of independent members can provide a credible report in this regard, the committee should be chaired by a non government person of the stature of Prof Madhav Gadgil. We hope the MoEF will soon constitute such an expert body and also ask the expert body to hold public hearings at various relevant places and seek wider public consultation. The mandate of the committee should be for the entire Uttarakhand and not just Bhagirathi and Alaknanda sub basins. The committee should have credible and independent geologist, sociologist, environmentalist, river expert and disaster management expert.

“(3) MoEF is directed to examine, as noticed by WII in its report, as to whether the proposed 24 projects are causing significant impact on the biodiversity of Alaknanda and BhagirathRiver basins.”

Here it may be remembered that it was MoEF that had asked Wildlife Institute of India to submit a report on the cumulative impact of the hydropower projects in Uttarakhand on aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. It should also be remembered that WII is one of the credible institutes and is also a centre of excellence of the MoEF. There is no reason for MoEF to reject the clear recommendation of the WII report that the 24 projects listed by it should be dropped. The clearances given to the projects like the 300 MW Alaknanda Badrinath HEP of GMR should be suspended immediately keeping this direction in mind.

“(4) The Disaster Management Authority, Uttarakhand would submit a Report to this Court as to whether they had any Disaster Management Plan is in place in the State of Uttarakhand and how effective that plan was for combating the present unprecedented tragedy at Uttarakhand.”

This direction should have also been for the National Disaster Management Authority since preparation of proper State Disaster Management Plan and ensuring setting up of required machinery for its implementation is also a mandate of the NDMA. This is particularly important in view of the failure also of NDMA as reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India report of March 2013. Since the court has asked in para 52 that, “Reports would be submitted within a period of three months. Communicate the order to the Central and State Disaster Management Authority, Uttarakhand.”, it is implied that NDMA is also to submit a report.

Since the original petitions and applications are disposed off, it is not clear if the original petition survives or a new case will be registered. It is also not clear if the original petitioners survive. In such cases it is the normal practice of the court to appoint and Amicus Curie and it would be interesting to see whom the court appoints for such a purpose.

These orders are indeed welcome in view of the fact that hydropower projects in Uttarakhand have certainly played big role in increasing the disaster potential and disaster proportions in Uttarakhand floods in June 2013. More than twenty groups and individuals of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and other states have already written to the MoEF in July 2013[vi], asking for suspension of such hydropower projects that have prime facie played such a role and set up an independent enquiry. The MoEF has not yet responded to this letter. We are glad now SC has asked for such an inquiry.

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (https://sandrp.in/)

August 14, 2013

[i] These includes Civil Appeal No 6736 of 2013, Special Leave Petition no 362 of 2012, Civil Appeal nos 6746-47 of 2013 (arising out of SLP (Civil) nos 5849-50 of 2012 and Transfer cases (C) (National Green Tribunal) numbers 55 to 57 of 2013.

[v] For basin wise and size wise details of existing, under construction and planned Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/uttarakhand-existing-under-construction-and-proposed-hydropower-projects-how-do-they-add-to-the-disaster-potential-in-uttarakhand/

Dam Induced Flood Disaster

Is THDC preparing to repeat the disaster Tehri created in Sept 2010?

Why is Tehri filled up with half the monsoon still to come?

The Tehri dam reservoir on Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand is filled upto 818.4 m as on August 5, 2013, as per the latest available information on Northern Region Load dispatch Centre (http://nrldc.org/). With permitted full reservoir level of 820 m[1], the FRL is just 1.6 m above current level. At current rate, the water level in the Tehri dam may reach FRL in less than a week. The question is why is Tehri dam being filled up when almost half the monsoon is still to come? And when going by the trend so far, the monsoon is likely to continue to bring surplus rains? Now the Tehri dam is posing a huge, grave and real risk for the downstream areas in Uttarakhand and UP as the monsoon rains continue in all its fury.

