CAG Report · Maharashtra

Clean chit by the Chitale SIT Report on Maha Irrigation Scam?

 Ye jo Public hai, Ye sab Jaanti hai!

The much debated SIT Committee Report headed by Dr. Madhavrao Chitale was finally tabled in the State Assembly on the last day of the Assembly in the evening on the 11th June 2014, reading it one gets a feeling of déjà vu. Following the uproar due to unprecedented dam scam in 2012, GOM constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the last day of the promise, on 31 December 2012. Members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), chaired by Dr. Madhavrao Chitale include AKD Jadhav, retd. IRS official and also the past Chairperson of MWRRA, Dr. Krishna Lavekar, Retd. Agriculture Commissioner, GOM and Dr. V. M Ranade, Retd. Secy, Command Area Development, WRD, GOM.

The committee report was submitted in March 2014, after some extensions and was kept under wraps for past three months by the government possibly keeping the Loksabha elections in mind. Not that it mattered as Congress and NCP fared terribly in Maharashtra, winning just 6 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, and the irrigation scam seems to have had a massive role in this. Now the government, especially NCP’s former and current water resources ministers Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare are claiming that they have got a clean chit from the report, keeping the State Assembly elections in mind.

These claims will not help the political parties. On the other hand, they are likely to harm their political prospects.

But first let us look at some basic aspects of the report. Does it really give a clean chit to the political parties? Is it above shortcomings? Will it play an important role in overhauling dam-centric water management in Maharashtra?

TORs of SIT The TORs of the SIT, laid down by the Water Resources Department of the GOM were as follows:

  1. Investigate irrigation potential created, actual irrigated area (pratyaksha sinchit kshetra) and water use for non-irrigation use. In the actual irrigated area, find the irrigated area by wells, farm ponds, water conservation department and water resource department
  2. To ascertain if the revised administrative approvals given to projects by Irrigation Development Corporations (IDCs) are according to the existing rules and regulations.
  3. Investigate the reasons for delay in completing projects
  4. Investigate reasons behind change in scope from original administrative approval and increase in cost due to change in scope
  5. Suggests measures to increase the usefulness of Lift Irrigation Schemes (LIS)
  6. Suggest ways for quality enhancement in WRD
  7. Suggest ways so that project is completed in said time span and costs
  8. Suggest measures to increase irrigated area
  9. If irregularity found in the inquiry, investigate it, fix responsibility and suggest suitable action

Are TORs inadequate? The Chairperson Dr. Chitale has reiterated over and over again, in face of requests and submissions from media, civil society, petitions filed in court (there are at this moment about 23 PILs (Public Interest Litigation) filed in Bombay High Court about irrigation projects between 2009-2013), that it was not a part of their mandate to look at the modus operandi of the corruption involved in the scam, in the process of calling tenders and accepting contracts. As per section 9.8 of  SIT report, issues it has NOT looked at include: Misuse of clause 38 in tenders for addition of component in the main tender without re tendering, Sanctioning mobilization advances without appropriate justification, Manipulating estimates for accepting tenders, inclusion of unjustified and unrelated additional expenses and Dam Designs made by contractors. The Committee says that these irregularities are outside their TORs but there is ‘scope for doubt’ and the “government would need to investigate into this separately within the legal boundaries.” This is not true and the SIT should have gone into these issues, particularly when it has found ‘scope for doubt’ in these issues because per se the TORs are broad enough to include these.

The committee also says that going into these would have been difficult due to absence of man power, resources and time at the committee’s disposal. However, looking at the centrality of these issues in the Dam Scam, due to which the committee was set up in the first place, and the respect Dr. Chitale garners in the WRD (Water Resources Dept) and political circles, it would not have been impossible to get the TORs modified if at all necessary and very easy to get additional resources. But there is no evidence of the committee asking anything in this regard, indicating that this was not even attempted by the committee.

Apart from that, the committee could have addressed many of these issues being in their TORs as corruption, political-influence and contractor-led processes have affected nearly all the aspects covered in the TORs. Not looking at these issues has resulted in a situation where Dr. Chitale says one of the main reasons for cost escalation of projects has been rise in market prices. Now consider this: costs of Kondane dam increased from Rs 57 crores to Rs 614 cores in just six months, and market prices had nothing to do with this. There are several such examples, where cost escalations, time increase, technical problems had nothing to do with the issues looked at by the committee. The  exclusion of political and corruption issues have affected the quality of conclusions and recommendations of the report.

The committee notes that it relaxed the TORs in accepting submissions from organizations and NGOs, keeping the bigger picture in mind. Strange to see that committee did not think of doing so in issues related to corruption and political links.


Some of the good conclusions:

  • Environmental and Forest Violations: The report says that there are 2 projects without EC (Environment Clearance) and 31 projects without FC (Forest Clearance) and which did not get FC for more than 5 years. Without clearance, work on some projects stopped midway or dragged on, resulting in a dead investment. If work was started only after permissions, these expenses could have been avoided and money instead could have been spent only on those projects with permissions. The SIT has recommended strict action against officials who floated tenders and issued work orders without these clearances, which is welcome.
  • It has also recommended action to be taken against officials responsible for starting working without acquisition of land for the project as well as canals. (9.3.2)
  • Initiating work without detailed design: Recommends action should be taken against the officials. (9.3.3)
  • Initiating work in the absence of finance: Committee recommends Strict action against IDC, Chief Auditor and Executive Director of the IDC (9.3.4.) which started work without requisite finances.
  • River plugging without creation of irrigation potential: There are around 23 projects where the river plugging (ghal bharni) was done but there was no irrigation potential created then or even two years later. Committee recommends strict action against officials.
  • Projects with serious faults, suspicious transactions: Committee recommends that projects with multiple flawed parameters should be checked by an independent committee and recommends action against Executive Director for the respective IDC. Such projects include: Ujani, Krishna Koyna LIS, Seena Medium Project, Bembla Project, Lower Painganga, Jigaon, Kurka Wadoda Project (TIDC), Sulawade, Bodhawad Praisar, Lower Tapi, Mukatinagar LIS, Manjra, Vishnupuri (Godavari Barrages), Brahmangaon LIS, Upper Godavari Project, Krishna Marathawada project
  • The committee also notes serious irregularities in the following projects: Dhamani (Kolhapur) Kukadi (Seena Tunnel), Jigaon (Buldana, Kondane (Thane) and Chanera (Thane) and recommends special attention and investigation into these projects.

But many conclusions are flawed, unacceptable and some are even illegal:

  • Irrigated area in the State: The report relies only on data collected by WRD. It also states that WRD collects seasonal field data. However, this is not true. The WRD currently has no system in place for admeasuring irrigated area. Irrigation Status Reports and Benchmarking reports are also not available for the past three years. Chitale Committees’ conclusions based on data from WRD are not reliable.
  • TOR 9: Investigation and fixing responsibility The committee holds the entire state machinery including the Planning and Finance Department for not providing enough checks and balances on the work of WRD and classifies most blunders as “systemic errors” (9.04). While fixing clear responsibilities of these sectors could have helped, sweeping generalizations and repeated conclusion of “systemic errors” ensure escape route to all offenders.
  • The punishments are classified into mild and strict punishments, but even strict punishment is limited to departmental inquiries. The committee has also taken the circuitous route of not naming the offenders, but alluding to their posts and duration. Even this is extremely vague. So while the committee refuses to look at most contentious issues, it also refuses to name offenders and also does not name political hand behind the decisions. It does not seem to be an investigation team in any way. Also, when fixing responsibility is a part of the TOR, the committee cannot shirk from the responsibility and state that it will not name offenders. This is a public issue and committee does not have the privilege of overriding the TORs for its idea of leniency.
  • The committee says that investigation into irregularities indicates that major driving force has been stress to reduce backlog, pressure from ‘local’ political leadership, centralized decision making in the IDCs and conscious ignorance of rules and social responsibility. This lenient generalization washes any responsibility from the political leadership of the state and the contractor-engineer nexus.
  • Section 10.9 of the report states that the blunders committed by decision makers were not intentional and were mostly ‘errors of judgment’.
  • MWRRA: Committee reports that 12 Projects are without MWRRA permission. Mild action is recommended against responsible Executive Director. (9.4) While the committee recommends action even against Finance and revenue departments, it does not mention any strict action against MWRRA, which, as pointed out by the CAG Report 13-14 cleared 189 projects during 2007-2013 though the State Water Resource Plan, based on which the projects were required to be cleared, was not prepared, violating the MWRRA Act (2005). Significantly, CAG mentions that: “Authority also failed to perform its role as a regulator as envisaged in the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005.”
  • On functioning of IDCs The report states that in 2004, at a meeting of the governing council and IDC members, it was decided that the rights of giving Revised Administrative Approval (RAA) will be given to the Chairperson (WRD Minister). Only a few members of the governing council were present for this meeting. The SIT notes that while the IDCs should have been going towards decentralization, this was a regressive step towards centralization and concentration of power and authority, however, the committee does not suggest ANY action against the Chairman!
  • As per a 2003 GR (Government Resolution) regarding Krishna, Godavari and Vidarbha IDC, all rights to provide RAA were given to the Chairperson and Executive Director by the Governing Council of the IDCs, thus concentrating power (and also scope of corruption related to RAA hikes).
  • CAG Report (2013-14) says regular monthly meetings of the Governing Council of IDCs were not held, in violation of Maharashtra Irrigation Development Corporation Acts. The Chairman (WRD Minister) is directly responsible for this. But the SIT Report does not mention this!

Action Suggested with respect to Specific Projects:

GoseKhurd: There should be action against respective officials who did not visit the canal works due to which concretization was to be done again. The SIT does not suggest any departmental inquiry or anything new other than the recommendations of the Mendhegiri committee report.

Barrages on Godavari: Several question marks have been raised about these projects, their utility and safety. Kulkarni Committee appointed to look into irregularities has come up with strong measures against defaulting officials. But rather than upholding Kulkarni Committee’s recommendations, the SIT asks for constituting one more committee to look into the irregularities!

Illegal suggestion of SIT Shockingly the committee says: (Page 210) for Human Project Forest and Forest Clearance was incorporated in project tender and recommends “it would have been good if a separate tender was issued for this” This is very disturbing. The entire process of Forest Clearance happens through the State Government Forest Department and there is NO role for any other agent here. Any such role indicates violation of the Forest Conservation Act, and SIT recommends precisely such a violation!

Similarly, Environmental Appraisal is supposed to be an unbiased process looking at the social and environmental impact of projects. There is again no scope for tendering here. The SIT’s recommendations in this regard are illegal.


After pursuing the 600 pager main report and its 32 pager Executive summary made by WRD[1], and keeping in mind all the other available information, one is left with little doubt that Chitale Committee has not only refused to unravel the truth, but has tried to protect political parties.

The unprecedented Dam scam in Maharashtra highlighted massive corruption in tendering process, a collusion of politicians contractors, engineers and bureaucrats, shockingly poor quality of work endangering lives of people in the downstream, a huge number of incomplete projects, nonexistent increase in irrigated area, etc. Some of the main whistle blowers of this scam included Anjali Damaniya of erstwhile IAC, organisations like Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP and most notable, Vijay Pandhare,  who was then the serving Chief Engieer of META, WRD. Mr. Pandhare’s letters to Chief Minister, WRD Officials, his engagement with the media etc., was remarkable and helped people of Maharashtra in understanding the scope and impact of the scam. In the past too, reports from forthright officials like Kulkarni, Vadnere and Upase had exposes parts of the scam and raised public awareness. This is apart from the systemic problems of dam-based water management in Maharashtra on which many individuals and organisations like Lokabhimukh Pani Dhoran Manch, NAPM, etc have been working for many years.

Considering this, people of Maharashtra are not going to look kindly upon any vague report that gives escape route to corrupt politicians, engineers and bureaucrats, without seizing the opportunity available to it. Unfortunately Chitale Committee Report (referred to as Chitale report) does just that. 

In fact, in the minds of people of Maharashtra who have followed this scam and listened to people in power insulting the plight of the common man in the absence of water (like Ajit Pawar’s remark about urinating in the dry dams or cutting water supply of villages that do not vote for NCP),  the report has seriously discredited Dr.  Madhavrao Chitale and the team of past bureaucrats themselves for:

  • not being clear and forthright about the main causes of the problems,
  • basing their data on the same WRD which has proved to be incorrect,
  • not seizing the historic opportunity available which could have altered the course of the Maharashtra irrigation through exemplary recommended actions,
  • not questioning the merits of mega irrigation projects which have been eating into Maharashtra’s public expenditure, concentrating water and power, impacting communities and ecosystems without benefits,
  •  being shockingly protective of the political class that was at the driving seat of this scam at public expense, by ignoring proofs against political leaders and parties even when it was available to the committee,
  • by maintaining escape routes in the report through which political leaders can escape
  • mollycoddling most of the issues as ‘systemic failures’ when it was their responsibility to fix precise responsibility and there were specific known culprits and institutions,
  • making some suggestions which are in fact illegal.

The committee shows how protective it is of the status quo in irrigation department when it talks of possible negative impact of exemplary punishments (and even departmental inquiries!) on the morale of WRD officials and says that irregularities other than financial ones are due to systemic failures and a large scale investigation into these will affect the morale of the officials. What will really affect the morale of good officials in WRD is NOT fixing responsibility on the guilty, thus maintaining a poor public image of the entire department, while putting the burden of political decisions exclusively on WRD officials. This will foster the feeling that no one can touch the political class and hence, officials better toe the line. This is sending a completely wrong signal.

All Political Parties in it together: While members of BJP are saying that the SIT Report indicts some leaders like Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatakare, these parties too are not stating upfront that there are serious flaws in the report & the projects, processes and systems the report was supposed to investigate and that neither the report, nor the flawed projects can be accepted. Neither do they raise the basic questions of the merits or lack of merits of having hundreds of irrigation projects without benefits at such huge expenses, and mostly unassessed social and environmental costs.

Nor do they talk about the real changes needed with the Water Resource Department, MWRRA (Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority), IDCs (Irrigation Development Corporations like the Konkan, Tapi, Kirshna Valley & Godavari basin) and related government machinery, to make them accountable, transparent and participatory.

The reasons for this are clear. The opposition parties are not untouched in this scam. Right now, they want to score political brownie points through the chaos while not aiming for any lasting changes or suggesting measures in the interest of people of Maharashtra. It should also be remembered that many of the current 600+ on-going irrigation projects under investigation were initiated at the time of Shiv Sena- BJP rule in the state.

The report protects political parties: While it has been shown by several reports, individuals and organisations that many decisions affecting projects were driven by financial and political interests, the report does not utter a word about political influence on WRD officials.

It should also be remembered Dr. Chitale, through his various roles as Chairman of Maharashtra Irrigation Commission, Secretary Water Resources for Government of Maharashtra & India, Secretary General of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, Chairperson of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of River Valley and Hydropower Projects MoEF[2] has been entirely pro dam in his approach. He has never questioned the basic need and merits of large dams, despite their poor performance, multiple safety issues, environmental and social impacts, hazy and unattained benefits, etc. His pro-dam attitude is very convenient for and coincides with government of Maharashtra’s push for large dam agenda: pushing dams at each and every possible location, without a thought about their performance and impacts. As a result, as pointed out by CAG report 2013, in June 2013, WRD has as many as 601 projects under execution with estimated balance cost of Rs 82,609.64 crore which is nine times the capital grant of the Water Resources Department for the year 2012-13.But the Chitale Committee Report does not say a word about  this.

The report protects the Central Government In sanctioning, monitoring and financing irrigation projects in Maharashtra, there is a huge role for several arms of the Central Government, including Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission, Planning Commission and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Thousands of crores of money comes from the Center to this state each year. The scam could go on unhindered also due to the failure of these agencies. For example, large irrigation projects are funded through Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme that is supposed to be monitored by CWC and Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is supposed to release first installment only after projects have all the clearances and every next installment only after previous installment has been used as per required norms and necessary results achieved. The SIT should have looked into the role of these agencies and their failures, but by not doing so, SIT has again favoured status quo and protected these bodies.

Dr Chitale, Ignorance of law is not a valid legal defense In the most crucial section of the report, dealing with fixing responsibility in grating Revised Administrative Approvals (RAAs), the report says that the Irrigation Development Corporation (IDC) does not have the right to sanction RAA and the Managing Director and CAFO (Audit and Finance Officer) of the IDC did not bring this to the notice of the IDC and hence the responsibility lies with them. In addition it says that: “Permission of Finance Department is needed for issuing RAA and it seems improbable that the GOM does not know this. This clearly implies that although the committee knows that Chairperson of the IDC knows this, being a part of the GOM, it is not ready to say so, shifting the responsibility on the officials.

In the very next point on action suggested, however, the report says: “In cases where expense made exceed approval, the Executive Director of IDC did not have power to grant RAA. CAFO and Executive Director of IDC are responsible for not bringing this fact to the attention of the Governing Council. If they had brought this to the notice of the governing council of the IDCthen responsibility comes to members and Chairperson. GOM should take appropriate decision in this regard.”

This is the only place where the SIT mentions the Chairperson of the IDC (Water Resources Minister) in the entire report!

This is possibly the most dishonest part of the report. The committee implies that WRD Minister of the State not knowing the norms of WRD is fine, and the responsibility for minister’s ignorance should lie with the officials. But, ignorance of laws and orders is not an excuse for violating laws. It is clear that SIT should have firmly indicted the WRD Ministers and recommended strong action against them. The SIT has done nothing of this sort and has transferred the responsibility on the WRD officials, also keeping a clever escape route for the politicians. Sunil Tatkare is already exploiting this escape route. (Interview)

This is shocking, blatant and unacceptable.

RECOMMENDATIONS OF SIT The Chitale Committee has made following recommendations, translated by SANDRP from original Marathi:

1. Through Remote Sensing (RS) find the actual siltation of major, medium and some minor projects

2. Cities and industries should treat their sewage and effluents to 100% level to reduce non-irrigation water demand

3. Water charges should be levied on wells in command which have not been handed over to WUAs

4. Performance evaluation of minor irrigation projects and recommendations for betterment

5. In cases where perennial crops like sugarcane are taken on major projects and canals their area should ascertained by RS and water charges levied accordingly.

6. Revenue and Agriculture Department is causing extreme delay in collating irrigated area. This needs to be looked into urgently.

