World Water Day focus on Water and Energy: Behind the “Clean, Green, Sustainable” jingle of Hydropower

The theme of this World Water Day, 2014 is Water and Energy. The occasion gives us an opportunity to take a look at the hydropower rush going on in the country at this moment.

Hydropower projects are being incessantly pushed from the highest quarters ( including the Prime Minister’s Office, through the formulation of Cabinet Committee on Investment, Ministries like Power, Private dam lobbies, etc.,) . Some environmentalists do not seem to bat an eyelid while labelling ALL hydropower as “Green”. (Director General of CSE was a part of the Kasturirangan Committee report which certified all hydro as green, did not object to two of the most destructive projects:  Gundia and Athirappilly, did not stress that mini hydel projects should be appraised for their impacts)

Satluj, downstream Nathpa Jhakri Dam Photo: SANDRP partners
Satluj, downstream Nathpa Jhakri Dam Photo: SANDRP partners

Despite its far reaching impacts, the general perception about hydropower, consciously pushed by developers, funders like World Bank [1]and ADB and also institutions is that they are ‘clean, green and sustainable’. ( The overall understanding of institutions like World Bank on the water-energy nexus is itself limited, as is highlighted by this critique by Shripad Dharmadhikary.[2])

With impacts of HEPs and protests from local communities increasing, we need to check these premises which blindly give a “Green and Clean” certificate to all hydropower, without qualification. On the occasion of the World Water Day, we attempt to look at some impacts of HEPs planned across India on ecosystems and local communities, the existing environmental governance and the justification behind pushing these projects.

Whither River? A typical HEP impounds water behind a dam, transfers it through a Head Race Tunnel (HRT) to the powerhouse where electricity is generated and transfers water back into the river through a Tail Race Tunnel (TRT). Prima facie, supporters of hydropower claim that water is returned to the river and hence hydropower is a renewable and green. However, the tunnels that carry water from dam to the powerhouse and back tend to be kilometers long, effectively drying the river between. Even for one project, this can be a long stretch. 588 MW Luhri HEP in Himachal Pradesh, on Sutlej will have Asia’s longest tunnel of 38.14 kms bypassing the river for 50 kms. Upstream Luhri, there are 3 dams bumper to bumper: 412 MW Rampur, 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri and 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo. Effectively, the entire river will flow through tunnels made by blasting fragile Himalayan Mountains or through stagnant waters behind dams.  Same is the case of the Teesta basin in Sikkim and many other rivers.


Along with rivers, the aquatic biodiversity, specialist riparian forests, forests in submergence zones, groundwater recharge zones, habitats to numerous wild animals, watering holes of wildlife and communities too are being destroyed.[3] Seventy hydroelectric Projects in Uttarakhand will submerge more than 3,600 hectares of forests. Dibang Multipurpose HEP in Arunachal alone can submerge 5,056 hectares of forest while the Tipaimukh HEP in Manipur can submerge an unbelievable 25, 822 hectares of forest, providing 1 MW installed capacity for 16 hectares of forest submerged.

Teesta 150411

Diurnal fluctuations and impacts of peaking When the releases from power houses eventually meet the rivers, there is a huge fluctuation on a daily basis in the water level in the downstream. For example, in case of the 1,750 MW Demwe Lower HEP on the Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh, the water level fluctuations 100 kilometers downstream in the Lohit River at Dibru Saikhowa National Park will range from 70 cumecs to 1920 cumecs, each day in the lean season. This is a level fluctuation of 3-5 feet every day in the plains![4] In case of the Siang River, if all dams on the main stem and tribuataries are constructed, water level in the downstream DErring National Park will flucatute beween 23 feet everyday in the lean season![5]

Run ‘with’ the River Projects? Project Proponents, industry and even official committees are claiming that Run of the River (ROR) Projects are green as they do not involve major storage and do not alter the rivers flow over a 10 day period. ROR thus get an official tag of sustainability. In reality, most of the ROR Projects involve massive dams and massive storages behind these dams. They involve reservoirs which run upto ten or more kilometers. For example, the reservoir og Luhri will be 6.8 km long; Kotli Bhel IB will be 27.5 km, Kotli Bhel 2 will be 31.21 km and Lower Demwe will be 23 kms long.


At the same time, for the riverine ecosystem and downstream population, the daily fluctuations in the river levels is devastating. Over a hundred people have died in India due to sudden release of water from upstream hydro projects in non-monsoon months.

Impacts on the aquatic ecosystem: HEPs alter the master variable which governs major riverine processes: its flow.[6] Dams physically block upstream and downstream migration of fish species crucial for their spawning. Fragmentation of rivers, water fluctuation, dry river stretches and passage through turbines have a disastrous impact on fisheries and fish diversity which has been collapsing in all major rivers in country, mainly due to dams.[7]

Himachal Pradesh Fisheries Department has a ‘Negative list’ of rivers and streams rich in biodiversity where in situ protection of fisheries should take place[8]. Ironically, even in this region, hydropower plants are being sanctioned and set up, sometimes in cascades.

Dried Baspa River downstream Baspa Dam. Baspa River supported rich fisheries and fish diversity Photo: SANDRP Partners
Dried Baspa River downstream Baspa Dam. Baspa River supported rich fisheries and fish diversity Photo: SANDRP Partners

There are no provisions for fish migration like fish passages and ladders, eflows. For example the 300 MW Baspa II HEP on Baspa River, in the negative list for fisheries does not have a fish ladder, and has been drying the river without e-flows. Fisheries Departments in Himalayan as well as Western Ghat States have become rubber stamps for providing No Objection Certificates to HEPs while taking monitory compensation. Himachal Fisheries department charges Rs 50,000 per kilometer and additionally, Rs 50,000 Per MW electricity generated as compensation. This means windfall profits to Fisheries departments and nothing to actual fish diversity that is being destroyed.

Hydel Power Dams coming up in the Western Ghats like the 163 MW Athirappilly and 200 MW Gundia will affect endemic and endangered fish diversity in the region, which is not mentioned in the cut paste EIAs of these projects. While WGEEP report categorically rejected both these projects, the HLWG headed by Dr Kasturirangan did not reject them. Instead it simply asked for a revaluation.

The 780 MW Nyamjangchu Project to come up in Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh threatens one of the last remaining wintering sites of the Black Necked Crane and habitat of Red Panda, though the EIA of the project did not mention this fact. While the Cumulative Impact Assessment report on Upper Ganga HEPs submitted by Wildlife Institute of India recommended dropping 24 HEPs for their irreversible impacts on ecology, but the report of the IMG on Ganga Projects headed by B K Chaturvedi rejected this without giving any reasons.

Disaster potential [9] A critical issue left unaddressed in the environmental clearance, forest clearance and even report of committees like IMG on Ganga and HLWG on Western Ghats is the assessment of disaster potential of hydropower projects. Deforestation, building activities, boulder mining, tunneling and blasting, integral with hydropower projects in the Himalayas make the young mountain more prone to landslides and rivers more flood prone. Impoundment and water level fluctuations play a major role in landslides.

EIAs of mega projects like Luhri, which plans to have world’s longest tunnel does not even include impacts of this tunnel in EIA Report submitted by CISHME team. In the recent Uttarakhand disaster, projects like 400 MW VishnuPrayag, 330 MW Srinagar, 76 MW Phata Byung, 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari, 304 and 90 MW Maneri Bhali I and II & 280 MW Dhauli Ganga hugely increased the damages and loss of lives. If more projects on Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi, cleared by MoEF and IMG, were present, losses would have been higher. However, there are studies after studies which do not mention the disaster potential of projects, like the recent Siang Basin Study.[10]

Muck disposal – an example of impacts of non-compliance Throughout the Himalayan states, rivers are littered and changing courses due to millions of tonnes of muck illegally dumped by the HEPs in the riverbed itself. This muck dumped by 330 MW Srinagar Project in Alaknanda bed hugely increased the disaster in Srinagar Town. Muck disposal plans of HEPs remain resolutely on paper, whereas on ground, muck is dumped at the most convenient sites: the riverbed. MoEF has refused to take action even when presented with evidence. The IMG report missed most of these ground realities.

Major struggles From Lahaul Spiti in the glacial north, Singoli Bhatwari & Phata Byung in Uttarakhand, to Subansiri Lower and Tawang in the North east, to the Athirappilly in Western Ghats of Kerala, most of the large (and also small) HEPs are being opposed strongly by local communities. India is witnessing one of its largest anti dam stir against the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP in Assam where construction on the project has been stalled for 20 months. Why are the communities resisting at this scale? Why are litigations surrounding HEPs increasing? Do the communities have any role while decisions are taken in Delhi and private proponent’s offices about destroying their rivers? The answer is no.

Climate Friendly façade of Large Hydro: Large Hydro promoters, government, funders like World Bank and ADB as well as research institutions are supporting HEPs because of the claimed climate friendly nature of the projects.

This is hugely misleading. World over, HEPs are being increasingly recognized as being ‘False Solutions to Climate Change’. Reservoirs of HEPs (including RORs) emit Methane which is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than Carbon dioxide. This emission is further boosted at each draw down of the dam.[11]

The trouble is, we have not conducted a single credible greenhouse gas emission study for any of India’s so-called ‘climate friendly’ hydros. The only project where this was a condition laid while granting a hasty environmental clearance was the 1000 MW Tipaimukh HEP. But here too, after 5 years of granting the EC the study has not been conducted. There is no logic behind labeling large hydro as climate friendly. On the other hand through deforestation, drying up of rivers, destruction of ecological services, instability, increased risks of landslides and flash floods, the adaptation and mitigation potential of local communities to Climate Change is hugely compromised.

With Climate change, Glaciers in Himalayas are receding faster than those at other mountains (ICIMOD). This is leaving moraine debris on the path of receding glacier, building up into moraine dams which can fail catastrophically, as was witnessed in Kedarnath disaster. In this scenario, hydropower dams, which depend largely on glacial melt are not only vulnerable to climate change, but have catastrophic impacts on the downstream population as was witnessed in Uttarakhand in case of 400 MW Vishnuprayag and 330 MW Srinagar Projects.     Hence, claiming that HEPs in India are important from climate change perspective is unscientific.

Environmental governance: As per SANDRPs analysis, the Expert Appraisal Committee granting environmental clearance to River valley projects has not rejected a single project of the 262 project considered in last six years ending in Dec 2012[12]. Even when local groups and organisations like SANDRP have raised concerns about impacts of HEPs on rivers, ecosystems and communities, these have been routinely sidelined. While sanctioning cascades of HEPs, no credible CIAs or basin studies or carrying capacity studies are being performed. IMG report on Upper Ganga Projects has also come across as a huge disappointment in this aspect.[13]

Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan
Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

MoEF has openly stated that it does not have the capacity to ensure environmental compliance of clearance conditions and environment management plan. In the absence of any enforcement, violations have become a norm. Neither has the MoEF thought of stalling Environmental and Forest Clearances of HEPs unless streamlined compliance is enforced, like it did for the case of Goa Mines. The pressure of lobbies seems to have blinded precautionary principle or democratic governance at all levels.

Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/
Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/

It may be noted that 50% of our existing HEPs are generating at less than 50% of their designed 90% dependable generation[14], while nearly 89% projects generate at below the promised levels! Per MW generation has fallen by about 25% in last two decades. On the other hand, micro-hydel projects are making remote places like Anjaw in Arunachal power secure without major impacts.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by poor environmental governance, by discouraging community participation, by excluding affected communities from decision-making while externalizing impacts on local communities, ecology and future generations. Energy security and access to energy to poor and disadvantaged sections of the society is a very real challenge and there are ways to address this challenge, which are not ecologically and socially destructive. Let us hope that the Water-Energy Nexus also upholds the rights of the rivers and its people.

-Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com


Water for Power: Irrigation Dam to be Used for Thermal Power- Drinking Water Supply of BHU, Agriculture, and Existence of Waterfalls at Risk

Welspun Energy which is famous for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power plants in India, is now becoming more infamous in thermal power sectors in India. While, the Environmental Clearance of one of its thermal power plant in Katni (Madhya Pradesh) is under controversy since 2 years alleging fake public hearing and protests from farmers for forcefully acquiring land with help of local administration,… an action replay is observed in another thermal power plant proposed by the company in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. While High Court of Madhya Pradesh has issued notices to Central and State government of M.P. for Katni Thermal Power Plant raising question on the whole EIA process[i], the proposed 1320 MW Mirzapur thermal power plant is awaiting EC and is facing huge opposition from local people and Banaras Hindu University which has its new 2700 acres of south campus very near to the project site. Students of BHU even sent a written petition to MoEF alleging that public hearing was not communicated properly and the EIA concealed several critical information.In this article, we tried to highlight the issues related to water where the company has been alleged to conceal information and not taking into account the factors which will is bound to have  significant impact on environment.

A 1320 MW coal based thermal power plant is proposed at village Dadri Khurd in Mirzapur by M/s Welspun Energy (U.P.) Pvt. Ltd. Issues like concealment of wildlife data and utilizing forest areas caught the eyes of environmentally concerned people after the Site Visit report prepared by Vindhya Bachao was made public. One of the key issues raised was the impact of water withdrawal and the manner in which it is proposed in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report. The project proponent concealed information regarding the presence of an entire river, water-falls, a University campus of 2700 acres and the fact that the same water source provides drinking water to the entire campus!

The project was considered for Environmental Clearance by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Thermal Power and Coal Mines on 26th March, 2013 and 18th November, 2013, and was deferred both the times. Local activists and Banaras Hindu University have made representations for shifting of this project to MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) already. The project is being under consideration for third time by EAC in its meeting dated 25th March, 2014. This article presents a short summary of the contradictions between the claims made by the Company and the reality at the ground level. It also illustrates the extent to which a company can go to mislead the authorities to get an Environmental Clearance.

