Gujarat · Narmada

Why is media missing the real Gujarat story: Gujarat Satya Samachar!  

It seems large parts of mainstream national media have gone underground these days. If you view most of the English and some Hindi news channels or most of the English and Hindi newspapers, you suddenly find proliferation of reports favouring Mr Narendra Modi and BJP. The repeated highlighting of the doctored pre poll analysis, without attempt at in-depth analysis or investigation into the credentials of the agencies doing such predictions is only one troublesome part. But even in reporting of the news, there is a clearly discernable pro-BJP tendency and an attempt to black out or under report or mis-report the news surrounding BJP’s rivals, particularly the news around Aam Admi Party (AAP). This was most evident in reporting of AAP’s trip to Gujarat in first week of March 2014.

There will be no doubt to any objective viewer that AAP’s trip punctured the well-crafted balloon of Gujarat’s development image. To many Gujaratis like me, this was not such a big breaking news. But strangely, the media that is supposed to report realities in an objective manner, should have been happy reporting this significant development. Arvind Kejriwal’s hour long speech in Ahmedabad at a hugely attended meeting should have been reported extensively in the media. Strangely, large parts of the mainstream media (both print and electronic) almost blacked this out.

This no doubt reflected poorly on the media that has been accepting the claims of Modi and BJP as gospel truths, since an independent media should have exposed the reality of these claims on its own through trips like the one AAP members did. The speech in Ahmedabad on March 8, 2014 was a good opportunity for the media to correct their own failure. In stead of using that opportunity, by not reporting or under reporting or mis-reporting, the media has further discredited itself.

It reminds one of an episode in Gujarat not long ago. “One morning some years ago, Gujarat’s residents found a newspaper on their doorsteps. They hadn’t subscribed to it, and it carried a vaguely familiar masthead. It was called Gujarat Satya Samachar, to make it resemble the state’s largest circulated newspaper, Gujarat Samachar. It was produced by Gujarat’s information department (a portfolio held by chief minister Narendra Modi) and contained reports of the state government’s achievements”, wrote former Divya Bhaskar (Gujarati edition of paper from Bhaskar group) editor Aakar Patel in his column in Mint on March 1, 2014.

The reason Gujarat government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar was “belief was that the local media was either suppressing stories about government successes or was critical of Modi to the point of antagonism”. The Gujarat Satya Samachar did not run much beyond a couple of issues, since Gujarati media quickly fell in line, the way government wanted. In fact, this episode should not give a misleading picture that Gujarati media was depicting the reality of Gujarat’s development before the government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar. Far from it.

While traveling through various parts of Gujarat, I have seen frustration of the aam Gujarati about the way the state is ruled over the last decade and more. Repeatedly, common people on the street have told me, during my numerous trip in the state, about corruption, break down of the regular basic facilities like schooling (everyone seems to have to go for tuitions and tuition classes, “then what are the schools for?” as one frustrated autorikshaw wala told me) or electricity or water and pro-big-industries bias of the state establishment. Intellectuals and independent observers have talked about the huge gap between claims of the Gujarat government and reality for long.

Ahmedabad is supposed to be shining with Sabaramati river front development, but if you go a dozen kilometers upstream or downstream you realize that this is just for the benefit of the real estate developers of the city. The state of the river elsewhere is as bad as Yamuna in Delhi. Even the water you see in Sabarmati flows in it through a fraud.  This water is from Narmada project and not a drop from it was planned or allocated for Ahmedabad city or Sabarmati River.  The project was proposed and justified for drought prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. They are not getting this water, in stead farmers of Saurashtra are fighting FIRs and cases for using Narmada water! Farmers everywhere are feeling discriminated when the state government favours big industries at their expense and without transparency or due justice or their participation. The tribal belt is not only neglected, it is facing prospects of more and more displacement and deforestation in the name of dams, river linking projects and industrial zones and corridors.

Narmada Waters flowing unused in the Rann of Kutch, harming the eocsystem and saltpan workers livelihoods Photo: Counterview.net
Narmada Waters flowing unused in the Rann of Kutch, harming the ecosystem and saltpan workers livelihoods Photo: Counterview.net

While traveling through the tribal areas near Sardar Sarovar dam, Savitaben Tadvi of Indravarna village told us about the repression they are facing while peacefully opposing the Garudeshwar dam on Narmada river, which has neither any valid approval nor any impact assessment or consent from the affected villages in the upstream or downstream. Lakhan Musafir of Umarva village took us to the washed out portion below the Sardar Sarovar dam, including the viewers park, about which there is so little information in public domain. Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, showing the proposed site of the statue of Unity, publicized as world’s highest statue, just downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, said how the foundation stone was laid on Oct 31, 2013 by arresting the peacefully opposing tribals, but that project neither has any impact assessment, nor any of the statutorily required approvals. As Nandini Oza, after traveling for over a thousand kilometers in Gujarat recently said, “You can actually smell development at Vapi, Ankaleshwar!”