7. In depth assessment of why water use is less in Konkan, Amravati and Marathwada and undertake works accordingly

8. Study through MERI: why has carrying capacity of canals decreased?

9. Do not declare irrigation potential created unless distribution systems are in place and ascertained

10. Proper account of irrigated area should be kept with the Agriculture Commissioner

11. Any fraudulent use of non-irrigation water should be checked and detailed audit published every year

12. Methods of collecting data for Economic Survey Report should be improved.

13. Data in benchmarking report should be collated at project level and not Division level as it is done now.

14. The actual cost of projects (original cost + escalation) should be considered as Administrative Approval cost and if cost of the project exceeds 12% of this only then it should be considered for Revised Administrative Approval (RAA) according to CWC guidelines

15. In RAA while finding the benefit ratio, the expenses should be modified as per the escalation

16. WRD needs to have its own code of conduct and rulebook

17. LIS Projects should have a separate rate list, separate from the contractor

18. The WRD should publish escalation rates based on rates every year

19. Construction work should be audited at various stages.

20. After the project construction has been completed, the project should be handed to the management division, WUAs, distributaries work should be done asap (As soon as possible)

21. Some period before and after the project should be designated as project related time

22. Before clearing any further LIS, it should be checked whether it has complete financial support and its electricity expenses should also be considered

23. Separate maintenance fund for pumps, rising mains and other LIS equipment should be considered

24. Rather than giving water to PA’s through LIS, smaller WUAs should be formed and water should be given through smaller LIS

25. Manual for LIS needs to be developed which includes all aspects of LIS management, implementation and command area development

26. Quality control parameters for WRD Department are now out of date and new ones should be developed

27. Damaged and dysfunctional equipment on states dams should be immediately made functional and it should be seen if any changes in these are needed

28. A committee should be formed under MERI to implement and manage the recommendation of the Dam Safety Organization

29. Special training session on Colgrout masonry should be organized by META and only the certified employees should be used for overlooking related works.

30. Proper management of projects as per methods like PERT or CPM should be undertaken at Project formulation stage. Activity time considered should be from the start of initial work to the initiation of irrigation from the project

31. Limits of the five year plan should also be laid on project

32. Work on large projects needs to be broken down in smaller pieces and projects with irrigation potential higher than 1 lakh ha should be termed as Mega projects.

33. Investment made for non-irrigation use should be clearly indicated as such

34. Irrigation potential of the project should be adjusted as per the water used for non-irrigation uses.  Requisite area should be reduced from irrigation potential of the project. Not doing so bloats the irrigation potential created.

35. A separate cell should be set up for coordinating mandatory clearances in IDCs (Irrigation Development Corporations)

36. Help should be taken from Social scientists, NGOS etc in rehabilitation, water distribution and WUA formation

37. Completion report of the project should be prepared in which the responsible officer writes the history of the project and looks at future. A separate cell for this need to be created

38. Separate set up for Project related survey and this should have responsibility of awareness creation in beneficiaries.

39. All IDCS should have separate rules as they have separate regional needs.

40. To achieve the scope and participation of IDCS, noted non-government representatives heading financial institutions/ orgnaistiaons, MLAs and MPs etc should be deputed. There should be a quorum for IDC decision making meetings.

41. Steps should be taken to make IDCs self-sufficient through things like fisheries sale, water charges for HEPs, the water charges should be deposited with the IDCs. This will encourage the IDCs

42. High tech and region specific irrigation methods should be used like drip, sprinkles, piped supply, cropping pattern and volumetric water supply norms.

Suggestions Offered: Can they improve the current situation? While some suggestions of the SIT are indeed good, they still continue with the same status quo,  doing tinkering here and there.  When there was a need for substantive increase in transparency, accountability, independent oversight and participation in WRD, the suggestions largely remain at the superficial level. They follow the same system that was so easily manipulated by the officials as well as politicians, while blacking out the affected communities as well as local stakeholders from the decision making processes.

As it was pointed out by several groups (Example: Manch, NAPM, SANDRP, experts like Pradeep Purandare) at the time of appointing the committee, there were several fundamental flaws in the appointment of the members, the TORs of the Committees, the powers it had to take any meaningful action against the guilty. It was clear from the outset, and also vindicated by the report that the SIT committee Report under Dr. Chitale mainly protects the political masters.

However, after witnessing and sometimes even bearing the burden of the irrigation scam and political interference in water management,the people of Maharashtra know how deep the roots of this scam go. They also understand that any report which the political parties use as an escape route is not credible. To that effect, the SIT Committee Report under the chairpersonship of Dr. Chitale will not help the political parties. Ye jo Public hai, ye sab jaanti hai…

Parineeta Dandekar (


[1] Exe Summary by WRD and not the SIT committee. Strangely committee report does not have an executive summary

[2] The EAC under the chairpersonship of Dr. Chitale gave environmental clearance to 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project in Arunachal in 2002, which has been stalled for more than 2 years now for the want of comprehensive studies. When the EAC sanctioned the project, it was designed to release 6 cumec water for nearly 20 hours and suddenly 2000 cumeces for 2-4 hours to generate electricity, which would have disastrous impacts on downstream Assam. The environmental clearance and approval to this project caused a huge uproar and protests in downstream Assam and these are still continuing.


Ganga in Peril: Building more barrages will finish it off

By Anil Prakash

Rivers are not simply rivers, but they are our cultural life lines. Freshwater of rivers, fertile land on either side and island inside them, living beings, plants and vegetation and millions and millions of human beings, laughing and singing and shedding tears of sorrow, all taking together constitute the world of rivers. Men tried to fetter these rivers and construct dams, hydropower projects, riverfronts, embankments and barrages over them, encroached the floodplains, all in the name of progress. But the rivers want to break these fetters, as if they are giving a message to mankind to break the fetters of slavery, and to live a free and natural life. Whenever obstructions are put to them or they are polluted, they break their self restraint.



The 2245 m long Farakka Barrage is one of the most debated river management projects though for reasons which have nothing to do with either environmental or demographic reasons. Built primarily to serve the twin purpose of regulating the amount of Ganga water to flow out from the Indian territory into Bangladesh (East Pakistan then); and to ensure that sufficient water is diverted to Hooghly river to enable the regular flushing of silt at Calcutta port, the Farakka Barrage has been more often mired in controversy as India and Bangladesh have disagreed over the share of Ganga water between the two countries. While in the recent past, some efforts have been made to resolve this contentious dispute between the two nations, no thought has been spared so far on the long term impact the barrage has already caused and continues to do on an ongoing basis.

Though the Farakka Barrage was commissioned in 1975, work on the project had been going on for long. The structure of the Barrage was completed as early as in 1971 but the feeder canal which diverts water to the Bhagirathi river (as the Hooghly is called at this point) was completed only in 1975. By this time however, the cost of the project had escalated and when it was finally completed, the Farakka Barrage cost the nation Rs. 156.49 crore. The cruel irony is that since its commissioning, the Farakka Barrage has cost the nation much more but leave alone calculating the total cost, barring a handful, no one is even willing to concede the fact that the Barrage has caused irreversible harm to environment and society. The Barrage is being maintained by the Farakka Barrage Project (with 878 employees[1]), under Union Ministry of Water Resources, with jurisdiction upto 40 km upstream of the barrage, 80 km downstream along the right bank feeder canal and in the downstream area upto Jangipur barrage[2].

The Farakka Barrage was modelled on the lines of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC)- one of the first major riverine projects undertaken by the Central government under the influence of Nehruvian model. Both the DVC and the Bhakra project in the northern India were reflective of the government’s viewpoint that river management projects in India needed to be modelled on western lines – with its emphasis on large dams. In fact, plans for the DVC had already been drawn up by the British before independence during Lord Wavell’s tenure as Governor General. The entire project was modelled on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority of America and its chief engineer was actually appointed by the government of Independent India as the Chief Administrator of the DVC. When the DVC was planned and work on it was initiated in the late 1940s & early 1950s, the government was lavish on its claims regarding the benefits from the project. For eastern India, the DVC was considered to be a panacea to several problems in areas of power, irrigation and flood control. But as experience later showed, the claims had been falsely made on all fronts: the DVC in fact, made more areas in West Bengal prone to flood than before; the project’s utility in irrigation & power generation programmes was minimal.

Faulty Projections

By the late 1950s evidence was mounting that the projections made by the planners of the DVC had got it all wrong. The greatest demerit in the DVC was the sharp decline in the discharge capacity of Damodar river: from a level of 50,000 cusecs in 1954, the figure touched abysmal level of 20,000 cusecs. By 1959, the depth of Calcutta port had declined considerably after the construction of the Maithon and Panchet dams. The discharge capacity of several other rivers in the region like Jalonshi, Churni, Mayurakshi, Ajai and Roopnarayan also declined greatly and further contributed to the rising bed of the Hooghly. The situation slowly started reaching the point of no return and by the late 1950s, large ships stopped coming to Calcutta port and instead opted for Diamond Harbour.



These facts were not hidden from the policy makers and planners when work on the Farakka Barrage was initiated. Yet, they chose to remain myopic and contended that the Barrage would flush out silt and mud from the Hooghly and thereby it would be possible to reclaim Calcutta port. What was ignored was the fact that till the DVC project had been initiated, the problem of Hooghly not getting desilted had never risen because of the nature and timing and force of the floods in the Damodar and Roopnarayan rivers. But, once various dams came up in the course of the DVC, these rivers lost their capacity to flush the Hooghly thereby jeopardising Calcutta port.

The Farraka Barrage was thus intended to correct a un-envisaged adverse impacts created by DVC dams. However, as events have proved, the step taken to correct a previous wrong move also turned out to be a faulty and unwise decision. However, it is not that words of caution were not available when the DVC dams or the Farakka Barrage were initially planned: they were only not heeded. To illustrate, Kapil Bhattacharya, an engineer in West Bengal contended that the amount of water that could be diverted from the Farakka Barrage into the Bhagirathi, would not be sufficient to flush the Hooghly to the level that Calcutta could once again be used as a port. He also suggested that the DVC should be modified in a manner so that water from river Roopnarayan flows into the Hooghly which would ensure regular flushing of the river. Regarding the Farakka Barrage, Bhattacharya further said that the project would reduce the water carrying capacity of the Hooghly and thereby make more areas in West Bengal prone to floods. He had further cautioned that there would be heavy silt accumulation even in river Padma on the Bangladesh side of the border and this would further make areas on the right bank of Padma flood prone.

Creating Problems at both Upstream and Downstream                                                                  

An alarming development has been the steady decline of the Ganga’s depth. In 1975, when the barrage was commissioned, the depth of the river at the barrage was 75 feet. In March 1997 when I visited the area with some friends, we were shocked to find that the depth of the river was only 13 feet. In effect, this means that the bed of Ganga had risen by 62 feet in the past years. Latest report shows that Ganga has become a havoc and the erosion goes on increasing year after year at Malda and Murshidabad districts.

Actually the Ganga river system transports vast amount of fluvial sediment. The Ganga used to be desalted up to 150 feet during flood season every year. On construction of Farakka barrage natural flushing of the sediment has been obstructed.


Ganga Basin Map (source:

This alarming development has led to untold misery to the people of Gangetic region of West Bangal, Bihar and Eastern UP as the level of the bed of all tributaries of Ganga has risen steadily. As a result, thousands of Chaurs (lowlands) that previously used to remain flooded only during the monsoons, now remain submerged under water for as long as ten months. The problem of constant water logging not only leads to possibilities of the outbreak of infectious diseases, but also causes unfathomed economic and social miseries on the people in these regions. Nature of the soil becomes alkaline and already lakhs of acres of once fertile land in Bihar have now turned totally barren. The fertility of the Gangetic plains today is a poor image of yesteryears.

While the problem of submergence as a result of the Farakka Barrage is acutely felt upstream of the barrage, the problem is one of erosion downstream of the barrage. As the water discharged into the Bhagirathi and the Padma is devoid of any silt, the water tends to cut into the land more sharply than in the past. As a result the problem of soil erosion is being very acutely felt in villages and towns on the banks of the Bhagirathi.

Depletion of Fish Resources

Besides water depletion, river diversion and dam projects also wreak havoc among the fish living in these waters. These projects adversely affect the fisheries which are migratory in nature. Dams and barrages act as barriers in their migratory paths and several species have either already become extinct or are facing extinction as they breed in a particular type of water while inhabiting in a different sort. The Farakka barrage has over the years acted as a barrier to the migration of marine & deltaic fish leading to the near absence of several popular varieties in the entire northern India. As the waters of several rivers of northern states directly or indirectly flow into the Ganga, there is a similarity in the type of fish found in the rivers. There are many aquatic verities (for instance prawn) that inhabit in fresh water but breed in marine water. Likewise, there are other species – like Hilsa – that inhabit in marine water, but have migrated upstream to breed. The Ganga once used to have plenty of Hilsa but this has changed as the fish is no longer able to breed leading to the near extinction of the Hilsa in the Ganga upstream of the Farakka Barrage.

In fact, it is not just a question of Hilsa alone, but there has been a substantial drop in the fish population on the entire Ganga. Prior to the barrage, during monsoon, there used to be a very high population of eggs and spawns in this stretch (UP and Bihar upstream of Farakka) of Ganga. After catering to the local needs (there is great demand for fish in Bihar and eastern UP) a substantial amount of eggs, prawns and different varieties of fishes used to be sent to other states. Today barely about 25 per cent of the local demand is met by the fish caught in this stretch and for the rest; the people have to depend on fish caught in other states.

It has been estimated that there has been an overall decline of 80 per cent in the entire population of fish upstream of the Farakka Barrage. Large fish, once found in abundance in the Ganga and its tributaries are no longer available and millions of traditional fishermen who have made their living for generations by catching fish now face destitution. What had previously been a close relationship between the fishermen and local customers have now been replaced by a cold system comprising air-conditioned trucks and ice-laden crates of fish brought in by large companies from other states like Andhra Pradesh. This not only makes the fish beyond the reach of the poor, but also alienates traditional fishermen from their ancestral profession in a situation where they do not have the training to do other jobs.

The Farakka Barrage has adversely affected the ecology and economy of Bangladesh too. Before 1975 Ganga used to flush out the Padma basin in Bangladesh and spread the alluvial soil in agricultural fields. But the barrage has disrupted this natural process. Now tides of the sea fill sand in the bed of Padma and also fields around it. Lakes and ponds are filled with saline water. The ground water level has fallen down resulting in drying up the shallow tube wells and dug wells. The Barrage has caused serious damage to land and populace both upstream and downstream of the barrage. Corrective measures are called for immediately and if not taken then there are portents of much greater havoc both to the people and to the land.

Chain of barrages will worsen the situation

The new plan of union government[3] to built chain of barrages along Ganga, every 50-100 KM will further worsen the situation. Natural process of silt transport and distribution in flood plains will be completely obstructed and breeding of migratory fishes will be further disturbed. The government should review this plan. A high level inter-disciplinary team need to be appointed to study at length the problems that have surfaced on account of the Farakka barrage and suggest measures that can be initiated to reverse the process of the damage. This plan will not succeed in either making Ganga Navigable or help the cause of rejuvenation of Ganga that the new government claims it is committed to. Strangely, the plan was announced without any details, public participation, environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment, public participation or participatory decision making. Free flow of Ganga is essential for rejuvenation of this holy river.

Ganga Mukti Andolan

Since 1982 fisher-folk and peasants of gangetic region are contending that rivering projects like dams, barrages and embankments are leading to economic downfall on account of fish depletion, submergence and fertile tracts turning alkaline. The Ganga Mukti Andolan has its origins in the resistance to the system of ‘Panidari’in Bihar. Under this system, waterlords and power contractors had fishing rights of Ganga and its tributaries. After a long struggle zamindari (Panidari) and contract system was abolished in January 1991 and traditional fisher people were given free fishing rights in 500 KM stretch of Ganga and in all rivers passing through the Bihar state. The movement continuously raised the issue of pollution caused by factories and thermal power station. Ganga Mukti Andolan has thus, moved from a movement of social and economic equity to one that questions the very model of development that is destroying the Ganga and those who depend on it. The movement wants a new direction for river management.

(Contact address of author: Anil Prakash, Jayaprabha Nagar, Majhaulia Road, Muzaffarpur – 842001, Bihar. Mobile – 09304549662, email –


[1]Annual Report of Ministry of Water Resources, 2011-12


[3]PIB press release of Ministry of Water Resources on June 6, 2014

CAG Report · Forest Advisory Committee · Maharashtra · Ministry of Environment and Forests


Press Release:                                          ___________                                                                21.06.14


A shocking expose by the CAG Report on Management of Irrigation Projects in Maharashtra, 2014, highlights the repeated and rampant Environmental Violations in Maharashtra which have led to huge impacts, environmental issues, stoppage of work, wastage of funds and violations of multiple laws.

CAG states that as many as 249 projects in Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) alone started work without receiving the legally required Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests or the State Environment Department. There are large number of projects also from Konkan IDC, Tapi IDC, Godavari Marathawada IDC and Maharashtra Krishna Valley Dev Corporation. In test cases, an expenditure of Rs 376.96 crore was incurred up to March 2013 without obtaining EC by VIDC alone. In addition, work was started in 89 projects and Rs. 7,129.76 crore were spent without Forest Clearance, in violations of Forest Conservation Act by all IDCs. Issues due to this led to an additional expense of nearly Rs. 2000 Crores. Some of the important CAG findings:

  • There was no mechanism in the WRD to monitor compliance of environmental clearance conditions. However, the responsibility of monitoring compliance also falls with the State and Central Environment Departments and Ministries and the Pollution Control Board. They too have violated the laws by not taking any action against the WRD and are to blame for the terrible state of affairs. Following indicates that some of these agencies refused to take action even when SANDRP and other organisations pointed out the violations in the past.
  • Some examples of projects without Environmental clearance are: Surya, Virdi, Nardawe, Kondane: Konkan IDC, Janai Shirsai LIS and Chaskaman extension by MKVDC (Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation), Katepurna barrage, Lower Dnyanganga, Januna, Pangrabandhi, Warajahangir, Sukli and  Lower Wardha Major Project by VIDC, Kurha Vadoa project by Tapi IDC and Vishnupuri Project Phase II by Godavari Marathawada IDC which includes 13 barrages on the Godavari.