In last 35 days since July 1 (level 780.05 m), the water level in the dam has gone up by 38.35 m. In last four days since Aug 1, the level has gone up by 7.85 m. On every single day since July 1, Tehri has been releasing less water than it has been receiving, which means the dam is hoarding water (a detailed list of reservoir level, inflow and usage at Tehri dam from July 1 to August 6 is given in the annexure below). On at least 22 days since July 1, the dam has used less than the optimum quantity of water it can use, that is 572 cubic meters/ sec. The Tehri dam generated 657.65 million units of power during July 2013, which is below the optimum it can generate (744 MU) and also less than what it generated for example in Aug 2011 and Sept 2010. As a direct consequence, while less power was generated, more water was accumulated behind the dam and now the dam is posing a risk to the downstream areas.

Safety issues at Koteshwar Dam: Vigilance enquiry on It may be recalled that in September 2010 similar mismanagement at the Tehri dam led to huge and avoidable floods (for details see page 20 of Aug Sept 2010 issue of Dams, Rivers & People: https://sandrp.in/drp/DRP_Aug_Sept_2010.pdf) in the downstream Uttarakhand and UP. Thus the highest ever flood level of 296.3 m at Haridwar was reached on Sept 19, 2010 (see http://www.india-water.com/ffs/static_info.asp?Id=24). In fact in Sept 2010, the downstream Koteshwar dam of THDC also suffered severe damages due to this mismanagement and now it is unable to take larger flows from upstream Tehri dam. The weak civil works of Koteshwar dam is also now facing vigilance enquiry as per the Aug 4, 2013 report from http://www.energylineindia.com/. The report said, “Vigilance department had expressed its concerns regarding the civil works and works relating to diversion plug, which are extremely susceptible to rains and are vulnerable to lead to major impact on the dam safety… The stalemate at THDC’s 400 MW Koteshwar Dam and Power House (KDPH) has seen work come to a halt in the event of non completion of emergency works for the project.”

97.5 m high Koteshwar Dam 20 km downstream of Tehri dam (photo: hydroworld.com)
97.5 m high Koteshwar Dam is located 20 km downstream of Tehri dam
(photo: hydroworld.com)


AIPEF misleading Power Ministry? It is reported[2] that All India Power Engineers Federation has written to the Union Power Ministry, expressing concern that spillage from Tehri dam will pose risk of flooding of the downstream Koteshwar project. This concern also seems to suggest that Koteshwar dam is not strong enough to take the higher water releases from Tehri that may be required. The Matu Jansangthan[3] has also raised concern about safety of the Koteshwar dam and its impacts. The request in the letter that THDC be allowed to increase the water storage to 830 m is anyway misleading since it is not in the hands of Power Ministry.

Uttarakhand waiting for new disaster? It seems from this situation that unless urgent steps are taken, Uttarakhand may be in for a new disaster pretty soon. It is strange that while this situation was developing over the last month a number of agencies that should have taken advance notice and action have been sitting quietly.

Þ    Central Water CommissionIndia’s highest technical body on water resources is supposed to provide rule curve for safe operation of all dams. It seems CWC has not issued any such safe rule curve for Tehri or the rule curve issued by it is unsafe like it is in many other dams.

Þ    Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh government In case of the flood disaster that will happen in the downstream area because of the wrong operation of the Tehri dam, it is the people, lands, property and environment of the Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh governments that will be affected. But Uttarakhand or the Uttar Pradesh seems to have taken no action. Uttar Pradesh government is also partner with THDC in the project.

Þ    National Disaster Management Authority NDMA should be concerned about this impending manmade disaster and should have taken action, but seems to have done nothing.

Þ    Union Ministry of Water Resources The Ministry is supposed to be concerned about the safety of all dams in India, but has clearly failed to do anything about Tehri or Koteshwar.