1. No EIA of withdrawal of water from Ganga

Ecological Flow ignored while giving NOC to withdraw Ganga water

The project proponent wrote in its EIA that 40 lakh liters of water per hour will be required by the power plant which will be withdrawn from River Ganga via Upper Khajuri Reservoir. In the NOC (No Objection Certificate) letter given by CWC (Central Water Commission), the dry period of Ganga has been written as January to May. According to researchers based in Varanasi and Mirzapur, the water flow in Ganga improves only around July after the onset of monsoons. Apart from this, one can visually make out the state of river Ganga in Mirzapur which starts drying in October and by November end, the river looks completely dry. In any case, the extraction of water in lean season will not only affect the river ecology but the livelihood of people dependent on the river as well specially the fishermen. Mirzapur stretch also reportedly has Gangetic Dolphins, which will be also affected due to the proposed activity. However, it is ironical to see that the country’s premier institutions like CWC ignored the water flow of Ganga at Mirzapur while giving NOC to withdraw water. Not only the lean season has been altered for the project but the high level of pollution in Ganga has also kept aside while allowing so much water (36 MCM) to be pumped for the power plant. Mirzapur lies between Allahabad and Varanasi, both of which lie on the banks of Ganga, and are responsible for its severely polluted state. No doubt the water quality of Ganga at Mirzapur is not great and there should be enough water present in the river to allow safe dispersal of pollutants and improving the self cleansing capacity of the river. In such a crisis, the decision of the CWC to allow withdrawal of water from Ganga is extremely incongruous.

In a response to a representation that we sent to the MoEF regarding this, the company replied that they are using just 0.0003% of total 60,000 Cu.mec. water flow in the Ganges. It must be mentioned here that this calculation was based on the consideration of 4 lakh litres of water required per hour, instead of 40 lakh/hour. As discussed earlier, such huge extraction of water will have significant impact on the river flow in lean season. There has been no impact assessment of the withdrawal of water from Ganga which was required to be done as per the TOR issued to the project.

The Distance of Upper Khajuri Reservoir by road from Mirzapur is at least 24 Km and from Upper Khajuri reservoir to the proposed site is another 7 Km. The elevation of the proposed project site is at 630 feet while the elevation of Upper Khajuri dam and river Ganga is at approx. 510 feet and 260 feet respectively. The pipeline crosses through several Reserve Forests like Barkachha RF, Daanti RF, Marihaan Reserve Forest and Patehra which are home to at least six Schedule I species including Sloth Bear, Chinkara and Vultures. According to a reply under RTI application from the forest department, it is also noted that the region has a very small population of Swamp deer and Mugger Crocodile too.

Picture 1: Map showing location of BHU Campus, Wyndham Fall, River Khajuri & Lower Khajuri Fall, presence of which were concealed in the EIA Report
Picture 1: Map showing location of BHU Campus, Wyndham Fall, River Khajuri & Lower Khajuri Fall, presence of which were concealed in the EIA Report

2. Diversion of Irrigation Reservoir to Industrial Use, was there any participation of the affected people in this decision?

i) Imprudent approach to use Upper Khajuri The project proponent says that the water for dry season of Ganga will be met from Upper Khajuri Dam, which will be filled up during monsoon.The company also added that 9.5 MCM will be also pumped for agricultural needs of the people. Firstly, the reservoir is very much in use and is source of irrigation and drinking water. The subsequent question that arises is whether they have the permission for additional 9.5 MCM to be withdrawn and whether there is any checking mechanism to monitor that only 36 MCM water is being pumped and no more? Will they be able to maintain the water quality, which will be effected due to ingress of Ganges water?

According to the information available on WRIS-NRSC website, the Upper Khajuri Reservoir is a very old reservoir developed in 1962 as a medium irrigation project with potential created at 7280 Ha with a live storage-capacity of 37.834 MCM.

Our concern here is, whether the idea of filling up of a rain-fed reservoir with the severely polluted water from Ganga will solve the problem or escalate it? There are several agricultural fields adjoining Upper Khajuri reservoir that will be submerged. In addition, the clean water available to the farmers will be completely jeopardised and there will be increased threat of contamination of the fields due to the constant filling of polluted water from Ganga. It is worth noting that the current source of water for the reservoir is rainfall surface run-off which gets enough time to clean its water from suspended particles and other contaminants.

Picture 2: Upper Khajuri Reservoir| 10.02.2011. Photo: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 2: Upper Khajuri Reservoir| 10.02.2011. Photo: Debadityo Sinha

ii) No Mention of downstream features and impacts of alteration to Upper Khajuri reservoir The EIA report does not mention the important downstream features and uses of Upper Khajuri Reservoir. The Upper Khajuri Reservoir (UKR) is connected to Lower Khajuri Reservoir (LKR) via River Khajuri. River Khajuri runs alongside the Banaras Hindu University’s South Campus (A k.a. RGSC-Rajiv Gandhi South Campus) and has to two of the famous water-falls of Mirzapur, namely Wyndham Fall and Kharanja Fall.

Wyndham fall is a very famous historical water fall and nature park being maintained by Forest Department, which is on River Khajuri. The length of the river between Upper and Lower Khajuri Reservoir is very short, which is approximately less than 10 Km. The LKR is the source of drinking water to the entire BHU South Campus and any alteration to Upper Khajuri Reservoir will directly affect the Lower Khajuri Reservoir as both of them are connected via River Khajuri.

The EIA report not only ignores the presence of 2700 acres of RGSC-BHU, but also does not even mention the presence of River Khajuri, Wyndham Fall and Lower Khajuri Reservoir (LKR). LKR, commissioned in 1949 as per CWC register of Large Dams in India has gross storage capacity of 120.37 MCM (Million Cubic Meters). UKR, commissioned in 1958 has gross storage capacity of 44.74 MCM and live storage capacity of 37.83 MCM. As CWC register shows, both are irrigation projects.

A representation from Banaras Hindu University has already been sent to MoEF on 18th September, 2013, in which they have mentioned that any alteration to Upper Khajuri will jeopardise the drinking water source of the campus. In the same letter it has been demanded to shift the site of the project far from the campus.

Opposition is also coming from the students of RGSC. Students recently sent a petition with more than 500 signatures showing opposition to the use of Upper Khajuri dam and saying that Khajuri River has cultural values for the students and they are sentimentally attached to the river system, especially the Wyndham fall and Kharanja fall. They also showed concern regarding water quality as it is also the source of drinking water for them. The same petition also alleged that the information about public hearing was not communicated properly, due to which no one from RGSC could participate in the Public Hearing and register their complaint.

Picture 3: Wyndham Fall | 08.08.2010. Photograph: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 3: Wyndham Fall | 08.08.2010. Photograph: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 4: Cleanliness Drive at Wyndham Fall by BHU students with DFO Maneesh Mittal| 02.02.2012. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 4: Cleanliness Drive at Wyndham Fall by BHU students with DFO Maneesh Mittal| 02.02.2012. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 5: Cleanliness Drive at Kharanja Fall by BHU students with DFO Adarsh Kumar| 02.02.2014. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 5: Cleanliness Drive at Kharanja Fall by BHU students with DFO Adarsh Kumar| 02.02.2014. Photograph: Eco One-BHU

3. No Impact on water resources?

Under the Terms of Reference recommended by MoEF for EIA of the project, it was mandatory to:

“Study on the impact on river/marine ecology (as may be applicable) due to the proposed withdrawal of water/ discharge of treated wastewater into the river/ creek/ sea etc shall be carried out and submitted alongwith the EIA Report.”

The company repeatedly maintained in the EIA report that there will be no impact on water resources due to the project.

In the EIA report they wrote that the project will be designed for zero waste water discharge and the waste water generation will be only 1% of freshwater withdrawn. This magical prediction is based on their theoretical design. However, it is highly impractical. Moreover, there is no mention of River Khajuri, Wyndham fall and most importantly, the fact that the same water source is also used for drinking water by BHU and also irrigation.  Apart from withdrawal of water, what concerns us is the impact of water pollution on the water sources. In a thermal power plant project, the water pollution range from discharges from cooling tower blow down, boiler blow down, demineralisation plant effluent, coal handling plant dust suppression,  ash handling,  Leachate of heavy metal (especially Mercury) from ash pond, effluent from oil handling and transformer areas, power house and turbine area effluent and domestic waste water. No detailed assessment of impacts on water due to withdrawal or discharge is given in the EIA report.

Though the company’s arguments have seems to have convinced State Government and Central Water Commission, it is becoming very hard for the BHU Professors to accept that this will not jeopardize the drinking water supply of the campus. As the Upper Khajuri dam and river Khajuri is being used extensively for drinking water, this will severely affect the water quality. As the length of river Khajuri between UKR and LKR is short, one cannot expect the self cleaning capacity of the river will be too sufficient. The impact of the water withdrawal on the aquatic ecology, groundwater recharge, irrigation, water falls was also required, none has been done.

EAC in its meeting dated 26th  March, 2013 raised this issue to project proponent and asked for some other alternative water source for the project site, since the dam was constructed for drinking and agricultural needs and not for industrial purposes.

In our representation to EAC we also emphasized that water from Ganga will have very very high levels of BOD, coliforms and other pollutants, which will cumulatively jeopardize the water quality in the streams leaving this entire region in severe crisis of drinking water. Apart from that, contaminants like Zinc, Aresinc, Chromium, Phosphate, Copper and radioactive element like Uranium will impose heavy threat to the water quality of the local water sources as the waste water will be finally discharged in local nallah which will drain either into Khajuri river or some other wetland. The company has still kept a mum on the disclosure of that local nallah till now, where the wastewater is to be discharged.

On raising the issue regarding water discharge and impact on water resources to EAC in November last year, the company responded as follows:

“The desired water is sourced primarily from Ganga River flowing at a distance of 17 km from project site for which desired approvals have already been obtained from State & Central Government.  The same is only intermediately stored at Upper Khajuri Dam, which is finally pumped to reservoir at project site. Therefore, our source of water is not common as Vindham Falls…

 I. Referring Point No. I, we confirm that Upper Khajuri Dam will be used as intermediate storage of water from Ganga & ultimately will be pumped to our project site after fulfilling the commitment with State Government for irrigation & other purposes of local community…

Total water requirement for power project including irrigation requirement would be met by pumping water from river Ganges and storing In Upper Khajuri Dam and there is no conflict of interest as for as BHU and Vindham fall is concerned.”

We just hope EAC takes note of the silly and unscientific replies of the project proponent while making any decision in future of this project. In any case, an assessment of the quality of the Ganga water, how it will affect the UKR and Khauri river and downstream ecology and how will it ensured that water used by the company will be exactly same as the water pumped from Ganga minus the losses? Why can the project not be asked to build their own facility rather than using the UKR?

4. Other Issues with the Project There are numerous environmental issues which were raised by Vindhya Bachao in its ‘Site Visit Report’ submitted to MOEF on 15th November, 2013 – including location of the project site inside a forest area, presence of Schedule I animals in the project site – which are in direct contradiction to the claims made in the EIA report that no forest land is involved and no endangered animal is present in project area. Some other issues were also reported like illegal means of getting signatures in support of the project in the form of job application form. The Site visit report prepared by Vindhya Bachao, BHU’s representation and all EIA documents of the project can be accessed at www.vindhyabachao.org/welspun.

It is also interesting to see what stand Mr. Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate who will be contesting from Varanasi, just 60 km downstream of Mirzapur, will take. While he tries to woo people of Varanasi for clean Ganga, will he understand the ecology of Ganga? And can he prevent further destruction of this mighty, holy river from companies like Welspun. This becomes particularly interesting since Welspun has flourished in Gujarat under Modi’s rule.

Debadityo Sinha (debadityo@gmail.com)


[i] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/the-good-earth/High-court-notice-to-Centre-Madhya-Pradesh-govt-on-Welspun-plant/articleshow/29517083.cms

[ii]  http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/did-welspun-fudge-facts-its-coal-fired-power-plant-mirzapur

[iii] http://greenbhu.blogspot.in/2014/03/students-of-rgsc-sent-petition-to_20.html

[iv] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Upper_Khajuri_Reservoir_JI01845

[v] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Upper_Khajuri_D00870

[vi] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Farmer-commits-suicide-in-Katni-district/articleshow/21444754.cms

[vii] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bhopal/land-allotted-to-welspun-farmers-to-stage-protest/article1-965389.aspx

[viii] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Lower_Khajuri_D00555

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources · Sikkim

Lack of Transparency and Accountability Remains the Norm of Functioning for MoWR’s Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) is a very important committee. It accords the financial clearance for any irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project. TAC is supposed to discuss the techno-economic viability of projects as per the resolution published in the Union of India Gazette Notification No. 12/5/86-P-II dated Nov 27, 1987. This committee came into being replacing a similar committee that existed earlier in the planning commission. Even now, the guidelines for functioning of the committee are issued by the Planning Commission.

The Gazette notification cited above also said, “The committee may also invite representatives of any other Government organizations, scientific body of experts in the relevant fields to participate in its deliberations.” This seems like a window to appoint credible, independent, non-government persons in the committee, but this window does not seem to have been used. Among the functions of the committee listed in this notification include, “The functions of the Committee will be to examine projects proposed by State Governments, Central Government or other organizations and satisfy itself that the schemes have been prepared after adequate investigations” and “the need of environment conservation and proper rehabilitation of project-affected persons have been taken into account.” However, our perusal of the functioning of the TAC shows that TAC has failed to fulfill both these mandates.

As noted in the Guidelines for Submission, Appraisal and Clearance of Irrigation and Multipurpose Projects, 2010 available on the CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/publications.html), “The project proposal, thereafter, is put up to the Advisory Committee for clearance, which is, by and large, like single window clearance.” The importance of such a single window clearance becomes all the more important. The guidelines further note, “On the basis of examination conducted by the Advisory Committee, decision on techno-economic viability of the projects is taken in the meeting of this Committee. The projects found acceptable by the Advisory Committee shall be recommended for investment clearance by the Planning Commission and inclusion in the Five Year Plan/Annual Plan.” This shows how important is the role of the TAC in judging techno-economic viability of projects and also from the point of view of prudent planning.