After the CAG report, the Environment Department, GOM has issued notices to 38 projects without EC. Director, Environment Department told SANDRP that Forest Department may issue a separate notice to projects violating the FC Act.

Violations of Forest Conservation Act (1980). Some of the important CAG findings:

  • 188 projects valuing Rs 46,652.44 crore under the jurisdiction of five IDCs remained incomplete (June 2013) because of pending forest clearances by GoI and GoM. 18 projects were not granted forest clearance due to violation of Forest Act.
  • 139 projects from above mentioned 188 projects needed 19,489 hectares of forest land.
  • An expenditure of Rs 7,129.76 crore was incurred on 89 projects out of these pending clearances under the Forest Act in violation of Forest Conservation Act (1980). For 61 projects and 7636 ha land, no NPV (Net Present Value, required to be deposited for use of forest land) was deposited.
  • In 19 out of 89 projects, commencement of work without forest clearances necessitated changes, stoppage of work etc. resulting in blocking of funds to the extent of Rs 1,944.92 crore.

While the CAG report has done a comprehensive assessment of the violations of Environmental Act, Chitale Committee Report, also brought out around the same time misses many of these projects and violations. However, the Chitale Report also recommends strict action to be taken against Executive Engineers for starting working without clearances.

SANDRP had tried to bring several such violations from bigger projects to the notice of both Govt of Maharashtra and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India consistently. However, most shockingly, no action was taken about these violating projects by these bodies. Letter about irregularities in Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project to Mr. A. Rajeev, Principal Secretary Environment Department, GOM in July 2013, as also to the MoEF, has been unanswered till date.

  • Additional HUGE projects which have commenced without EC include the Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme in Solapur, Lower Tapi Project in Dhule, and as many as 9 lift irrigation schemes based on Ujani.
  • SANDRP had sent relevant information on the above projects in form of submissions to MoEF time to time, but NO ACTION WAS TAKEN BY THE MINISTRY.
  • The State Wildlife Board, Maharashtra, under the Chairpersonship of the Chief Minister has cleared violating projects in its last meeting which were under construction and had already violated the Supreme Court Orders as well as the Environment Protection Act 1986. These projects include Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project and Alewadi and Ar Kacheri Nallah Projects in Buldana. Here too, SANDRP had pointed out the violations to the SWB, but it chose to take no action.
  • Additional Environmental and Forest violations are documented by SANDRP in projects including: Balganga, Kalu, Shai, Talamba and Sarambale Dams of KIDC, Upper Godavari Interbasin Transfer and Manjarpada Phase I project and Components of Gosi Khurd in GMIDC.
  • Lift Irrigation Schemes like Shirapur LIS, Sangola LIS, Barshi LIS, Bhima Seena Link Canal, Dahigain LIS and Seena Madha LIS based on Ujani. All information about these has been given by SANDRP in January 2013 to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF which grants Environmental Clearance to these projects. But no action has been taken by MoEF.

This points to the inescapable conclusion that the state forest and environment department and ministry as well as the MoEF, Delhi, are equally responsible for consciously turning a blind eye towards violations by WRD, Maharahstra.

Any action taken  by these agencies following the CAG report is only to save face and is too little too late, as environment and forests are already impacted and huge amounts of public funds are already spent or locked in these projects without even basic impact assessments or appraisals. This shows that the government, politicians and bureaucrats have no respect for environment and forest clearances, appraisals, impact assessments & affected community’s opinion through public consultations. Strict action should be taken against all those ministers, officials, engineers & contractors, who are responsible for sanctioning and starting such work. Action also needs to be taken against agencies which have looked the other way and have failed to take necessary action, along with WRD Maharashtra for violating laws of the land and affecting forests, environment, people, society and economy of the state.

While the responsibility of ruling coalition of Congress and NCP is greater, the opposition alliance of BJP and Shiv Sena is also equally to blame for not raising these important issues which are crucial for the people of Maharashtra.

-Parineeta Dandekar (9860030742), Himanshu Thakkar (09968242798)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP),,

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013: Lest we forget the experience and its lessons

June 16, 2014 This is a sad day, reminding us of the Uttarakhand disaster that began on this day a year ago. The disaster was triggered by unseasonal and heavy rainfall in which indicates a clear footprint of climate change. At the same time, the role played by massive infrastructure interventions, including an onslaught of hydropower projects and dams in Uttarakhand’s fragile ecosystem, in magnifying the proportions of this disaster manifold is also undeniable[1]. It is a sign of callousness of our system that till date we do not have a comprehensive report about this disaster that throws light on what all actually happened, which institutes played what role, which institutes failed or succeeded in their assigned role, what were the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions, processes, plans and policies, and what lessons we can learn from this experience.

The lessons from this experience hold significance for the entire Himalayan region.

Uttarakhand and the union government declined to even investigate the role of hydropower projects in the disaster. It was left to the Supreme Court of India, through its order of Aug 13, 2013, to ask the government to set up a committee to assess the role of existing and under construction hydropower projects in the disaster.[2] The apex court also asked governments to stop clearances to all such projects in the state in the meantime. The reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) took two more months to set up the committee which was headed by Dr Ravi Chopra.[3]The committee submitted the report in mid April, 2014, but two months later the MEF is yet to put up the report in public domain. Or make it available to the people of Uttarakhand in their language or invite their views. SANDRP had written in detail about the recommendations of the EB, the committee certainly said that the hydropower projects played a significant role in the disaster[4]. Eminent geologist Prof K S Valdiya has also written in Current Science in May 2014 (Vol. 106, p 1-13) that most projects are being built in landslide prone, seismically active area and should not be built there.

It was again left to the Supreme Court on May 7, 2014 to order stoppage of work on the 24 hydropower projects. The Expert Body recommended cancellation for 23 of these projects and change of parameters for one project. There is immense hope in further proceedings in the apex court in coming months, since the results will provide a guide for the whole Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, in other states in India and even for the Himalayan region beyond the border.

At the same time, it is unfortunate to see that the MEF, the Union government and Uttarakhand government seem to have learnt no lessons from the disaster. These bodies have been trying all sorts of manipulations to push massive projects like Lakhwar and Vyasi in Yamuna basin even without Environment Impact Assessment, Cumulative Impact Assessment or public consultations.

Now a new government has taken over at the centre. It is possible sign of things to come that India’s new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has chosen this anniversary day to lay foundation stone for a huge hydropower project in the Himalayan region, read his own statement dated June 14, 2014[1], about his impending trip to Bhutan on June 15-16, 2014: “During the visit, we will lay the Foundation Stone of the 600 MW Kholongchu Hydropower Project[5].” This possibly indicates the thinking of new government on this issue.


The memory and lessons of this unprecedented disaster seem to be fading already. While going through the articles on this disaster in a number of newspapers like Indian Express, Hindu, Tribune, Business Standard, among others, I could find just one article in Business Standard[2] that mentioned the role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand disaster.


It is very important, in this context to remember the issue. We are here presenting here some photos of the damaged hydropower projects of Uttarakhand in that context. The photos are mostly taken from official sources, namely 582 page annexures to the Ravi Chopra Committee report. Most of the photos have not been in public domain to the best of our information.

Assi Ganga I (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Letter from Regional office of MoEF to Uttarakhand Forest secretary dated 30 March, 2014 says:“The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” It also says that the project is in Ganga Eco Sensitive Zone and in the zone only projects below 2 MW capacity and serving the needs for the local population are allowed. Hence it says, “…the project should not start without obtaining fresh forest clearance and permission from the Central Govt.”

Assi Ganga II (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Similar letter from Regional office of MoEF says: “The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” Following photos from the monitoring report of the project speak about the damage this project suffered:


2AssiGangaKaldigarh HEP (9 MW in Uttarkashi district) The project heavily damaged in 2012 floods and it being in Eco Sensistive zone, the report says the project should not be allowed to restart without permission from central govt.

Kotli Bhel 1A HEP (195 MW on Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi district) The project has not given the final forest clearance. The stage I forest clearance was given on 13.10.2011 and environment clearance on 09.05.2007. The Ravi Chopra Committee report has asked for changes in the project parameters and Supreme Court order of May 7, 2014 has asked for stoppage of work on 24 HEPs, this project is on that list of 24 projects. The regional office report says that work on the project has been started on non forest land, which should now come to stop.

Kaliganga II HEP (6 MW, Rudraprayag district, Mandakini Basin) The Project got forest clearance on March 6, 2007. But project is yet to provide non forest land as required under act. The project is also within 2 km of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, but has not got clearance either from state wildlife Board or National Wildlife Board. The project construction thus is clearly illegal. Project has now suffered damages in June 2013 disaster, as can be seen from the photos below.



Madhya Maheshwar HEP (10 MW, Rudra Prayag district):


Phata Byung HEP (76 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):


Singoli Bhatwari HEP (99 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):


Bhyunder Ganga HEP (15 MW, Alaknanda river, Chamoli Disrict):


Lata Taopan HEP (171 MW, Chamoli district):

Lata Tapovan

Tapovan Vishnugad HEP (520 MW, Chamoli district):


Kali Ganga I HEP (4 MW, Rudraprayag District):


Banala Mini HEP (15 MW, Chamoli Dist):


 CONCLUSION: We hope this would possibly remind us that Himalayas cannot take the hydro onslaught that is happening now.

What happened in Uttarakhand a year ago in June 2014 was possibly a warning.

These photos are a reminder that even the hydropower projects are not safe and they will invite not only destruction for themselves, but also for the surrounding areas. Lest we forget the warning.

-Himanshu Thakkar (







End Notes:

[1] PIB statement of June  14, 2014, see:


Climate Change · Maharashtra

Gawadewadi: A success story of participatory small scale water conservation


Clean roads, lush green farms and wells having water even at the peak of summer is what one notices when one enters Gawdewadi Village of Ambegaon Taluka in Pune Distrct.

Ralegan Siddhi and Hiware Bazar villages of Maharashtra are two widely discussed success stories of sustainable village development through soil and water conservation works. There are however lesser known success stories of equal caliber. Gawadewadi is possibly one such story. Participatory soil and water conservation work started for improving water availability in the village for drinking and agricultural purposes has led to multiple other initiatives like cooperative dairy, gobar gas plants for the households, horticulture etc. A chain of benefits has unfolded over more than ten years of hard work put in by the villagers. The village is now tanker free, crops have diversified, agricultural production has gone up and so have income levels. Most rewarding benefit has been the homecoming of more than 165 families which had migrated to Pune or Mumbai in search of work.

Gawadewadi has successfully demonstrated how small scale ‘active solution’ of participatory soil and water conservation works can become a successful alternative to large scale ‘passive solution’ such as building dams.

The success story is even more important in the context of changing climate. The Working Group II of Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its report titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’released on 31st March 2014[i][ii], acknowledges that Ecosystem Based Adaptation (EBA) to Climate Change (such as soil and water conservation works) is a lower risk option as against engineering solutions (such as dams) as their application is more flexible, more responsive to unanticipated environmental changes and is more cost effective & sustainable. It also acknowledges that building large dams is not a climate friendly option. The report further states that EBA 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.

In this regard the success story of Gawadewadi assumes greater importance.

Journey towards sustainability

Gawadewadi (Ambegaon taluka, Pune district) with a total area of 1243 Ha is a village located about 10 km away from Manchar on the Pune-Nashik road and 70 KM away from Pune city. It is a rainfed watershed lying in the rainshadow region of Maharashtra state (Figure 1[iii]). Average annual rainfall is about 500 mm. The terrain is mostly flat. Southern boundary of the village is hilly which flatten in central and northern portion. Out of 1,243 ha of land 878 ha is cultivable. Most of the families in this village are small land holders. Current population of the village is about 3190. After drought of 1972-73 the village was dependent on tankers for drinking water during summer, agricultural productivity was low and a large number of people had migrated to Pune and Mumbai in search of employment.

Gawadewadi Figure 1

In 1985, residents of Gawadewadi with local leadership of Anna Pimpale visited Ralegan Siddhi village in Parner taluka of Ahmednagar District. Impressed by the holistic development of the Ralegan Siddhi the residents were determined to transform Gawadewadi. Vanarai, a voluntary organization based in Pune that was approached by the villagers agreed to act as a catalyst in this process of development. Soil and water conservation works started in 1991. Technical inputs needed for the watershed development works were given partly by Irrigation Department and partly by Agricultural department. Along with these funds no grazing and no cutting of trees was diligently followed. Since there are no landless cattle breeders following no open grazing regulation was easier.

Sr. No. Structure Number
1 Soil bunds 18
2 Loose Boulder Bunds 03
3 Underground Bunds 03
4 Gabion Structures 01
5 Check dams 03
6 Percolation Tanks 05
7 Vanrai Bund 01

There are four catchment areas spread over 1400 Ha. Adopting top to bottom approach for watershed treatment Continuous Contour Trenches (CCT) (Figure 2), loose boulders and stone bunds were constructed on the ridges; soil bunds, cement bunds, gabion structures and percolation tanks were constructed at the bottom of the catchment. CCT works on the ridges is carried out by forest department. Under social forestry programme Village Panchayat has planted 1,10,000 trees on 34 acre land. Table above lists the existing watershed structures.

Gawadewadi Figure 2


Gawadewadi Figure 3

Total expenses incurred for the project were Rs 60 lakh for construction of watershed structures and Rs one lakh for trainings. This money was spent during first 5 to 6 years of work during 1991-97 and funded by various government departments like Agriculture Department, Social Forestry Department, Ground Water Survey and Development Agency and also by Vanarai.

Water availability has slowly increased. After the great drought 1972-73 the village survived entirely on tankers post February every year. Government had to send two to three tankers per day to cater for drinking water. The village is now completely tanker free. Wells that had no water after December earlier now have water even at May end (Figure 4). Earlier the only crops harvested were bajra and jowar. Farmers could barely cultivate once a year. Now the crop diversity includes tomatoes, potatoes, groundnut, wheat, sugarcane etc. Village also produces export quality custard apples, pomegranates and grapes. Farmers take three rounds of crops in a year instead of one. The village now has irrigated area of 150 Ha. In 1991, 500 people from the village were daily wage labourers. Now there are nil. Area under horticulture was 11 Ha in 1991 which has now increased to 142 Ha (Figure 5 & 6). Increased fodder development resulted in increased milk production. Milk collection which was 200 lt per day in 1991 has gone up to 12000 lt per day. The village experienced no scarcity of water in drought of 2012. Domestic demand for water was unaffected by drought. For agriculture the usual round of water is once in 10 days which had to be adjusted to once in 20 days during the drought. “We did not even realize that there was a drought” says Jaywant Gawade a villager.

Gawadewadi Figure 4

Gawadewadi Figure 5

Gawadewadi Figure 6Vanarai has played a role of facilitator. It coordinated the local officers of various ministries & departments and pooled different resources to make them available to the village. Vanarai awakened the local leadership and conducted training programmes for developing different skills and also worked for empowerment of women and youth.

Watershed development worked as a platform for the villagers to come together. With resources made available from Vanarai the participatory initiatives soon diversified to other livelihood generating and development initiatives. Following footsteps of Ralegan Siddhi the village followed the principles of ban on alcohol, no use of axe, no grazing, shramdan and family planning. Latrines were constructed in all the households. Biogas plants have been constructed in 265 households and latrines have been connected directly to the biogas plants. Entire cooking for all these families is taken care of by biogas. Increased fodder availability has made it feasible to rear cattle and thus has ensured the availability of cow dung. There are 13 women Self Help Groups (SHGs) involved in activities like sericulture, vermi composting etc. The village now has nine dairies. These dairies were actively functioning till 2-3 years back. The milk collected was sent to Katraj Doodh Sastha (Pune). Since last two three years private milk product companies collect milk from individual households and pay for the same. Villagers opted for this as it is a more convenient option. In 1994 the villagers established Hirkani Vidyalay, a local school with contribution from village. The momentum of village development which geared up 10-12 years back is still very much alive. Currently Vanarai is involved in improving the marketing of agriculture produce. The villagers now want to focus on improving the agricultural practices. After increase in the water availability the cultivated area under sugarcane has also increased. Currently the area for sugarcane cultivation is 60% of the total cultivated land. The sugarcane is sent to Pargaon Cooperative Sugar Factory. The factory has been existing for last 15 years. About 90% of the sugar cultivators from the village are members of this sugar factory.

This is a matter of concern in such low rainfall area and it has intensified the water use. With this realization the villagers are slowly shifting towards drip irrigation. They are also keen on learning sound crop water management and organic farming practices. Data for the current water use and ground water levels for past few years could not be available for this study.

Dynamics with Dimbhe dam

The village was self reliant in terms of water availability four to five years prior to irrigation canal provided by the government. Right Bank Canal (RBC) of Dimbhe dam which was constructed in 1997 passes through the village (Figure 7[iv] & 8). Dimbhe dam was filled to capacity in 2000, submerging 2202 hectares land of tribals in the Ambegaon taluka. 1253 families had to shift out, 11 villages were submerged fully and another thirteen villages were partially affected. Villagers inform that there is no fixed schedule followed for releasing water in RBC of the dam. The Left Bank Canal (LBC) constructed in 1987 has water throughout the year since it carries water downstream to Yedgaon dam[v]. However RBC receives water only thrice a year. The latest round of water release, as I write this was in February 2014. The water lasted for crops for about 30 to 35 days. The next round of water was due in May 2014 which is yet to be released. Agricultural fields only in the belt of 200 ft on both the sides of canal are benefitted. Villagers inform that in absence of watershed development work, coping with summer solely with canal irrigation was impossible.

Gawadewadi Figure 7

Gawadewadi Figure 8

Dimbhe Dam and its RBC share some more interesting dynamics with the village. Gawadewadi has hosted more than 70 families which were displaced because of Dimbhe Dam. Villagers point out that these families are a classic example of how the displaced families often remain away of benefits of the dam. The displaced families stay more than two KM away from the RBC and have no access to water from RBC. They were given land for land around 20 KM away from the houses that were built for them in Gawadewadi. Many of them sold the lands given to them under rehabilitation package as commuting was a problem. Problems of Dimbhe dam that have interface with Gawadewadi may just be a tip of ice berg. Even so these links with the government irrigation projects further highlight the need for participatory and decentralized water conservation.