THDC, Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Central Water Commission among others have been making a lot of false claims about Tehri dam having saved Uttarakhand during the Uttarakhand flood disaster during June 15-17, 2013. Our analysis[4] showed that this is clearly false claim and also warned that Tehri could turn out to be a source of disaster in the remaining part of current monsoon. That situation now has clearly developed and requires urgent intervention. We hope all concerned authorities will urgently intervene and ensure that no such disaster happens.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (https://sandrp.in/)

[1] In ongoing Supreme Court case, THDC does not have permission to take water level behind the dam above 820 m due to lack of progress in rehabilitation. On Aug 27, 2010, THDC was given a one time temporary permission to take water level to 830 m only as an “emergency measure”. Now THDC is seeking SC permission to take the water level to 835 m from the current permissible 820 m, but that is unlikely to be agreed by the Uttarakhand government considering the state of rehabilitation. The case is likely to come up before the Supreme Court in Sept 2013, as per Matu Jansangthan, which is fighting the case.

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/uttarakhand-floods-truth-about-thdc-and-central-water-commissions-claims-about-tehri/


Reservoir level, inflow and usage (outflow) at Tehri dam during July 1, 2013 to Aug 6, 2013 

Date Reservoir Level (meter) Inflow (cumecs) Usage (cumecs)
01-07-2013 780.05 603.78 462
02-07-2013 780.05 603.78 462
03-07-2013 781.1 554.73 540
04-07-2013 781.1 599.4 538
05-07-2013 781.6 545.81 536
06-07-2013 781.9 680.47 537
07-07-2013 781.9 680.47 537
08-07-2013 781.9 680.47 537
09-07-2013 781.9 680.47 537
10-07-2013 786.6 760.77 540
11-07-2013 787.1 785.2 645
12-07-2013 787.45 633.13 546
13-07-2013 788.45 804.66 546
14-07-2013 NA 749 549
15-07-2013 790.1 798.15 551
16-07-2013 790.1 798.15 551
17-07-2013 790.1 798.15 551
18-07-2013 793.8 910.51 546
19-07-2013 793.8 910.51 546
20-07-2013 796.35 855 475
21-07-2013 799.3 855 236
22-07-2013 800 810.53 459
23-07-2013 802.3 917 541
24-07-2013 802.3 917 541
25-07-2013 804.15 946.5 574
26-07-2013 808.5 1471.92 572
27-07-2013 809.7 972.44 564
28-07-2013 810.50 792.25 569
29-07-2013 810.50 792.25 569
30-07-2013 810.50 792.25 569
31-07-2013 810.50 792.25 569
01-08-2013 810.50 792.25 569
02-08-2013 810.55 730.41 572
03-08-2013 814.70 629.43 573
04-08-2013 816.15 617.8 572
05-08-2013 817.15 NA NA
06-08-2013 818.4 NA 566

Effective Full Reservoir Level of THDC – 820 meter, NA – Not Available. The dates mentioned here are reporting dates, the levels and flow figures are for the previous day.  Source: http://nrldc.org/

Ministry of Water Resources

MoWR’s Draft National Policy Guidelines for Water Sharing – Agenda to push Big projects and Inter Linking of Rivers?

Draft National Policy Guidelines for Water Sharing[1]: Comments[2]

 Copied below are the Comments sent by SANDRP to the Union Ministry of Water Resources in response to MWR’s invitation to send comments by July 31, 2013.

1. What is the value added by these Draft National Policy Guidelines on Water Sharing? What is the immediate reason for bring out these guidelines? The guidelines do not make this clear. This becomes particularly important as under constitution, water is a state subject and among states there is increasing suspicion that centre is trying to take over the rights of deciding about the water resources. If that is the case, as it seems (see comments below), than the guidelines also seem to violate the constitutional provisions.

2. The guidelines use the word “National Interest” at least four times, without explaining who will decide this and how. This is likely to raise suspicions among the states. This is particularly true with provisions like that in section 4.6 (c) saying, “The quantum of water exported from the surplus basin in overall national interest will not be counted as water available for sharing in that basin.” This seems to give unfettered rights to the centre to decide about inter basin transfer of water citing “national interest”.