No Transparency, independent participation or accountability of TAC Considering the above, there is strong case for clearly defined norms for transparency, participation and accountability in (1) functioning of TAC; (2) The screening process of the projects at initial stages that also happen under these guidelines in the Central Water Commission, based on which approval for DPR preparation is given.

In view of the significance of TAC, this is SANDRP’s third analysis of the decisions taken in TAC meetings. The present analysis covers decisions taken for North East India from 110th to 122nd TAC meeting. In the two previous analysis done by SANDRP, TAC meeting decisions taken from 95th meeting to 109th meeting has been covered. Here it is important to note that lack of transparency has been observed right from the agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings. The agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings should be uploaded on CWC website but CWC website has minutes only till the 115th meeting held on 24th July 2012 and the website has been last updated on 31/08/2012.

In this analysis we have covered 13 TAC meetings held from July 2011 to December 2013. In these 13 meeting, 21 projects from 6 northeastern states have been considered. But out of the 13 meetings held, projects from northeast were considered only in 10 meetings. TAC has accepted the proposals for projects with a total cost of rupees 4075.46 crore. Majority of the projects were given clearance at the first time of consideration. Thus, on an average TAC  had cleared projects worth of 407.55 crores from the North East in each of these 10 meetings. Number of the projects considered by TAC in each meeting along with their total cost is given below. A state-wise and a project-wise list is also provided.

Total Cost of Projects Cleared by TAC July 2012 to December 2013

Sl No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered from NE No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
1 110th 20-07-11 5 4 1 0 211.56
2 111th 17-08-11 1 1 0 0 167.09
3 112th 14-09-11 1 1 0 0 48.55
4 115th 24-07-12 5 5 0 0 2208.81
5 117th 21-03-13 1 1 0 0 155.87
6 118th 30-07-13 2 2 0 0 467.38
7 119th 29-08-13 2 2 0 0 601.67
8 120th 13-09-13 1 1 0 0 42.96
9 121st 08-10-13 2 2 0 0 146.01
10 122nd 20-12-13 1 1 0 0 25.56
  Total     20     4075.46

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

Sl. No State No of projects approved Total cost of the approved projects, Rs Crore
1 Arunachal 1 36.47
2 Assam 7 1526.85
3 Manipur 7 2268.99
4 Meghalaya 1 5.63
5 Sikkim 1 48.55
6 Tripura 3 188.97

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 30 month period.

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

1. Zero Rejections The TAC did not reject a single project. There was only one project which was deferred in the 110th meeting but it was approved in the next meeting. Rest of the new projects were were approved in the very first meeting of their consideration.

2. Lack of information The TAC minutes provide little information about projects. Specially in case of newer projects, detailed discussions should have happened. The minutes of TAC meetings do not give much of an idea about size, location, benefits of a particular project. In the project- wise list provided towards the end of this analysis, we have provided limited information available in the minutes. Some of the noteworthy missing information is listed below:

– In the 115th meeting, 5 projects from Manipur were considered. Out of these five projects, 2 were multipurpose projects and 3 were barrage projects. Surprisingly, there was no information about where these projects are located, on which river, what the size of these projects. None of the minutes mentioned about whom these projects will actually benefit. Only two projects mentioned about increase in annually irrigated land but no more detail was provided.

– In the 118th meeting, construction of embankments on both banks of river Ranganadi for flood management and river training was considered. But the cost of the project was on the higher side compared to the embankment construction work to be done on the river Dikrong, considered in the same meeting. This cost escalation may be due to the difference in the length of the projects. But this cannot be confirmed since minutes do not mention the length of the proposed embankments.

India's First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
India’s First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

But the increased costs may also be due to the use of Geo bag technology for construction of Ranganadi embankments. Use of Geo-bag technology is a costly affair but nothing has been mentioned about the use of this technology in the minutes of 118th meeting. This is stated in the annexure (Annex VI as mentioned in the document) of the meeting. Interestingly this annexure too has been mentioned only as a corrigendum.

3. No Detailed Discussion on Projects Considered This was very evident in the two previous analysis done by SANDRP and situation remains the same this time as well. In case of all the projects, including the ones considered for the first time, there was no detailed information or any detailed discussion. There is no discussion on technical viability of the project. Reading through the minutes gives an impression that approval for any project considered by TAC is fait accompli. There is no discussion about whether the project is a desirable project, if there are other options available, if this is the best option and so on. Under the mandate given to it, TAC is supposed to discuss all these issues. TAC accepted projects proposals with huge cost and time overruns but little enquiry has been made why such escalation happened.

Dhansiri irrigation project This is a glaring example of cost escalation. The project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29.08.2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. But, it was surprising to find that original cost of the project in 1975 was Rs 15.83 crores as according to the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[1] The same website states that project started in 1975 and supposed to be completed 35 years later in 2010. In the TAC meeting a new time schedule of March 2015 was stated. The cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost over runs (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or whether this project which will take 40 years just to complete will be viable or not. On the contrary, the planning commission representatives said, “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.”

The TAC should have done a detailed assessment why the project took so long time to complete. But it seemed to be contended with the rational that the project authorities provided which was that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed. But in the meantime minutes of the meeting also showed that that major components of the project are in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system were reported to have been completed. There has been no detailed assessment in to any of these aspects.

Imphal Barrage project In this project, the cost of the project mentioned in the minutes of the 115th meeting contradicted with the cost provided in the annexure. The cost of Extension, Renovation and Modernization (ERM) of the Imphal barrage project as mentioned in the minutes is Rs 16.80 crores. But a letter from the Under Secretary, Govt. of Manipur to the Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Manipur dated 21.07.2012 stated the cost of the project as 23.41 crores. This reflects the lack of serious discussion over projects in TAC. It is also surprising that TAC, being the committee which gives the techno economic clearance to projects, does not have clarity about even the cost of the project.

4. No Discussion over Social, Environmental and Other impacts of the Projects The projects cleared by TAC have serious social, environmental and other impacts but the committee never discussed these impacts. TAC does not at all take into account the impacts a project would have on the environment.

In the 118th meeting (30.07.2013), while considering the proposal for flood management of Dikrong along with river training works on both banks, the minutes stated “Effectiveness of existing embankments of river Dikrong has been deteriorating due to lack of repair, siltation of river bed and consequential change in river behaviour, change in flow pattern due to release of Ranga Nadi hydel project etc.” But this is one of the rare instances when TAC mentioned about the environmental impacts on embankments. But rather than asking for more details on these impacts or to see whether embankment would really be a viable option or not, the TAC accepted the proposal. On the other hand nowhere the committee discussed what impacts an embankment has on river bed, siltation or downstream stretches of a river.

Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong/Pare. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
River Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is also important to note here TAC also does not take into consideration impacts of the hydropower projects on the embankments in the downstream of the river. In the above mentioned case, the increased costs of Dikrong embankment should have been charged on the Ranga Nadi HEP, but there is no discussion on this. The Pare hydropower project (110 MW) in Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh is currently under construction on Dikong / PareRiver. Moreover there are at least 10 hydropower projects at various stages in the combined Ranganadi-Dikrong basin in Arunachal Pradesh, including one operating, three TOR approvals given and five additional MoA signed (in addition to a proposed project). There is no provision to assess the impacts of these projects on the embankments downstream of DikrongRiver in Assam. In fact there is no provision for any impact assessment study for embankments even though studies show the disastrous impacts of embankments on environment, floods and on the lives of the people living close to the river.

5. Clearing Same Embankment Projects over Years In terms of embankments, it is observed that the TAC had cleared same projects over the years. Not emphasizing on the environmental impacts of embankment projects is one of the major reasons for this. In the 117th TAC meeting held on 21.03.2013 the proposal for “Protection of Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta at different reaches from Lotasur to Tekeliphuta from the erosion of river Brahmaputra Assam” was considered. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 155.87 crore. But on the same embankment, a project titled “Raising and Strengthening to Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti-erosion measures (to protect Majuli and Dhakukhana areas against flood devastation by the Brahmaputra, Lakhimpur district, Assam) was accepted in the 95th TAC meeting held on 20.01.2009. The estimated cost of the earlier project was 142.42 crore.

A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.
Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

The minutes of the 117th meeting, about the previous scheme said that it “was taken up primarily for closure of breach in the then existing embankment including raising of embankment around the breach area only.” But the minutes of the 95th TAC meeting had said something totally different about the project. The minutes stated that project proposal envisaged – (i) Raising and strengthening of embankment for a length of 13.9 km, (ii) Construction of retirement bund with geo-textile tubes of length 5000 m. This shows how the discussion on the Brahmaputra dyke Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta is 117th meeting is completely misleading. TAC does on even take into account its previous meeting discussions before clearing a project. This possibly gives a hint of a scam.

The Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta has a long history of facing severe erosions. The first geo-tube embankment was constructed on this dyke in Dec 2010. Crores have been spent for the protection of this embankment. But even after that the Dhakukhana sub-division always remained in the headlines during the flood season in Assam. There is need for area specific detailed study assessing the impact on and of the embankment, but little has been done in this regard. Besides, the Bogibeel Bridge, the fourth one on the BrahmaputraRiver, is coming up in the upstream of this embankment. Construction of this bridge would make this dyke even more prone to erosion since the length of this bridge will be 4.94 km, shrinking the wide river to great extent. In a personal visit to the area, one of the government officials informed that as a result of this “funneling action”, the force of water will increase and it will directly hit the embankment leading to more erosion. But TAC has never dealt with these issues in its meetings but cleared all the proposals that it considered.
Short History Brahmaputra Dyke from Sissikalghae to Tekeliphuta[2]

box text

6. There is no independent, critical voice in the meetings. The agenda, proceedings, or decisions of the meetings are not even in public domain.
7. There is no mechanism to hold the TAC accountable for any wrong decisions taken.
8. The TAC is clearly not fulfilling the mandate given to it in the guidelines for TAC meetings. The guidelines themselves need revision from several points.
9. There is no attempt to assess the justifiability of the kinds of projects that are being accepted and if they are indeed delivering the promised benefits.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection work Arunachal Pradesh New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood and Erosion Phase II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration fo rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in West Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya  New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon against erosion of the river Brahmaputra Sonitpur/Assam  New Brahmaputra 167.09 Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below GreenfieldAirport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Protecion of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
2 Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
1 Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
2 ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal West Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
2 Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

[2] From the brochure published by WRD, Assam at the time of commissioning the geo-tube embankment in Matmora

Ministry of Water Resources

Shalmala River Protection Rally: Local Actions on the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers

On the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers (14th March), more than 1500 people gathered on the Ganeshpal Island in the Shalmala River. The mood was upbeat and there was spring in each step, young and old. The crowd was made up of a remarkable majority of women, all of them with flowers in their hair. There were barefooted farmers, planters with gardens along the river, priests in dhotis clutching files full of river protection stories, swamis who were to deliver a tough message, researchers working on rivers, tribal groups who venerated the Shalmala and after 5 pm, even school children who splashed around in the river! The densely forested river banks were decorated with garlands of flowers and mango leaves and there was a local band drumming rhythmic beats.

"Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers"
“Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers” Photo: All photos by Parineeta, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

The gathering was here to celebrate the lovely Shalmala River, a life giving resource to these villages. On one of the boulders inside the river was a painted notice: “If anyone tries to destroy our environment and rivers, we will NOT allow it”

Sign on a river boulder
Sign on a river boulder

They were unaware that this remarkable local phenomenon was resonating with a similar global endeavor. That the International day of Action for Rivers celebrates just this spirit: of protecting, celebrating and fighting for our rivers. Residents along Shalmala have been taking action for their river for more than 10 years now.

Shalmala River, as the name suggests, evokes lyrical beauty and magic. This small river is a tributary of the West Flowing River Bedthi of the Western Ghats, in Uttar Kannada District of Karnataka.

Bedthi herself is a special river. In the 1980’s when the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited announced its proposal for damming this river for a hydroelectric project, the resultant protest movement brought together myriad groups from Uttar Kannada led by Panduranga Hegde, Ananth Hegde, researches , economists, scholars and activists like Sundarlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva from across India. Like the Narmada and Silent Valley struggles, Bedthi struggle helped lay the foundation stones of an informed discourse surrounding dams and rivers. While it talked the language of a local peasant who did not want his land to be submerged and his river to go dry, it also talked the language of a scholar working on cost benefit analysis and ecological goods and services. The movement is an inspiration to many because the Bedthi still flows freely and the dam is all but scrapped, bowing to the opposition.

Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies


Shalmala, a smaller tributary of Bedthi is no less special. For one, it is one of the very few protected rivers in India. Following untiring research and advocacy by Bhalchandra Hegde and local communities and with support of Forest Department Officials and erstwhile Chairperson of Western Ghats Task Force Ananth Hegde Ashisara, Shalmala the river has been protected through constitution of Shalmala River Riparian Conservation Reserve in June 2012. With Shalmala River Riparian Ecosystem Conservation Reserve, Uttar Kannada now has 4 CRs under its belt: all of them protecting important rivers in the region, without affecting local traditional use. These include Aghanashini-Lion Tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Bedthi Conservation Reserve and Hornbill Conservation Reserve along the Kali River. Several researchers like Dr. TV Ramchandra from IISC, Dr. Praveen Bhargava, Politicians, Swamijis of local Matths, and importantly the local population have supported this cause.

Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions
Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions

Conservation Reserve is a new concept in the rigid framework of Protected Areas under the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002. The novel part of these reserves is that they seek to protect habitats that are under private ownership also, through active stakeholder participation. They are typically buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved protected forests in India. They are designated as conservation reserves if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the government but used for subsistence by communities, and community reserves if part of the lands are privately owned. Administration of such reserves would be through joint participation of forest officials and local bodies like gram sabhas and gram panchayats.

Shalmala Conservation Reserve was declared in June 2012 through a gazette notification. It encompasses more than 15.9 kms of the Shalmala River, with 100 mts riparian buffer on each bank. The reserve starts at Sahasralinga and culminates at Ganeshpal, the island where the rally took place. Just downstream Ganeshpal, the river takes a plunge down a steep gorge to form the Ganesh falls. From here, the boundaries of the Bedthi Conservation Reserve begin.