Taking a close look at the development of Gawadewadi shows that the essential element behind success was the active public participation. This participation and ownership of the work resulted in completion of soil and water conservation works on 1400 Ha of area when no funding was available. This participation was also responsible for spurring of other allied developmental initiatives in the village which almost took a form of movement. Villagers voluntarily participated in various training programmes and diversified their livelihood options, improved farming practices, increased crop variety, increased milk production and in turn increased their income. In this sense such eco-system based works for conservation of natural resources like land and water become ‘active solutions’ as against the ‘passive solutions’ such as dams which come at a tremendous social and environmental cost.

It is worth noting that over 40% of India’s under construction dams are in Maharashtra. The state has spent about Rs 75000 crores over the last decade and will need to spend about Rs 76000 crores to complete the under construction projects[vi]. When Maharashtra is on such an irrigation spree, highlighting and replicating stories like Gawadewadi which demonstrate success of small scale solutions is definitely the need of the hour.

Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP,, Photos by Author

 Note: This article is based on field visit, accompanied by Vanrai in early June 2014.




[iii] Base map adopted from Wikipedia

[iv] Base map adopted from Google Maps

[v] Water from Yedgaon dam is further carried to Visapur dam and then to Karmala Dam.


Gujarat · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Ministry of Water Resources · Narmada

Why is Government of India indulging in this unwarranted & unnecessary act of raising SSP Dam height?

Why this hurry to submerge tribals and farmers under

Narmada waters?

In a shocking decision[1] on June 12, 2014, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), headed by the secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), & which includes secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) and senior officials of four states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan, have sanctioned, in what The Hindu called “emergency meeting” ( installation of 17 m high gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River in Gujarat, taking the effective current height of the dam from 121.92 m to 138.68 m. This has been done after the Rehabilitation sub group (RSG) of the Narmada Control Authority, chaired by secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) has also cleared this decision. This decision implies submergence of thousands of ha of land and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when their rehabilitation, as legally required, has not been done.

Strangely, the government that talks about transparency, had nothing to report on its website (either PIB website or MWR website till 12 noon on June 6, 2014) about this decision, who will be affected, reason for such emergency decision or basis for the decision.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

More importantly, Gujarat & Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada river without this height increase and are not able to use even 20% of the water already available to them at the current height. This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even legal sanction. Only additional benefit that increase in height can provide is additional water storage, which will imply about 10-20% additional power generation, in which Gujarat’s share is only 16%: 57% share goes to MP and 27% share goes to Maharashtra.

There is some misinformation that this height increase is required to take the water to Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. This is completely wrong. The Full Supply Level of Narmada Main Canal is 110 m and once water enters this level in the dam, water can be taken to the canals. Once water enters the main canal, it can be taken to the Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat. Based on information we have obtained from SSNNL under RTI, we have seen that Gujarat can get its full share of 9 Million Acre Feet of water at current height and no height increase is necessary. Had Gujarat built the necessary canal distribution system with branch canals, distributary canals, minors, sub minors and field canals to fields in Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat, it could have taken Narmada water to these regions even eight years ago. To suggest that height increase will achieve this is clearly spreading misinformation. Similarly, as far as providing drinking water to the drought prone areas is concerned, height increase is not required to complete that.

Gujarat, in the meantime have increased the share of drinking water (1 MAF) and industrial Water (0.22 MAF) from 0.87 MAF for these combined sectors, at the cost of irrigation, without any participatory or transparent process. (see new share in this report in The Hindu on June 12, 2014:

The claim of Gujarat government that cost of the project has increased because height of the dam has not been raised is completely wrong. The cost of the project is going up (TOI has reported on June 13, 2014 ( that the project has already spent Rs 65369 Crores and ultimate cost is likely to be Rs 90 000/-) because Gujarat government has not been able to complete the canal network and has also been paying huge amounts to service the debt.

It is shocking that all the officials of the central and state governments and all the concerned ministers (including Water Resources Minister Ms Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Mr Prakash Javdekar, Social Justice Minister Mr Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in addition to Gujarat and MP Chief Ministers) have towed the line dictated by Prime Minister Mr Modi and Gujarat Government in this regard, within two weeks of new government taking over. No additional rehabilitation could have been accomplished in these two weeks, which seems to indicate that a political decision has been taken, without considering the ground realities, merits or justification of the decision or necessity of the decision. This does not bode good for the functioning of the new government.

It should be noted here that the installation of gates will take three years, and in any case, for closing the gates, the project will need clearance from Environment Sub Group, RSG and NCA again. Secondly, the gates have been lying in the yard of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) for many years and a question mark was raised about the safety of the gates in a recent meeting of the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee. Now, as The Times of India reported  on June 13, 2014 (, even former Gujarat Government officials are raising the issue of old technology of 30 year old gates when new technology gates would be also be safer. In view of all this, it may have been better, as Narmada Bachao Andolan has suggested, for the government to first take proper stock of the situation rather than rush into this “emergency” decision on the eve of the monsoon, when no work is in any case possible in monsoon.

It is also shocking that even before the RSG and NCA were to take the decision; Gujarat Government was already busy preparing for celebratory meeting at the Dam site. This shows that the functioning of the statutory bodies has been taken for granted and their decision was pre-determined, as directed by higher authorities.

Gujarat can get its water share without increase in height The new government wants to take the SSP Dam from its current height of 121.92 m to its final design height of 138.68 m. Firstly, there are serious doubts if this height increase is required since it can be shown that Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada without this increase in height. Secondly, Gujarat is not even in a position to use more than 20% of the water it already gets from the river at current height of the dam for the purposes for which the project was designed: providing water for the drought affected regions in Kutch, Saurashtra & North Gujarat. On the other hand, urban centres, industrials areas, SEZs, cosmetic river beautification schemes have appropriated a large chunk of SSP waters without legal, democratic sanction or justification. Gujarat really does not have a case for increasing the height of SSP Dam.

Moreover, this will also entail such massive additional submergence, displacement and disruption of lives of tribals and farmers that it is sure to create huge opposition. Narmada Bachao Andolan estimates that an additional 2.5 lakh people will face unjust submergence in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The just rehabilitation of already affected people is far from complete, in fact, most of the affected population has not been given minimum 2 ha of land required under the Narmada Tribunal award and subsequent accepted policies.

Mr Modi during his tenure of 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat failed to complete the canal network of SSP in the drought prone areas in whose name the project has always been justified. It needs to be noted that the agitation against SSP did not stop Gujarat government from going ahead with construction of canal network. It was not for lack of finances that SSP could not complete the canal network. SSP has been getting largest quantum of money from the Government of India’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme ever since the AIBP scheme started in 1996. This support to SSP from AIBP was clearly wrong since SSP was never the last mile project for which AIBP was meant, but the big dam lobby in Union Water Resources ministry and Gujarat government were hand in glove in this misallocation of AIBP money for SSP. In fact, Mr Modi arm-twisted the Planning Commission in 2011-12 to sanction the escalated costs for SSP even when the issues raised by Planning Commission officers remained unanswered.

It is the ineptitude of Gujarat Government under Mr Modi that is on show as to why it could not complete the canal network on drought prone areas in Gujarat. Mr Modi would do well to remember the reasons for that failure before he considers the mega projects agenda as Prime Minister.

Moreover, on SSP, the issues of completing repairs of the damages the Sardar Sarovar dam structure suffered four years ago & related issue of safety of the dam are yet to be resolved[2] and Gujarat has embarked on building another Garudeshwar Dam in immediate downstream without any impact assessments, participatory democratic process or required sanctions[3]. The legality of the Garudeshwar Dam work stands challenged in the National Green Tribunal by the affected tribals.

Conclusion This unnecessary, unwarranted and unjust decision is not going to go down well with any right thinking person. The new government at the center is clearly treading a path that is bound to raise huge uproar and make the common person on street question: for whom and for what purpose is this government working. It would be in best interest of everyone if the government was so confident, to get this debated in the Parliament.

Himanshu Thakkar (





Beas · Disasters · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropeaking · Hydropower

Nadiya Bairi Bhayi…

In a classical Thumri rendition, Ustad Rashid Khan sings about how a river, which was once a friend, has turned into a foe…Nadiya Bairi Bhayi.. Something similar is happening at a number of places in India, where the river, a life giving friend, is turning into a deadly force.


Drowning of 25 students following sudden water releases from the 126 MW Larji Dam in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh is one more saddening and shocking incidence in the long list of hydropower-release related disasters in India where rivers are turned into death traps.

On the 1Radhika8th April 2014, 11 year old Radhika Gurung studying in standard fourth was accompanying her sisters Chandra and Maya along the river Teesta near Bardang, Sikkim. Suddenly, without having any time to respond, all three school girls were washed away by a forceful water released by upstream 510 MW Teesta V Hydropower project in Sikkim. While Maya and Chandra were lucky to be saved, Radhika was not so lucky. She lost her life. Residents here say that NHPC, the dam operator, does not sound any sirens or alarms while releasing water in the downstream for producing hydroelectricity and villagers live in constant fear of the river.[1] Residents demanded strict action against NHPC, but no action has been taken.

On the 28th March 2013, 5 people, including two small children aged 2 and 3 drowned in the Bhawani River near Mettupalayna when 100 MW Kundah IV HEP (Tamil Nadu) on the Pillur Dam suddenly released discharge of about 6000 cusecs water. The family was sitting on the rocks in the riverbed when water levels started rising, and they did not get enough time even to scramble out of the river with the two children, says the sole survivor. Tangedco officials stated that although alarm is sounded at the nearest hamlets, it does not reach the downstream regions.[2] Local villagers say no alarm is sounded. No action has been taken against Tangedco.[3]

On 8th JaSearchforbodiesnuary 2012, a family of seven people, including a child, drowned in the Cauvery River when water was released from the 30 MW Bhavani Kattalai Barrage-II (BKBII in Tamil Nadu). The same day, two youths were also swept off and drowned in the same river due to this release.[4] There are no reports of any responsibility fixed or any action taken against the Barrage authorities or Tangedco, although it was found that there was not even a siren installed to alert people in the downstream about water releases.[5]

Uttarakhand has a history of deaths due to sudden releases from its several hydropower dams. In April 2011, three pilgrims were washed away due to sudden release of water from Maneri Bhali-1 Dam on the Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand.[6] In 2006 too, three women were washed away by such releases by Maneri Bhali.[7]  The district magistrate of Uttarkashi district ordered filing a case against the Executive Engineer of the dam after a number of organisations demanded action against the guilty.  Again in November 2007, Uttarakhand Jal VIdyut Nigam Limited was testing the opening and closing of gates of Maneri Bhali Stage II, when two youths were washed away by these releases. [8] Following a protest by locals and Matu Jan Sangathan, the Executive Engineer and District Magistrate simply issued a notice which said that “Maneri Bhali Hydropower Projects exists in the upstream of Joshiyada Barrage and water can be released at any time, without prior notice from here”.

Similar notice is also given by NEEPCO, which operates the Ranganadi Dam and 405 MW Dikrong Power House in Arunachal Pradesh, on the Assam border. “The gates of Ranganadi diversion dam may be opened at any time. NEEPCO will not take any responsibility for any loss of life of humans, animals or damage to property”.

Similar notice sits on the bankAthirappillys of the Chalakudy River near the Athirappilly falls in Kerala and the Kadar tribes, which traditionally stay close to the river and are skilled fisher folk too, are fearful of entering the river.

Chamera HEP in Himachal Pradesh has been held responsible for sudden water releases and resultant deaths in the downstream. As per retired IAS Officer Avay Shukla who resides in Himachal, similar incidences which resulted in loss of lives have also happened due to Nathpa Jhakri and other dams in the state.

In December 2011, three youth were drowned in the Netravathi River when water was released by the fraudulently combined 48.50 MW AMR project (Karnataka) now owned by Greenko[9]. Villagers protested at the site, but this has not been the first instance of drowning because of this project. Villagers accuse the dam for the deaths of as many as 7 unsuspecting people in the downstream. This dam is now increasing its height and one more project is being added to it.

Protest against sudden water release by fradulently combined 48.50 MW project in Bantwal, Dakshin Kannada by Greenko Photo: Daiji World
Protest against sudden water release by fraudulently combined 48.50 MW project in Bantwal, Dakshin Kannada by Greenko Photo: Daiji World

On October 1, 2006, at least 39 people were killed in Datia district in Madhya Pradesh when suddenly large amount of water was released from the upstream Manikheda dam on Sind River in Shivpuri district. There was no warning prior to these sudden releases and hence unsuspecting people crossing the river were washed away[10]. Chief Minister Shivraj Chauvan ordered a judicial probe into this incidence in 2006, however, and a report was submitted by retired High Court Judge in 2007. Since then, the report has been buried and several attempts of RTI activists to access the report have been in vain. The government has not released the report, forget acting upon it or fixing responsibility after 8 years[11].

In April 2005, at lDharajiDewas Frontlineeast 70 people were killed at Dharaji in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh due to sudden release of huge quantity of water from the upstream Indira Sagar Dam on Narmada river. Principal Secretary Water Resources Madhya Pradesh inquired into the incident and found that “there was no coordination between agencies”[12]. No accountability was fixed and no one was held responsible. NHPC, who operated 1000 MW Indira Sagar Project, simply claimed that it was a case of miscommunication and that it was not aware of the religious mela in the downstream of the river. As SANDRP observed then, “ It just shows how far removed is the dam operator from the welfare of the people in Narmada as the fair annually gathers more than 100,000 people of the banks of the river. It is a scandal that no one was held responsible for the manmade flood which resulted in the mishap[13].”

Above incidents make it clear that incident at Larji is not the first and will not be the last, if we continue non transparency and non accountability in hydropower dam operations.

Some Questions that arise from these events:

Do sanctioning authorities and dam operators reaslise that each of these projects convert an entire river ( not limited to the hydropower project) in the downstream area into a potential death trap? Do they assess the impacts of the various possible operations of the projects in the downstream area and envisage, plan and implement measures to avoid death and destruction in the downstream areas?

Can cordoning off and alienating a river, indicating that it is dangerous, be a solution to this? Are measures like alarms, sirens, lights enough when a river experiences order of magnitude sudden change in its flow due to dam and hydropower releases?

Is it ok to have hundreds of dam-related deaths in the recent years due to irresponsible and non-transparent dam operations and not have any responsibility fixed?

The obvious answer to the above seems NO.

Some Recommendations: As we have seen above, many man made disasters have happened in India over the last decade and governments  and dam operators have learnt no lessons. The avoidable tragedies are repeating without any change. India is possibly the only country in the world where such events have been happening in such large numbers. Here we are recommending some basic steps if we want to avoid or minimise occurrence of such tragedies in future.


For every operating Dam and Hydropower project in India there should be clearly defined operating procedure in public domain. This operating procedure will include the steps taken before release of water from dam or power house, how the releases will be increases (the increase should be in steps and not suddenly releasing huge quantity) or decreased, how these will be planned in advance, who all will need to be informed about such plans in what manner and what safety measures will be taken. This will also include who all will be responsible for designing, monitoring and implementing these measures. There should be boards at regular  intervals  in the downstream area in language and  manner that local people and outsiders can understand and the boards should also indicate the danger zone and what kind of sirens and hooters may blow before the releases.

The operating procedure will take into account where there are upstream projects and how the upstream projects are going to influence the inflow into the project and  how information will be shared with upstream and downstream projects and in public domain. The Power Load Dispatch Centres should also remember that when any hydropower project is asked to shut on or off, there are consequences in the river and they should be asked to keep such consequences in mind and time required to alert the regions in risk.

For every dam there should be a legally empowered official management committee for the project management, in which 50% people should be from govt and 50% should be non govt persons, including local community representatives and this committee should be in charge of providing oversight over management, including operation of the project and should have  right to get all the information about the project.

Hourly water levels and release data of hydropower dams be made available in public domain on daily bases. Water levels corresponding to discharges (and possible timings where applicable) should be physically marked on the river banks, local communities should be involved in this, evacuation methods and mock drills should be organised by dam proponent from time to time in all places along the river where the impacts reach.



Safety measures related to, including water releases for all kind of eventualities and their downstream impacts and management plan should be an integral part of EIA and EMP. The aspect should be thoroughly discussed while appraising the project, and clear cut roles and responsibilities fixed. Mitigation measures should include proper siting of the project, gradual upramping & Downramping of releases in a clearly defined way and where planning is mandatory, safe operation of discharges through dams, etc.

Entire clearance mechanism for cascade hydropower projects in the Himalayas and elsewhere needs to be revisited to include the operational safety measures considering the cumulative operation of the projects. Projects where operational safety measures alone will not be sufficient due to massive fluctuations/location/upstream projects, etc., should be urgently dropped.

Peaking power projects should be restricted to certain locations like deep mountain gorges, after proper studies. Such projects should not be permitted as rivers enter into floodplains, due to their significant impact on the downstream and also in biodiversity rich river stretches.


Primary safety measures like informing the administration well in advance before release, sirens, hoots, alarms, lights, buoys should be strictly enforced and a clear responsibility of these measures should be adopted, for the entire zone in risk, sign boards at every 50 mts interval in such zones in languages and manner that local people and outsiders can understand, and which also show the specific risk zone. Where sudden unseasonal releases are likely, include police surveillance of the risk zone during danger period.


Exemplary punishments should be fixed not only for dam operators,but also engineers and dam companies in case of negligence. Independent inquiry will be required since departmental or inquiries by District administration or government officials are not likely to be credible.

Since the designed safety measures in case of Larji were clearly inadequate, not just the operational staff but all those responsible for such shoddy safety plan should be held accountable.

It is unacceptable that a life giving and beautiful entity like a river should be converted into a dangerous and deadly force for our energy needs, without even the most basic precautions in place.

-Parineeta Dandekar,  Himanshu Thakkar



In 1999, 39 people and hundreds of animals and livestock in Cambodia was washed away and drowned by the release from Yali Falls Dam on Sesan in Vietnam. Mekong River Commission took a strong view on this.

Just last month, two people were washed away and drowned in Belize due to releases from a dam owned by Canadian company Fortis. Here too early warning systems, alarms and accountability are being discussed:.