3. If the Union Ministry of water resources is going to decide what is in National Interest than it is likely to invite risk of ridiculous and risky propositions. For example, the ministry some years ago came out with a scheme of National Projects, but most of the projects under this scheme did not have statutory clearances, or were unviable or were controversial and involved unresolved interstate issues. Thus use of such terms without clear definition and clear checks and balances is not likely to be acceptable.

4. It is pertinent to note that conflicts over river waters, whether inter-country or intra-country, invariably seem to arise only in the context of large projects. So long as the river is flowing freely without any such big projects, there is no cause for any conflict between the upper and lower riparians. As soon as any riparian State plans an intervention (dam or barrage or other diversion structure), anxiety in other riparians is triggered, and a potential for conflict arises. It would appear that large projects tend to become the foci of conflicts. This is essentially because (a) they tend to drastically alter geography and hydrological regimes, and (b) they involve issues of control, power and political relations, social justice and equity. The best course to avoid conflicts is to refrain from such interventions as far as possible, keep them minimal, give advance notice of an intended intervention to all the other riparians, provide full information, take the concerns and consent of the lower riparian into account, and refrain from causing ‘substantial harm’ or ‘significant injury’ to the lower riparian. This point has not been covered in the guidelines.

5. On similar lines, the guidelines basically take a macro view and do not seem to have a place for micro, local, bottom up process or democratic perspective.

6. The sharing should be only of what is available for sharing after the ecological functions of the river (in all its manifestation and catchments) are ensured. These would include the sustaining of wildlife, aquatic life and vegetation; the maintenance of the river regime and the capacity of the river to cope with pollution and regenerate itself; the maintenance of the micro climate; the support of the lives and livelihoods of people dependent on the river on both sides of the political or administrative border; the recharging of aquifers; the preservation of wetlands; the protection of the health of the estuary; and so on. This does not find mention in the guidelines.

7. Its very important to note here that groundwater is increasingly the main source of water for all sources and more and more areas. This is likely to remain the situation whether we like it or not. Under the circumstances, sustenance of rivers flowing all round the year with freshwater as one of the most important groundwater recharge mechanism is also important, both at intrastate as well as interstate level. This aspect should have found a key place in these guidelines.

8. An inter-State river is not a sequence of Statewise segments, it is one continuous flow, one integral whole as a hydrological/ecological system. Allocating so much of its waters to State A, so much to State B, etc, involves a segmentation – a chopping up – of the river. The ideal course would be a joint, agreed, integrated, holistic, harmonious use of its waters by all the basin States coming together. Any statement of sharing principles should begin with this recognition.

9. If a sharing becomes necessary, equitable sharing for beneficial uses must of course be the governing principle, and the Ministry’s draft says this in section 4.3.

The word ‘apportionment’ is best avoided because it suggests an imposition by a judicial or other agency. As mutual agreement is also possible, the word ‘sharing’ seems better. As contending States often argue on the basis of other principles such as ‘territorial sovereignty’ (the Harmon doctrine) or ‘prior use’ or ‘prescriptive rights’, the National Statement of Principles should not merely lay down the principle of equitable sharing but specifically rule out other principles such as those referred to above. Three, it is not enough to say ‘equitable sharing’; the words ‘for beneficial and justifiable uses’ must be added, because the sharing is not for non-use or waste.

The term ‘equitable sharing’ immediately leads to the question of what constitutes ‘equity’, and the draft has something to say about this. The Helsinki Rules enumerate a large number of criteria and leave the actual applicable criteria and the relative weights to be attached to each criterion to be determined in accordance with the circumstances of each case. These are missing here.