Pollution of Damanganga at Vapi Photo: Tehelka
Pollution of Damanganga at Vapi Photo: Tehelka
Protest against the Bhadbhut Barrage also on Narmada Photo: Counterview.net
Protest against the Bhadbhut Barrage also on Narmada Photo: Counterview.net

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who as a chief minister, resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar to show slightly critical Gujarati media its place and succeeded in arm-twisting them, has been resorting to less than Satya in his electioneering. Just to illustrate, during his trip to North East, he did not mention his support for either large hydro projects or inter linking of rivers, which are facing huge opposition in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and other states. But during his speech in following week on February 26, 2014 in Madhya Pradesh, he talked about the North East region being “heaven for hydro power generation”. In that same state of Madhya Pradesh, his party chief Minister flashed full page advertisements (at public expense) for three straight days about Narmada Kshipra link as harbinger of the ILR dream of former prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. In reality it is just a pipeline water supply project with questionable viability and justifiability, without even impact assessment or participation of the people of the Narmada or Malwa region. There is already opposition to the project from among the farmers of the Narmada Valley.

There are others who have taken an objective view of Gujarat story. Revealing research by two professors of British Columbia, Canada about GUJARAT GROWTH VS DEVELOPMENT recently[1] showed: “This is a perplexing picture of development. Gujarat has done so much better in terms of growth and so much worse in terms of development than other states. Why has the fast growth not translated into meaningful development? Finally, it is the grassroot-level institutions that run schools, health clinics, bring water and sanitation to households, and bring the fruits of growth to the multitudes. Could it be that the centralised model of governance that works well for big investment projects does not work as well for grassroot institutions? Or, is this high growth with low development model indicative of the priorities of the government of Gujarat? Or is it something else altogether? It would be good to know the answer.”

Protest against the illegal Garudeshwar Weir Photo: Counterview.net
Protest against the illegal Garudeshwar Weir Photo: Counterview.net

The trouble is, large part of mainstream media has mostly blacked out all this critical news.  This situation is no doubt very bad for Indian democracy. As a senior journalist from financial paper told me, whenever there is extraordinarily positive report about any company or party, first question that arises is, how much has the reporter been paid to write such a story! Media should be wary of at least such a perception.

Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

 

END NOTES:

 

[1] http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/gujarats-growth-for-growths-sake/99/

 

[2] An edited version of this article was published in April 2014 at: http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/pages/Details.aspx?509

[3] Also published at: http://www.hotnhitnews.com/Real-Gujarat-An-Underreported-Story-By-Himanshu-Thakkar-HotnHitNews-13702042014.htm

Some other relevant links:

[4] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-gujarat-tribal-people-get-a-raw-deal/article5873973.ece

[5] VERY INTERESTING Column by AAKAR PATEL, calling Modi a TYRANT, who hates democracy and revers only the dead: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/NP7LlgqacegDU1PoTm3HKI/The-oneman-armys-forward-march.html

[6] How Modi’s government has treated RTI acitivists: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/narendra-modis-gujarat-model-has-no-space-for-rti-activists-1214009.html

[7] Why the growth fundamentalist THE ECONOMIST refused to back Modi: “But for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.” See: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21600106-he-will-probably-become-indias-next-prime-minister-does-not-mean-he-should-be-can-anyone?fb_action_ids=10202394265351839&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=scn%2Ffb_ec%2Fcan_anyone_stop_narendra_modi_

[8] http://indiatogether.org/could-modi-be-a-development-disaster-government by Ashish Kothri

[9] http://www.ndtv.com/elections/article/election-news/blog-gujarat-s-development-pre-dates-modi-considerably-505647?pfrom=home-topstories by Reetika Khera, Development Economist at IIT Delhi

[10] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/gujarat-one-of-the-most-water-starved-states-in-india-un-report/article1-1205787.aspx

[11] BJP’s PM candidate Modi showing his true colours: Opposes even RTI: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/in-karnataka-modi-targets-upas-aadhaar-rti/

[12] http://www.hindustantimes.com/elections2014/state-of-the-states/gujarat-s-pride-wilting-it-s-also-land-of-failing-crops-and-dying-men/article1-1206339.aspx

[13] “Hemantkumar Shah, an economics professor at Gujarat University, has challenged Modi’s claim of dramatic economic growth. He said data reveals the state’s economic and human development parameters worsened under Modi.” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/City/Mumbai/Growth-declined-poverty-increased-in-Gujarat-under-Modi-Guj-varsity-prof-claims-in-book/articleshow/33463710.cms

[14] “CAG reports and data on economic and social development from various sources make it evident that the much-touted “Gujarat model” of development is non-inclusive, socially divisive and highly ineffective in key areas.”