One of the important arguments in the proposal for conservation reserve is the unique cultural value of Shalmala River. At Sahasralinga, one is awestruck to see hundreds of Shivlingas carved on the bedrock of the river. The river itself is a temple, with carvings of Shivalingas, Nandi (Basaveshwara), Garuda, deeps and inscriptions. There is a huge pilgrimage here on the occasion of Shivratri.

Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga
Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga

Hydel Project in the Conservation Reserve

Even as the conservation reserve was declared in June 2012, Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) has allotted a 24 MW Hydel project right inside the conservation Reserve across the Shalmala! This 24 MW Ganeshpal hydel project by KARE Power envisages a trench weir as well a dam to store and divert water away from the river. The proposed location of the weir is just upstream of Ganeshpal isalnd. The project envisages a 4.4 kms long Head race tunnel to divert water from river to the powerhouse. The powerhouse is planned to be at the foot of the waterfall.

Through this tunnel diversion which will need blasting in the river bed and riparian zone, nearly 5 kms of the rivers well as the Ganesh Falls will be rendered dry. As a trench weir is proposed, there is no possibility of releasing eflows.

Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala
Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala

The Ganeshpal Island, where the rally took place will be exposed, without a river caressing it and Ganesh Falls will dry up. The project also envisages a 15 kms long transmission line to the power station and most of this area is under forest. In addition, the DPR of the project plans  for construction of roads to the weir, powerhouse and tunnels as well as workers colonies and rest house with recreational facilities. If materialised, this small hydel project which does not legally require an Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing, will destroy the Shalmala Conservation Reserve.

The local people are opposing this project with all their might. One of the resolutions of the rally was an appeal to the government to install solar power projects in Uttar Kannada in non-forest regions, which will be heartily supported by locals, but to leave their river alone. It is understandable. The economic, social and cultural ethos of the region is very strongly linked to flowing rivers. People worship rivers, they fish from them, use water for drinking water needs, diver streams for irrigation g their lands and look upon the rivers in awe in the monsoons.

People after the rally
People heading back home after the rally
Enjoying Shalmala
Enjoying Shalmala

The protest rally was organised and addressed by Sri. Ananth Hegde Ashisara, past Chairperson of the Western Ghats Task Force and past member of the State Wildlife Board, noted economist B. Kumarswamy, Dr. Subhashchandra from IISC, Bangalore, Adv. Shankar Bhat from Bangalore, Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP and Shri. Karunakar Gogate from Hosamat, Dakshin Kannada. Shri. Gogate shared now Kukke hydel project planned in his region has not disclosed even its submergence details after 3 years of being told to do so by the government. Incidentally, Kare Power Projects which is proposing Ganeshpal Hydel,  is constructing the Thangarabalu Hydel Project across Krishna in Gulbarga and here too, the company has not shared submergence details for a dam as high as 22 meters!

The meeting was presided over of Swamiji of a Svarnavalli Matth. He is locally known as the Green Swamy. Rather than going into religious sermons, Swamiji told the people: “Along with Shanti Mantra, now is the time for Kranti mantra. Do not let project developers who have no link with your river, come here and destroy it. We have a duty towards our river and we will fulfil it.”

More than 1500 people stood and vowed to protect Shalmala river and their entwined lives in days and years to come.

After the rally, school children splashed about in the river, researchers went for bird watching along the riparian stretch, farmers returned to their gardens to water their crops and the elderly sat down on the river sands for a gossip.

The Shalmala flowed by serenely. May this flow continue…

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com


Expert Appraisal Committee · Karnataka

Tragedy of Errors : Environmental governance and the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme

That small-time EIA agents and private project proponents put up sham EIAs and project justifications is not really news. People, from erstwhile Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to Prof. Madhav Gadgil, have spoken famous lines about this issue.

But what if respected government agencies and departments too join this band wagon of fraud?

In the 69th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF[i], officials of Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited and WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy, under the Ministry of Water Resources) earnestly discussed the ‘proposed’ Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme, which ‘envisages’ a non-submersible barrage ( dam) across the Bhima River in Gulbarga, Karnataka. The barrage and project would submerge over 1400 hectares of land and affect nearly 3000 people.

As per EIA Notification 2006, the project had applied for first stage environmental clearance (Terms of reference clearance) in which the EAC is supposed to appraise the viability of the proposal holistically, assess the pre-feasibility report (PFR) and Form I submitted by the project proponent and, if all these are found satisfactory, recommend specific Terms of Reference for carrying out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Public Hearing of the project. On completing these, the project comes back to the EAC for Environmental clearance. Based on the EIA and public hearing, EAC decides on recommends Environmental clearance (EC). EC is issued by the MoEF and only after this can the actual project work start.

This forms the backbone of the Environmental clearance process of the country, upheld by the EIA Notification 2006 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Now comes the intriguing and sad part.

The Pre-feasibility report of the project, presumably done by WAPCOS, talked about Sonthi Lift Irrigation scheme, which ‘envisages construction of Sonthi barrage, its ‘proposed’ submergence and people who ‘may be affected’. Form I by the proponent talked about “967 structures which will have to be cleared in submergence village for the project”. Note here that WAPCOS is no small time EIA Agency, it is a part of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.[ii]

The reality is that the Sonthi barrage with vertical gates, which the Executive Engineers and WAPCOS were ‘proposing’, already stands across the Bhima River near Sonthi village. While work on the barrage is complete, work on canals is also complete in some stretches and progressing in some. Contracts for this Lift Irrigation scheme, which was discussed for TORs in 2013, were issued by the Karnataka Government as early as 2005!

Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima
Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima

And the status of the Sonthi LIS is not a secret either.

In fact, the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited website itself sports a picture of this barrage and states that: “Sonthi Barrage, with a capacity of 4 TMC is already completed!” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Ongo-CZ1-Sonthi-LIS)

The website states:


Across River Bhima near Sonthi Village of Shahapur Taluk.
Utilisation 4.00 TMC
Components Bridge cum Barrage across River Bhima.
Head Work – 1 No.
Main Canal – 23 Km, Branch Canal – 16 Km
Yargol Minor Canal – 10 Km & Distry. Network.
Command Area 16,000 Ha.
Status of work

Sonthi Bridge cum Barrage completed.
Head work in progress

The barrage completed with all 37 gates of the barrage fixed, work on the canals of the Lift Irrigation scheme is also progressing water is stored and work on feeder canal is completed, branch canals on going fast and completed in some stretches. According to KBJNL, Civil work of barrage & Erection of all 37 vertical gates completed and water stored at Barrage. Construction of Feeder Canal work is completed. Works of Sonthi LIS Main Canal Km 0.00 to 5.00 including Aqueduct, Sonthi Branch canal Km 0.00 to 7.00, Distry. No.1 Km 0.00 to 15 & Yargol Minor Canal works are in progress.” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Progress-Report)

CAG’s report

Ironically, not only is the scheme complete, but CAG had punched holes in the contracting of this LIS back in 2011.( http://agkar.cag.gov.in/docs/ARPSU%202013-Eng.pdf ) According to CAG Report, No. 4, Commercial of 2011, Karnataka, modifications of converting a submersible bridge into a lift irrigation scheme have happened on the barrage and Sonthi barrage has already been modified into a Lift Irrigation Scheme. CAG has recorded irregularities in awarding contracts for this extended work also to the same contractor, without proper tendering process. CAG proves that contracts for converting the submersible barrage into a non-submersible barrage and Lift Irrigation Scheme were given as early as 2005, nearly a decade before the project came for first stage environmental clearance!

According to teh CAG report: After award of the work (June 2003) the Company (Karnataka Bhagya Jal nigam Limited) decided (December 2003) to construct a non-submersible bridge on a request from the Minister for Minor Irrigation (October 2003). This resulted in increase in quantity by more than 125 per cent of tendered quantities. The same contractor was entrusted (Nov 2004) with the additional works necessitated due to change over to non-submersible bridge at the cost of Rs  7.85 crore.”

“On the directions of the Government (Dec 2005) Sonthi bridge- cum-barrage was modified to include lift irrigation scheme also. Construction of steel embedment works for vertical gates and the associated additional civil works at the cost of Rs 30.15 crore were also entrusted to the same contractor.”

Media reports also support this change into a Lift Irrigation scheme way back in 2005 ““The Government has increased the scope of the Sannati barrage ( which is the same as Sonthi barrage, as the place is called Sonthi as well as Sannati) and converted it into a lift irrigation scheme to utilise 4 tmcft of water to irrigate more than 17,000 hectares. Mr. Singh laid the foundation stone for the redesigned Sannati lift irrigation project on June 16 2005”

Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigram Limited or WAPCOS however, did not share this advanced status of the work with the MoEF and went on talking of the ‘proposed’ barrage in the EAC meeting.

69th EAC Meeting: SANDRP sent a submission to the EAC ahead of the 69th meeting in which the project was considered, exposing this state of affairs. Following this, the 69th minutes of the EAC note: “It was informed to the project proponent  that a complaint/representation against the project from SANDRP has been received. As per the complaint, construction work for the project has already been started.  In that case, this is a violation of Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The project proponent was given a copy of the complaint and was asked to give a detailed response. The EAC also advised MoEF to write to State Government on the violation and take necessary action/ settle in accordance with provisions of prevalent office memorandum on such violation.  The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved.”(Emphasis added)

Public Hearing of an existing Project?!

Despite these clear instructions by the EAC we are shocked to see that Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has announced on its website that Environmental Public hearing of the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme will be held in Sonthi village on the 23rd March 2014! (http://kspcb.kar.nic.in/pubhear.html)

The announcement is also accompanied by Executive Summary of EIA report and a complete EIA report. This EIA will not stand legal scrutiny as this is done without TORs from the MoEF. The Kannada version of the EIA report also bears the name of WAPCOS.

Shockingly, both the Executive Summary and the EIA paint a fraudulent picture that the project has received TOR clearance in the 69th EAC meeting, when we saw above that this is categorically incorrect.

The EIA report states: “The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA study were approved by MoEF. A copy of the approved Terms of Reference for the CEIA study is enclosed as Annexure-I.”

The EIA Executive Summary states: “Annexure III: TOR Clearance, 69th Meeting Minutes.”Annexure III consists of the 69th Minutes and has shockingly removed the parts of the minutes which unequivocally state that TORs have been rejected.

(It has removed: “The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved”)

These consciously misleading statements are completely unexpected and unacceptable from the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited as well as WAPCOS.


The travesty does not end here. The EIA report by WAPCOS is a confusing document. Though it is meant for Sonthi LIS, Karnataka,large parts of the report mention Kundalia major multipurpose project from Madhya Pradesh!

For a lift Irrigation Scheme, without any drinking water supply angle, the reader is told: “The proposed Kundalia Major Multipurpose project will provide 20 Mm3 Improvement in agriculture production of water every year to meet drinking water requirements. This will serve a population of 1.35 million, who will be served with low fluoride levels. Thus, Rajgarh district, which is categorized as fluoride affected, will be immensely benefitted due to the project.” (Page 10.6)

This repeats with unerring regularity at various places like 10-4, 10-6, 10-8, Table 2.2 (Cost required for Kundalia Project), 9.1 (Prediction of impacts!), many places at 9.7, etc.

The EIA further extolls the benefits of Kundalia Multipurpose Project in an EIA document of Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme!

In fact the EIA of Kundalia was also done by WAPCOS.

SANDRP and a number of organisations have pointed out the severe issues with WAPCOS’s EIAs, basin studies, cumulative impact assessments tudies, etc. Even Forest Advisory Committee of the MoEF has passed strictures on WAPCOS. But it seems that WAPCOS is insulated against these errors, which severely affect communities and ecosystems.

Complete reading of the EIA report highlights:

  • Wrong figures of affected population: EIA Report (10-2) states that 2861 people will lose their lands and 1760 people would lose homesteads. Same page states that 2004 people would lose lands. Topping this, section 13.3 states that in total only 942 people would be affected! (From 852 families, so this is assuming 1.1 persons per family!!). Its interesting to see that the agency could not get the numbers right even for a project which is already existing.
  • Wrong impoundment figures: Chapter 5 of Hydrology states: The Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a barrage across Bhima River near Sonthi village in Chittapur taluka, Gulbarga district, in Karnataka to impound 4 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC. Chapter 2 Project Description states: Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a Barrage across Bhima River to impound 2.89 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC!
  • Cost: Page2-13 gives cost at 502 crores. Page 2-14 gives it at 600 crores.
  • Gross irrigated area and Culturable command are the same at 16800 hectares. Irrigation intensity should thus be 100%, its shown as 105%!
  • Rehabilitation: Although the barrage is built and is storing water, rehabilitation of the affected population still not done.

This is only indicative list of the cut and paste instances, inconsistencies and contradictions in the EIA.

 All in all, it is clear that Public hearing for Sonthi Project should not be held on the grounds of:

1. Absence of TOR from MoEF due to violations

2. Violation of Laws

3. Cut Paste EIA Report

4. Serious issues with the quality of the EIA Report

We urge KSPCB to cancel this public hearing immediately and take action against KBJNL and WAPCOS for making wrong statements of TOR clearance given by EAC when, EAC has not given any such clearance. Not doing so will implicate KSPCB in these illegal activities.

The case of Sonthi LIS is critical as it negates nearly all aspects of the environmental governance surrounding dams in this country. It has violated EIA Notification 2006, EPA 1986, it has conducted a sham EIA study without TORs, the EIA is a copy paste document and we do not even know the status of the displaced population. The question here is not about 16000 hectares of irrigation. If the project had undergone honest and transparent environmental appraisal, it would not have affected the irrigated area. The question is how serious are we in implementing, upholding and respecting laws protecting people and environmental and our entire environmental governance system.

SANDRP has sent submissions to the EAC, MoEF as well as the KSPCB to cancel this sham of a public hearing for an existing project. Our eyes are now at the KSPCB and MoEF to see what action do they take against a project which undermines rules laid down by the MoEF and the laws of the land.