Thus, it is not clear how this equitable sharing will be applied and how it will get change with other principles like prior use, high economic value use, etc come in the picture. This principle has always been there, and in spite of such principles, in Maharashtra, a state with largest number of big dams, 70% of irrigation water gets used up by 2% land under sugarcane. Similarly while parts of Krishna basin is highly drought prone, over 3 billion cubic meters of water get transferred from that basin to the high rainfall area of Konkan while the downstream areas in the Krishna basin is severely drought prone. This is also applicable at interstate level as is clear from the reservoir filling methods applicable in all basins, where the upstream dams will release water only when they are full and till than downstream areas wont get any water, irrespective of if  the downstream areas are in the same state or another one. So in absence of clearly defined publicly accountable mechanism to implement this principle, it is of little value.

10. Incidentally, one of the criteria, namely the ‘contribution’ of each BasinState, is a bit dicey. Can that fact give unfettered rights over that water to that state?  If not what will limit those rights? This is because, the State that receives the precipitation also needs downstream state to provide drainage; it follows that by virtue of providing that crucial drainage the lower State also acquires a certain right over those waters. This factor is not mentioned here.

11. The upper riparian tends to assume a primacy of rights, and in any case has control over the waters, putting the lower riparian at a disadvantage. The upper riparian often talks in terms of ‘giving’ water to the lower riparian or ‘sparing’ water for the lower riparian. It is necessary for the Statement of Principles to make it clear that there is no hierarchy of rights; that all co-riparians have equal use-rights over the waters of the inter-State river; that the lower riparian has a right to the waters. If there is a hierarchy, than the hierarchy should be made clear and also how that hierarchy is going to be ensured in real situation.

12. One of the key issues that a statement of principles must deal with is the problem of sharing in a low-flow year. This is clearly recognised in the India-Bangladesh Ganges Water-Sharing Treaty 1996. However, the draft guidelines do not make this clear.

13. The upper riparian, in using the waters, must not cause ‘substantial harm’ (Helsinki language) or ‘significant injury’ (UN convention language) to the lower riparian. (The India-Bangladesh Ganges Treaty contains a ‘no harm to either party’ clause.) The draft guidelines must include this.

14. Under the law as it stands at present, the parties to an adjudication under the ISWD Act are the State Governments. A more inclusive approach seems desirable so as to allow water-users (agriculture, industry, citizens, etc), as well as those likely to be affected by the projects in dispute, to be heard in the adjudication process.

15. Data of all kinds needed for the purposes these guidelines (e.g. section 6.1.1) shall be freely shared by the States concerned and put in the public domain for the information of all without any restrictions on the grounds of confidentiality or secrecy.

16. Section 4.3 mentions that storage of rainwater shall not qualify as direct use of rainwater. However, there are many techniques that require local storage of rainwater and such local storage should not disqualify from being considered as direct user of rainwater. This may be modified to say that storage of water beyond a certain quantity at one place (say 1 million cubic meter) may not qualify as direct use of rainwater.

17. The guidelines are only pertaining to interstate water sharing. However, any such (non binding) guidelines should also include provisions for intra-state, inter-sectoral water sharing.

18.  Section 4.8 is problematic as it does not define what “existing use” is. Is the use of water by fish, plants and nature “existing use”?  Does it count? It seems the existing use is entirely anthropocentric, but in case of an ecologically embedded entity like water this may be seriously problematic. Secondly, it seems to recognise use only when done through projects approved through due process. But there is a lot of informal use of water (e.g. by tribals) that is beyond the project-generated use. Does it count? Thirdly it makes a strange distinction of preplanned use. Do we have well documented and well recognised pre plan uses of water? Fourthly, the use of phrase “Every effort shall be made to protect the existing utilization” creates serious doubts as it gives an escape route that nothing is sacrosanct.

19. Section 4.9.1 also raises serious suspicions since it says even where an existing interstate agreement has approval of all the basin states, it may still not be good enough before “national interests”. This is bound to raise suspicion of all the states.