By ATUL SOOD and KALAIYARASAN A.” Gujarat Model: Fiction and Facts: Frontline Cover Story, April 4, 2014: http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/fiction-and-facts/article5795324.ece?ref=sliderNews (needs registration to get full story)

[15] http://themadeconomy.blogspot.in/2013/08/Facts-behind-Modi-and-Gujarat-Model.html

[16] “To sum up, the “Gujarat model” story, recently embellished for the elections, is misleading in at least three ways. First, it exaggerates Gujarat’s development achievements. Second, it fails to recognise that many of these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Third, it casually attributes these achievements to private enterprise and economic growth. All this is without going into murkier aspects of Gujarat’s experience, such as environmental destruction or state repression.” From Hindu article by Jean Dreze, See: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-gujarat-muddle/article5896998.ece

[17] Another warning from eminent people against voting for Narendra Modi for Prime Minister: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/if-modi-elected-india-future-gujarat

[18] Is Modi’s fabled Gujarat model lawful and accountable? http://www.firstpost.com/politics/is-modis-fabled-gujarat-model-lawful-and-accountable-1491885.html

Climate Change · Dams · Hydropower

Dams are not Climate Friendly: Readings from IPCC WG II Report

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment is falling into place. On the 31st March 2014, the report titled ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’, from Working Group II[1] was issued in Yokohoma, Japan. Working Group II assesses “the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development.”[2]

This can be called as one of the more incisive Working Group Reports from IPCC. It states unequivocally that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and world is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. According to Co-Chair of Working Group II, Chris Field, “The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk”.[3]

The report consists of two volumes. First volume contains a Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary, and 20 chapters assessing risks by sector and opportunities for response. The sectors include freshwater resources, terrestrial and ocean ecosystems, coasts, food, urban and rural areas, energy and industry, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty. A second volume of 10 chapters assesses risks and opportunities for response by region. These regions include Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, Central and South America, Polar Regions, Small Islands, and the Ocean.

The summary for policymakers paints a sombre picture: “Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors. In presently dry regions, drought frequency will likely increase by the end of the 21st century under RCP8.5. In contrast, water resources are projected to increase at high latitudes. Climate change is projected to reduce raw water quality and pose risks to drinking water quality even with conventional treatment, due to interacting factors: increased temperature; increased sediment, nutrient, and pollutant loadings from heavy rainfall; increased concentration of pollutants during droughts; and disruption of treatment facilities during floods. Adaptive water management techniques, including scenario planning, learning-based approaches, and flexible and low-regret solutions, can help create resilience to uncertain hydrological changes and impacts due to climate change.”

“Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

Links with water

Being an integral and cross cutting issue, water features prominently in all of Chapters of the Working Group Report. Sections on Freshwater Resources, Costal systems and low lying areas, Food Security, Inland systems, etc. include important findings. It is significant to note that dams, hydropower projects, infrastructure measures like channelization, embankments, etc., are also mentioned in nearly all the chapters of the report. Couple of references indicate dams as a possible adaptation measure, but overwhelming references point to the contrary.

The collective picture that is arising through these reference is very important. A collation and analysis of all specific references to water infrastructure projects, read in tandem with the report indicates that: 

1. Dams and infrastructure projects contribute significantly to “non-climate impacts” which, after interacting with changing climate, exacerbate the overall impact on human societies and ecosystems

o   Sediment Trapping by reservoirs, exacerbates impact of  sea level rise

o   Hydropower affects local options

o   Climate  change and dams together affect a greater eco-region

o   Increased flow fluctuations by dams exacerbate through climate change

2. In case of Flood Protection, dams and embankments may do more harm than good. Ecological measures would fare better.

3. Dams and Hydropower projects affect biodiversity, which is critical in facing climate change challenges.

4. In the tropics, global warming potential of hydropower may exceed that of Thermal Power

5. Dams increase vulnerability of weaker sections to climate change

6. Existing Dams have to be managed sustainably, with ecological considerations

7. Hydropower itself is vulnerable to Climate Change

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The references used in WG II report are peer reviewed research from several authors.The specific references given below will play an important role in debunking the simplistic myth that dams and hydropower projects are climate friendly and can be considered as de facto adaptation measures to cope with Climate Change.