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP



Climate Change · Maharashtra

Maharashtra farmers face impacts of hailstorms and State’s “Inaction” Plan on Climate Change

Marathwada, Vidarbha, Northern Maharashtra and parts of Western Maharashtra are reeling under unprecedented hail storms and unseasonal rainfall. Hailstorms in end of February 2014, initially thought of as a one-off phenomenon, continue to batter places like Solapur for nearly two weeks now, absolutely destroying the farmer. Rabi crops like Wheat, Harbhara, Cotton, Jowar, summer onion are lost, horticultural crops like Papaya, sweet lime, grapes are battered and orchards which took years to grow are ridden to the ground. For many farmers the tragedy is unbearable as majority of crops were about to be harvested. Turmeric was drying in the sun, grapes were waiting to be graded, wheat was harvested and lying in the fields.

Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal
Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal

According to a preliminary estimate and news reports, crops over 12 lakh hectares have been severely affected, thousands of livestock, animals and birds have succumbed to injuries and diseases, which threaten to spread. Around 21 people have lost their lives to the disaster.[1]

Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal

The hailstorms developed as a response to hot, damp air from Bay of Bengal as well as Arabian Sea, rising and meeting the cold air coming south from the Himalayas, which led to formation of huge hail. This, though, is a very preliminary understanding of the phenomenon and hopefully, a clearer picture will arise in some time.

According to news reports, Madha Taluka in Solapur alone received 208 mm rainfall, Kurduwadi received 154.1 mm rainfall and Pandharpur received 63.95 mm rainfall in a single day[2].

SANDRP compared this rainfall with the 1901-2002 district wise rainfall dataset of IMD available at India Water Portal. 208 mm rainfall in Madha in March 2014 is 771.79% higher than the highest recorded monthly district rainfall for Solapur District for the entire month of March in the 100 years between 1901-2002! The highest total recorded rainfall of March for the district was 26.95 mm in 1915 [3]. Similarly, 65 mm rainfall received by Ausa Taluka in Latur[4] is 146 % higher than the highest 100 year recorded March rainfall of the district in 1944. Similar is the case with Parbhani, Akola, Wardha, etc.

While district rainfall masks extreme spikes due to averaging and also due to the distribution and location of rain gauges, this is truly unprecedented.

But is it also truly unexpected?

Is Climate Change an unknown phenomenon to us? IPCC[5] has predicted that in peninsular India, rainfall patterns will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events. What we are witnessing is certainly an extreme weather event.

That climate change is happening and that the reasons are anthropological is beyond debate[6]. Unfortunately, Climate change, its scientific status, its impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the changing climate do not enter discussions in functioning of Maharashtra government with any seriousness. Being a fuzzy, global phenomenon, linking climate change to singular events is difficult, though climate scientists are unanimous that there is footprint of climate change in each such extreme weather event.

The complexity of this issue does not allow us to brush the issue under the carpet. In the recent floods of United Kingdom, the issue of climate change was debated and led to serious discussions between researchers, climate scientists, politicians and policymakers and it seems that it will lead to an action plan.[7],[8]

Significantly, there are studies that claim that Marathwada and other regions of Maharashtra are vulnerable to Climate Change. In a 2012 paper by ICRISAT “Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience” (2009-2012) by Naveen Singh et al, which was highlighted in the latest edition of Adhunik Kisan, a Marathi magazine on agriculture, the authors have warned that Semi-Arid Tropics (SAT) in Maharashtra (as also the country) are specifically vulnerable to Climate Change. Their analysis of Maharashtra has shown that Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha are particularly vulnerable to climate change challenges, which include increase in the incidence of extreme weather events. Vulnerability index depends not only on the changing climate, but also on the vulnerability of the communities in the region: Despite hundreds of dams, agriculture in Marathwada region is mostly rain-fed, miniscule area which is irrigated appropriates all the water and grows sugarcane: a crop fundamentally unsuitable for a drought prone region, making the lesser endowed communities more and more vulnerable to challenges posed by climate changes or even small natural oscillations in the weather. This was seen very starkly in 2012-13 drought, when the region had highest area under sugarcane in Maharashtra, but several villages did not have water for drinking and dams became pawns at the hands of politicians-cum-sugar kings of the region.[9]

The ICRISAT Paper says, “In the SAT region, [10]Rainfall variability over the years is the major cause of yield uncertainty and makes rain-fed agriculture one of the risky enterprises in SAT India.

In SAT region of Maharashtra, long-term climatic analysis undertaken by ICRISAT shows “an average rise of 0.02°C per year in annual temperature in the last 40 years. In addition, the mean surface air temperature is projected to rise by 1.7-2.0°C by 2030 and 3.4-4.5°C by 2080 from the 1960-1990 . According to simulation studies, there can be productivity losses from 5% to 18% from 2030 to 2080 if no effective mitigation measures are undertaken. Differential degree of drought together with unpredictable rainfall variability has become common. This situation makes it difficult for the farmer to take pre-emptive decisions, resulting in crop and economic loss. Everyone is affected by this sudden change in weather. However, the extent of damage caused will be dependent upon each one’s ability to cope with the deleterious effects. The evidence, although incomplete, is indicative of major changes in the climatic conditions at macro levels. However, this masks the situation and variance at the local level. Greater vulnerability at the local levels implies greater pressure at the state and national level governance systems to respond to prevent the spillover effects such as urban migration, socio-political instability and conflicts, national poverty indicators, increased demands on disaster response systems, depletion of food and fodder production, etc.” However, there is no mention of increasing coping capacity of the vulnerable and compensating those who lose and demanding that those who are responsible (High consumption sections of the world and India) pay for these impacts in this long list.

According to an undated report ‘Climate change in Maharashtra’[11] brought out by Met Office (Hadley Centre, UK), TERI and Government of Maharashtra:

  • “Increased temperatures and altered seasonal precipitation        patterns (both in amount and timing) could affect the hydrological systems and agricultural productivity.
  • Increased risk of severe weather events may have a      devastating impact on agriculture, water resources, forestry and the well-being of the population.
  • TERI states that due to changing climate, Sugarcane yield in Maharashtra could go down by 30%

 When all this is known, what is Maharashtra’s response to these predictions and the looming challenge of Climate change?

 The National Action Plan on Climate Change was made public in June 2008 amidst huge fan fare by PM Manmohan Singh.[12] It was mandated that states will come up with State Action Plans for Climate Change by 31st March 2011. These State Action Plans would outline the vulnerability of the state as whole as well as specific regions and specific communities in the state to Climate change and recommend a strong adaptation and mitigation plan for overcoming these challenges. Till date (11th March 2014), SAPCCs of 12 states have been submitted to the MoEF. [13]

Maharashtra Cabinet had reportedly approved a State Action Plan for Climate change prepared by its environment department on Aug 20, 2009[14], however, the Maharashtra’s Action Plan is not finalized till date. When enquired about the status of this plan, the Director in Environment Department, Government of Maharashtra told SANDRP that they had contracted the plan to TERI and TERI has not completed the task till date.

Given the gravity of the issue, the State Action Plan for Climate Change is supposed to be overseen by a High Powered Committee, whose Chairperson is the Chief Minister, with participation from ministers of Urban Development, Public Works, Transport, Agriculture, Water resource, Revenue & Forest, Energy, industry, Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department and Education Department.[15] The agenda and minutes of meetings of this High Powered Group should have been in public domain, but none are.

A formal contract was signed between Government of Maharashtra and TERI in March 2010 and TERI was supposed to submit a complete report in two years, i.e., by March 2011. However, Maharashtra still does not have a state action plan, indicating its lack of seriousness about Climate Change and vulnerable communities.[16]

As Maharashtra continues to be battered by hailstorms, rainfall and winds, it is not useful to get into discussions of whether this is due to climate change or not. The challenges right now is to devise strategy that will help the most vulnerable sections of Maharashtra: its farmers, more than 85% of whom practice rain fed agriculture. It is time not only to seriously revamp the nearly non-existent disaster management systems, but also the weather prediction and crop insurance systems. To build resilience of farming communities, reliance cannot be put on monoculture like sugarcane which does not allow even protective irrigation to a large proportion of farmers outside the sugarcane belt.

After closely spaced events like Mumbai floods in July 2005, Phyan cyclone in 2009, 2012-13 drought, erratic monsoon rainfall and current hailstorms, Maharashtra cannot afford to drag its feet on addressing climate change challenges, organizations like WOTR are specifically working on strengthening capacities of local communities to adapt to challenges thrown by Climate change[17]. Let us hope that at least State Action Plan on Climate change is finalized, not only by the experts from far away, but with full participation of the people of Maharashtra. Similar rain induced damages are also being witnessed in the North India and scientists fear that the coming monsoon may suffer due to El Nino effect. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Fears-of-El-Nino-on-rise-may-spell-woes-for-the-economy/articleshow/31824485.cms)

In the meantime, the least that the government of Maharashtra and also the Union Government can do is to compensate the affected farmers irrespective of red tapes and Codes of conduct.

High-end consumers and polluters of India and abroad contribute to climate change, which ironically hits the poorest sections  of the society harder. This gives an added urgency to address these linked issues.

–          Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

[1] Sakal (Marathi) Newspaper, 11 March 2014

[10] The semi-arid tropics (SAT) region is characterized by highly variable, low-to-medium rainfall and poor soils, further characterized by lack of irrigation. In general, the historical average annual rainfall in the SAT is below 700 mm. In agricultural policy terms, this region is considered to be a less favored area (LFA) (ICRISAT)

[17] http://www.wotr.org/climate-change-adaptation


[18] VERY TRAGIC story of how hailstorms have hit poor farmers in Marathawada in Maharashtra: http://www.livemint.com/Specials/jkcra6zQqMShlFJjzmvXeN/Death-and-despair-in-hailstormhit-Marathwada.html

[19] Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate change: Farmers Suffer, State and consultant TERI unaffected https://sandrp.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2529&action=edit


Vijay Pandhare’s letter to Dr. Chitale: “Please fix responsibility of the irregularities”

It has been reported that the Special Investigation Team under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Madhavrao Chitale has submitted its 1300+ pages report on the Dam Scam and practically no increase in irrigated area in Maharashtra, to the Chief Minister.

Dr. Chitale has reportedly said that no political person has been named in the report, supposedly because it was not the mandate of his committee. In his words: “There was no question of mentioning the name of any minister or bureaucrat for the wrongdoings in irrigation sector as it was not permissible under the given guidelines. At the very beginning, it was made clear that findings will be very impersonal. The objective of the committee was never to engage in fault finding of any individual (politicians or bureaucrats) but rather larger concerns related to the systemic lapses that resulted in the cost overruns and allowed manipulation of rules,” 

This, though expected from Dr. Chitale, is entirely incorrect as the TORs to the SIT by the GOM, dated 31st Dec 2012 clearly mention 2.9: “If irregularity is found in investigations, the committee will fix responsibility and suggest further action.” in addition, the systemic lapses that have occured in Maharshtra have been sytematically abetted by many for personal gains. Not even attempting to fix the responsibility,is akin to giving a clean chit to the strong perpetrators.

The SIT report is not in the open domain as yet, but if it has indeed shied away from specifically naming guilty politicians, bureaucrats and engineers, then it is hugely problematic. The links between politicians, bureaucrats and engineers have been made clear by a number of whistle blowers of the irrigation scam at grave personal risks. The SIT had all the resources, the mandate, the time and the opportunity to investigate charges and radically influence Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. But right from the beginning, the SIT refused to look into matters of corruption, clearly indicating that it will not ‘dirty its hands’ and will go with the status quo, which suited the ruling government. Supporting Status Quo at such important juncture comes at a huge social cost. SIT’s composition as well as its stand was challenged by many, including SANDRP. (SANDRPs Press Release, Piece by Pradeep Purandare, New Reports, Pani Dhoran Manch PR)

One of the most significant whistle blowers of the Dam Scam, Vijay Pandhare, who was then the Chief Engineer of Irrigation Dept had written a scathing letter to Dr. Chitale in March 2013, when Chitale refused to investigate any evidence given by leader of opposition Vinod Tawde about corruption in the Irrigation sector.

This letter ( obtained and translated from Marathi into English by SANDRP) indicates Pandhare’s impassioned appeal to Dr. Chitale to investigate charges and fix responsibility as per the mandate of the committee.  Pandhare in fact says that: “If the SIT is going to be escapist about the issue of corruption, then it is better that you resign, listening to your inner voice, because such escapism would not be in the interest of the state.” He produces many evidences of wrong doings in the WRD. The scale of the problem described in the letter is staggering. We look forward to how these matters have been treated by the SIT Report.

Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP



Vijay Balawant Pandhare

Chief Engineer,

Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute, Nashik, and

Member, State Technical Advisory Committee,

Nashik- 422004


Dt- 16th March 2013


Shri. Madhavrav Chitale,


Special Investigation Team,

WALMI, Aurangabad

Subject- About inquiry into technical and financial discrepancies in Water Resources Department of Maharashtra


Respected Sir,

Regarding the subject sited above, it is learned through news reports of 6th March 2013 and through the broadcasts of Marathi news channels that, you have wrote to the Leader of Opposition Mr. Vinod Tawade stating your committee is not empowered to inquire officers and political representatives.[1]

In fact, while determining the mandate of your committee TORs explicitly mention “fixing the responsibility against any discrepancy and suggesting suitable action against it”.[2] The government has clearly mentioned in your mandate that “fix the responsibility against the discrepancy”. So, your stand that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) doesn’t have any investigating power is against this mandate. It is like Lord Ram deciding that he will not attack the evil spirit or will not oppose it. If you are not going to unmask these corrupt spirits through the special investigation team, would we have the moral right to seek respite from Lord Ram? Moderate and honest people like you are required to lead the bandwagon against such corrupt people and dishonest mentality. Such an opportunity is created because of the constitution of SIT. We believe that you would capitalize on it. ( Emphasis added, throughout the letter) The anarchy created in Water Resources Department is because of the non-functional office-bearers. If the officers would have been alert and selfless, such a catastrophic situation would have never come, however, it has been difficult in our times to see good officers rising through the ranks. It seems that picture would be very gloomy from here on. Therefore, it is your first responsibility to identify people who are responsible for such a situation, those who have created discrepancies and fix the responsibilities. After outlining the mandate, the state government has thrown a ball in your (SIT) court. Therefore, it will not be acceptable to adopt a stand which turns a blind eye towards all of these malpractices. The government has nowhere said that the committee has not investigative powers. The very name of the committee itself is a “Special”. Isn’t it contradictory to take up such a stand when the committee itself is called “Special Investigation Team” then? On the other hand, the committee should ask for complaints from all the people and investigate them all. But your stand seems to be something else altogether. Please don’t continue with that. (Emphasis added). There is no prohibition on any committee for accepting complaints from the people and collecting sufficient information pertaining to the investigation. If the committees like Vadnere, Kolwale, Mendhegiri etc. can determine the responsibilities on the defaulters, why can’t the SIT under Mr. Chitale?[3]

Earlier officers never took a firm stand against such malpractices which eventually culminated to degradation of Irrigation department. The responsibility of improving the situation has been entrusted with your team, otherwise, history will never forgive us. If the committee is going to be escapist about the issue of corruption, then it is better that you resign , listening to your inner voice, because such escapism would not be in the interest of the state. I can understand (although don’t justify) the attitude of political representatives about the scam, but honorable people like you need to take a strong stand to make the department disciplined. Im sure that escaping from this duty and saying that Pseical investigation team does not have the power to investigate is not something that your conscience would agree with. Despite that, your statement regarding Tawade’s letteris a clear indication that the team would shy away from such investigation. To improve the situation in Irrigation department, some surgical measures should be taken otherwise the financial crisis of the state would persist in the foreseeable future. I want to remind you that around 14-15 years back we personally met in Aurangabad and I had told you how pathetic and corrupt the administration has become. That time too, you had said that the political representatives have taken charge of everything and you were resigned in saying that it’s difficult to change the situation. But now the destiny has entrusted you with the responsibility to end these malpractices. We request you to please carry it out with the help of Mr. Ranade. It would be very unfortunate for Maharashtra if you are not going to fix the responsibilities against the observed malpractices, something which is clearly in the mandate of your team. If the projects are not getting completed even after 25-30 years, isn’t it a serious blunder by the policy makers? Shouldn’t we fix the responsibility ? Is it not sinful to float tenders, make payments against inflated costs, financially weaken the state and push people into drought situations? If you’re not going to prevent such practices, then who will? I was extremely surprised to learn about your stand. If you really want to serve for the betterment of Maharashtra, then taking a strong stand against such practices so that nobody would dare to tread this path is very much expected from you. If we all decide, then we will have “Ram-rajya” in our country. But if we are moving away from Lord Ram’s ideals, we have no turn to him for the help. (Emphasis added)

I’m enlisting the discrepancies that I observed while working in Water Resources Department. Kindly investigate them and fix the responsibilities against the defaulters so that nobody would ever dare to indulge in such practices.

Discrepancy No. 1-

Without investigating or envisaging properly, irrigation development corporations have approved budgets with inflated costs and have granted tenders at higher price to the contractors. This has resulted in wastage of billions of rupees of public funds. We request you to thoroughly investigate all the discrepancies and fix the responsibilities. So that, no political representative or contractor or engineer would ever indulge into it.  If no inquiry is conducted, these people would keep looting the state as well as nation with boosted confidence. That’s why the honest and selfless people should try to prevent such malpractices otherwise it is beyond doubt that our coming generations, our nation and the democracy will have a dark future.

For example, please note the projects in Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation-

  1. A.      Sulwade Lift Irrigation Scheme (Cost ₹ 2100 Cr)
  2. B.      Bodwad Lift Irrigation Scheme ( Cost ₹ 2200 Cr)
  3. C.      Prakasha-Burai Lift Irrigation Scheme (Cost ₹ 700 Cr)
  4. D.      Varangaon-talwel Lift Irrigation Scheme
  5. E.       Padmalay Lift Irrigation Scheme
  6. F.       Kurha-vadoda Lift Irrigation Scheme

Like these, thousands of tenders have been awarded. It is requested to permanently stop such cases.

Discrepancy No. 2

The projects that have been approved by respective development corporations have always witnessed increase in their scopes. You can find many such projects. White paper enlists such modifications under each scheme. Such modifications/ increments have been approved without giving proper thought to their impacts and hence these projects are bound to fail. Because, the projects which have been approved at inflated costs get less funds allocations and eventually results in the projects remaining incomplete for more than three decades and there is no way these projects would be complete in next 30 years either. Therefore, the officers and politicians who approved such changes should be held responsible for these discrepancies.

Discrepancy No.3-

The way in which each development corporation has cited their cost break-up would stun anyone. It is clear that the interests and the benefits of the contractors have been secured by employing multiple tricks. It has been a very common trend in Konkan and Vidarbh Irrigation Development Corporations. Other corporations are not an exception either. The episode of the inflated costs paid against the steel pipes in Jigaon Project Lift Irrigation Scheme is indeed well-known. Vidarbh Irrigation Development Corporation itself has cancelled ₹ 2900 Cr tenders because those were based on such inflated costs. We request the SIT to investigate such discrepancies in the budget of the said projects. To prevent such incidences from happening again, such incidences should be thoroughly investigated and defaulters must be brought to the book. Please investigate the cost sheets of following items-

  1. 1.       Hearting and casing items
  2. 2.       Pitching items
  3. 3.       Rising main and steel pipe items in lift irrigation schemes
  4. 4.       Radial gate fabrication rates
  5. 5.       Dewatering items, excessive dewatering
  6. 6.       Concrete and masonry items

The SIT should also probe the various reasons cited for increasing the costs.

Discrepancy No-4

There have been humongous discrepancies in the “C” grade tenders. In most of the cases, despite being “C” level tender, “EIRL”s of hundreds of thousands of rupees have been passed and even the claims have been settled too. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate all the EIRLs and claims against them from all the development corporations. The SIT should ask for information in a tabular form about all the EIRLs and respective settled claims from all the irrigation development corporations, and probe the serious cases. Otherwise there would be no check on such malpractices.  For example, I’m referring to the Nardawe project EIRL here. Despite being a “C” tender, KIDC (Kokan irrigation Development Corporation) has granted EIRLs worth ₹ 30-40 Cr. Moreover, it has also settled the claims for machinery idle charges without taking due permission from the state government. Due to less availability of funds, the contractors have made it a trend to show that their machinery have been idle on paper and have been receiving the idling charges. Big projects have been approved with administrative approvals and now idling charges are being paid citing the unavailability/ insufficiency of funds. Projects are incomplete for years because of unavailability of funds and according to price escalation clause of the tenders, hundreds of thousands of crores are being paid to the contractors. The situation is so grim that the actual expense incurred on work is marginal and that on price the escalation is multifold. For example, let’s see the Sulwade Lift Irrigation Scheme of Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation. Work order was granted 14 years ago. Because of unavailability of funds, ₹ 15 Cr have been spent on the actual work. However, during the same period, the price escalation has been of ₹ 700 Cr! There are many such projects which have not begun in last 14 years. The responsibilities of such agonizing planning must be fixed on responsible people.

Discrepancy No. 5-

The earthen dams which are being constructed under B-1 tender, exhibit “excessive” cross-sections while the works under “C” tender have “under-sized” cross sections. Engineers from Central Design Organisation:  MERI must have had a hand in this. This is commonly known but nobody talks about it. The best example of how these engineers from the mentioned organizations have given wrong design is of Radial gates. The variations made for the same sized radial gates are worth visiting. The radial gates size of Gosi-khurd, Shelgaon barrage, and Lower Tapti projects are same. In fact, their weights should have been more or less identical. But, their weightages have been absolutely irrational. Weightage of Lower Tapti is 208 MT/Gate but that of Gosikhurd has 159 MT/ gate weightage. This one example is sufficient. The weight of steel has been increased by around 1000 folds. To stop such things, SIT should give special emphasis on such practices and prevent their repetition.  Against this backdrop, Konkan, Krishna valley, Tapti, Godavari and Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporations should be thoroughly investigated. Nardawe project of KIDC has two Cut of trench (COT). Such technical irregularities have been followed which must be stopped. The investigation of Balganga project would yield many shocking cases. It would be interesting to check how much cement grouting and expenses have been incurred to stop the leakage of Bhatsa project.

Discrepancy No.6.-

There have been numerous attempts in Maharashtra to raise the height of the dam wall. The existing dams do not get completely filled in the first place. Despite that, the department has consented to raise the dam wall height in hundreds of dams. Raising height has always been an expensive affair which has resulted in increased expenses. It has been a norm with Maharashtra’s Irrigation Department that anybody would ask for raising the height and the department would float the tender.  Considering the availability of funds with the state, contemplative policy makers would not have indulged in such things. But the unwise leadership has encouraged such attempts and dealt a permanent damage to all of us. It is clear that receiving cuts (percentages) against floating tenders has been a common norm here. If you would enlist the projects which witnessed such height raising, the SIT would understand the irregularities.

Discrepancy No. 7-

Many high cost and unviable projects have been undertaken/ are proposed to be undertaken under the name of increasing irrigation. When there has been no feasibility on the site, is there a case for floating high cost budget? While we have shortage of funds, such expensive affairs would not have been advisable. But some political representatives and engineers have made us bankrupt. I’m enlisting few projects here, the SIT should probe into them-

  1. 1.       Manjarpada Project Phase 1, Nashik
  2. 2.       Nerdhamne Project- Akola
  3. 3.       Shahapur Project- Akola
  4. 4.       Waghadi Project- Amaravati
  5. 5.       Chandrabhaga Project- Amaravati
  6. 6.       Kawatha Project- Amaravati

Despite the financial crunch in the state, nobody has bothered to talk sense into the cost estimates. How could we ever adopt the projects worth ₹ 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, and 2 thousand crores? The SIT must probe into this. It shows the prevalent mentality of satisfying political agendas from public funds and siphoning it off as much as possible. It is our responsibility to uproot such mentalities. Otherwise the democracy will not survive. We will see selfish anarchy rising in our country. We have come a long way from selfless leaders like Gandhi- Nehru to our current tender-floater leadership.

Discrepancy No-8

There is an urgent need to probe the tunnel works being done in Krishna river valley. There have been many tunneling works undertaken in Krishna valley without any rational basis. If one checks the rate analysis of all the excavation work, the rates would appear to have been inflated. There have been many big tunnels undertaken instead of small ones. It is a common practice to float the tender with small sized tunnels and increasing the size of the tunnel later on. SIT should probe into the works undertaken for all the tunnels so that such mistakes won’t be repeated. If the team would investigate the tunnel works in Manjarpada-1 project, such practices would be unmasked.

Discrepancy No.-9

Many projects have been granted water availability certificates from the जलविज्ञान कार्यालय (Hydrology Project) of the government as a special case, which are violations of law. The SIT should make a list of all such cases and probe them to avoid repetitions. Despite the lack of water, projects are undertaken and then they never fill up for years together. Painaganga valley has seen several such examples and still, the water availability certificates have been granted 1.5 times more than the actual water availability on ground. We request you to investigate them all.

Discrepancy No 10-

There has been no master plan for any of the irrigation development corporation approved at the government level. In absence of approved master plan, the projects have been pushed forward. We would not have been in such an unfortunate situation if the state government would have prepared a master plan and then adopted the projects accordingly. Policy makers and secretary level bureaucrats are responsible for not approving such a master plan. There is a need to fix the responsibility of this irregularity and the government must plan its irrigation-related works according to a master plan. But some political leaders don’t let this happen because they want to earn unfair profits out of it. Kindly suggest a measure which would permanently do away with this malpractice.

Discrepancy No 11-

There has been an unfortunate trend in Maharashtra of showing a new project as a part of old project on the papers and floating the tenders without taking administrative approval. Hundreds of projects have been undertaken in such a fashion. SIT should ask for the information from all the development corporations and fix the responsibility of respective irregularity. 12 barrages of Godavari, Manjarpada 1 project could be cited for example. Therefore, we request you to suggest a permanent solution against this malpractice.

Discrepancy No. 12-

It is such a shame that the projects are not being completed for 20-40 years. It reflects our poor thinking and planning. We need to put a cap on the budgets of the projects. The planning should be such that any project must be completed within 5 years. We should stop the costs of projects running as high as ₹ 5, 10, 15 thousand crores. If the political leaders from the areas of Takari, Mhaisal, Tembhu lift irrigation schemes have not been able to complete these projects despite being in power, when would the projects of other areas be completed? The team must contemplate on this and create a work discipline in Maharashtra. Kindly fix the responsibility for taking so many lift irrigation schemes when not even 1% of the 300 schemes undertaken by the irrigation department are operational. Kindly suggest the measures for future so as to prevent the wastage of public funds.

Discrepancy No. 13-

There have been many irregularities in Mechanical department (यांत्रिकी विभाग) of Water Resources Department. Vigilance cell has received many complaints. Executive engineer, vigilance team, Pune has submitted the report to the government saying there have been humungous irregularities in the Mechanical wing. I request to inquire into it so that there would be a discipline within the mechanical wing. Nobody is paying attention to irregularities in that division.

Discrepancy No. 14-

There has been no provision for technical audit in the department. Therefore, there has never been a verification of technical matters. To prohibit people from indulging in technically flawed work, it is requested to start a technical audit on the basis of AG. Therefore, there would be check on technically flawed decisions. All planning has collapsed because of the wrong estimates.