20. Section 4.10.2 is also likely to raise suspicions as it reads: “In the process of water sharing/distribution, in consultation with the co-basin States, the Centre would take care of the water sharing/distributions required in the national interest… Any State affected adversely due to such sharing/distribution would be adequately compensated by alternative means.” This seems to give rights to centre that so far belongs to the state. As far as the interests of the ecology and environmental flows are concerned, centre has the powers under Environment Protection Act, 1986 and do not have to resort to such seemingly extra constitutional guidelines.

21. The presence of section 4.12 on interlinking further raises the suspicion that this whole effort is geared towards pushing such projects. This should have had no place in these guidelines.

22. In section 5.1b there should have been explicit mention of groundwater use and climate change implications on water use and availability.

23. In section 5.4b(i) it is not clear what is the basis for review after 40 years.

24. The whole guidelines have no place for people, and also has no value for transparency, accountability or participatory processes.

25. Conclusion This exercise may be redone with more open ended terms of reference and holistic way of considering water in nature and with greater faith in the people and democratic processes.

The Ministry should not rush through this. It should give more time for feedback, take up extensive consultation and make the draft available in regional languages.

Himanshu Thakkar[3] (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

[2] I have used some of the comments on this document by Shri Ramaswamy Iyer.

[3] South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, https://sandrp.in/


People’s Advocacy for Protecting Ponds and Lakes in Bihar

 MITHILA (North Bihar) can be called a land of ponds. There are 9115 ponds in 1269 villages of Darbhanga district. Area of pond varies from about 1 acre (0.3 hectare) to 150 acres (60 hectares). Some of them are 500 to 1000 years old. The excavation of a pond was considered as a very pious act. After excavation of a pond, it is dedicated (UTSARGA) by its excavator to all living beings (human, cattle, bird, insect and species which survive in water) for their survival and need of water.

14. pond bund as a shelter for wild animals

This way, community has an age old tradition of customary rights over a pond for irrigating agricultural land; to use water for bathing, washing and cooking purpose; and water for bathing & drinking their cattle. Besides, these ponds help in recharging ground water; about 70 to 80 varieties of birds survive on small fishes and insects provided by these.

15. Pond bund for shelter for bird and wild animals

Moreover, the ponds in Mithila provide nutritional food in the forms of fish, snail, crabs to people and livelihood to weaker section/fish farmers; pond bund covered with trees, grasses and bush/shrub/herbs become a natural shelter/forest-belt for wild animals in rural areas. In fact, many ponds are a centre of religious and cultural festivals of all castes and sects.

10. Popular Religious Festival called Chhatha Pooja at Harahi Pond (1)

They also play a vital role in mitigation of flood and drought, and in harvesting of rain and river water.

13. Pond Bund & Bird shelter

In spite of several laws and judicial orders for protection of ponds, their very existence is in danger. Hundreds of ponds have been leveled to the ground and illegally sold by land mafia.  Pond bund, slope of pond bund to water bed, and inlet & outlet of pond have been illegally sold/occupied or encroached for construction of houses, shops, schools, hospitals and commercial complex by greedy, criminals and influential persons. People’s right to the ponds is denied and prevented by land/pond mafia. Sewage, garbage and medical garbage are routed to ponds, which is polluting its water to dangerous level.

12. Pond Bund as a Forest Belt

 With this background, Mithila Gram Vikas Parishad (MGVP) has started an initiative for protecting Mithila’s and Bihar’s Ponds through Advocacy and an extensive awareness-raising campaign:

— to protect community’s traditional right to the ponds and safe water.

— to protect livelihood, pond’s diversity and ecosystem including water security .

— to influence policy makers & planners to set up a ‘Bihar Pond Development Authority’ with clear

     defined responsibility to protect & conserve the ponds with local participation

—to prevent encroachment and illegal building construction over pond’s area, and health

    hazards due to dangerous pollution of pond water.