Some Relevant Extracts from Working Group II Report:

  1. Dams and infrastructure projects contribute significantly to “non-climate impacts” which, after interacting with climate impacts, exacerbate the overall impact of climate change on human societies and ecosystems 
  • Sediment Trapping by reservoirs, exacerbates impact of  sea level rise

“Most large deltas in Asia are sinking (as a result of groundwater withdrawal, floodplain engineering, and trapping of sediments by dams) much faster than global sea-level is rising.” (Chapter 24: Asia)

“Human activities in drainage basins and coastal plains have impacted the coastal zone by changing the delivery of sediment to the coast. Sediment trapping behind dams, water diversion for irrigation, and sand and gravel mining in river channels all contribute to decrease sediment delivery, whereas soil erosion due to land-use changes help increase it. It is estimated that the global discharge of riverine sediment was 16-–19 Gt/ yr in the 1950s before widespread dam construction and it has decreased to 12–13 Gt/ yr. Out of 145 major rivers with mostly more than 25-year record, only 7 showed evidence of an increase in sediment flux while 68 showed significant downward trends. The number of dams has increased continuously and their distribution has expanded globally. As of early 2011, the world has an estimated 16.7 million reservoirs larger than 0.01 ha. Globally, 34 rivers with drainage basins of 19 million km2 in total show a 75% reduction in sediment discharge over the past 50 years. Reservoir trapping of sediments is estimated globally as 3.6 Gt/ yr to more than 5 Gt/ yr (Syvitski et al., 2005; Walling, 2012; Milliman and Farnsworth, 2011). Human pressure is the main driver of the observed declining trend in sediment delivery to the coastline.(Chapter 5 Coastal systems and Low Lying areas)

“Attributing shoreline changes to climate change is still difficult due to the multiple natural and anthropogenic drivers contributing to coastal erosion.” (Chapter 5 Coastal systems and low lying areas)

“The combined impact of sediment reduction, relative sea level rise, land-use changes in delta and river management on channels and banks has led to the widespread degradation of deltas. The changes of sediment delivery from rivers due to dams, irrigation and embankments/dykes creates an imbalance in sediment budget in the coastal zones. Degradation of beaches, mangroves, tidal flats, and subaqueous delta fronts along deltaic coasts has been reported in many deltas (e.g. Nile and Ebro, Sanchez-Arcilla et al., 1998; Po, Simeoni and Corbau, 2009; Krishna-Godavari, Nageswara Rao et al., 2010; Changjiang, Yang et al., 2011; Huanghe, Chu et al., 1996; very high confidence). Deltaic coasts naturally evolve by seaward migration of the shoreline, forming a delta plain. However, decreasing sediment discharge during the last 50 years has decreased the growth of deltaic land, even reversing it in some locations (e.g. Nile, Godavari, Huanghe). Artificial reinforcement of natural levees also has reduced the inter-distributory basin sedimentation in most deltas, resulting in wetland loss.” (Emphasis added.)

“The major impacts of sea level rise are changes in coastal wetlands, increased coastal flooding, increased coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion into estuaries and deltas, which are exacerbated by increased human-induced drivers. Ground subsidence amplifies these hazards in farms and cities on deltaic plains through relative sea level rise. Relative sea level rise due to subsidence has induced wetland loss and shoreline retreat (e.g. the Mississippi delta, Morton et al., 2005; Chao Phraya delta, Saito et al., 2007; high confidence).” (Chapter 5 Coastal systems and low lying areas)

“There have been local variations in precipitation and runoff since 1950, but changes in sediment load are primarily attributed to over 50,000 dams and vegetation changes.”  (Chapter 18: Detection and attribution of observed impacts)

  • Hydropower affects local options

“Hydropower dams along the Mekong River and its tributaries will also have severe impacts on fish productivity and biodiversity, by blocking critical fish migration routes, altering the habitat of non-migratory fish species, and reducing nutrient flows downstream. Climate impacts, though less severe than the impact of dams, will exacerbate these changes.”(Chapter 24: Asia)

  • Climate  change and dams together affect a greater eco-region

“For one climate scenario, 15% of the global land area may be negatively affected, by the 2050s, by a decrease of fish species in the upstream basin of more than 10%, as compared to only 10% of the land area that has already suffered from such decreases due to water withdrawals and dams (Döll and Zhang, 2010). Climate change may exacerbate the negative impacts of dams for freshwater ecosystems.” (Chapter 3: Freshwater resources)