Discrepancy No 15-

Currently the state government doesn’t supply the cement for the project works, contractors buy it on their own. Therefore, the department has lost control on cement usage. There has been a tremendous corruption in cement related matters. The main reason behind stopping the supply of cement has been that the contractors find it difficult of sell the cement after the work is done. However, no irrigation development corporation has ever undertaken the thorough check up of delivery challan and excise gate passes as per the tender conditions. Therefore, there is a huge corruption in cement usage. SIT can easily prove it. There would be a shocking revelation- and it should come out- if once checks the used cement, verified delivery challans and gate passes. Every engineer knows it but they prefer to keep quiet. But, SIT should probe this and fix the responsibilities. 23 km long lining of Gosikhurd Left Bank Canal has been completely taken out because of the poor quality. The reports of executive engineers of Maharashtra Engineering Research Institute (MERI), exposing the poor quality of work done in Lower Tapi and Tarali have been suppressed. Please at least stop this corruption by supplying cement to contractors. People would be grateful to you if you could do that.

Discrepancy No. 16-

There have been too many irregularities in the irrigation department under the name of Arbitration. A closer look at all the cases of arbitration would surface these irregularities and malpractices. Especially in Marathwada, Pune, Konkan divisions and more so, in Koyana project, the corruption has been many folds. The arbitration has been the best example of how the officials indulge in corruption instead of taking the decisions in the best interest of the country. Therefore, there is a need to re-audit all the arbitration cases. Please suggest strong measures to prevent such things from happening again.

Discrepancy No. 17-

Right now, the IPI circles are almost equal to none in the water resources department. Therefore, the contractors themselves prepare the budget estimates. They prepare the estimates as they please, get them approved using political pressures and siphon off the public funds. That’s a norm! This has to stop immediately and the department must newly create IPI circles in each regional department. Isn’t it obvious to the government? To the political representatives? But they all have deliberately made those mistakes. I request to find the defaulters in those cases.

Discrepancy No 18-

Earlier the state also used to provide steel to the contractors. But now contractors themselves buy the steel. Like cement, the department has lost its control on steel usage and the risk of re-rolling steel being used in the work has increased. This is indeed serious. Therefore, it is requested that the steel should be supplied under Schedule-A like before. People who have taken such wrong decisions must be identified along with their faults.

Discrepancy No. 19-

I also request you to probe into all the steel gate fabrication works done by contractors for the rates of fabrication. In Jigaon Lift Irrigation Scheme, the fabrication rates- like the steel pipe rates- have been divorced from reality. If you would check the gates on Tapi, you can realize how the costs have been inflated. If all the irrigation development corporations are asked to submit the steel fabrication rates, irregularities of crores of rupees would be exposed.

Discrepancy No 20-

There has been a tremendous corruption in all the corporations under the clause 38 and claims. Therefore, it is requested that all the clause 38 and claims cases of all the corporations be investigated. One would be surprised by the subsequent revelation of how the costs and respective works are inflated. It is worth investigating how the officers and politicians have joined hands to commit “mistakes”. Engineers know the kind of pressure and tensions faced by the good officers who were opposing these decisions. Everybody knows how the people opposing it were insulted. These incidences are common in KIDC and so also in other corporations. Those should be investigated.

Discrepancy No. 21-

Cost of many items has been inflated beyond comprehension in all the corporations. It would be really an eye-opener exercise to check how the revised administrative approvals have been granted year-wise. For example, if you would compare the earlier tenders with the budget estimates in the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation, you would easily find the irregularities. They have been happening all over. The rates have been inflated tremendously. Comparing the rate analysis method that was adopted before 1980 and the one in effect now would prove it. By use of machines, the rates should have actually gone down but they have been raised by deploying various tricks. Investigating in such cost escalation and finding the defaulters is the need of the hour so that nobody would ever dare to indulge in such malpractices.

Discrepancy No 22-

The tenders have been awarded with high costs across all the corporations. If the true competitive bidding would have taken place, the tenders would have been awarded with 25-30% lesser rates and the works would have also been done because the rates of the rate index were higher as well. Instead of that the tenders are awarded with the higher percentage. Everyone knows how the tenders are floated at the government level. SIT should probe into all the tenders which have been awarded above percentage. The 3 large bridges which were built by Tapti Irrigation Development Corporation in the submergence area are higher than the current rate index by 60%, 70% and 80%. This is a serious irregularity. Probing into such high cost tenders awarded by all the corporations would yield the serious corruption in public expenditure. That’s why ₹ 2900 Cr tenders had to be cancelled in one go. Such a shame!

The costs of barrages built on Godavari, are raised by constructing a large dam without any reason. This is a shameful waste of money when there has been a financial crisis. Everybody has fallen prey to such hideous plans. All of these actions should be investigated into and the defaulters must be brought to the book.

Discrepancy No. 23-

Some of the irregularities have been brought to your notice. Apart from these, it is requested to you to suggest strong measures to prevent ground level and foundation level scams. Please assign at least three people to cross check such activities. It saddens me to think how much state is losing in all of such scams. But everyone seems to have become insensitive. Those who oppose it are transferred. Politicians don’t even know about technical sins. We need to stop all such mismanagement and misuse of power. The crimes pertaining to such adjustments would be exposed by checking the earlier Cement delivery chalan and gate passes of RA-bills.

Discrepancy No 24-

All the corporations have been routinely floating the tenders for a project based on the designs of other project and later on escalating the costs by several folds based actual design. It is requested that such information be collected from all the corporations and identifying the responsible people so that these irregularities would never occur.

Discrepancy No 25-

The high cost tenders are floated just to siphon off public funds. What can you call this practice- of preparing a budget estimate with hundreds of thousand crores, awarding the tender, spending around ₹ 10-15 Cr only in the beginning against the advance, and then for next 14 years, the project doesn’t get any money while the cost of the project rises from ₹ 600 Cr to ₹ 2100 Cr!

Do you think these projects would ever be complete? The worst cases in this regards are Sulwadi, Jamphal Lift Irrigation Scheme, Prakasha-Burai Lift Irrigation schemes etc. The tenders of hundreds of thousands of rupees of the projects on which less than 25 % of funds have been spent must be cancelled with immediate effect. Instead, the works costing less than ₹ 100 Cr should be undertaken otherwise the state would never come out of the financial crunch.

Discrepancy No 26-

There needs to be a thorough investigation into Takari, Tembhu, Mhaisal Lift Irrigation Schemes. Despite spending crores of rupees in last 25 years, the farmers are not getting water. The responsible people must be unmasked after thorough investigation. The machinery installed 20-25 years ago has its days numbered. Isn’t the expenditure totally wasted? What is the use of the projects which can’t even irrigate 10-15 % of the promised irrigated area? It is requested that kindly compile the information from respective departments and probe into them. Please suggest strict measures about Lift Irrigation Schemes as well. (It is also requested that please investigate Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Schemes, Khuntefal storage lake, Kurha- Vadoda Lift Irrigation Schemes as well).

Discrepancy No 27-

Granting the advance money while there is no provision in the tender has also been one of the unfortunate norms. It is requested to collect the information from the respective corporations and identify the defaulters. For example- Five lift irrigation schemes of the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation.

Discrepancy No. 28-

All the irrigation development corporations have indulged in floating and awarding the tenders without legitimate surveys and optimum designs. I request you to seek the information on all such cases and find the defaulters. All the “C” Tenders awarded in the state fall under this irregularity. Therefore, please fix the responsibility of such “C” Tenders after conducting due investigations, especially in case of “C” tenders awarded under Krishna valley, Tapti and Kokan irrigation development corporation.

Discrepancy No. 29-

We have many projects in Maharashtra which have violated the I. S. Code norms and received approvals. 12 barrages on Godavari are the best examples of such violations. I would not be surprised if sooner or later these barrages would create some or the other kind of problem. Not taking flood design into account as per I. S. Code, especially in case of river like Godavari, is a serious blunder. I request you to investigate all such cases from respective corporations and fix the responsibilities.

Discrepancy No 30-

All the corporations have been floating and awarding the tenders without completing land-acquisition and rehabilitation of the affected families and obviously projects keep lagging for years together in absence of such important formalities. It is requested to find the responsible people and fix their responsibility

Discrepancy No 31-

It’s an open secret why the files are sent back to cabinet minister for “Liability Sanction” after completing all the due procedures of awarding the tender. The truth would come out if the data-wise investigations are carried in all such cases of liability sanction. Such kind of hegemony never takes place in any of the states in India. Please look into the matter and suggest preventive measures.

Discrepancy No 32-

In most of the estimates about the projects of Konkan and Vidarbha, though the excavation works have been done with the help of machinery, lift schemes are proposed in the rate analysis. So also in cases of pit filling works done using the machinery of hearting. Please summon the respective corporations over such irregularities, ask for the detailed reports and fix the responsibilities on defaulters.

Discrepancy No 33-

The budgets and estimates prepared by all the corporations are never checked/ cross-checked properly and are directly submitted to the state technical advisory committee. All the irrigation development corporations have been indulging into this. Nobody has so far been suspended no matter how many blunders the person committed. So, everyone has become fearless of law and the politicians have become god fathers of such corrupt people. Kindly investigate into all such matters and find the defaulters so that such activities would stop.

I’ve highlighted some of the major irregularities happening in the department. I request the SIT to come out with the measures which would prevent repetition of such things. It is further requested to take away powers to transfer the officers from politicians. The situation would be much different if the politicians are kept out of these transfer mechanisms.

Also, there should be no involvement of politicians as far as tender processes are concerned. The unfathomable corruption in tender processes would stop only if the politicians are kept at bay. Kindly recommend robust measures for that.

Lastly, I beg you for recommending the government to move away from constructing large dams, big canals, huge lift schemes, and budgets spanning over millions of rupees etc. otherwise the situation would never improve.

There is a need to revisit the fundamentals of irrigation schemes and adopt small dams, water conservation measures like Shirpur patterns etc. Large dams should be taken up only in exceptional cases. The situation seems pretty grim considering the large dams, canals, and distribution networks that we have undertaken in last 50 years. We need to check if the area which was supposed to be irrigated, has really been benefited. There is no point in digging wells for the purpose of percolation either. What has happened to the commitment that we had made in the beginning? Its review would prove that our total irrigation efficiency doesn’t even exceed 15%. So please review and revisit our irrigation policies. The state would have had much better irrigation had the Shirpur of such small, appropriate technology patterns had been adopted. Unfortunately the state has suffered the most because of the people with insatiable greed for power and money- be it engineers, or politicians or contractors. The political leaders have stripped the state of all its possessions. Therefore, I beg you to drastically change the irrigation policy. I pray to the ultimate creator that you would change the situation for the betterment of Maharashtra.

It does not matter if the team would need an extension, or if an additional investigation team would be composed, but, please create an order in the state.


Vijay Pandhare

Chief Engineer META and

Member, State Technical Advisory Committee

Nashik 4


Letter dates 20.02.12 ( 9 pages)

Letter dated 5.5.12 (15 Pages)

Letter dated 12.10.12 ( 4 pages)

Copy to:

Hon. Governor, GOM, Mumbai for appropriate instructions

Hon. Chief Minister, GOM, Mumbai for appropriate instructions

Hon. Chief. Secy, GOM, Mumbia for appropriate action

Hon. Principal Secy, Irrigation Department, GOM, Mumbai

Shri. V. M. Ranade, Retd. Secy and Member, SIT

Translated from Marathi to English by Damodar Pujari

[2] From SANDRP: TORs of SIT , GOM, 31 December 2012, Point No. 2.9 States: If irregularity found in the investigation, it should be investigated, responsibility should be fixed and action to be taken should be suggested.

[3] We have shifted the placing to this para

Arunachal Pradesh · Expert Appraisal Committee

Hydromania in Arunachal Pradesh: Massive 1850 MW Dam Planned Without Any Basic Data, Not even Water Flow Data…

‘MoU Virus’ was the term used by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in May 2008 to describe the speed at which the Memorandum of Understanding or MoUs for hydropower projects were signed by Arunachal Pradesh government. Five years after that virus attack, the ill-effects are clearly visible. The construction of Lower Subansiri hydropower project has been stopped for 26 months now. Environment and Forest clearances are yet to be accorded to 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose dam, even though the foundation stone for this dam was laid by none other than the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 31st January 2008. Lower Siang hydropower project public hearing was vehemently opposed by people. But learning no lesson from these, the government of Arunachal Pradesh and the center is going ahead with its gigantic plan to make Arunachal Pradesh the ‘future powerhouse’ of the country. In doing so scientific studies and ground realities have been blatantly neglected.

Oju hydropower project in the Subansiri river basin with a proposed installed capacity of 1850 MW is the latest example of the hydromania, which has gripped the government of Arunachal Pradesh and the center. Oju HEP is the upper most project proposed on the Subansiri river in the Upper Subansiri district with a catchment area of 9827 sq. km. up to the dam site. The project was considered for Terms of Reference (TOR) or first stage of environmental clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley and Hydroelectric projects (EAC) in its 72nd meeting held on 20th and 21st February this year. But there is little information available about the actual situation of the project area.  Before going any further, consider the following situations –

Any scientific study is yet to be done at the dam site. Water flow data which is a prerequisite for construction of a hydropower dam is not available for the proposed dam site. No gauge and discharge measurement site at the project site or anywhere in the catchment of the dam.

The project area is totally under forest cover. It holds rich biodiversity which is yet to be explored.

* There is no road to reach the project area. The distance between the dam site of Oju hydropower project and Limeking town, the last point of motarable road is 60 km. From Daporijo, the headquarters of Upper Subansiri district, the dam site is 210 km away. 

Tentative Road Network to Project Site Source: Oju PFR
Tentative Road Network to Project Site
Source: Oju PFR

A small hydropower project is proposed to be constructed in a nearby stream in order to fulfill the electricity requirement during the construction of the project.  

SNC-Lavalin, the consultants hired for preparation of detailed project report, is known to be one of most corrupt engineering firms in the world.

All the situations mentioned above are drawn from the project documents submitted to MoEF. It was shocking to find that without any environmental baseline assessment, the Pre Feasibility Report and Form I made all kinds of sweeping assertions. This hydromania is leading to nothing but ignorant, unscientific and corrupt decision making. 