[8] Matu Jan Sangathan,







7 Students Get Justice 16 Yrs after Meeting Watery Grave

By Express News Service Published: 18th September 2014 06:03 AM

BHUBANESWAR: In a significant judgment, a civil court on Wednesday awarded a compensation of `25 lakh each to the families of seven students of University College of Engineering (UCE) of Burla __ now VSS University of Technology __ who were swept away by unannounced and untimely release of water from Hirakud dam 16 years ago.

Civil Judge (Senior Division), Bhubaneswar, Sangram Keshari Patnaik, who pronounced the verdict in his 31-page judgement, ordered that the compensation be paid with 6 per cent interest effective from 2001, the year when the case was filed before the court.

The tragic incident had occurred on January 30, 1998 when eight students of the UCE of Burla were taking pictures on a sand bar of Mahanadi as part of the Spring Festival activity. The water flow of the river rose menacingly and barring Soubhagya Barik, the rest seven second-year engineering students were swept away and met their watery grave.

The Hirakud Dam authorities had allegedly opened nine gates during the non-monsoon season which led to the tragic incident as no caution was sounded before the release of the water.

The State Government ordered a Revenue Divisional Commissioner-level inquiry into the incident and the then RDC Hrushikesh Panda submitted the report to the Government on March 29, 1998. The Government accepted it on May 19.

The RDC, in his report, had examined 77 witnesses and 31 affidavits were filed. Panda, in his report, had highlighted the irresponsibility of the engineers and stated that even the Sambalpur Collector and the Superintendent of Police were not intimated about the  release of water, let alone the public.

Basing on the report, the State Government had announced a compensation of `3 lakh each to the family of seven students. However, considering the compensation inadequate, a petition was filed before the Orissa High Court. In 2001, the HC directed that the case must be filed before a civil court since it pertained to compensation.

According to Madhumadhab Jena and Sidharth Das, counsels for the deceased’s families, the Civil Judge Court took into account various aspects, including the academic background of the students of UCE.

Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas · Hydropower

The Socio-Ecological Impacts of Small Hydropower Projects in Himachal Pradesh Part-2

-Prof J. Mark Baker (, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, USA


This post is the second of a two part summary of the results of a study on the socio-ecological impacts of privatized, small, run-of-the-river hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh.[1]  The study is based on field research conducted in 2012 on all 49 completed small hydropower projects in the state.[1]  Part one, posted here on 8 June, reviews the implementation of the Himachal Pradesh power policy governing privatized small hydropower development and examines the local social and environmental effects of commissioned small (defined as 5 MW or less) hydropower projects.  This part will address two of the claimed local benefits of small hydropower development, namely monetary contributions by the project developer to local community development projects through the Local Area Development Authority (LADA) and local employment generation.  After a brief discussion of the relationship between small hydropower projects and carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism, the article reviews two promising institutional models for small hydropower development and concludes with a set of recommendations.

Local Area Development Authority– Implementation and Accountability Challenges

The 2006 Hydropower Policy includes provisions for tangible local benefits, in part to foster local support for power projects.  One primary mechanism is the requirement that project developers deposit one percent of the project cost into an account with the district commissioner.  These funds, known as Local Area Development Funds, are to be allocated by the Local Area Development Authority (LADA) to support local development activities, particularly related to infrastructure and services.[2]

In our survey of the 49 commissioned small hydropower projects we found that the LADA program was not working as well as intended.  Inconsistent record keeping by district authorities, the lack of clearly defined project affected areas, and uneven levels of awareness among local pradhans about the program have enabled some project developers in Himachal to avoid fulfilling their obligations to local communities.  The district revenue department office in Kangra was the only district office that maintained a comprehensive record of LADA obligations and tracked how much the project developer had paid and how much was still owed.  Without such a record, officials in the remaining six districts found it extremely difficult to hold the project developer accountable for their LADA payment obligations.  For example, in District Chamba, ten small hydropower projects together owe Rs 247 lakhs.  However, as of the summer of 2012 they had paid only Rs 70 lakhs and the developers of three projects had contributed nothing at all.  District administrators seem to have little authority or recourse, beyond personal persuasion, to compel the project developer to make the required contributions.

There are also challenges with defining the Project Affected Area (PAA) and Project Affected Zone (PAZ), which is important because 70% of the LADA funds are earmarked for projects in the PAA and 30% for projects in the PAZ.  Very few small hydropower projects have defined PAAs and none had defined a PAZ.  The lack of clearly defined affected areas raises questions about whether or not the authorized development projects actually reach those households and hamlets most affected by the hydropower project.

A related concern is the unevenness of awareness about the LADA program among village pradhans.  Several village pradhans, especially in the remote areas of the state, had never heard of the LADA program, even though one or more small hydropower projects were located within their panchayat boundaries.  Where the program was functional, there are sometimes disputes between the LADA committee and the district commissioner concerning which projects to fund and whether to prioritize projects oriented towards strengthening local employment generation or hard infrastructure development.

We did encounter one example of a panchayat in which the LADA program was working as intended.  The pradhan of the panchayat, located in District Kangra, was a retired military officer.  Well aware of the LADA obligations of the small hydropower project developers in his panchayat, he maintained close communication with the district commissioner’s office in order to ensure that the required deposits were made.  The pradhan also pressured the LADA committee to identify potential projects in a timely fashion and he followed up with the district commissioner to ensure that the expenditure of the requisite funds was authorized.  As a result, in this panchayat LADA funds had been used to construct a cricket playing field, veterinary dispensary, and a handsome hall for village meetings and social functions (figures 1 and 2).  Furthermore, in part due to the effective implementation of the LADA program and the fact that the small hydropower project did not annex cultivated areas, local opposition to the projects was virtually nonexistent.  This example suggests that the LADA can offer tangible local benefits if accurate records are kept, if the project developers are compelled to contribute the requisite amounts, if village pradhans know about the program and their entitlements under it, and if the district administration supports program implementation.



Employment Generation –Unrealized Potential for Secure Jobs

In addition to requiring project developers to contribute to the Local Area Development Authority, the 2006 Hydropower Policy seeks to generate local benefits by stipulating that 70% of the project’s workers be from Himachal Pradesh.  Because the lack of local employment opportunities is one of the primary drivers of migration from hill areas, the provision of permanent jobs through small hydropower projects could be a significant benefit.  In addition to a steady income, permanent regular employees participate in government-approved pension plans, receive compensation for work-related accidents and injuries, and are protected from arbitrary dismissal.  The project developer is also required to register all workers with the Labour Department and the local police station on a monthly basis.

While the 49 commissioned small hydropower projects in the state generate significant employment, more than half of project developers evade complying with labor law.  All told, the 49 projects employ a total of 951 people, 603 of whom come from the panchayat(s) in which the project is located.  On average, a 5 MW project employs approximately 20 people.  While the total employment these projects generate is substantial, only 22 project developers have registered their employees with the state Labour Department as regular employees.  These workers do receive the protections and benefits of the state’s labor laws, and some of them (in three projects) are also provided subsidized lodging and meals.  However, the workers in the remaining 27 small hydropower projects, while doing the same work as regular employees in other projects, are hired on a daily wage basis and are thus excluded from the benefits and security of regular employment.  A further disjuncture arises from the fact that only 11 project developers have established provident fund contributions for their employees, the remaining 38 have not.  For the majority of workers in small hydropower projects, one of the most important potential local benefits – secure employment – has not been realized.

Given the significant risk of injury or death in this sector, it is of particular concern that unregistered workers are less likely than registered workers to receive compensation should an accident occur.  While we did not develop comprehensive information about accidents and injuries, we did confirm worker deaths, the great majority of which occurred during the project construction phase due to tunnel collapses, falling rock, landslides, and tractor accidents.  A total of 40 people died in accidents related to the construction of the commissioned small hydropower projects in the state, 18 were Himachali and 22 were from neighboring states or from Nepal.  Only three of the families of the forty workers who died in fatal accidents received some form of compensation.  The lack of proper registration and the general absence of compensation suggests the extent to which project developers and their contractors treat workers as a disposable labor force.

The common practice of contracting out project construction work to subcontractors who hire large numbers of employees challenges the ability of unions to advocate for project workers.[3]  Questions arise concerning who is ultimately responsible for following the relevant labor laws and protections – the project developer or the developer’s subcontractors (figure 3)?  Project developers can evade accountability through the use of subcontractors or by creating subsidiary companies.  For example, in District Kangra in May, 2010 the local construction worker union notified a small hydropower project developer of its intent to strike due to violations of labor laws and working conditions.  In a letter the developer responded that the strike was “totally illegal and off the mark” as the developer was not the owner of the plant but was “merely the contractor.”  Furthermore the developer noted that the project was “generating power in the interest of the public of Himachal Pradesh,” and was “a property of the State and a national asset,” and thus the calling of the strike was “illegal from all perspectives.”  While it is true that the developer to whom the labor union had sent the notice of intent to strike is not the company listed as the owner of the project in the state of Himachal Pradesh’s records, it is also true that the listed company is actually a subsidiary of the developer, whose address is the same as the developer and whose website leads directly to that of the developer.  Furthermore, the power project is showcased on the developer’s website as one of four small hydropower projects they have constructed and are currently operating in District Kangra.  The developer’s attempt to evade accountability for labor law violations by creating a fictitious subsidiary demonstrates the challenges unions face when they seek redress for labor law violations and demand worker rightsMArk3NEW


Payments to Developers for Renewable Energy Production

Part One of this article discussed the economics of small hydropower development.  Clearly, the primary source of income developers receive is the guaranteed purchase price that the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board provides.  A second, and much smaller, source of revenue for some projects derives from the sale of carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, administered under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The Clean Development Mechanism allows countries in the global south to sell carbon credits in the form of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) to countries in the global north that need to purchase such reductions in order to meet emissions reduction limits that the Kyoto Protocol has imposed.  Projects in the global south may be eligible for registration under the Clean Development Mechanism if it can be demonstrated that their implementation will prevent carbon (measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents) from entering the atmosphere.  The resulting emission reductions can then be sold by the project developer to a carbon generating entity in the global north that needs to purchase such carbon credits.  In the context of small scale hydropower projects, developers argue that if they did not produce electricity using hydropower, the equivalent amount of electricity would be generated primarily through the burning of fossil fuels.  Thus, by producing electricity through hydropower, they are “preventing” a measureable amount of carbon from going into the atmosphere.  If their projects are registered under the Clean Development Mechanisms, then project developers may sell credits to entities in the global north.

Of the 49 commissioned small hydropower projects, approximately 27 are registered under the Clean Development Mechanism.[4]  According to documents relating to these 27 projects on the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism website, these hydropower projects are credited with generating 447651 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduction equivalents per year.  Project developers may sell these emissions reductions equivalents (carbon credits) to entities in the global north.  There are at least three points worth noting about these carbon credits.  Firstly, the value of carbon credits has dropped precipitously in the last few years, from a high of approximately rupees 760 in 2008 to its current price of less than rupees 50 per metric ton of carbon equivalent ( 2013).[5]  The essential collapse of the international carbon credit market has been attributed to an oversupply of credits and weak demand (Singh 2014).  Secondly, there are serious concerns about the ethics of generating marketable carbon equivalents from projects that severely disrupt the livelihoods of communities as described in part one of this post.  Thirdly, there are questions about the integrity of the calculations and procedures employed to calculate the carbon equivalents of such projects and to justify project inclusion in the UNFCCC registry.  One of these questions centers on the requirement of additionality.  Additionality, as the Kyoto Protocol specifies, is the principle that projects are eligible for international support through the Clean Development Mechanism only if they would be uneconomical without such support.  Thus, a small hydropower project that is economically viable without the revenue from selling carbon credits is in principal barred from participating in the carbon credit program.  On the other hand, private sector loan officers will not approve financing for projects that are not economically viable.  At least some project developers resolve this contradiction by developing two sets of project documents.  As one project manager told me, “we prepare two DPRs (Detailed Project Reports), one for CDM and one for the banks.”

In light of the poor remuneration developers receive from the sale of carbon equivalents, at least some project developers expressed the desire to participate in the Government of India’s Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) program, which has its roots in the 2003 Electricity Bill and is part of the country’s renewable energy policy (Carbon Credit Capital 2011).  By becoming designated as “eligible entities” within the REC program, developers would receive one renewable energy certificate for every megawatt hour (MWh) that they sell to the state electricity grid.  Purchasing electricity produced by an eligible entity enables state utilities to meet their Renewable Purchase Obligation, which is the proportion of electricity they purchase that must come from renewable sources.  Eligible entities may trade renewable energy certificates on one of India’s two electricity exchanges.  As of 2012, no small hydropower developer had become an eligible entity within the REC program.  Several developers were interested in joining this program, however the fact that they already have power purchase agreements to sell electricity to the HP State Electricity Board renders them ineligible for the REC program.

Two Alternative Institutional Models for Future Small Hydropower Development

The track record of the 49 commissioned small hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh is cause for concern.  Patterns of disruption to farmer-managed irrigation systems as well as water mills (gharats), environmental and infrastructural damage from landslides in some regions (especially Chamba District), negative effects on fisheries and the livelihoods that fish farming and sport and subsistence fishing activities support, systemic problems with the Local Area Development Authority, significant uncompensated worker deaths during project construction and on-going concerns regarding labor relations, all comprise the local track record of small hydropower development in the state.  Leaving aside the broader question of whether or not small hydropower projects should be developed, it is clear that if they are going to be developed, then an alternative institutional framework is called for.

Two institutional models for small hydropower development exist that have the potential to realize more sustainable, effective and equitable hydropower outcomes.  These models are represented by the Sai Engineering Foundation (figure 4) and the Churah Cooperative Floriculture Society (figure 5).  Inspired by the teachings of the religious leader Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the religious ideals of Gandhian social service, Sai Engineering Foundation is a registered charitable foundation that promotes social welfare.  They have been involved with hydropower development since the first India Hilly Hydel demonstration projects in the 1990s.  They both own and manage their own projects and provide consulting services for other private power developers.  They invest the revenue from hydropower production in social service and welfare programs in Himachal Pradesh.  These activities include medical and blood donation camps, financial assistance to low income students, community-based welfare programs, working with government programs to deliver services to low income communities, and promoting cooperative societies in the field of power generation, construction, and floriculture (Sai Engineering Foundation 2011).  Because of the social service ideology that informs this organization, when the Sai Foundation develops small hydropower projects, it does so in a manner that prevents or mitigates the negative impacts on local livelihood strategies and is responsive to local concerns and issues.

The second alternative institutional arrangement is the Churah cooperative society.  Although the 2006 Hydropower Policy specifically addresses the need to prioritize working with cooperative societies, and despite repeated calls by community members for more support for local cooperative society involvement in hydropower development, our research revealed only one community-based cooperative society working on small hydropower development.  Since 1996 the Churah Valley Fruits, Vegetables, and Flowers Growers Marketing and Development Cooperative Society (Churah Floriculture Cooperative Society) has worked to promote the economic development of low income families in the Churah Valley, a remote area in Chamba District, not far from the border with Jammu and Kashmir.  The cooperative’s initial and on-going work involves developing floriculture using greenhouses, and marketing cut flowers to cities in north India, as well as off-season vegetable production in neighboring Pangi Valley.  Interestingly, they are also working to develop a small hydropower project under the framework of the 2006 Hydropower Policy.  Four hundred Below Poverty Line (BPL) households, all members of the cooperative society, are involved in this effort.  In order to qualify for the necessary loans, each household is putting up their house and land as collateral.  The cooperative society is currently securing the necessary funding and moving ahead with efforts to secure the required No Objection Certificates.  The revenue from the small hydropower project, once it is commissioned, will be shared among the participating families.



Both the Sai Engineering Foundation and the Churah Floriculture Cooperative Society represent viable alternatives to the current approach, which emphasizes corporate ownership of small hydropower facilities.  Both of these organizations are accountable to local concerns and interests and prioritize local social and environmental sustainability.  However, both the Sai Engineering Foundation and the Churah Floriculture Society face an uphill battle to get their projects approved and the requisite NOCs obtained.  Both organizations have fewer financial resources to offer in exchange for obtaining NOCs than do private companies; they are thus at a disadvantage when competing with private corporations for bureaucrats’ attention and willingness to provide NOCs.

Concluding Recommendations

Insights from this study provide the basis for proposing concrete steps that together could help small run-of-the-river hydropower projects realize their purported, but not realized, benefits.  Three broad categories of recommendations exist.  Firstly, the process through which potential hydropower sites are identified must include key elements of the agrarian landscape as well as the cumulative effects of multiple projects along a common stream reach; furthermore, when negative social and environmental effects are anticipated, they should be adequately mitigated.  Settlements, networks of kuhl irrigation systems, strings of gharats along streamcourses, irrigated and unirrigated cultivated areas, and proximity to adjacent projects, in addition to hydrological information, should be incorporated into the site evaluation and identification process.  Using this information to avoid siting projects in densely managed landscapes, or too close to each other, would help eliminate many of the negative project impacts on local livelihoods and communities.  In cases where projects do negatively affect local livelihoods, e.g. when a project renders gharats defunct, disrupts a community-managed irrigation system, or disturbs grazing or cultivated areas, then adequate compensation should be provided through a government-facilitated process.  Similarly, negative environmental effects should be mitigated, for example by requiring manual cleaning of desilting tanks, installation of fish-friendly diversion weirs, adequate water (quality and quantity) to support ecosystem needs, and effective muck management approaches.

Secondly, policy implementation and enforcement need to be strengthened.  While the 2006 HP Power Policy and state labour laws contain important safeguards for local communities and workers, implementation and enforcement need strengthening.  For example, district authorities need to be required and empowered to collect the mandatory developer contributions to the Local Area Development Authority.  LADA funds should be allocated in a manner that maximizes local benefits for project-affected households and communities. Similarly, labour laws requiring that workers doing regular work should be hired on a permanent, not a daily wage, basis should be enforced, and workers should receive the perquisites concomitant with regular employment, including compensation in the event of injury or death.  Projects that disrupt local livelihoods and generate unmitigated negative environmental effects should not qualify for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism.  Greater policy and bureaucratic support also needs to be directed towards supporting alternative institutional models for small hydropower development, such as cooperative societies and social service foundations

Thirdly, governance measures that strengthen small hydropower projects’ accountability should be developed.  The record of negative social and environmental effects and the extent of local opposition, attests to the unsustainable nature of the current approach to small hydropower development.  Identifying and implementing governance measures to minimize these negative socio-ecological effects will likely provide a more informed and democratic basis for decision-making.  Measures such as requiring Environmental Impact Assessments, along with the requisite public hearings, as well as obtaining environmental clearance from the state, would go a long way to improving the sustainability of small hydropower in Himachal Pradesh.  If developers, after completing such assessments and hearings, and receiving clearance, were able to more easily obtain the necessary No Objection Certificates, then project delays would also be reduced.