—to prepare Technical Guidelines, based on community practices and traditional wisdom of pond conservation, for protection, reclamation and conservation of ponds in Bihar, in consultation with environmentalist  & experts.

6. Ganga Sagar Scene of Encroachment

Contact Details of MGVP:

 MITHILA GRAM VIKAS PARISHAD, Professor Colony, West of Dighi Pond, Darbhanga,  Bihar, India, PIN: 846004,        

Contact Person: Narayan Jee, Email: mgvp4water@gmail.com,  Phone:06272-254085, Mob: 9955344811

Also see Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma’s article on this: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ponds-in-distress/article4960246.ece

Floods · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Gangani Hydroproject on Yamuna in Uttarakhand: Small Project, Huge Flood Damages


Text by Manoj Mishra

Kharadi is a small road side market place on river Yamuna, some 40 km short of the holy shrine of Yamunotri. It is also a popular night halt site on the Char Dham Yatra route. Resultantly over the period of time a number of hotels and residential properties have come up along the road and the river side.

Redirection of the river to the left due to the project head. All Photos taken on 20 July 2013, by Bhim Rawat, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

Some time in 2008-09 works, started by a pvt firm called Regency Gangani Energy Private Limited, immediately upstream of the Kharadi village for the construction of a 8 MW run of the river HEP. The works involved a diversion head, laying of pipes to convey the diverted river water and a power house around 5 km down stream of Kharadi at a place called Gangani. It is notable that the planned HEP is on the proper river Yamuna

By the year 2012, construction works had progressed to a considerable extent, when on the night of 3 August 2012 a cloud burst at Hanuman Chatti area resulted in a flash flood in the river Yamuna. Flow of Yamuna was obstructed by the diversion head of the HEP and was diverted towards its more populated left bank. This diversion swept away of around 9 hotels and residential properties of the local people at Kharadi. It also resulted in damages to the pipes laid in and near the river bed by the HEP.

If the above was not enough then on 17 June 2013, another cloud burst and heavy rains over most of higher reaches of Uttarakhand led to yet another diversion of the river and sweeping away of around 28 properties (see list at the end of this report) in the market village of Kharadi.

Washing away of structures in Kharadi some 500 m downstream from the river diversion head of the Gangani HEP by the flash flood in the river Yamuna on 17 June 2013
Washing away of structures in Kharadi some 500 m downstream from the river diversion head of the Gangani HEP by the flash flood in the river Yamuna on 17 June 2013

The Project also applied for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) status under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to get Carbon Emission Reduction Credits. Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan and others have objected to this application at the Validation stage earlier and at registration stage now in August 2013 as the project is not only unsustainable, but its application was full of contradictions and misleading claims. The project is in any case not a sustainable Development Project, is business as usual project and hence non additional as per UNFCCC criteria. The project is also not sustainable development project, but India’s National CDM Authority, namely the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, has never done credible assessment of this, and never rejected any application of CDM hydro projects!

Road and structures washed away by the flash flood in the Yamuna river downstream from diversion head of the Gangani HEP.
Road and structures washed away by the flash flood in the Yamuna river downstream from diversion head of the Gangani HEP.
Damaged pipes (meant to carry the river water to the Gangani HEP power plant some 3 km d/s from the diversion head) and the damaged approach bridge on the river
Damaged pipes (meant to carry the river water to the Gangani HEP power plant some 3 km d/s from the diversion head) and the damaged approach bridge on the river

List of Hotels and residential properties destroyed in Kharadi village by the flash floods in river Yamuna made worse due to the diversion head of the HEP upstream of the Kharadi village on the night of 16 and morning of 17 June 2013 and on the night of 3 August 2012 around 11 PM made worse (as per local people) due to the Gangnani HEP structure (head) in the river upstream of the village

Property/Hotel Owner Name Father’s Name Village Name No. of Rooms
1 Neel Kanth Hukum Singh Rawat, Sri Lal Singh Khanera Three Storey, 20 rooms
2 Unnamed Jagdish, Chandar Mohan, Ajay Sri Attar Singh Khanera 2 rooms + Provision Shop
3 Yamuna Darshan Jaidev Singh Rana Sri Jandar Singh Khanera 25 rooms
4 Bhupendar Place Rajendar Singh Chouhan, Sri Narendar Singh Syalna 12 Rooms
5 Bhupendar Palace (Joint) Gajendar Singh , Sri Narendar Singh Syalna 04 Rooms
6 Bhupendar Palace (Joint) Arjun Singh, Kesar Singh Syalna 04 Rooms
7 Amit Restaurant Jogindar singh, Sri Chandan Singh Bhansadi 05 Rooms
8 Govind Palace Janak Singh Sri Ranjor Singh Khanera 12 rooms
9 Him Darshan (August 12) Atol Singh, Sri Jai Singh Chouhan Nagon Gaon 22 Rooms
10 Naveen Palace Jag Mohan Chouhan, Sri Jhoon Singh Khanera 06 Rooms
11 Naveen Palace Man Mohan Singh, Sri Jhoon Singh Khanera 04
12 Naveen Palace Dharmendar , Sri Jhoon Singh Khanera 04
13 Vijay Restaurant Vijay Chouhan, Sri Jhoon Singh Khanera 1 Hall, 1 Cottage
14 Naveen Palace Darmyan Singh, Sri Kamal Singh Syalna 07
15 Provision Singh Jagveer Singh chouhan Sri Surveer Chouhan Khanera Provision Shop
16 Ravindar Palace Ravindar Singh Sri Budhi Singh Khanera 04 Rooms
17 Kahniya Palace Shailendar Singh Sri Shiv Singh Khanera 04 Rooms + Restaurant
18 Rana Place Kitab Singh Rana Sri Surb Singh Rana Khanera 04 Rooms
19 Residence Gabar Singh Sri Sultan Singh Khanera 04 Rooms
20 Residence Bijendar Singh Sri Sabal Singh Khanera 07 Rooms
21 Residence Brij Mohan Sri Jogolia Khanera 06 Cottages
23 Residence Chojen Lal Sri Kuta Singh Syalna 04 Rooms
24 Residence Basant Lal Sri Khelan Singh Khanera 03 Rooms
25 Residence Trepan Lal Sri Sadhu Lal Syalna 02 Rooms
26 Residence Jogi Lal Sri Jhapuliyan Khanera 02 Rooms
27 Aneesh Place Aneesh Sri Janbeer Khanera 06 Rooms
28 Residence Jendar Singh Sri Keval Singh Khanera 02 Rooms
29 Residence Praveen Singh Sri Jandar Singh Khanera 02 Rooms
30 Residence Jagendar Singh Sri Keval Singh Khanera 02 Rooms
31 Narayan Place Kendar Singh Payal Sri Ram Singh Syalna 05 Rooms
32 Residence Chain Singh Sri Rompal Singh Syalna 04 Rooms
33 Residence Ispal Singh Sri Khajan Singh Syalna 04 Rooms
34 Narayan Palace (Joint) Ranbeer Singh Sri Ghayan Chand Syalna 04 Cottage
35 Narayan Palace (Joint) Chain Singh Sri Daya Ram Singh Khanera 02 Rooms + Canteen= 02 cottage (About to fall)
36 Giri Ashram Saint Giri Kharadi
37 Trishul Hotel Kandra Singh Payal Sri Ram Singh Syalna Verandah Damaged
Bold entry relates to properties washed away in Aug 2012.

About 25 additional Households have now (after June 2013 floods) come with in the slip zone, which can now slip or get washed away any time in the event of high rainfall or another flood.
Entire Kharadi village has now been declared as disaster affected by the District Administration.

(Text by Manoj Mishra)