The latest (March 2014) edition of the National Register of Large Dams (NRLD) from Government of India’s premier Technical organisation, Central Water Commission (CWC) seems to be giving information about Uttarakhand dams that seems in violation of Environment Protection Act, EIA notification, Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife protection Act. The CWC’s NRLD is also in violation of the Supreme Court of India orders of Aug 13, 2013, the apex court is still seized of this issue. The NRLD is showing several dams like Rambara and Bogudiyar Sirkari Bhyol (BSB for short) as under construction projects, when these projects have received none of the statutory clearances. These projects were absent in the previous (Dec 2013) edition of the NRLD (available with SANDRP), which means these have been added only earlier this year, after the Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013 and after the Supreme Court order of Aug 13, 2013. Both CWC (as publisher of NRLD) and Uttarakhand government (as provider of such information) are guilty.
Rambara HEP A 76 MW Rambara HEP on Mandakini river in Rudraprayag district had come before the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects during its meeting in Oct 2008. Just 6 km downstream of the worst affected Kedarnath pilgrim centre, the Rambara town and project site has been completely washed out in the Uttarakhand flood of June 2013. Let us see the important decisions about this project over the years.
Þ Oct 2008 The EAC had than noted that the project is inside the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary and cannot be given even pre construction (stage I) clearance without an approval from the Supreme Court of India. The project never went back to EAC after that.
Þ 2012 In 2012, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recommended, in a commissioned by MoEF following an earlier Supreme Court order, that this project, (by now the installed capacity has been reduced to 24 MW, but height of the dam goes up from 28 m to 31 m) be cancelled as its zone of influence coincides with the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. This was one of he 24 projects that WII recommended for cancellation.
Þ Aug 13, 2013 Following the Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013, the Supreme Court order of 13.08.2013 asked the MoEF to take a view on this recommendation of WII. Following the apex court order, MoEF appointed an Expert Body (EB) under the chairmanship of Dr Ravi Chopra.
Þ April 16, 2014 The EB report recommends that Rambara, along with 22 other projects be dropped, as recommended by WII.
Þ May 7, 2014 Supreme Court orders stoppage of work on the 24 projects that WII had said should be cancelled. This includes Rambara HEP.
While all this is going on, the new NRLD just published by the CWC suddenly shows Rambara dam as under construction dam. When seen in conjunction with the pro hydro lobbying report submitted by CWC-CEA to the MoEF, it is clear that the CWC is trying to bypass the whole Supreme Court ordered process and also attempting to push projects in violation of the process.
Bogudiyar Sirkari Bhyol HEP This 170 MW dam on Goriganga River (tributary of Kali River) in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand had come before the EAC for stage I clearance in May 2009. The MoEF website lists this project as awaiting TOR even today. So this project has no environment or forest clearance, no CEA clearance, no EIA-EMP, no public consultations or environmental appraisal, and construction on the project without these would clearly be illegal. However, CWC’s NRLD (March 2014 edition) shows this project too as under construction. This is a massive 98 m high dam on a river that faced the flood disaster in June 2013 and NHPC’s 280 MW Dhauliganga HEP on Kali river faced such destruction that it has still to be repaired. As per the EB report, there is need for a cumulative impact assessment in Goriganga / Kali River, which has not even been initiated.
Lakhwar Dam & Vyasi HEP The CWC’s NRLD also shows the 300 MW Lakhwar storage dam on Yamuna River in Uttarakhand under construction. This biggest dam in whole of Yamuna valley in Uttarakhand has had no EIA-EMP, no public consultations, no Environmental appraisal. The Uttarakhand government and MoEF are guilty of giving forest clearance to the Lakhwar project and downstream 120 MW Vyasi HEP and initiating work on these projects (no work has happened on these projects for over two decades) even as the Supreme Court stay on no clearances was on. Even EB report has mentioned these violations and application on contempt of SC order is pending before the Supreme Court. To show Lakhwar and Vyasi projects as under construction in the CWC’s latest edition of NRLD is clearly wrong.
Other problems with CWC’s NRLD We have in the past pointed out several other issues with CWC’s NRLD, including case of missing river names, missing dams and so on. CWC needs to be much more careful about information given in such an important document like NRLD.
CWC cannot act like a post office In the past, when such issues about information in NRLD have been raised with CWC, it has said that NRLD is only a compilation of information provided by states and only states are responsible for the correctness of information. However, CWC is India’s premier technical body on water resources and is also the national body in charge of safety of dams. Under the circumstances, on the issue of information about dams in NRLD, CWC cannot wash its hands and say it is only posting information given by states. In this particular case of Uttarakhand dams, CWC and Uttarakhand government both are responsible for the illegalities involved, as highlighted earlier.
Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)