Clearly, alternatives do exist for advancing institutional approaches to small hydropower development that are accountable to local communities and environmental concerns.  Whether or not the state of Himachal Pradesh (and other states since this is likely to be equally applicable to other states where such projects are taken up) chooses to embrace these approaches remains to be seen.  If the next 450 planned or under-construction small hydropower projects in the state generate a track record similar to the first fifty, then regional society and environment will be much the poorer for it.  However, if civil society mobilizations and resistance are sustained, and governance measures strengthened, then power developers will be held more accountable for the local impacts of their activities.  If the state government chooses to offer more support and capacity building resources for entities like cooperative societies and Sai Engineering Foundation, or at least removes some of the barriers they currently face, then these alternate institutional approaches to power development may proliferate.  And if in response to electoral pressures within the state, Himachal Pradesh decides to put more teeth into its currently progressive, but not enforced, power policy, then perhaps the future will be brighter than the recent past.

Please see Part I of the piece here:


Carbon Credit Capital (2011) “India’s Renewable Energy Certificate Market” (New York).  Viewed on 9 June 2014.  Website:

Newing, Helen (2011): Conducting Research in Conservation: Social Science Methods and Practice (New York: Routledge). (2013) “Clean development mechanism: zombie projects, zero emissions reductions and almost worthless carbon credits”.  Viewed on 9 June 2014.  Website:

Sai Engineering Foundation (2011): “Karmayoga”, Quarterly Newsletter of Sai Engineering Foundation, 1(11) (New Shimla, Himachal Pradesh).

Singh, Namrata (2014) “Companies holding carbon credits stare at ‘real loss’”.  Times of India.  Viewed on 9 June 2014.  Website:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2014). “Project Cycle Search.” Viewed on 9 June 2014.  Website:


1] This study is based on six months of mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative field research that I and two research assistants.  After an initial exploration of the relevance of this topic in 2009, field research commenced in January, 2012.  We began by meeting key state level bureaucrats in Shimla and collecting secondary documents concerning all of the 49 commissioned small hydropower projects from the Himurja (Himachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency) office in Shimla.  We then turned to the district and project level research.  In each district where commissioned small hydropower projects were located, we interviewed district officials and collected secondary information concerning the projects.  We met with district commissioners, sub-division magistrates, tehsildars, and other concerned district officers.  We informed officials of our research, garnered key insights about small hydropower development from them, and collected relevant information and project related records and documents.  We then focused our research efforts on each commissioned small hydropower project.  At each project location, we interviewed project representatives (generally the project manager and occasionally the project owner) and the panchayat pradhans of affected panchayats.  We conducted structured and semi-structured survey interviews with project-affected households and other key informants.  We checked all the information we obtained using between-subject, cross-method, and cross-researcher triangulation (Newing 2011).  We ground truthed what we learned through meetings, surveys and interviews by walking transects from the diversion weir down to the tail race of every commissioned project.  We also photocopied key documents such as petitions, correspondence, court documents, and judicial papers.  Near the completion of the fieldwork, I met the same state level officers and bureaucrats with whom I had met at the beginning of the fieldwork in order to share preliminary research findings and conclusions.

[2] The Local Area Development Authority is a committee, comprised of the sub-district magistrate, other subdivisional officers, affected area panchayat pradhans, and a representative of the project developer.  The committee identifies and prioritizes potential projects, and then submits the prioritized list of projects to the district commissioner, who is to then approve and authorize the necessary expenditure.  Examples of projects include a veterinary dispensary, ayurvedic dispensary, cremation ground, village meeting hall, furniture for meeting hall, irrigation system (kuhl) repair, culverts and road repair, footbridges and playing field for youth.

[3] The labor-intensive project construction process lasts at least two years and often significantly longer.  To accomplish specific tasks, subcontractors hire large numbers of workers.  The majority of these workers live in temporary tin shed housing located along the banks of the stream or river from which the project diverts water.  These “labor camps” often house one hundred or more workers.  The fuelwood consumption for cooking and heating (notwithstanding attempts to provide LPG cylinders) associated with these camps poses a significant environmental concern, as does the fact that most of these labor camps do not have adequate provision for wastewater and sewage.  Consequently the adjacent stream, which is invariably used downstream for washing, irrigation and other purposes, and stream bank, are severely contaminated.  While this research focused on already constructed projects, local residents nevertheless often complained about the negative environmental, health, and social impacts of these labor camps.

[4] This is based on a comprehensive review of the Project Cycle Search webpages of the Clean Development Mechanism segment of the UNFCCC website, accessed on 9 June 2014.





Himachal Pradesh

The Socio-Ecological Effects of Small Hydropower Development in Himachal Pradesh

J. Mark Baker (, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, USA


This article is part one of a two part summary of the results of a study on the socio-ecological impacts of privatized, small, run-of-the-river hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh.[1]  It is based on field research conducted in 2012 on all 49 commissioned small hydropower projects in the state.

Map 1

In the late 1990s Himachal Pradesh, as did other states in this region, launched a series of initiatives to privatize and promote small hydropower production (Sinclair 2003).  In 2006 these initiatives were incorporated into a new hydropower policy that aimed to generate revenue through the sale of surplus power to neighboring states and to promote the state’s own development (GoHP 2006).  Because the levels of investment necessary to develop hydropower exceed the state’s financial resources as claimed by the policy, Himachal Pradesh’s power policy provides for private sector involvement and uses central government subsidies.  Small hydropower project construction and operation in Himachal Pradesh is entirely privatized (GoHP 2006).  Small hydropower projects mostly utilize run-of-the-river power generation technologies to convert hydropower into electricity; this study uses the Himachal Pradesh government definition of small as 5MW or less (though the Government of India defines small as below 25 MW capacity).[2]  By 2012, only six years after the implementation of the policy, there were a total of 49 small hydropower projects generating electricity in the state (including the approximately 8 projects commissioned before 2006) (map 1).  Additionally, approximately 50 more projects were under construction, and approximately 400 were in various stages of planning and approval (GoHP 2012) (map 2).[3]

Map 2

The state established a nodal agency, Himurja, to oversee the private development of the state’s small hydropower potential, and to promote utilization of renewable energy more generally.  In 2006 the state formalized the processes and mechanisms that govern private sector involvement in electricity production by passing the Hydropower Policy.  Himurja plays a central role in this process by allocating government-identified small hydropower project sites to private corporations.  After receiving an allotted project site, the corporation (referred to as the project developer or independent power producer) must prepare a series of detailed project reports that include, for example, two years of streamflow data and analysis of the engineering, economic, hydrological, geological, and environmental characteristics of the project.  Once Himurja officers approve these reports, they and the project developer sign a Memorandum of Understanding, a Techno-Economic Clearance document and eventually an Implementation Agreement.  At that point the developer begins the work of securing the required No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the relevant state and local government entities including the Wildlife Department, Forest Department, Irrigation and Public Health Department Fisheries Department, Public Works Department, Pollution Control Board, Revenue Department, and affected Panchayats.  After obtaining the required certificates, the power producer may commence project construction.

Construction costs generally range from Rs 6-8 crores per megawatt, but these are quickly recouped through the sale of electricity to the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board.  Once the project is commissioned, the HP State Electricity Board guarantees the independent power producer a purchase price of Rs 2.50 per kilowatt hour – the equivalent of approximately Rs 2.2 crores per megawatt per year.[4]  The project reverts to the state government free of cost after 40 years of operation.  The developer pays the state government no power royalties for the first 12 years of the project’s life.  However, for the next 18 years the developer must provide 12% of the power it produces free of charge to the state; for the remaining 10 years it must provide 18% free electricity to the state.

For small hydropower projects, there is no requirement that the project developer prepare a formal environmental and social impact assessment or environmental and social management plan subject to public review.  Nor is the developer required to hold public hearings about the proposed project.  This is a serious issue because the absence of a formal environmental assessment and hearing process prevents members of project-affected communities and other civil society groups from sharing concerns about the projects’ anticipated effects.  This is one of the reasons for the growing and significant level of local opposition to small hydropower development in the state.  A significant amount of the local opposition to small hydropower projects stems from the ways in which such projects disrupt rural livelihoods, combined with the inadequacy of local benefits such as rural employment generation and other forms of direct compensation.  The next sections describe some of the livelihood disruptions the commissioned small hydropower projects have caused.  The discussion is organized district by district, reflecting the geographical pattern of these disruptions.

District Kangra – disruption to local irrigation systems and farmer collective action

The majority of District Kangra lies on the southern side of the Dhaula Dhar mountain range, from where it extends across Kangra Valley and into the Sivalik Hills.  The district is notable for its extensive network of community-managed gravity flow irrigation systems (kuhls).  In Kangra Valley alone 750 large and more than 2100 small kuhls irrigate approximately 40000 hectares (Baker 2005) (figure 1).[5]  Kuhl irrigation water is crucial for both kharif crops (rice and corn) and rabi crops (wheat and potatoes).  These crops, except for potatoes, are almost entirely used for home consumption.  Historically, kuhl irrigation water was essential for driving water-powered mills (gharats) and other machines, as well as irrigating home gardens, watering livestock, and meeting household needs for non-potable water.  The importance of ensuring the continuity of these kuhl irrigation systems is reflected in the language of the No Objection Certificates that project developers must obtain from the Irrigation and Public Health Department as well as from village panchayat pradhans.  These certificates contain language that protects community-managed kuhls from disruptions by small hydropower projects and requires the developer to pay full compensation if a project damages or disrupts a community-managed kuhl.

Fig 1

Despite the protections delineated in the No Objection Certificates, small hydropower projects commonly disrupt kuhl irrigation systems or cause them to cease functioning altogether, either by physically damaging the irrigation system or by diverting the water on which the irrigation system relies (figure 2).  When a kuhl is damaged or deprived of water, farmers must shift to rainfed cultivation.  Output from rainfed crops is invariably much less than for irrigated crops, in part due to unpredictable rainfall, increased vulnerability to drought, and damage from hailstorms at harvest time.  Throughout the state, small hydropower projects have disabled a total of at least 13 kuhl irrigation systems; in none of these cases did the project developer compensate farmers for their losses.  This level of disturbance to irrigation is significant – for example, one of the disabled kuhls was the primary source of irrigation water for approximately 2000 households.

Fig 2

Not all local farmers have not stood by idly, watching the lifeline of their subsistence agricultural economy go dry.  Our research documented countless visits from village representatives to district administrative authorities petitioning them to intercede on their behalf in order to seek redress, compensation, and/or release of adequate water flows necessary for irrigation.  Despite these frequent and often repeated requests, we did not encounter one instance in which the district administration prevailed upon the power producer to either compensate for disruptions to these irrigation systems or reduce water diversion to provide adequate water supply.[6]

Seeing the futility of seeking redress for damage or guaranteed minimum flows from already-constructed projects, farming communities in Kangra have started blocking construction of hydropower projects until the power developer agrees to binding conditions.  One example of this concerns Ganetta Kuhl, which diverts water from the Baner stream and conveys it 22 kilometers to the cultivated lands of more than 500 households in 12 different villages.  The diversion weir for a partially completed small hydropower plant is located upstream of the kuhl’s diversion point.[7]  Farmers worried that the project’s water diversion would reduce the water available to them.  When letters outlining farmers’ concerns sent to Prodigy Hydro Power, the deputy commissioner, and even to the chief minister by the panchayat pradhan and kuhl committee president did not produce results, the irrigators used the threat of opposition and civil disobedience to block further project construction (figure 3).  As a result, project construction work was halted for many months.  Finally, in 2013, the project developer agreed to the farmers’ demands, including that their water rights be guaranteed, and in return the farmers rescinded their threats; construction work on this project is currently underway.

Fig 3

The problems associated with project disruption of traditional irrigation systems are most pronounced in District Kangra due to the large number of kuhl irrigation systems.  However, our research revealed that any location in the state in which kuhl diversion structures are located between a project’s trench weir and tail race were liable to experience water shortages during the year.

Chamba District – landslides, damaged watermills, and local activism

District Chamba lies to the north of District Kangra and contains the headwaters of the Ravi River and key tributaries, all of which have cut deeply into the Himalayan mountains.  Because it lacks the broad arable plains that characterize the kuhl-irrigated Kangra Valley, farmers in Chamba combine rainfed cultivation on terraced fields carved into steep slopes with a high level of dependence on timber and non-timber forest resources, which meet both subsistence needs and generate revenue.  The streams that flow from the forests down through the cultivated fields and villages to eventually join the Ravi River often power 10, 20, or more gharats (water-powered mills).

One of Chamba District’s defining characteristics is its steep topography.  Not only are the roads carved, at times precariously, into steep mountain faces, but there are also numerous signs of natural and human-caused landslides.  In some instances the failure of a terraced field has initiated a landslide whose head swale climbs higher upslope each monsoon season.  In other cases road construction is clearly the culprit, especially where roads traverse steep, unstable slopes or cross ravines that may washout during monsoon storms.

Fig 4

In steep, geologically unstable terrain such as this, small hydropower projects trigger large landslides that not only cause extensive environmental damage but may also damage or destroy the project itself.[8]  The Terailla Project is a case in point.  Located beyond the small town of Tissa in a remote area of Chamba District, this is one of four small hydropower projects that take turns diverting and returning the Terailla River’s water in quick succession.  The power channel of the Terailla Project is carved from a steep, unstable slope containing loose gravel and large rocks and boulders.  After the project was commissioned in 2007, landslides destroyed large sections of the power channel.  Car-size boulders slid downslope and deformed the one meter diameter pipe near the upper end of the power channel (figure 4).  Two other landslides carried large sections of the concrete box power channel down the slope towards the source stream (figure 5).  As of the summer of 2012 this power project had been nonoperational for one year due to the landslide damage.[9]

Fig 5

The upper edge of the growing landslide continues to move upslope and is now destroying the common grazing grounds of the adjacent village; if the rate of the slide’s uphill movement continues, then it will begin approaching the village itself.  Additionally, project roads constructed across adjacent steep slopes to provide access to the diversion weir and to the power house have themselves triggered further landslides.  Despite the clear potential for landslides in this area, the Detailed Project Report submitted by the power developer to HIMURJA states that there is no landslide risk in the project area.  That this faulty assessment was accepted and the project approved suggests there are problems with the government review process.

The four tightly spaced small hydropower projects along the Terailla River have triggered numerous small and large landslides and wrought negative environmental and livelihood impacts.  These include damage to grazing land and cultivated areas, destruction of gharats and other landslide-related damage.  The cumulative negative effects of these projects have generated significant local opposition.  Local community members have protested on numerous occasions and filed multiple court cases against these projects.   Some protesters, including local village women, have been arrested and detained overnight in jail.  The close proximity of these projects along one stream reach raises concerns about the cumulative impacts of clustered small hydropower projects.  This is especially troubling because the project review process contains no mechanism for assessing the cumulative impacts of multiple projects located along the same stream or river.

Damage to gharats from small hydropower projects occurs commonly in Chamba.  Gharats are the most common method for grinding corn, wheat, and occasionally rice.  In exchange for grinding neighbors’ grain, the gharat owner usually receives 10% of the volume of grain they grind.  These in-kind payments support the gharat owner’s family.  Interestingly, in our surveys we found many examples of woman-owned and managed gharats; in most of these cases the woman was either a widow or the head of her household.  Thus gharats are an important livelihood source for this otherwise disadvantaged group of people.

Fig 6

The 49 commissioned small hydropower projects in the state have stopped 104 gharats, either by destroying them due to land and rockslides or by diverting so much water that the gharat had to be abandoned due to lack of water (figures 6 and 7).[10]  The elimination of these 104 gharats weakens the economic stability of the large number of households whose livelihoods they previously sustained.  Although the Irrigation and Public Health Department No Objection Certificate directs the power developer to provide adequate water flows for gharats, the policy contains no requirement that compensation be paid gharat owners if the project damages their gharat or restricts the water available for diversion.  This gap in the hydropower policy, which stems from urban policy makers’ general dismissal and undervaluation of gharats’ importance, suggests why the owners of many of these gharats received no compensation.[11]

Fig 7

Seeing the pattern of uncompensated damage, gharat owners in one stream in Chamba decided on a proactive strategy.  For six months, using threats of direct action against a newly-commissioned small hydropower project, the owners of 12 project-affected gharats stopped the power project from operating until an acceptable compensation agreement was successfully negotiated.  Eventually, through negotiations between the gharat owners, the power developer and the district commissioner, an agreement was reached that ensured acceptable levels of compensation for affected gharat owners.  Based on the assumption that the gharat contributed the equivalent of a daily wage for the household (Rs 120), and the expected life of the power project (40 years), the negotiated settlement consisted of a series of five annual payments which together would total the equivalent of 40 years of daily wage labor.  After the first payment had been made to the concerned gharat owners, they removed their opposition to the project and it began producing and selling electricity.  However, as one gharat owner noted, if their payments cease, they will again stop the project through direct action.

The ability of these gharat owners to successfully engage in direct action and then negotiation reflects the pre-existing patterns of social activism and strong local governance traditions prevalent in Chamba.  Local leaders, inspired by Gandhian ideologies of self-governance and sustainable local livelihoods, have worked to strengthen village panchayat institutions over the last two decades.  This awareness building and social mobilization has centered on defending village community timber and non-timber forest product rights, advocating for community-based medicinal herb collection, and strengthening village level democratic institutions (Gaul 2001).  The resulting awareness and knowledge concerning local rights and democratic process has empowered local communities to defend against livelihood threats, including threats from small hydropower projects.