SANDRP after reviewing the project documents, made a detailed submission to EAC on February 13th pointing out the critical issues related with Oju HEP. We asked the EAC not to consider the project for TOR clearance. We also demanded that the project proponent should  be  asked  to  get  at  least  five  years’  daily  water  flow, gauge, rainfall and sediment data at the project site before applying for TOR clearance. The critical issues mentioned in SANDRP’s submission on Oju HEP to EAC are listed below.

Critical Issues of Oju HEP

No More Projects Should be Cleared in Subansiri basin before Completion of Basin Study From 20007 to 2013, four projects in Subansiri basin has been considered by EAC along with one sub-basin study. All the four projects have been given TOR clearance. Subansiri Upper HEP has been given TOR extension on 6th June 2013. The total installed capacity of these projects are 4960 MW. It is also important to note that 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project is in under construction phase. This implies that nearly 6960 MW of capacity has already been given clearance by EAC without any cumulative impacts assessment study of Subansiri basin being completed through a participatory process. This capacity is in addition to the small hydropower projects in the basin.

The Subansiri sub-basin study was discussed for the first time in 68th EAC meeting in 2013. In that meeting the EAC had stated that “optimal number and locations of HEPs and similar projects to be planned in the basin conforming strictly to ecological and environmental sustainability is to be clearly delineated.” This can only be known once the basin study is completed.

In this situation, no more projects in Subansiri basin should be given any clearance till the cumulative study is being completed. Besides, the EAC must take into account the fact that cumulative impact assessment study of the basin is major demand of the organizations whose agitation has stopped the construction work of Lower Subansiri with the support of the people of Assam. Therefore it is very essential that a through and detailed cumulative impact assessment study is done for Subansiri in participation with all the people of the basin. Without this, clearances given to projects would face the same fate as the Lower Subansiri project is now facing: Work stopped for 26 months till now.

A list of projects cleared by EAC in Subansiri basin is given below.

Sl. No Project State Sub-Basin Ins Cap Status Meeting date Total Area Req. ha Forest Land, ha
1. Subansiri Lower AP Subansiri 2000 Under construction EC on 16-07-03 4111 4039.9
2. Subansiri Middle AP Kamla 1600 TOR Approved 25-09-10 3180 1333
3. Nalo HEP AP Subansiri 360 TOR Approved 11-12-11 662.94
4. Naba AP Subansiri 1000 TOR Approved 03-05-13 658
5. Subansiri Upper AP Subansiri 2000 TOR Ext Granted 06-06-13 3155 2170

Premature application Reading the PFR and Form I on the EAC website shows that project has come rather prematurely for TOR clearance. There is no gauge and discharge measurement site at the project site or anywhere in the catchment, the nearest site is at Upper Subansiri dam site with catchment area about 50% higher than that of Oju HEP. Even for this site, the flow measurement observations are available only for 6 years. How can optimum parameters of a massive project with 1850 MW capacity be formulated without any flow measurements, which is the most important parameter for hydropower project. Even now the flow measurements do not seem to have begun. There are no roads to the project area. It should be remembered that this is a virgin site, and there have been no environmental baseline assessments and yet the PFR and Form I are making all kind of sweeping assertions. The PP should be asked to get back with such an application only after they have at least five years of observation data of water flow and other parameters. That the application is premature is also apparent from the drastic changes the project capacity has gone through so far, as described in PFR. 

Oju HEP's nearest gauge is located in Menga, also the site for Subansiri Upper HEP. But there are four hydropower projects planned between Oju and Subansiri Upper.  Source: Form I of Oju HEP
Oju HEP’s nearest gauge station is located at Menga which the site for Subansiri Upper HEP. But there are four hydropower projects planned between Oju and Subansiri Upper. Source: Form I of Oju HEP

This premature-ness of the proposal is further confirmed when we see contradictory figures in the submitted documents about basic project parameters. For example dam height is given as 110 m (sec 8) at one place and 115 m at another place. Live Storage capacity is given as 2.065 MCM at some place, 3.3 MCM elsewhere (e.g. sec 4.4 of PFR). Power intake design discharge is given as 327.4 cumecs at some places and 333.39 cumecs elsewhere (e.g. sec 2.2 of Form 1).

Proposal in contradiction with Cumulative Impact Assessment This proposal before EAC for a 1850 MW Oju project is in contradiction with what is given in the Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) commissioned by the CWC and which was discussed in the 68th meeting of  EAC. The CIA says (see para 3 of Ex Summary) that there are two Oju projects: “Oju – I (1925 MW), Oju – II (2580 MW)”. However, the proposal now before the EAC is one project with capacity lower than any single project! However, Table on page 15 of CIA says Oju I has 700 MW and Oju II has 1000 MW capacity! The CIA says the submergence area of Oju I is 72.3 ha, though the proposal now before EAC for the same dam says the dam has submergence area of 42.3 ha! CIA says design flood is 10500 cumecs for Oju I (same dam as Oju now before EAC), but the proposal before EAC says PMF is much lower at 5983. This shocking series of numbers show that both the reports of Oju project before EAC and the CIA are misleading and do not seem to know what they are talking about. This is not an exhaustive list of contradictions, there are many more, this is only for illustration. 

Map of Subansiri RIver Basin  Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf
Map of Subansiri RIver Basin
Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf

Proposal different than allotment The PP was allotted two separate projects Oju I and II by Arunachal Pradesh government, but they have decided to club the two, but there is no agreement between Arunachal Pradesh and PP for the new parameters in the project proposed before EAC. Without such an agreement, EAC consideration of the project would be vacuous.

Huge Land Requirement The Form I of Oju project states that the area which will come under submergence due to the formation of the reservoir excluding the river bed is 34.3 ha. Including the river bed the total submergence is 43.2 ha. But the total land requirement is 760 ha implying that the required for dam, water conductor system, power house and other project appurtenances is about 727 ha. It is not clear why 760 ha of land is required for the project when reservoir submergence is 43.2 ha.

Contradictory figures about Land Requirement The Form I in the table providing basin information about the project states that “The total land to be acquired for the project is 760 ha.” But the PFR in section 12.2 in page 15 states “It is estimated that about 790 Ha of land would be required for development of the Project.” This shows that the project proponent is not clear about the land requirement for the project. 

Threat to Huge Forest area The construction of Oju HEP will be a threat to a huge forest area. Page 17 the Form I states “…760 ha of land with forest cover is to be acquired for the project. Forest cover is also observed within the project as well as area within 15 km from the project site.” But the PFR does not specify how much forest area will be actually diverted. 

River Subansiri flowing through its lush green valley
River Subansiri flowing through its lush green valley

Installed Capacity is more than 1850 MW The installed capacity of Oju project is more than 1850 MW since a dam toe power house of 28 MW is also planned. This makes the total installed capacity in 1878 MW. The documents in most of the places mentioned installed capacity of the project as 1850 MW. The EAC therefore should ask the project proponent to apply for fresh TOR clearance with renewed installed capacity.

Oju Project Proponent aims to Construct Three Projects in the Name of One: Small Hydro project to Power the Construction Work The EAC should take a note that project proponent of Oju, is aiming to construct three hydro power projects in the name of one. We have already mentioned about the first two. Now in section 10.7 of page 10-7, the PFR documents states “The power requirement for construction activities is estimated to about 25.0 MVA taking into consideration the capacity of electric driven equipments which are to work during the construction period and lighting. The possibility of constructing small hydro power plants on streams in the vicinity of the project would also be explored at DPR stage.”

The Form I also mentioned about small HEP in page 10 -“The estimated peak requirement of power is about 25MW required for construction activity of major works such as tunnels, adits, barrage area and power house complex. Construction power requirement is proposed to be met by DG Sets/Small HEP.” Full details including impact assessment of this small HEP should be included in the TOR.

Stretch of Free Flowing River between Two Projects on Subansiri It is not clear how much flowing river stretch is available between Oju and downstream Nare HEP. According to the minimalist norms followed by EAC the free flowing stretch between two projects should be minimum one kilometer. But the PFR of Oju HEP have not clearly mentioned this distance anywhere. The Cascade development figure given in the PFR says that the elevation difference between TWL of Oju (1300 m) and FRL of Nare (1280 m) is just 20 m. If we look at the average slop at the site, this translates to about half a km. The PP should be asked to change the parameters to increase this to more than a km at least.

It is also important to specify this distance between two projects because of the cumulative impacts of the project. The Siang basin study in its recent version, which will be discussed in the same 72nd EAC meeting has asked to change the FRL and TWL of some of the projects because they have not kept minimum distance of one kilometer between projects. The basin study report in section 12.1.3 stated “…..it is recommended that FRL of three projects viz. Tato II, Naying and Siyom Middle should be slightly reduced so that free flowing river stretches of 1 Km can be maintained between FRL and TWL of these four projects in cascade.”

Therefore Oju HEP PFR should clearly mention the distance between its TWL and FRL of the downstream project. EAC also should make this compulsory for all the projects in other river basins.

Form I and PFR contradictory about the Generating Units The Form I of Oju HEP in page 20 states that the installed capacity of 1850 MW will be generated through eight units of 231.25 MW each. But PFR on the other hand, in section 9 of page 8 states “The underground powerhouse, housing eight units of 225 MW each, is proposed on the right bank of the river Subansiri.” It is surprising to find such contradictions in the Form I and PFR of Oju project.

The PFR in page 13 again states “As mentioned earlier, project’s installed capacity has been fixed at 1850 MW and correspondingly, eight generating units of 231.25 MW, each, are proposed in the powerhouse.”

Huge Diversion of the River The Oju HEP will divert a huge length of the river. Page 1 of the PFR states, “The dam site is located at about 60 km upstream of Limeking and powerhouse site is located at about 40 km upstream of Limeking on the right bank of Subansiri river.” This implies that the river has been diverted for 20 km between the dam site and the power house (The head race length is 14.82 km). . This is a huge diversion of the river Subansiri which will have disastrous impacts on the health and ecosystem of the river. But neither the Form I nor the PFR provide what is the length of the river to be diverted for the project.

Subansiri carries significant amount of sediment The PFR report of Oju project in section 7.5.2 states “Since Subansiri River is expected to carry some amount of sediment during monsoons, effective management of sediment removal from the reservoir should be ensured.” Stating that the river carries some sediment is not correct since this river system is known for high sedimentation due to its location in the young Himalayan mountain range.

Reference to this can be found in the January-March, 2003 issue Ecologist Asia (page 12) which was focused on dams in northeast “The catchments of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries show significantly high rates of basin denudation especially after the great earthquake of 1950. The catchments of the Subansiri, Jia Bharali and the Manas along with the Dihang (Siang) are estimated to have experienced an average denudation of 73-157 cm./1000 years over just 24 years (1955-79). The increasing amounts of sediment and water yields downstream indicate an increase in sediment yield by a whopping 240% accompanied by an equally significant rise of nearly 120% in water yield during the period 1971-1979 between Tsela D’Zong (China) and Ranaghat (India).

Therefore first the sediment flow should be properly assessed.

Detailed and Thorough Options Assessment A detailed and through options assessment should be done for Oju project. There can be several other cost effective options for power generation in this area and options assessment should look into all such options. The options assessment should also look at whether the local people or the state needs such a huge capacity hydropower project.

It is important here to note that successful sub-megawatt capacity hydropower projects (Less than 1 MW) are currently under operation in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh. (see – Anjaw shines in hydro power sector).

The TOR for the project does not include the following key aspects:

1. Issues related to cumulative impact assessment due to various components of the project and various projects in the basin.

2. The disaster vulnerability of the area on various aspects like landslides, earthquakes, floods, etc and how these will change with changing climate and how the project will change the disaster vulnerability of the area. There should be a separate chapter in EIA on this.

3. The project should do actual environment flow assessment and not just take the EAC norms as given. There should be separate chapter in EIA on this. The statement in Form 1 section 1.24 “Environmental Flows as per MOEF norms shall be released” is thus clearly premature and unwarranted. Eflows should be on daily changing basis and not seasonal averages.

4. Full Downstream social and environmental Impact Assessment

5. Impacts Peaking Power Operations

6. Assessment of impact of reservoir operation and mechanism to achieve transparent, accountable reservoir operation.

7. Impacts of Silt Management operations at various points of time and space.

8. Impacts of Tunneling and Blasting

9. Impacts of Mining of materials for the project.

10. Impacts of Backwater Effects of the reservoir in flood season

11. Impacts of Climate Change on dam

12. Impacts of the project on the adaptation capacity of the people in view of changing climate

13. Impact of peaking operation of the project on downstream areas and communities

No de-sanding chambers proposed in Silt Laden River The PFR in section 7.5.2 in page 7-5 states that “In this regard, it may be noted that no de-sanding chambers are proposed in the project in view of a relatively high dam with reservoir extending to almost 3.13 km.” Keeping no provision of de-sanding or de-silting chamber in the dam could have serious impacts on reservoir operations.

Form 1 undertaking not signed Page 2 of Form 1 is supposed to be an undertaking about the accuracy of information in Form 1, but there is no name, place or date for the signatory, all places are blank.

Poor reputation of consultants The PP has hired SNC Lavalin as consultant for DPR. However, SNC Lavalin has poor reputation in their country of origin (Canada[1]), globally[2] and even in Indian state of Kerala[3]. How dependable would the work of such an agency be is a big question mark.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar)

[1] Out of  over 250 companies on World Bank’s current black listed from bidding on its global projects under its fraud and corruption policy, 115 are from SNC Lavalin and its affiliates, see: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/09/18/canada-now-dominates-world-bank-corruption-list-thanks-to-snc-lavalin/

[2] See: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/daniel-tencer/snc-lavalin_b_4110591.html, the company has been banned by the World Bank due to corruption issues: “SNC-Lavalin, the engineering giant based out of Montreal that has now pretty much become a national (and international) embarrassment.” Its CEO has been arrested more than once for corruption charges.

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNC_Lavalin_scandal, there was a CBI inquiry in relation to hydropower projects related work and several politicians have been charge sheeted.