  1. Flood Protection: Dams and embankments may do more harm than good. Ecological measures fare better.
  • “On rivers and coasts, the use of hard defences (e.g. sea-walls, channelization, bunds, dams) to protect agriculture and human settlements from flooding may have negative consequences for both natural ecosystems and carbon sequestration by preventing natural adjustments to changing conditions. Conversely, setting aside landward buffer zones along coasts and rivers would be positive for both. The very high carbon sequestration potential of the organic-rich soils in mangroves and peat swamp forests provides opportunities for combining adaptation with mitigation through restoration of degraded areas.” (Chapter 3 Freshwater Resources)
  • “Ecosystem based adaptation (EBA) can be combined with, or even a substitute for, the use of engineered infrastructure or other technological approaches. Engineered defenses such as dams, sea walls and levees adversely affect biodiversity, potentially resulting in maladaptation due to damage to ecosystem regulating services. There is some evidence that the restoration and use of ecosystem services may reduce or delay the need for these engineering solutions. EBA offers lower risk of maladaptation than engineering solutions in that their application is more flexible and responsive to unanticipated environmental changes. Well-integrated EBA can be more cost effective and sustainable than non-integrated physical engineering approaches (Jones et al., 2012), and may contribute to achieving sustainable development goals (e.g., poverty reduction, sustainable environmental management, and even mitigation objectives), especially when they are integrated with sound ecosystem management approaches.” (Chapter 3 and Also Chapter 15 Adaptation Planning and Implementation)
  1. Dams and Hydropower projects affect biodiversity, which is critical in facing climate change challenges
  • “Freshwater ecosystems are considered to be among the most threatened on the planet. Fragmentation of rivers by dams and the alteration of natural flow regimes have led to major impacts on freshwater biota.” (Chapter 4: Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems)
  • “Damming of river systems for hydropower can cause fragmentation of the inland water habitat with implications for fish species.” (Chapter 4 Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems)
  •  “Freshwater ecosystems are also affected by water quality changes induced by climate change, and by human adaptations to climate-change induced increases of streamflow variability and flood risk, such as the construction of dykes and dams”. (Chapter 3: Freshwater resources)
  • “Hydropower generation leads to alteration of river flow regimes that negatively affect freshwater ecosystems, in particular biodiversity and abundance of riverine organisms, and to fragmentation of river channels by dams, with negative impacts on migratory species. (Chapter 3: Freshwater Resources)
  • “Hydropower operations often lead to discharge changes on hourly timescales that are detrimental to the downstream river ecosystem.”
  • “Climate change and habitat modification (e.g., dams and obstructions) impact fish species such as salmon and eels that pass through estuaries.” (Chapter 5 Coastal Systems and low lying areas)
  1. In Tropics, global warming potential of hydropower may exceed Thermal Power
  • “In tropical regions, the global warming potential of hydropower, due to methane emissions from man-made reservoirs, may exceed that of thermal power; based on observed emissions of a tropical reservoir, this might be the case where the ratio of hydropower generated to the surface area of the reservoir is less than 1 MW/km2”.
  • “Reservoirs can be a sink of CO2 but also a source of biogenic CO2 and CH4” (Chapter 4 Terrestrial and Inland Systems)
  1. Dams increase vulnerability of weaker sections to climate change
  • “A number of studies recognize that not every possible response to climate change is consistent with sustainable development, since some strategies and actions may have negative impacts on the well-being of others and of future generations .For example, in central Vietnam some responses to climate change impact, such as building dams to prevent flooding and saltwater intrusion and to generate power, threaten the livelihood of poor communities. First, the relocation of communities and the inundation of forestland to build dams limit households’ access to land and forest products. Second, a government focus on irrigated rice agriculture can reduce poor households’ ability to diversify their income portfolio, decreasing their long-term adaptive capacity. Indeed, the consequences of responses to climate change, whether related to mitigation or adaptation, can negatively influence future vulnerability, unless there is awareness of and response to these interactions. Here, the role of values in responding to climate change becomes important from a variety of perspectives, including intergenerational, particularly when those currently in positions of power and authority assume that their prioritized values will be shared by future generations. (Chapter 20: Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development)
  •  “Some documented impacts on dams, reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure are: reduction of sediment load due to reductions in flows (associated with lower precipitation), positively affecting infrastructure operation (Wang et al., 2007); impacts of climate variability and change on storage capacity that creates further vulnerability; and failures in the reliability of water allocation systems (based on water use rights) due to reductions of streamflows under future climate scenarios” (Chapter 9: Rural Areas)
  • “Infrastructure (e.g. roads, buildings, dams and irrigation systems) will be affected by extreme events associated with climate change. These climate impacts may contribute to migration away from rural areas, though rural migration already exists in many different forms for many non-climate-related reasons.” (Chapter 9 Rural Areas)
  • “Changes in water use, including increased water diversion and development to meet increasing water demand, and increased dam building will also have implications for inland fisheries and aquaculture, and therefore for the people dependent on them” .
  • “In the case of the Mekong River basin, a large proportion of the 60 million inhabitants are dependent in some way on fisheries and aquaculture which will be seriously impacted by human population growth, flood mitigation, increased offtake of water, changes in land use and overfishing, as well as by climate change. Ficke et al. (2007) reported that at that time there were 46 large dams planned or already under construction in the Yangtze River basin, the completion of which would have detrimental effects on those dependent on fish for subsistence and recreation.” (Chapter 7 Food security and food production systems)
  1. Existing Dams have to be managed sustainably, with ecological considerations:
  • “Suggested strategies for maximizing the adaptive capacity of ecosystems include reducing non-climate impacts, maximizing landscape connectivity, and protecting ‘refugia’ where climate change is expected to be less than the regional mean. Additional options for inland waters include operating dams to maintain environmental flows for biodiversity, protecting catchments, and preserving river floodplains.” (Chapter 24:Asia )
  1. Hydropower itself is vulnerable to Climate Change
  • “Climate change affects hydropower generation through changes in the mean annual stream-flow, shifts of seasonal flows and increases of stream-flow variability (including floods and droughts) as well as by increased evaporation from reservoirs and changes in sediment fluxes. Therefore, the impact of climate change on a specific hydropower plant will depend on the local change of these hydro-logical characteristics, as well as on the type of hydropower plant and on the (seasonal) energy demand, which will itself be affected by climate change”
  • “Projections of future hydropower generation are subject to the uncertainty of projected precipitation and stream-flow. In regions with high electricity demand for summertime cooling, this seasonal stream-flow shift is detrimental. In general, climate change requires adaptation of operating rules which may, however, be constrained by reservoir capacity. Storage capacity expansion would help increase hydropower generation but might not be cost-effective.”
  • “Observations and models suggest that global warming impacts on glacier and snow-fed streams and rivers will pass through two contrasting phases. In the first phase, when river discharge is increased due to intensified melting, the overall diversity and abundance of species may increase. However, changes in water temperature and stream-flow may have negative impacts on narrow range endemics. In the second phase, when snowfields melt early and glaciers have shrunken to the point that late-summer stream flow is reduced, broad negative impacts are foreseen, with species diversity rapidly declining once a critical threshold of roughly 50% glacial cover is crossed.” (Chapter 3 Freshwater Resources)