Kullu District – threats to apple wealth, tourism

Kullu District’s fame, which extends throughout India and indeed the world, stems from a variety of characteristics that also influence the pattern of socio-economic and environmental consequences of small hydropower development.  The district, located to the east of Districts Kangra and Chamba, tends to be relatively wealthy, in part due to the revenue from the cultivation of apples and stone fruit.  Other key sources of local revenues include the film productions that regularly occur in the picturesque mountainous scenery, year-round tourism resulting from Kullu’s attraction to honeymooners and outdoor sports enthusiasts, and Kullu’s prominent pilgrimage destinations, which attract large numbers of pilgrims from throughout north India.  The streams and rivers of Kullu District also support the largest number of private trout farms in the state as well as the Fisheries Department’s fish stocking program, which in turn attracts anglers from around the world and whose efforts are supported by the Himachal Angling Association.  Lastly, parts of the district possess unique ecological and biodiversity values, which conservation efforts within the Forest Department, and especially the creation of the Great Himalaya National Park, seek to conserve and maintain.

The diverse elements of the economic foundations of the district – fruit cultivation, commercial film production, tourism, pilgrimage, fisheries opportunities, and conservation values – also heighten the stakes associated with the proliferation of hydropower projects.  The cumulative impacts of the 11 completed small hydropower projects in the district (with many more under construction and planned) undermine the integrity and value of these elements.

The cumulative effects of transmission line infrastructure threaten the aesthetic and economic values of the Kullu landscape.  As noted previously, private power developers are responsible for constructing power towers and installing transmission lines to convey the electricity they produce to the nearest HPSEB substation.  This is a significant undertaking as the distance between power projects and substations ranges from 3 to 15 kilometers.  When multiple power projects are located in one valley, each must separately construct transmission infrastructure; as the density of power projects increases, so does the resulting network of transmission lines spreading across the picturesque mountain landscape.  Already this density has created negative effects.  Residents we surveyed decried the ugly transmission lines that cut through the fruit orchards in the main Kullu Valley and also traverse the deodar forests and cultivated areas of the tributary watersheds of the Beas River.  Many Kullu residents link the area’s natural beauty with the tourism and film industry and are worried about the negative effects on it of hydropower development.  For example, a panchayat pradhan likened the white boulders of the dewatered reach of the Beas River to bleached bones and asked whether tourists would like to see those instead of clean, free running water.  Regarding transmission lines, one local film production manager noted ruefully that the density of transmission lines in the valley has already disrupted shooting operations and is challenging the ability of film crews to obtain sequences not marred by transmission lines. Seeing the damage to apple orchards from transmission line construction and the fact that at least one person has died from electrocution from a low hanging power line, families that own land where towers need to be constructed are increasingly reluctant to sell the small plot of land necessary to construct the power tower.

Kullu District – threats to fisheries-based livelihoods

The negative effects of small hydropower development on water quality and fisheries-based livelihoods were also particularly evident in Kullu District.  In addition to reducing the quantity of water available for kuhl irrigation systems and for gharats, as discussed above, small hydropower projects also affect water quality.  Project managers clean desilting tanks by flushing the accumulated silt directly back into the source stream, thus creating a slug of sediment that harms downstream water quality and aquatic habitat and species.

These sediment slugs negatively affect downstream fisheries operations, both private and government.  The Himachal Pradesh Fisheries Department’s oldest trout hatchery is located at Patlikuhl in Kullu Valley (figure 8).  Established in 1909, the hatchery diverts water from the Sujan stream before it joins the Beas River.  In 1988 a joint Indo-Norwegian effort was initiated to commercialize trout production (Sehgal 1999).  The hatchery now operates independently of Norwegian support.  In 2009-2010 it produced 3.75 lakhs of fish ova, 80 metric tons of fish feed (sold to local fish farmers and as far away as Sikkim, Bhutan, and Uttarakhand), and 12 metric tons of fish (Fisheries Department records 2012).  This fish hatchery operation anchors the state’s fish stocking program and supplies fingerlings and other inputs to the growing number of households in Kullu that have established fish farming operations.  The hatchery depends on clean, cold, oxygenated water to successfully manage the large number of tanks where fish eggs are fertilized and the ova are reared to become fingerlings or adults.  Already, commissioned power projects (small and large) have increased sedimentation in the Sujan stream and more projects are planned.  Hatchery managers are concerned about the threats to their source water posed by upstream hydropower development; they have written letters expressing this concern to the Director of the Fisheries Department.

Fig 8

When asked about the Fisheries Department’s ability to require water quality protection measures as a condition for approving the No Objection Certificate, the Fisheries Department official in charge of the Patlikuhl fish hatchery stated that initially department officers had attempted to restrict the proliferation of small hydropower projects due to their negative effects on fisheries and aquatic ecology.  In some instances they had refused to provide a No Objection Certificate or they had required stringent water quality protection measures.  However, the officer noted in a resigned manner that eventually they “had to give the NOC; it is the policy of the government” (to promote small hydropower).

Many local communities share the Fisheries Department’s concerns about the negative water quality impacts of small hydropower projects, especially given the recent growth of fish farming.  The fingerlings and fish food from the Patlikuhl Fish Hatchery have enabled fish farming in Kullu District to grow rapidly from only four or five small private fish farms a few years ago to 52 farms.  In 2011 these farms produced more than 50 metric tons of trout, which were sold to local and more distant markets at Rs 250-350 per kilogram and netted each of these 52 families approximately Rs 3 lakhs.  This scale of economic production is significant.  And, given the market and transportation linkages with large cities such as Chandigarh, Delhi, and even Mumbai, the potential demand for farmed trout far exceeds current production.  However, the negative effects on water quality from hydropower development could significantly limit realization of this potential.

The potential threat small hydropower development poses for fish farming has strengthened local community opposition, which occasionally manifests as local panchayat refusal to grant the No Objection Certificate.  One example of this concerns the controversy over small hydropower development planned for Haripur Nullah, a tributary of the Beas River on the east side of Kullu Valley.  A project developer had been seeking the requisite NOCs from the three panchayats within whose boundaries the project fell.  Concerned residents, including retired government officers and educators, had earlier formed a local organization (Jan Jagran Vikas Sanstha, JJVS) to successfully oppose a planned ski resort in their area (Asher 2008).  This same group of individuals mobilized against the proposed small hydropower project, due to the anticipated damage to the private and government fish farms the stream supports and the negative effects on the four affected kuhls, the numerous gharats along Haripur Nullah, and the local government seed farm and private agricultural production in the project affected area.  Due to this well organized local opposition, at eight different meetings the developer was unsuccessful in obtaining the NOC.  Finally, just prior to a panchayat election (which the pradhan was not planning to contest) the developer, through a “miracle” (as recounted by JJVS members), managed to obtain a signed NOC from the pradhan.  JJVS members rejected the validity of the NOC, which they claimed was obtained through undue influence, and sought redress through the district administration as well as the local courts.[12]  Meanwhile, despite continued local opposition, the project developer has begun construction.

The intersections between fish, livelihoods, and small hydropower development extend to both sport fishing and subsistence fishing.  Individuals that engage in subsistence fishing obtain cast net licenses from the Fisheries Department.  In 2011 there were 350, 200, and 2000 cast net license holders in Districts Kullu, Chamba, and Kangra, respectively.  The Fisheries Department estimates that in the state overall approximately 10000 households depend entirely or significantly on subsistence fishing for their livelihood.  Sport fishing is also a significant and growing source of economic revenue, especially for those who operate fishing lodges and otherwise cater to sport fishers.  In 2011 the Fisheries Department allocated 752 sport fishing licenses in Kullu District, the center of sport fishing for Himachal Pradesh.  The Tirthan River, which flows out of the Great Himalaya National Park and travels approximately 16 kilometers before it joins with the Sainj and then the Beas Rivers, is one of the centers of sport trout fishing.  The Himachal Angling Association, an active organization that promotes sport fishing, held its 2012 Trout Anglers Meet at Sai Ropa on the Tirthan River.  The keynote address at the angling competition, given by the Association’s Secretary General, advanced strategies for strengthening “Angling Tourism” and denounced the negative impacts of small hydropower development on fisheries and the livelihoods they support.

Fig 9

The competition was attended by Mr. Dilaram Shabab, the retired MLA from this area who had spearheaded the successful effort to have the Tirthan River watershed declared off limits to small hydropower development (figure 9).  Local panchayats, community members, and fishing lodge owners, with the able support and vision of Mr. Dilaram Shabab, as well as eventual backing from Fisheries Department, Forest Department and Great Himalayan National Park officials, launched a five year court battle against small hydropower development in this watershed.  After three years of arguments and rulings in the Kullu District Court and more than one year in the High Court in Shimla, the High Court presiding judge ruled in favor of the arguments set forth concerning the negative effects on the environment, fisheries, and affected communities of the planned small hydropower projects in the watershed.  The court declared the Tirthan off limits to all hydropower projects, and it cancelled the 9 previously approved small hydropower projects (Civil Writ Petition 1038 2006).[13]  This is the only example in Himachal Pradesh of a watershed being declared permanently off limits to hydro development.

This concludes part one of this two part article.  The second part will address labor issues related to small hydropower development and the functioning of the Local Area Development Authority (LADA).  It will also discuss two promising institutional models for small hydropower development and offer a set of recommendations.

J. Mark Baker (, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, USA

Please see Part II of this piece here:


Asher, Manshi (2008): “Impacts of the Proposed Himalayan Ski Village Project in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh – A Preliminary Fact Finding Report” (Himachal Pradesh: Him Niti   and Jan Jagran Evan Vikas Samiti).

Baker, J Mark (2005): The Kuhls of Kangra: Community Managed Irrigation in the Western Himalaya (Delhi: Permanent Black).

Gaul, Karen K (2001): “On the Move: Shifting Strategies in Environmental Activism in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh”,  Himalaya, 21(2):70-78.

Government of Himachal Pradesh (2006): “Hydro Power Policy”, (Shimla).

Government of Himachal Pradesh (2012): “Memorandums of Understanding”, Himachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency (Himurja).  Viewed on 25 May 2012. Website: (

Payne, Adam (2010): “Rivers of Power, Forests of Beauty: Neo-Liberalism, Conservation and the Governmental Use of Terror in Struggles Over Natural Resources”, Columbia Undergraduate Journal of South Asian Studies, 2(1):61-92.

Sehgal, KL (1999): “Coldwater Fish and Fisheries in the Indian Himalayas: Culture” in T Petr  (ed.), Fish and fisheries at higher altitudes: Asia. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 385. (Rome: FAOF).

Selvaraj, S and A Badola (2012): “Validation of the Small Hydro Power Project by Prodigy Hydro Power Private Limited”, (Neuilly Sur Seine, France: Bureau Veritas Certification).

Sinclair, John (2003): “Assessing the Impacts of Micro-Hydro Development in Kullu District, Himachal Pradesh, India”, Mountain Research and Development, 23(1):11-13.


[1] The material presented here is partly excerpted from a recent article in Economic and Political Weekly, “Small Hydropower Development in Himachal Pradesh: an Analysis of Socioecological Effects,” vol XLIX no 21, pages 77-86.

[2] Run-of-the-river power small hydro projects divert water from a source stream or river through a dam or trench weir into a settling tank where the silt and sediment load settles to the bottom.  From there the water is conveyed through a power channel (usually a large diameter pipe or concrete box tunnel) away from the source stream along a slight downhill gradient.  The power channel length varies from one to as long as eight kilometers.  From the power channel the water flows into the forebay and then passes into the steeply sloped penstock and then inside the power house where the force of the water is used to drive one or more turbines.  The electricity the turbines produce is monitored and managed through a complex set of operating controls.  Power lines one to fifteen kilometers in length convey the generated power to the nearest HP State Electricity Board substation, at which point the power joins the state’s power grid.

[3] The 49 commissioned power projects have a total generating capacity of about 200 MW, which represents about 20% of the small hydropower potential in the state.  Some of these projects were commissioned prior to the 2006 Hydropower Policy.  This article restricts its focus to small (5 MW or less, as defined by the Himachal Pradesh Power Policy) hydropower projects, which are often considered socially and environmentally benign.  Large hydropower projects are also proliferating across the state, and have their own socio-ecological impacts.  Sometimes small and large hydropower projects are located on the same stream or river; however, most of the commissioned small hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh are located in different watercourses, and generally upstream, of medium and large hydropower projects.

[4] This rate of return assumes the power project operates at full capacity year round.  However, even at half capacity, these projects still fetch a handsome return on investment, especially when central government subsidies are taken into account.

[5] A large kuhl may be defined as irrigating land in more than one village while a small kuhl irrigates land within one village.

[6] This is primarily due to the reluctance of power producers to allow water to flow across their diversion weir without capturing it and harnessing it to generate power and revenue.  Farmers, especially subsistence farmers using traditional irrigation systems, generally do not have the political power and access to the district’s administrative machinery to force power producers to forego potential revenue in order to allow local traditions of water management to flourish.  While some farmers in Sirmaur District resorted to the purchase of diesel pumpsets to lift water to irrigate cash crops (bell peppers, green beans and tomatoes), these efforts also failed due to the lack of water in the stream reach between the hydroproject’s diversion weir and tail race.

[7] Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, this same project received validation through a third party assessment under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol for producing Certified Emissions Reductions and satisfying the criteria for being a quality project (Selvaraj, S. et al. 2012).

[8] Indeed, the destructive landslides and other environmental degradation associated with this form of hydropower along the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins resulted in the August 2013 Supreme Court stay on further hydropower development in neighboring Uttarakhand (Hon K S Radhakrishnan 2013).

[9] The Detailed Project Report for this project should have identified these landslide and slippage risks.  In this case the report did not mention this risk.  In the conclusion of the “Geological and Geotechnical Studies” chapter, the report notes that “on the basis of geological investigation carried out it is recommended that weir site, feeder channel, desilting tank, power channel, forebay, penstock and powerhouse sites are geologically suitable for construction.  There is no major geological problem around the study area.”  The next line notes that “there is no landslide zone.”  Clearly this report, upon which approval was granted to the project developer to construct the project, contained inaccurate information about landslide risk.  This raises the issue of how much review of the Detailed Project Reports Himurja officers should undertake.  At least in this case, ground truthing could have avoided these severe and ongoing problems.

[10] In more than one instance, though the power developer told us that no gharats were located between the project’s diversion weir and tail race, site visits to the stream reach revealed this not to be true.

[11] Compensation rates for those gharat owners that did receive some form of compensation varied widely and seemed to depend on the relative bargaining power of gharat owners.  Compensation ranged from monthly payments of Rs 3000 to lump sum payments of Rs 2 to 16.5 lakhs.

[12] The members of JJVS hypothesized that the pradhan had either been paid or coerced into authorizing the NOC, though there is no evidence to support this since there has been no investigation into this issue.  Using monetary incentives to obtain the necessary no objection clearances is common practice.  We heard many instances in which a No Objection Certificate was obtained from a panchayat for a payment of between Rs 30000 to 50000.  As discussed above, NOCs must be obtained from a number of different government agencies, in addition to the project-affected panchayats.  A general rule of thumb appears to be that obtaining NOCs from all the necessary entities usually costs approximately Rs 50 lakhs per megawatt of installed capacity.

[13] The court decision hinged on the anticipated negative effects of the projects on trout and other Tirthan River fisheries, anticipated local livelihood disruptions related to damage to gharats and kuhl irrigation, the fact that the projects would provide little local benefit (minimal local employment would be provided, electricity was not needed locally), and claims that the project documents lacked a real assessment of the burdens of the project on local communities.  The proximity of the projects along the Tirthan River to the Great Himalaya National Park, with its populations of threatened Western Tragopan, Monal and other pheasants, Musk Deer and other species, also influenced the court’s judgment concerning the relative merits and demerits of these small hydropower projects (Payne 2010).

Related subsequent stories:



Fishing the Cauvery River: How Mettur changed it all

Like us, rivers work. They absorb and emit energy; they rearrange the world.

(White 1995, 3)

Introduction: fixing water and rivers

Rivers have always stirred strong emotions in human beings. Constantly undercutting and eroding the very surfaces that sustain them while simultaneously depositing silt and making new geological forms, rivers have fashioned unique landscapes; sometimes finding safe alcoves and sometimes dropping off precipices yielding awe fluid edifices. As crucibles of civilization, rivers have left an indelible mark on the human imaginative landscape.

As an ecosystem, a river is a complex network of many elements. Since all of life lives downstream of a river in a one form or another, a river’s temperamentality affects the wafer delicate fabric we call life. Civilizations have hinged on floods and loathed droughts since time immemorial.

Rivers erode; relocate flotsam, and fashion new landscapes principally to remove obstructions from their paths. In the long run, a river’s ‘work of eliminating obstructions aids the human work of moving up and down rivers’. In the short run however it puts human beings at odds with the river, demanding greater human effort in overcoming the river and the river’s effort at removing the obstruction placed in its path.

Rivers also constantly accommodate; a silt-laden channel is abandoned for a fresher path or a human dam is countered by dropping the silt load into the reservoir. A ‘natural’ adjustment is seldom sudden or instantaneous, sometimes taking millennia to fashion. Over time, rivers build up enough potential energy to overcome these obstructions ¾  a new channel and/or filling the reservoir up with silt.

Yet, rivers are notorious for their furious floods that can wipe away entire cities. A human life is but a dot on a river’s timescale. It is only natural thus that human metaphors for rivers have been about movement. An ancient Roman law proscribed the containment of water: ‘Aqua currit et debet currere ut currere solebat’– water may be used as it flows and only as it flows.

Changing the fixation: Colonialism, modernity, India

The coming of modernity however changed that law fundamentally; the instrumentality of water occupied centre-stage, a river was forgotten about. The space occupied in mythology and imagination, the world inherently contained in a river was reduced to the simple and neat formula: H2O. This was river’s mighty fall in the imaginative and productive landscape. Rivers were seen as resources that needed to be harnessed in order to aid other productive ends.

In India, weirs, dams, canals all came up to bind a river’s flow to the predetermined ends. The fate of Indian rivers has always been a contested terrain. Whether it was mythology or a dam engineer’s drawing board, Indian rivers have seldom been controversy free. Indian rivers have always occupied a larger than life space in imagination.

These very imaginative landscapes were the focal point of the changing engineering landscape. Yet Indian rivers have seldom been eulogized as more than agricultural landscapes. Their productivity is tied inextricably to agriculture. Other residents of the riverine landscape ¾ human and non-human ¾ have been marginalized at best. For instance, fishermen who depend on the pulses and flows of a river do not form a part of the agricultural imaginative landscape.  Even today, employment guarantee schemes such as the MNREGA do not cater to the skill sets of groups such as fishermen.