Let us hope that these collated finding will be helpful in addressing the myth that dams and hydropower projects are climate friendly and can even be looked at as adaptation measures. Let us also hope that the Working Group III Report, which will come out in less than a week’s time from now, will have lessons for hydropower development in line with the above statements in the WG II report.

Issues with WG III, Special Report on Renewable Energy

Findings of WG II contrast strikingly with Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) [4]brought out by Working Group III in 2011.

SRREOne of the two lead coordinating authors of this report was Dr. Arun Kumar, from AHEC, IIT Roorkee. Notably, Dr. Kumar was also a part of the team which worked on Cumulative Impact Assessment of Hydropower projects in Upper Ganga basin of Uttarakhand[5]. The state suffered huge flood and precipitation damages in June 2013 (long after the report came out) and commissioned and under–construction hydropower projects had a large role to play in compounding the impacts of the disaster[6]. Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the Supreme Court of India rejected this report. SANDRP had published a detailed critique of this CIA report at the outset.

Amazingly, the Hydropower Section of the above mentioned IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy severely downplays and ignores the impacts of hydropower. For example, it does not allude to peoples protests to projects, impacts of projects by blasting and tunneling, downstream impacts, impacts of peaking, associated deforestation and related development, cumulative impacts of projects in a cascade, increasing climate vulnerability of the population, seismic impacts, increased disaster vulnerability of the region, etc.,. In fact, these impacts have been some of the most-discussed issues in hydropower discourse in many countries at the moment. The report makes strange statements like “trans-boundary hydropower establishes arena for international cooperation”, when we see across the world that hydropower projects on internationally shared rivers further conflicts and strife between nations. It also downplays methane emissions from hydropower.

In all, the section appears biased towards hydropower and does not do justice to IPCC’s rigorous and objective standards. The section should not have been accepted as it stands now.

Now, the Working Group III is yet to submit its Assessment Report to the IPCC. It will be discussed by the IPCC between 7-11 April 2014, in Berlin. We hope there is true depiction of hydropower in the Working Group III report, looking at the above mentioned impacts and also keeping in mind strong statements from Working Group II report made public on March 31, 2014.

Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

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[1] The IPCC Working Group I (WG I) assesses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands). The IPCC Working Group III (WG III) assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere. (https://www.ipcc.ch/working_groups/working_groups.shtml)

[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/

[3] https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf

[4] http://www.ipcc-wg3.de/special-reports/srren/special-report-renewable-energy-sources

[5] http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf

[6] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/uttarakhand-and-climate-change-how-long-can-we-ignore-this-in-himalayas/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-supreme-courts-directions-on-uttarakhand-hydropower-projects/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/uttarakhand-floods-of-june-2013-curtain-raiser-on-the-events-at-nhpcs-280-mw-dhauliganga-hep/

 

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

Analysis MoWR’s Advisory Committee’s Decisions for Northeast – January 2009 to Dec 2013

This is analysis of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India[1] from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting held in December 2013. In our last analysis of TAC minutes we have covered the decision taken for NE states from July 2011 to December 2013 which  is available at – https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/. In this analysis, we have covered the same for an extended period. In these five years TAC has accepted project proposals worth of 5515.46 crores. In calculating the total cost of the projects considered we have considered only the projects whose proposals were given clearance by TAC. In these five years, some of the projects also made two appearances with revised costs. In such cases the higher revised cost has been taken into consideration, e.g. Khuga Multipurpose Project and Dolaithabi Barrage Project, both located in Manipur were accepted by the committee in its 100th meeting (held on 9th October 2009) with revised cost of Rs 381.28 crore and 251.52 crore respectively. In the 115th meeting (held on 24th July 2012) of the TAC, these two projects were considered again where the cost for Khuga Project was Rs. 433.91 cr and for Dolaithabi Project it was Rs. 360.05 Cr. The same is the case for the Thoubal Multipurpose Project which appeared in 101st and 115th meeting of the TAC.

Within these five years, TAC has given financial clearance to 26 flood and erosion control projects and majority of these projects are from Assam. The committee gave the clearance to 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects.[2] The committee also gave clearance to a strom water drainage improvement project below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong in Sikkim within this period.

In this period, largest no of considered (25) and approved (20) projects were from Assam. Assam also has the maximum cost of projects among all states (Rs. 2631.99 Cr). Highest number of projects were considered (16) and approved (14) in the year 2009, with total cost of Rs 2321 Crores, which too was highest among all the years.

As found in our previous analysis, in the last five year from 2009 to 2013 TAC has not rejected a single project. Five projects had been deferred but were approved in the subsequent meetings within the same period. In the 108th meeting (held on 4th January 2011), the TAC did not discuss two projects on the Brahmaputra river stating “It was observed that the flood control and anti erosion scheme of Brahmaputra Board are implemented through Central Fund, which do not require investment clearance from the Planning Commission. Therefore, these schemes need not be put up to the Advisory Committee. However, the technical aspect of such project may be looked into by Central Water Commission as per past practice.”  But both these projects were reconsidered in the 110th meeting of TAC (held on 20th July 2011) and were cleared by the committee.

So this seems like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. Reading of the minutes of the meetings also reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the questions for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the projects suffer. Nor is there an discussion about the performance of the projects.

As we noted earlier, this committee functions in most non transparent, non participatory and unaccountable way. Neither the minutes nor the agenda notes of the meetings are in public domain. Following our letters along with TAC analysis in April 2011, addressed to Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission and members of the National Advisory Council, for the first time, TAC minutes were put up on CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.gov.in/main/webpages/TAC%20minutes.html). However, the last uploaded minutes were for the 115th meeting held in July 2012, after which minutes have stopped being uploaded. Secondly, some of the links are not working and all the files are unnecessarily large PDF files since only scanned pages of the minutes are put up, in place of the PDFs of normal word files, which would be of much smaller size. The TAC also has no independent, non government members, all the members are government officials. As we wrote to MoWR and Planning Commission in April 2011 and again in March 2014, there is urgent need for TAC to have  such members so that they provide objective perspective about the projects that come up before TAC.

The importance of functioning of this committee cannot be over emphasised. As we  wrote  in our letter to MoWR and Planning Commission, TAC “considers dozens of such projects with huge economic, social, environmental and other implications for the country in every one of its meetings. All of these projects are supposed to be public purpose projects, and are taken up using public resources. The Planning Commission accords investment clearance to the projects only after the TAC clearance. This Committee’s decisions are perhaps the ones which impact on India as a whole the most – as they relate to land and water – which are the basic life sustaining and livelihood providing resources for the people.”

It is high time that first effective steps are taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable.

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

State No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 106.6
Assam 25 20 2631.99
Manipur 10 10 2268.99
Meghalaya 1 1 5.63
Sikkim 1 1 48.55
Tripura 6 6 453.7

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 5 years period.

Year-wise List of Projects Cleared by TAC

Year No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
2009 16 14 2321
2010 5 5 663.67
2011 12 9 497.33
2012 5 5 2208.81
2013 9 9 1439.45

Meeting-wise List Projects Cleared by TAC January 2009 to December 2013

Sl. No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
95th 20.01.2009 4 3 1 0 196.07
96th 16.02.2009 2 2 0 0 168.14
100th 09.10.2009 6 5 1 0 264.73
101st 30.11.2009 4 4 0 0 77.26
102nd 28.01.2010 1 1 0 0 59.91
103rd 11.03.2010 1 1 0 0 302.22
106th 16.09.2010 3 3 0 0 301.54
108th 04.01.2011 2 0 2 0 0
109th 04.03.2011 3 3 0 0 70.13
110th 20.07.2011 5 4 1 0 211.56
111th 17.08.2011 1 1 0 0 167.09
112th 14.09.2011 1 1 0 0 48.55
115th 24.07.2012 5 5 0 0 2208.81
117th 21.03.2013 1 1 0 0 155.87
118th 30.07.2013 2 2 0 0 467.38
119th 29.08.2013 2 2 0 0 601.67
120th 13.09.2013 1 1 0 0 42.96
121st 08.10.2013 2 2 0 0 146.01
122nd 20.12.2013 1 1 0 0 25.56
Total   47 42 5 0 5515.46

95th meeting (20.01.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 196.07 crores (revised costs have been taken into consideration)

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Protection of Sialmari Area Morigaon/ AS 2002 B’putra 14.29 (25.73) Accepted
2 Protection of Bhojaikhati, Doligaon and Ulubari AS 2002 B’putra 14.52 (27.92) Accepted
3 Protection of Majuli Island Ph II-III AS New B’putra 116.02 Deferred the proposal with suggestion to prepare the cost at current prices.
4 Raising & strengthening Dyke from from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti erosion measures AS New B’putra 142.42 Accepted

96th meeting (16.02.2009): Accepted Total – Rs 168.14 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Flood protection of Majuli Island Ph-II & III AS New B’putra 115.03 Accepted
2 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New B’putra 23.32(53.11) Accepted partially & suggested that proposal of coffer dam, pilot channel, etc. may be put up to the Standing Committee for expert opinion

100th meeting (09.10.2009): Accepted: TOTAL – Rs 897.53 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Borolia Irrigation Project AS 1980 Brahmaputra 92 m 6.775 (135.93) 9717 15,000 Ha Deferred due to non-submission of State Finance Concurrence
2 Khuga Multipurpose (Major- Revised) Manipur 1980 Khuga/ Imphal 230 m 15 (381.28) 9575 14,755 Ha Accepted
3 Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Med Revised) Manipur 1992 Iril/ Manipur 79 m 18.86 (251.52) 5,500 7,545 Ha
4 Gumti Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1979 Gumti 96 m 5.88 (83.01) 4,486 9,800 ha Accepted
5 Khowai Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1980 Khowai 96 m 7.10 (83.01) 4,515 9,320 Ha Accepted
6 Manu Irrigation Project Tripura 1981 Manu 82 m 8.18 (98.71) 4,198 7,600 Ha Accepted

101st meeting (30.11.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 1059.26 crores

SN Project State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA/ flood prot. Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Raising & strengthening to Puthimari embankment Assam New B’putra NA 30.23 15000 Ha NA Accepted
2 Anti Erosion measures to protect left B’putra Dyke Assam New B’putra NA 27.97 5000 Ha NA Accepted
3 Protection of Gakhirkhitee and its adjoining areas Assam New B’putra NA 19.06 20,000 Ha NA Accepted
4 Thoubal Multipurpose Project (revised) Manipur 1980 Thoubal/ Imphal 1074 m 47.25 (982) 21,862 ha 33,449 Ha Accepted

102nd meeting (28.01.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 59.91 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original Cost-CrRs Benefit-flood protsn Decision
1 Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Dist Assam New Brahmaputra 59.91 18,000 Ha Accepted

103rd meeting (11.03.2010): Accepted: TOTAL Cost of approved projects: Rs 302.22 crores

Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs CCA (Ha) Annual Irrigation (Ha) Decision
Champamati Irrigation Project Chirag/AS 1980 Champamati/B’putra 258.5 m 15.32 (309.22) 17,414 24,994 Accepted

106th meeting (16.09.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 301.54 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Raising & strengthening of tributary dyke on both banks of Kopili River Assam New Kopilli/ B’putra 110.72 Accepted
2 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Dibrugarh/ Assam New Brahmaputra 61.33 Accepted
3 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Palasbari/ Assam New Brahmaputra 129.49 Accepted

108th meeting (04.01.2011): Accepted TOTAL- Rs 0

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New Brahmaputra 23.32(53.11) The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.
2 Protection of Majuli Island from flood & erosion, Ph II-III AS New Brahmaputra 116.02 The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.

109th meeting (04.03.2011): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 70.13crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Dikrong Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Dikrong 23.68 Accepted
2 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Bhareli sub Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Bhareli 16.81 Accepted
3 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Siyom Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Siyom 29.64 Accepted

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 in Tawangchu basin ArP New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood & Erosion Ph II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration of 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 W Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

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

Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost decision
Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon Sonitpur/Assam New Brahmaputra Rs 167.09 Cr 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 Greenfield Airport 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 155.87 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Protection 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 467.38 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
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
Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

 

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

Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal W 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
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
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
Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

 Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar

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[1]While this article only contains the details of the North East India Projects considered in TAC for the five years, we hope to soon provide details of the projects considered by TAC from all over India.

[2] Sicne Khuga Multipurpose, Thoubal Multipurpose and Dolaithabi barrage project, all from Manipur appears twice in this period, they have calculated only for once here.

[3] Feature image – Khuga Mutipurpose project. Image courtesy – http://manipuronline.com/