Today, across the world, dams are being taken down to free up rivers and make way for fish who have returned in promising numbers. Across the continental United States, there are many examples of how quickly rivers have recovered once dams are removed. The biggest example would be the Elwha river in Washington where Salmon are showing signs of returning after a 70 year hiatus! It is being accepted that in the long run dams don’t make sense, even fish ladders often times don’t. It is being recognized that sustaining fishing and agriculture will involve re-creating a sustainable river that is able to sustain itself.  In the Indian establishment however, the dam dream continues.

Cauvery: a truly Indian river:

map030614 LowRes

Cauvery Map illustration is by Ayodh Kamath showing the various interventions mentioned here

The Cauvery is no stranger to human activity. According to Government of India audits for the agricultural year 1875-6, the Cauvery Delta Irrigation System was the most productive irrigation system in the entire Indian Sub-continent showing a remarkable rate of return of 81 percent on capital investment. Interestingly, of all the irrigation works present at the time of these audits, only about 20 percent were constructed since the beginning of British rule in 1800; 80 percent of the irrigation works were pre-1800, maintained by British military (and subsequently civil) engineers. With prodigious returns on investment, it was perhaps inevitable that the colonial lens would seek to fundamentally recast the river for absolute development.

Regulating flows:

IMG_0727 copy

(All photos by the author)

Although heavily developed before British intervention, irrigation in the Cauvery delta was primarily inundation based. At the end of the 18th century, the Grand Anicut (at the foot of Srirangam Island) was the only masonry headwork in the entire delta; a labyrinth of streams channeled river water to individual farms. Characteristic of inundation irrigation, natural plastic materials were used to impound and direct water (i.e. timber, grass, earth), which offered greater flexibility to the wide variations in rainfall and river flow. However, as early as 1804, it was observed that the Kollidam[1] was drawing more water from the main Cauvery than the branch that actually supplied the Delta due to its higher bed slope. Early measures to ‘correct’ the problem included extensive and annual repairs on the Grand Anicut. However, none of the bunds/temporary dams to divert water proved to be effective ¾ they were routinely silted and/or taken down by the river.  In 1834, drawing inspiration from the Grand Anicut, further downstream, Sir Arthur Cotton designed and directed the building of the Upper Anicut at the head of the Srirangam Island on the Kollidam. Inherently, this regulator meant that the flows of the distributaries were reversed i.e. the Cauvery carried more water than the Kollidam. Lower levels of water in the Kollidam jeopardized cultivation in the lower reaches of the delta. In order to ‘correct’ that eventuality, Cotton had submitted proposals for the Lower Anicut alongside those for the Upper Anicut. The Lower Anicut fed the Viranam Tank in South Arcot district, and irrigated Shiyali Taluk in Tanjore District. Work on the two regulators began together. Thus, the three regulators viz., the Upper, Lower and Grand Anicuts together ensured that cultivability along the Cauvery Delta was augmented and stabilized for continuous returns.

Lower Anicut Sluice gates Low Res

Dam(n)ing the Cauvery: Mettur

Along with the anicuts, Sir Arthur Cotton also drew the plans for a large reservoir on the Cauvery in 1834. However, it was in 1856, that earnest attempts began to think through a large dam on the Cauvery just before it entered the plains, when Major Lawford submitted proposals for the construction of a reservoir on the Cauvery near Nerinijipet (about 11 miles downstream of Mettur). From 1856 to 1901, no less than four separate proposals sought to harness the Bhavani (a tributary of the Cauvery) instead of the Cauvery (Barber 1941, 3) (Day 1873) (Sunder Raj 1941). Finally, in the early decades of the 20th century, there seemed to be some movement concerning the building of the dam.


One of the major factors that held back the Mettur Dam was the Cauvery water dispute. The Mysore Government had decided to construct a dam at Kanambadi (about 20 kms from Mysore) for irrigation and augment flows for the Sivasamudram hydroelectric station. Sivasamudram (in operation since 1905 and modeled along the Niagra falls hydroelectric station) provided electricity for the Kolar Gold Mines and Bangalore city. However, given the rain dependent nature of the Cauvery’s flow, ‘stable’ flows were needed to ensure proper running of the plant.  The 1914 arbitration award however was unacceptable to Madras Presidency for it did not “provide for what were contended by Madras to be their established rights in regard to existing irrigation in the Cauvery delta” (Barber 1941, 14). While arbitration was still going on, Mysore began building the Krishnarajasagar dam in 1911. Although completed only in 1927, the dam was an important cause of disagreement since it held the Cauvery from the delta.


Between 1914 and 1924, a series of negotiations were conducted between Mysore and Madras, in which, most notably were contested the regulation of Krishnarajasagar (thereby regulating how much water was actually available for Madras). The amount of water that Madras had access to also determined the height of the Mettur dam and thus its effectiveness. It was in February 1924, that an agreement was finally reached.  Given its long gestation, many figures had to be revised and on 3 March 1925, the Mettur dam was finally given a go ahead. It took nine years to build Asia’s then highest masonry dam. According to the Salem Gazetteer, 26 villages were submerged in the process and that water spread is 15346 ha.

Mettur Downstream LowRes

Fishy waters:

In the late 19th century, the world over, fisheries and fish passes became an important topic of discussion in response to the growing fishing industry. In 1867, Sir Cotton alerted the Government of India about the possible damage to Indian fisheries from the weirs extant at the time in Indian rivers (Sunder Raj 1941, 342). Immediately, Dr. Francis Day was commissioned to investigate the impact on fisheries and subsequently appointed Inspector-General of Fisheries in India.

In his report on the fisheries of India and Burma, Day condemned dams as insurmountable barriers to fish passage (Day 1873, 7-14); he designed a fish passage ¾ a modified form of under sluice to allow passage of fish ¾ that was tried on the Lower Anicut on the Kollidam (Sunder Raj 1941, 342). The idea was that fish could ascend the Lower Anicut through the under sluices and reach their spawning grounds without impediments. The pass was primarily designed for the Hilsa who could not ascend it, as it was too wide (Sunder Raj 1941, 343). According to the Madras Fisheries department in 1909, the fish pass did not ensure hilsa migration because of various practical and technical difficulties; in the first place, the expenses for the construction of a fish pass were not commensurate with the expected results and secondly, sufficient water could not be provided for the efficient working of the pass (Nair 1954). In light of its operational problems, the pass was abandoned. However, according to fish biologists, the pass may not have been a great disincentive either. According to Dr. Francis Day, who surveyed fish in Indian rivers and seas, the hilsa was recorded spawning near Trichinopoly (Trichy) (Day 1873, 7-14). Colonial records indicate that the hilsa was sought to be cultivated and exported along the lines of the Salmon in northwestern United States. In fact, the hatchery at the Lower Anicut was promoted to ensure consistent fish produce for export[2].  So important was the hilsa that a stuffed specimen made its way into the exhibits sent to the Great Exhibition from the Bombay Presidency, in 1851. The hatchery was later abandoned, as it could ensure sustainable fry in large numbers.

Today, the hilsa is unknown on the Cauvery. According to fish biologists, the hilsa ascended the anicuts on the Cauvery up to Mettur to spawn overcoming the low anicuts that dotted the river delta. But the coming of the Mettur Dam formed an impassable barrier (Devanesan 1942, Chacko 1954)

Reservoir Fishing:

Mettur’s Stanley reservoir remains one of the largest reservoirs in South India and the oldest in Tamil Nadu. At its maximum the reservoir is 85 km long and over 8 km wide encompassing a shoreline of over 290 km . B Sundar Raj, the then Director of Fisheries in Madras remarks that the Fisheries Department was perhaps not consulted when the dam was being designed, to create a fish friendly design (Sunder Raj 1941, 344-45). Although the dam was not built with a fish pass/ladder, it was assumed that the Ellis surplus and gradual gradient of the surplus channel would allow for fish migrations upstream (Sunder Raj 1941, 344-45). According to Dr. Sunder Raj, the Gangetic Carp was introduced in 1928 while other carps such as rohu, mrigal and calbasu were introduced from 1948 (Sreenivasan 1998, 4). A fish seed farm was also established near the dam. This fish seed farm continues to supply fingerlings for release into the Stanley reservoir. Hatchlings are supplied to the Krishnagiri reservoir upstream of Mettur and other reservoirs in Tamil Nadu. Regulations such as the Indian Fisheries Act (1897) and Tamil Nadu Amendment (1927) were enforced to prevent fishing in certain areas below the dam as well as enforce mesh regulations to prevent the capture of small fry. Furthermore, fishing is prohibited for 2 km immediately downstream of the dam (in fact, all dams in Tamil Nadu), that stretch of the river has been declared a sanctuary in order to ensure that biodiversity is preserved. Visiting in the height of summer in May, it was observed that immediately downstream of the dam, the river seemed to flow. Given that Mettur is also a hydropower dam, freshwater is regularly released into the river as electricity is generated . Currently, fingerlings that are about 45 days old are released into the reservoir.

Fishing in Mettur today:

Fisherman Low Res

Today, in Mettur, fishing is organized around licenses. Fishermen are allowed to fish the reservoir if they have a valid license. Fishing licenses need to be renewed every year. Fishermen have to sell their catch to the local cooperative society, the Mettur Dam Fishermen Co-operative Marketing Society. This society in turn sells the catch to a contractor who then sells the fish to wider markets in Bengal and Kerala after retaining a certain minimum for the local market. The society buys fish from fishermen according to their weights at a guaranteed rate. Fish are graded along four categories of weight and kind. This guaranteed minimum price is pre-decided by the society every year. Every year, the society also issues a “tender for the disposal of Mettur dam fishes”.  Through this tendering process, the highest bidder over the minimum price (set by the society) wins. In the last three years, the tendering process has not been initiated in Mettur leading to a monopoly by one contractor.

Fishing License Low Res

Currently, about 200 licenses are issued every year. Each license costs about INR 1200 and is valid for a year. Fishermen have to log their daily catch according to grade of fish caught in a ‘passbook’. Their earnings depend on the grade and quantity of fish caught.

Accessing the river: On a recent visit to the reservoir area by the author, fishermen in Mettur complained that they had no access to the river, as there is rampant poaching. Illegal fishing has long been a problem in Mettur according to fishermen. According to the contractor currently holding the tender at Mettur, while licenses are issued to only 200 fishermen, over 2000 people fish the reservoir. Most of this illegal catch makes its way directly to the local market and is sold at higher than the society stipulated prices.

Fishing Net Low Res

Not enough fingerlings released: According to fishermen, not enough fingerlings are released into the reservoir. They claim that while crores of fingerlings can be released into the reservoir, only a few thousand are released. During a visit in May 2014, officials at the fish seed farm said that over 32 lakh (a number stipulated by the Director of Fisheries) fingerlings were released into the waters last year. Fishermen allege that the even if fingerlings are released into the reservoir, they do not have the opportunity to grow because of the rampant poaching. It is a sentiment echoed by the contractor too.

Smaller catches, no earnings: At Mettur, an initial daily catch of 4.5 tonnes was estimated in 1951, which was revised to 1.82 tonnes/day. Today, fishermen say they catch a few hundred grams of fish every day, sometimes they do not catch any fish at all. Catch passbooks revealed lower grade fish in quantity and weight were caught more regularly than a good grade fish. On an average fishermen say that they earn about INR 6000-7000 over the course of two months. Today the catch plateaus around 1-1.5 tonnes on a good day. Fishermen and contractor alike complained that the quality of fish stock has reduced in the reservoir. Where earlier, there were indigenous fish that have now been lost- from catches and vocabularies’.

Catch passbook low res

Nowhere else to go: Dwindling catches have forced fishermen to migrate to other reservoirs in search of catch. Fishermen complain that they cannot avail of schemes such as MNREGA because these schemes do not cover fishing. Fish production in reservoirs is on its way down. Dwindling flows and catches are fast making fishing unviable.

Changing fishing practices: Mesh size for fishing was raised from 5 cm to 10-12.5 cm to allow capture of only large sized catla and to give major carps a chance to breed at least once before being caught (Sreenivasan 1998, 4). Today, fishermen allege that poachers use smaller sized meshes and are able to catch fry that are too small to be caught. According to the contractor, these small fry are dried and sold as dried fish to markets in Andhra Pradesh.


Fishing in Mettur is fast becoming unsustainable for fishermen. According to the contractor, the only solution remains leasing out the entire reservoir to one contractor ¾ a practice followed in all reservoirs across Tamil Nadu, except Mettur ¾ so that everything from catch to process to marketing is under one head. The fishermen think the only solution is divesting the responsibility of releasing fry away from the fisheries department to the fishermen themselves. There is little or no memory of indigenous fish in the river. Fishermen currently fishing the waters of the reservoir have no memory of the hilsa or any of the other indigenous fish such as the Puntius dubius which also became extinct after the coming of the Mettur Dam. Fishermen who have fished the waters of the dam for over 50 years do not know of any other fish than reservoir stocked fish that they have caught.

Mettur represents (like in case of other dams and rivers in India) the privileging of agriculture and electricity needs over needs of the people and ecosystems that depend on the river in other ways, the privileging of a certain imagination over all else. While initial results based on this imagination might have seemed satisfactory to some with some claim over control over floods, some water for irrigation etc, in the long run, it has turned out to be unsustainable as flows have reduced and other impacts and options could be seen.

Today, memories of migratory fish are lost; fishing is only restricted to reservoir fishing with stocked fish.  Decommissioning and deconstructing of dams in India may be a long way away. However, there is an urgent need to re-organise reservoir operations, reservoir fishing and understand the various roles that rivers flowing with freshwater play. Release of water from dams all round the year for rivers needs to be a norm for all reservoirs, old and new.

Seasonal, stricter licensing: Instead of licenses that run an entire year, it may make sense to rotate licenses amongst fishermen and giving license to fisher-people’s cooperatives to ensure greater access. This will also help in reducing poaching as more fishermen will have access to the river. In addition, the fisheries department needs to shift ownership of fishing to fishermen and not licenses.

Creating other opportunities: During my visit, fishermen pointed out that a few years ago when the fisheries department did not have enough personnel, fishermen were asked to release the fingerlings into the reservoir. That year, the catch was sustainable and higher than any other year after. In addition to fishing, fishermen who do not have the season’s license need to be encouraged to work at the fish seed farms. Fish seed farms can benefit from traditional knowledge about fish and fishing while fishermen will have another vocational avenue that uses their extant skill sets.

Creating a truly fishermen’s cooperative: Without access to the market,  access to the river may not be the most beneficial for fishermen. A fishermen’s cooperative that issues licenses and controls catch would ensure that fishermen have ownership of the entire process. Through a fishermen’s cooperative, fishing would be democratized. Fishermen are already sensitive to market forces; they point out that a strong local market exists for catch.

Populating the reservoir with other kinds of fish: Reservoir fishing in Tamil Nadu is dependent on some exotic fish and rohu, katla. While a free moving river and its biodiversity may be impossible to recreate in a reservoir, the fisheries department needs to think of other fish that might also be suited for the reservoir and thus increase the diversity of fish caught with emphasis on local varieties and fished in the reservoir.

Creating a sustainable fishing policy: There is an urgent need to re-organize fishing policy of each reservoir at the reservoir level instead of at a state or national level. Fishing policy needs to be decoupled from being premised just on catch. It needs to be sensitive to the needs of the fishermen who depend on these catches as well as flows of the river that sustain these catches.

The above suggestions could go a short and long way in creating some semblance of a balance in fishing in reservoirs & rivers. However, in the long run, there is a need to look beyond dams for irrigation and hydropower. While dams and hydropower may be inextricably linked to the way in which we currently think of rivers, as the experience of the Elwha and other rivers shows, we need to start valuing the services a river provides. There needs to be an inherent sensitivity towards to the people who live along the river that needs to be built into policy and decision making processes.

Ramya Swayamprakash ( 

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Linton, Jamie. What is Water? The History of a Modern Abstraction. Vancourver, Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2010.

D’Souza, Rohan. “Colonialism, Capitalism and Nature: Debating and Origins of Mahanadi Delta’s Hydraulic Crisis (1803-1928).” Economic and Political Weekly 37, no. 1 (March 2002): 81-105.

Peterson, Indira Viswanathan. “The Kaveri in Legend and Literature.” In Waterlines: The Penguin Book of River Writings, edited by Amita Baviskar, 77-85. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2003.

Government of India, Revenue and Agricultural Department Fisheries, January 1884

Proceedings- No. 1. Madras Draft Fisheries Bill and connected papers.1884

Sunder Raj, B. “Dams and Fisheries: Mettur and its Lessons for India.” Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences – Section B 14, no. 4 (1941): 341-58.

Day, Francis. Report on the Fish and Fresh Water Fisheries of India and Burma. Report, Office of the Superintendent of Government Press, Calcutta: Government Press, 1873.

Nair, K.K. “Dams and Hilsa Fisheries.” Journal of the Asiatic Society (Scientific) 20, no. 1 (1954): 77-79.

Chacko, P.I. “Past, Present and Future of Hilsa Fisheries in the Madras State.” Journal of Asiatic Society (Scientific) 20, no. 1 (1954): 55-58.

Devanesan, D.W. “Weirs in South India and their effect on the bionmics of the hilsa in South Indian rivers – The Godavari, The Krishna and the Cauvery.” Current Science 11, no. 10 (1942): 398-99.

Sreenivasan , A. “Fifty Years of Reservoir Fisheries in Mettur Dam, India : Some Lessons.” Naga: the ICLARM Quarterly, October-December 1998.

Barber, Charles Gordon. History of the Cauvery-Mettur project (Revised edition 1987). New Delhi: Central Board of Irrigation and Power, 1941.

Kingensmith, Daniel. One Valley and a Thousand: Dams, Nationalism and Development. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.


[1] Srirangam Island in Trichy district is the head of the delta. The river splits in to the Kollidam (the larger distributary) and the Cauvery.

[2] Government of India, Revenue and Agricultural Department Fisheries, January 1884

Proceedings- No. 1. Madras Draft Fisheries Bill and connected papers. P 9 and 22.

[3] Cauvery Basin Map: