Narmada

Narmada Estuary: Hilsa, other Fish and Fisher people need protection

Pungent fishy smell is the first thing that grabs your attention in Bhadbhut village in Bharuch District of Gujarat, which lies on the estuary of the mighty Narmada River, as it meets the Arabian Sea. Every alternate shop in every small lane sells fresh fish and by 11 in the morning, first lot of fresh fish is ice packed in thermocol boxes, all set for far off places like Kolkata and Delhi. Before I was told, I saw for myself that fishing in the Narmada Estuary is the backbone of coastal Bharuch district.

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Bhadbhut Village

Just 5.15 kilometers from here is the planned Bhabhut Barrage on the Narmada River. What will happen to Bharuch if barrage is constructed? This is the reason why I am here. To understand the implications of this barrage on lives of thousands of fisherfolk from this estuary and on the famed Hilsa fish, that mysterious silver river migrant, on which the fishing economy depends nearly exclusively.

Hilsa is a marine fish that arrives in the brackish water of estuary for spawning normally inhabiting the lower region of the estuaries and the foreshore areas of the sea. For India the peak upstream migration of hilsa in most of the rivers is generally in the monsoon months of July and August and continues upto October or November.

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Hilsa

Bhadbhut barrage will be constructed at 5.15 km downstream of village Bhadbhut and 25 km upstream of river mouth. It is part of a gargantuan Kalpasar project pushed by the State Government. Kalpasar (pragmatic critics hold that Kalpasar is in fact an abbreviation of Kalpanic Sarovar, an imaginary reservoir) project which is supposed to be one of the biggest in the world proposes to construct a 30 km long dam (one of the longest in the world) across the Gulf of Khambhat between Bharuch and Bhavnagar districts[i]. The reservoir is supposed to trap the water of twelve rivers that empty their water in the gulf, including Narmada, Mahi, Sabarmati, Dhadar and some Saurashtra rivers. It is expected to create a reservoir of 2000 sq km area, over five times the area of Sardar Sarovar, the reservoir capacity is expected to be over 10 billion cubic meters, that is larger than the SSP reservoir capacity. The project is being pushed ignoring serious issues like hydrological-geological-structural feasibility and needless to say, it’s impacts on environment and fisherfolk. The project will destroy the coastal and deltaic fisheries and wetlands.

As SANDRP has been highlighting for some time now, riverine fisherfolk are one of the most disadvantaged and deprived sections in the dam debate throughout the country. It is no different in Narmada. Livelihood of the fisherfolk from Narmada Estuary has been threatened by several industrial estates established across the district and is now on the verge of being destroyed. Yield of Hilsa has been steadily decreasing (from 15319 tonnes to 4866 tonnes during 1993 to 2004[ii]) since commissioning of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) canal and power house in 2006. SSP is built on the Narmada River about 130 km upstream from the estuary. Another dam, Garudeshwar Dam, is under construction downstream from SSP.

Narmada Estuary
Narmada Estuary

Are people here in the estuary aware of the scale of the Kalpasar project? What do these local fisherfolk have to say about this? How have they been coping with the impacts of SSP?

On the lack of study of the downstream environment, the first paragraph from the chapter on this issue from the report of the Independent Review of the Sardar Sarovar Project instituted by the World Bank is worth quoting in full [iii]:

“From the Sardar Sarovar dam to the ocean, the Narmada River runs for 180 kilometers through a rich lowland region which represents about 10% of its catchment area. In the course of our environmental review we sought information that described the ecology of this lower reach of the river, the estuary, and near shore region in the Gulf of Cambay. We hoped to find a description of the aquatic ecosystem, including parameters indicating the quality and quantity of water and its seasonal changes, biological species, processes, and resource linkages. We looked forward to finding a systematic treatment of flow regimes and geomorphology. We expected to find systematic documentation of resource use, from drinking water to fisheries. We thought there would be documents establishing the kinds of physical, biological and socioeconomic changes to be expected as the Sardar Sarovar Projects are brought on stream and more and more of the natural flow is stored, used or diverted out of the river. We looked for a set of ameliorative measures that would be implemented to mitigate impacts. We thought these measures would be scheduled to begin with phased development of the Sardar Sarovar Projects. We hoped they would also be related to the cumulative effects of other developments on the Narmada further upstream, in particular the Narmada Sagar Projects, and to the expansion of industrial activity in the downstream rive basin in Gujarat itself.

In all our expectations we have been disappointed.” (Emphasis Added.)

The paragraph speaks eloquently and what it says it true even till date.

FIELD VISIT:

Eager to find answers to these questions, I along with Bhupat Solanki a volunteer from Paryavaran Mitra, an Ahmedabad based NGO, first met Praveen Madhiwala, a fish trader and exporter. As I explain the purpose of my visit to him, his first reaction is “if the dam at Bhadbhut comes up, Hilsa will be finished. Not only that, but the dam will prove to be destructive to the entire estuary.” He explains, “Tidal flow of water spreads 60 KM from sea shore to upstream of the estuary. They are planning to build the barrage just 25 KM upstream of the sea shore. What will happen then to the incoming salt water during high tide? It is bound to spread laterally along the barrage spreading in the coastal region and will be destructive to the settlements along the coastline. Calculating all these numbers on paper is very different than experiencing the destructive power of sea. We know what the sea can do.”

Destruction of Hilsa and other fish by Sardar Sarovar

Kamalesh Madhiwala, an advocate from Bhadbhut adds further. “Yield of Hilsa has drastically reduced after Sardar Sarowar Dam has been built. There has been a reduction of 65 to 70%. Overall water level of the estuary has gone down. Post monsoon the river becomes so dry that we can walk across the riverbed. This had never happened in the past before Sardar Sarovar.” When asked about the claim by Narmada Control Authority that it constantly releases 600 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the dam[iii] to maintain the health of the river and the estuary, he says “We don’t think water is released from the SSP. There is no mechanism to monitor this. If you approach government they will show you on paper that they release 600 cusecs of water every day. But no one maintains the on ground data.” According to him the SSP has affected overall fish variety of the estuary as well. “A decade ago there used to be 70 to 80 types of fish varieties available in the estuary. Now we get only about 10 to 12 fish varieties. Earlier along with Hilsa many other riverine species like Prawns, Mahseer etc. have been commercially equally important which Sardar Sarovar has vanquished. Now the fisher people’s income is solely dependent on Hilsa which is very sensitive species. Reduction of water flow in the river immediately affects the yield of Hilsa. Even though Hilsa is available only for about 4 months of the year, 70% of the income of fisherfolk at present is from sale of Hilsa alone.”

Hilsa ice packed to be transported
Hilsa ice packed to be transported
70% of the income of fisherfolk is from sale of Hilsa
70% of the income of fisherfolk is from sale of Hilsa

Farcical EIA of proposed Bhadbhut barrage by NEERI

Kamalesh Bhai also points out several lacunae in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has prepared for Bhadbhut Barrage. “The entire study has been an absolute farce. First of all none of the local people were aware of any such study going on. It also grossly underestimates the total population of fisherfolk that will be affected by the Bhadbhut dam.” The report considers the total number of fisherfolk residing in 21 villages to be 12,638 based on more than a decade old data from Census 2001.[iv] According to Kamlesh bhai the actual population residing in the estuary region whose livelihood will be affected by barrage is close to 35 to 40 thousand!

SANDRP had sent detailed critique of the EIA to the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authority before the public hearing for the project held on July 19, 2013. An excerpt from the critique:

“Unclear objectives of the project The objectives of the project stated in the EIA of the project are:

  • Protection of water quality of Narmada river from salinity due to tidal influence and checking the problems of salinity ingress and deterioration of ground water quality in the upper reaches of Narmada river;
  • Storage of the regulated release of water from SSP and runoff from free catchment for irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply;
  • Flood protection of about 400 sq km low lying area covering 17 villages on the left bank of river Narmada;
  • and Road connectivity between left and right banks, shortening route from Surat/Hajira to Dahej region.

The EIA agency has uncritically accepted these objectives, without assessing if the barrage with low water storage can really fulfill the second the third objective and considering the low salinity level reported by the EIA (mainly based on data provided by the project authorities, again uncritically accepted by NEERI), is the first objective relevant. The fact that the Kalpsar department played such an important role and the fact that it is public knowledge that the barrage is part of the propose Kalpsar project should have been taken note by NEERI. NEERI should have also questioned as to why is this small part of the larger Kalpsar project applying for such piecemeal clearances which is actually in violation of the Supreme Court orders. It should be added here that the Kalpsar project had applied for the TOR clearance from Union Ministry of Env and Forests. The project came up before the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects. SANDRP had then sent a letter to the EAC, saying that based on information provided, the project should not be considered for clearance. In its 41st meeting in Sept 2010, the EAC declined to give TOR clearance to the project, saying that the documentation provided are highly inadequate and need to be more holistic and uptodate pre-feasibility report needs to be provided. The project there after has not gone back to EAC.

However, a small part of that same project, the Bhadbhut barrage is now proposed before the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (http://seiaa.gujarat.gov.in/).”

An edited version of letter about the inadequacies of the EIA report sent from Paryavaran Mitra director to Gujarat Pollution Control Board which has been published by Counterview states that the report fails to assess severity of impact on Hilsa and other migratory fishes and instead tries to imply that fishing activity is only a part time employment for fisher community, which is entirely incorrect.[v] The report proposes fish ladder as a mitigation measure with no specific details. Fisherfolk are not impressed. “Tell me madam, have you ever seen a fish climb a ladder?” asks Kamlesh bhai laughing.

While a fish ladder may or may not work (it is not likely to work for Hilsa and other important fish species, it has not worked anywhere in India so far), the fisher folk are not wrong in ridiculing it. Fish ladders have never been taken seriously by the proponents who put them in. Case in point is Farakka Barrage in West Bengal, where too, a fish lock was supposedly made for Hilsa. It has not been operated for over a decade and current officials have no idea that such a thing exists.

Cover Page of the controversial NEERI EIA of  Bhadbhut Barrage Project
Cover Page of the controversial NEERI EIA of Bhadbhut Barrage Project

“The NEERI EIA is a complete copy paste job. It has several incidences of plagiarism. It mentions names of places that are found nowhere in this region. This region also comes under PCPIR[vi] project. The PCPIR EIA report does not talk about impact on Hilsa at all!”- Bhupat Bhai adds. “That’s true” says Kamlesh Bhai. “Even after the NEERI completed the report none of the local people had any idea about the project and its impacts. Now we are raising awareness. On 7th July 2014 local fisherfolk organized a protest rally at the District Magistrate office and more than 4000 fisher people were a part of this. This is our fourth rally opposing the project.” When asked if any compensation is being offered for those getting affected by the barrage, I am told none. According to them in the entire argument about the barrage, its impacts etc. there is absolutely no talk about compensating the fisherfolk. They also raised their voices in the public hearing of the project. 1500 farmers and fisherfolk attended the public hearing on July 19 and walked out soon after sharply registering their protest against the proposed project and naming it as “anti-people”.[vii]

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Protest March organized on 7th July 2014 (Photo by Kamlesh Madhiwala)

When we arrive at Praveen Macchi’s house, his door is adorned with images of Silvery Hilsa. His family has been involved in fishing from generations. When asked about estuary’s overall condition after SSP he confirms the facts stated earlier by Praveen Bhai and Kamalesh Bhai. “We don’t think water is released from SSP and even if it is, it is so meagre that it is nearly useless. The estuary receives water only when the dam overflows. In 2014 the dam overflowed only once which was as late as September. Other than dam overflow only other source of water is releases from River Bed Power House of SSP, leakage from below the dam wall and some water from downstream streams.” Fish yield of this year is about 30% lower than last year when the estuary received water from dam overflow 4 to 5 times in year. “Now water from SSP has been diverted for hydropower generation. After power generation at Canal Head Power House water is released into Narmada canal instead of river/ estuary.”

Hilsa used as a decorative element
Hilsa used as a decorative element

Pressures on Narmada estuary and livelihoods of thousands

When asked as to how does the Hilsa survive without freshwater water released in the estuary, Praveen Bhai explains “As of now Hilsa arrive at least during monsoon as the river stretch of 130 KM holds rain water. If Bhadbhut barrage is built there will be no free flowing river stretch to support fish breeding. Yield of Hilsa will be hard hit and so will be the fishing industry. Entire population dependent on fishing will lose its livelihood.”

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If Bhadbhut barrage is built there will be no free flowing river stretch to support fish breeding

Praveen Bhai told me that the fisher people’s cooperative ‘Bhadbhut Matsya Udyog Sahakari Mandali’ is preparing to file a Public Interest Litigation challenging the barrage project. Is livelihood of more than 30000 people getting affected reason enough to argue for stoppage of the project? Will the courts understand this implication? They did not when impact of SSP on fisher people was argued earlier. Let us hope judiciary is more sensitive to the fisher people’s issue this time.

Gujarat Government Map showing Kalpasar and Bhadbhut project locations
Gujarat Government Map showing Kalpasar and Bhadbhut project locations

Praveen Bhai further informs that the overall salinity of the estuary has gone up due to severely restricted freshwater flow into the estuary. Fish diversity has reduced and riverine fish movement is obstructed due to SSP (Sardar Sarovar Project). Hilsa which would be available till December – January is now seen hardly till September as the salinity levels rise rapidly after monsoon. Says Praveen Bhai: “Narmada has been Hilsa’s favoured habitat. Earlier Hilsa was found in Tapi estuary near Surat as well. But after the Ukai dam was constructed only 2 to 5% of Hilsa arrive at the Tapi estuary. Lives of fisherfolk in the estuary have been devastated. The problem of livelihood of these people became so serious that there are instances where women of the community had to get into prostitution.”

The Narmada estuary is already facing growing pressures from industrial estates. Bharuch District has 13 industrial estates with 137 medium and large scale units of chemicals, textiles, plastics, fertiliser related industries etc. Industrial estate of Dahej which is in close proximity to Bhadbhut releases its untreated effluent in the sea near Bharuch. This is affecting the overall water quality of the estuary. Praveen Bhai points out to a very peculiar phenomenon. A completely different genre of crime has evolved in the industrial estates near Bharuch where youth blackmail the companies when the companies discharge untreated effluent into the sea. The companies, hand in glove with police, bribe the blackmailers for keeping quite. Effluents meanwhile go untreated in the river and sea. This is also true of effluents from Ankaleshwar and other industrial estates. The SSP has worsened this situation due to drastic reduction in freshwater flow that earlier used to dilute the industrial, urban and other effluents.

Concerns of fisherfolk We now move towards the banks of Narmada to meet artisanal fisher people there. Boats which can contain upto 5 to 6 people are parked along the banks. Since it is a noon time, hurry burry of fish packing is settling down. One by one tempos from the market are arriving and picking up the packed fish. As we talk with a bunch of fisher people, their worries and concerns tumble out. Several issues emerge while talking to them.

“Government is all set to build a dam destroying our livelihood. As it is government is not extending any kind of support to us river fisherfolk. No bank provides us with loans” one of them speaks.

“Yield of fish has also reduced due to reduced water level of the estuary. Sea water gets contaminated by the untreated effluent that Dahej & other Industrial estates disposes in the sea. This sea water that is highly contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals enters estuary during high tide. This polluted water has also affected the overall fish quality and there is hardly any freshwater from upstream to dilute it because of the dam. Earlier single Hilsa fish used to weigh more than two kilograms. Now it hardly weighs one to 1.25 kgs” says another one.

“With all this polluted water how will the fish grow? It naturally starves” says yet other.

“If Bhadbhut Barrage comes up, Hilsa will no more come here. Our livelihood will be destroyed. Government is not even offering any compensation. No one has been compensated for the impact we have already felt due to the SSP.” They all keep talking anxiously.

They further inform that several farmers in Bharuch who have lost their land in PCPIR project or other industrial estates have shifted to fishing creating more stress in the industry that is already facing a steep decline. Farmers, who are new fisherfolk lack the traditional skills or patience and often fence the estuary and sea with fishing nets in hope of catching Hilsa, which prevents the fishermen’s traditionally used small boats from entering the sea. As they speak, every concern raised is met by a nod by the entire group.

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Fishing boats along the banks of river Narmada

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Contrary to this scenario the EIA report summary by NEERI states “… the fresh water storage in upstream of the barrage will provide a favourable environment for intensive fresh water fishery and provision of fish ladder with shiplocks would enhance the fishery activities and fetch greater economic benefits to the people.”[viii] Fisherfolk when asked about this conclusion show the other side of the argument. Fisheries department floats tender for fishing in the dam reservoir. Only big contractors can afford to obtain the contracts. “It’s not a job for small fishermen like us. If the dam comes up all these small boats you see will vanish” they say.

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Fisherfolk from Bhadbhut

Other than the threatened livelihood, the fisher families in the estuary are also facing several other issues. Wells of fresh water now contain saline water. Many of them used to rely on Narmada River for drinking water. Since the river has gone dry after SSP, they no more receive drinking water from Narmada River. As the water from the estuary has reduced, the wells which have traditionally been an important source of drinking water are now dry or saline. Villages which are closer to the sea are experiencing saline water and also polluted chemical water ingress. “Many of us are having skin problems because we have to go in the chemical water.” I wonder with fishing industry plagued with so many problems if younger generation is at all willing to continue in the same occupation. When asked about this they tell me that for now the traditional skills is the only real education the younger generation has.

Many of them have protested the project at the public hearing. “We all are opposing the dam. Building dams might to do good for contractors, but what about us? Are we not people?” they ask.

The proposed Garudeshwar Dam on Narmada immediate downstream of SSP will further stop the water flow to estuary as it is designed to pump back to SSP the water released from River Bed Power House. The fisherfolk here do not know about this, nor has the government bothered to tell them or do any impact assessment or prepare any rehabilitation or management plan. The only hope is the petition lying before the National Green Tribunal against the Garudeshwar Dam.

I come back with more questions than answers. Praveen Bhai’s home, with his welcoming door adorned with the silvery Hilsa remains in my thoughts for a long while.

Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP amrutapradhan@gmail.com

(Based on field visit September 2014 by the author.)

END NOTES:

[i] https://sandrp.in/dams/Why_Modis_54000_crore_legacy_project_KALPSAR_is_doomed_Nov_2010.pdf

[ii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/collapsing-hilsa-can-the-dams-compensate-for-the-loss/

[iii] Page 277, Sardar Sarovar: The Report of the Independent Review, Resource Futures International Inc, Canada, 1992

[iv] P. 10 of Executive Summary of EIA Report by NEERI

[v] http://counterview.org/2013/07/18/environmental-impact-assessment-report-on-bhadbhut-suggests-project-is-pro-industry-lacks-sensitivity-towards-fisherfolk/

[vi] PCPIR: Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region, see: http://gujaratpcpir.org/

[vii] http://www.counterview.net/2013/07/fisherfolk-walk-of-out-public-hearing.html

[viii] P. 15 of Executive Summary of EIA Report by NEERI

Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas · Hydropower

Photo Essay on the impacts of blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh – 2

Guest Blog by: Sumit Mahar (sumitmahar.12@gmail.com), Him Dhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh [1]

Tunneling for hydropower project using the blasting technique can have massive impacts. It has a series of direct and indirect impacts which have already been documented. Among the most serious impacts is drying up of the natural drinking water springs and the reduction in sub-soil moisture. This directly impacts the drinking water availability for the local villagers as well as agriculture and horticultural productivity, which is critically dependent upon the presence of sub-soil moisture. Blasting for tunnels and other underground components of hydroelectricity projects creates vibrations that have resulted in cracks in houses situated near these components.

Importance of impacts of tunneling and blasting becomes very important since all run of the river (ROR) projects involve tunneling and blasting. Proponents claim that ROR hydropower projects are environment friendly, but most people do not know that the tunneling and blasting adds an additional dimension to the impacts due to ROR hydropower projects and these can be very serious. Most environmental and social impact assessments or cumulative impact assessments do not even assess these impacts. Many times the proponent get away claiming that the impacts are not due to the projects, when in reality all evidence shows that these are very much caused by the tunneling and blasting being done as part of the construction of these projects.

This photo essay documents the impacts of tunneling and blasting for hydropower projects mainly in Kinnaur (part 1 of photo essay does the same for projects in Chamba district) of Himachal Pradesh. In Kinnaur the photo essay includes such impacts of 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo and 1500 MW Nathpa Jakhri hydropower projects.[2] It is noteworthy that impacts are not only limited to large hydropower projects, but also to what is defined as small hydropower projects (projects below 25 MW installed capacity). This should also help puncture the misconceived notion that small hydropower projects are environmental benign and they do not need environmental and social impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance.

These photo essays are indicative of the kind of impacts tunneling and blasting can have in the process of building hydropower projects in the Himalayas. What they indicate is relevant not only for Himachal Pradesh, but entire Himalayas and all projects that involve such tunneling and blasting. We hope these photo essays open the eyes of state governments, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Union Ministry of Power, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Electricity Authority, state environment departments, hydropower developers, EIA consultants, chairman and members of Expert  Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, media, judiciary, civil society and all others concerned.

 Karcham Wangtoo Hydro Power Project, Kinnaur

Project Jaypee Karcham Wangtoo HEP
Capacity (MW) 1000
Basin Satluj
District Kinnaur
Villages Choling, Yulla, Urni, Runnag, Meeru, Chugaun
Pictures taken on 25 May to 2 June 2014
Murim-I, is a local stream that dried up due to the 17 km long 1000MW Karcham Wangtoo project’s tunnel in Kinnaur district. The stream is surrounded by grazing lands
Murim-I, is a local stream that dried up due to the 17 km long 1000MW Karcham Wangtoo project’s tunnel in Kinnaur district. The stream is surrounded by grazing lands
Murim-II next to Murim I shared a common source which led to drying up of both streams
Murim-II next to Murim I shared a common source which led to drying up of both streams
Nang Choling water source or chashma near the highway. The water was used for drinking not just by the people in Choling but also by passers by. This source has totally dried up now due to the Karcham Wangtoo tunnel construction
Nang Choling water source or chashma near the highway. The water was used for drinking not just by the people in Choling but also by passers by. This source has totally dried up now due to the Karcham Wangtoo tunnel construction
Peokeh-I is a water source in the Yulla village. The discharge of this source has reduced by 50% since the construction of the tunnel for Karcham Wangtoo HEP
Peokeh-I is a water source in the Yulla village. The discharge of this source has reduced by 50% since the construction of the tunnel for Karcham Wangtoo HEP
Yet another source of water - Peokeh-II, Yulla village whose discharge has reduced by 30 to 40%
Yet another source of water – Peokeh-II, Yulla village whose discharge has reduced by 30 to 40%
Jyoti Prakash’s house in Yulla village suffered from cracks because of the tunnel construction of Karcham Wangtoo HEP
Jyoti Prakash’s house in Yulla village suffered from cracks because of the tunnel construction of Karcham Wangtoo HEP
Jagat Singh’s fields had this water source and used this for drinking and irrigation. Due to the reduction in the discharge after tunnel construction there is just enough water to use for drinking
Jagat Singh’s fields had this water source and used this for drinking and irrigation. Due to the reduction in the discharge after tunnel construction there is just enough water to use for drinking
Kakhiyo water source was used for drinking by 10 families in Yulla and the source is now totally dry
Kakhiyo water source was used for drinking by 10 families in Yulla and the source is now totally dry
Lang Chuldhing water source in Yulla the discharge has reduced due to the tunnel. 4 -5 families in the vicitnity depend on this source
Lang Chuldhing water source in Yulla the discharge has reduced due to the tunnel. 4 -5 families in the vicitnity depend on this source
Ram Devi’s gharat in Yulla has been rendered useless along with another 4 above her’s. All due to the drying up of a water source – Yang baro
Ram Devi’s gharat in Yulla has been rendered useless along with another 4 above her’s. All due to the drying up of a water source – Yang baro
Yang Baro water source was feeding the watermills as well as irrigation channels. Now there is hardly any water for these
Yang Baro water source was feeding the watermills as well as irrigation channels. Now there is hardly any water for these
Ramanand Negi showed this water source in Urni village which emerged suddenly in 2005. This has come out in a location where there is a landslide getting active
Ramanand Negi showed this water source in Urni village which emerged suddenly in 2005. This has come out in a location where there is a landslide getting active
This is the Urni steep slope where the landslide is active
This is the Urni steep slope where the landslide is active
Ramanand’s House in Urni village which has developed cracks and crevices due to the blasting and construction of tunnel for Karcham Wangtoo Project
Ramanand’s House in Urni village which has developed cracks and crevices due to the blasting and construction of tunnel for Karcham Wangtoo Project
Runnag Chashma is used by the Runnag village for washing and drinking. The water discharge has reduced substantially
Runnag Chashma is used by the Runnag village for washing and drinking. The water discharge has reduced substantially
Munni Lal’s apple orchard which was impacted by a landslide last year when the June 2013 monsoon rains occurred
Munni Lal’s apple orchard which was impacted by a landslide last year when the June 2013 monsoon rains occurred
Landslide just above the tunnel of Karcham Wangtoo project at Rangle. This was also activated lst year during the monsoons
Landslide just above the tunnel of Karcham Wangtoo project at Rangle. This was also activated lst year during the monsoons
Ryabi Khaldam (Disturbed Source), the water source has relocated naturally after the construction of the tunnel began
Ryabi Khaldam (Disturbed Source), the water source has relocated naturally after the construction of the tunnel began
Land slide at Meeru village activated last year and the main path of the village disturbed
Land slide at Meeru village activated last year and the main path of the village disturbed
Buthkas, IPH Source fully dried now as a result of tunnel. Almost the entire Meeru panchayat was dependent on this water for drinking
Buthkas, IPH Source fully dried now as a result of tunnel. Almost the entire Meeru panchayat was dependent on this water for drinking
Jagdish Chand Negi’s house in Chugaun was impacted because of the construction of Karcham Wangtoo Tunnel
Jagdish Chand Negi’s house in Chugaun was impacted because of the construction of Karcham Wangtoo Tunnel
Cow shed developed cracks in Chugaun affected by Karcham Wangtoo Project’s tunnel construction
Cow shed developed cracks in Chugaun affected by Karcham Wangtoo Project’s tunnel construction

Nathpa Jhakari Hydro Power Project

Project Nathpa Jhakari HEP
Capacity (MW) 1500
Basin Satluj
District Kinnaur
Villages Nigulseri & Jhakari
Pictures taken on 29/05/2014 & 03/06/2014
On 25th May 2014 this landslide occurred in Nigulseri village. Locals claim that the tunnel of 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Project had already disturbed the area which was further disturbed because of the transmission tower construction for Baspa II and Karchham Wangtoo HEPs
On 25th May 2014 this landslide occurred in Nigulseri village. Locals claim that the tunnel of 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Project had already disturbed the area which was further disturbed because of the transmission tower construction for Baspa II and Karchham Wangtoo HEPs
Geeta Ram’s house affected by the landslide at Nigulseri
Geeta Ram’s house affected by the landslide at Nigulseri
Shamsher Singh’s house cracks at Nigulseri in May 2014. A total of 13 houses have suffered such damages
Shamsher Singh’s house cracks at Nigulseri in May 2014. A total of 13 houses have suffered such damages
This landslide has occurred near powerhouse of the Nathpa Jhakri project in Jhakri
This landslide has occurred near powerhouse of the Nathpa Jhakri project in Jhakri

For Part 1 of the photo essay related to tunneling impacts of hydropower projects in Chamba district, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/photo-essay-on-the-impacts-of-blasting-and-tunneling-for-hydropower-projects-in-chamba-district-in-himachal-pradesh-1/

END NOTES:

[1] The photo blog also appears here: http://www.himdhara.org/2014/08/06/photo-essay-when-mountains-are-hollowed/

[2] For a detailed article on this issue, Seeping through the cracks, see: http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/seeping-through-cracks.html

Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropower

Photo Essay on the impacts of blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects in Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh – 1

Guest Blog by: Sumit Mahar (sumitmahar.12@gmail.com), Him Dhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh [1]

Tunneling for hydropower project using the blasting technique can have massive impacts. It has a series of direct and indirect impacts which have already been documented. Among the most serious impacts is drying up of the natural drinking water springs and the reduction in sub-soil moisture. This directly impacts the drinking water availability for the local villagers as well as agriculture and horticultural productivity, which is critically dependent upon the presence of sub-soil moisture. Blasting for tunnels and other underground components of hydroelectricity projects creates vibrations that have resulted in cracks in houses situated near these components.

Importance of impacts of tunneling and blasting becomes very important since all run of the river (ROR) projects involve tunneling and blasting. Proponents claim that ROR hydropower projects are environment friendly, but most people do not know that the tunneling and blasting adds an additional dimension to the impacts due to ROR hydropower projects and these can be very serious. Most environmental and social impact assessments or cumulative impact assessments do not even assess these impacts. Many times the proponent get away claiming that the impacts are not due to the projects, when in reality all evidence shows that these are very much caused by the tunneling and blasting being done as part of the construction of these projects.

This photo essay documents the impacts of tunneling and blasting for hydropower projects mainly in Chamba (part II of photo essay does the same for projects in Kinnaur district) of Himachal Pradesh. In Chamba, the photo essay includes such impacts of Chamera III, Chanju, Ginni, A.T. hydropower projects.[2] It is noteworthy that impacts are not only limited to large hydropower projects, but also to what is defined as small hydropower projects (projects below 25 MW installed capacity). This should also help puncture the misconceived notion that small hydropower projects are environmental benign and they do not need environmental and social impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance.

These photo essays are indicative of the kind of impacts tunneling and blasting can have in the process of building hydropower projects in the Himalayas. What they indicate is relevant not only for Himachal Pradesh, but entire Himalayas and all projects that involve such tunneling and blasting. We hope these photo essays open the eyes of state governments, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Union Ministry of Power, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Electricity Authority, state environment departments, hydropower developers, EIA consultants, chairman and members of Expert  Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, media, judiciary, civil society and all others concerned.

Chamera III Hydro Electric Project, Chamba

Project Chamera III
Capacity (MW) 231
Basin Ravi
District Chamba
Village Mokhr
Pictures taken on 29/04/2014
In April 2012 there was a massive leakage in the 16km HRT of the 231 MW, Chamera III project just above the Mokhar village in Chamba district leading to severe threat to the village downhill so much so that the 40 families residing there had to be evacuated. This picture is of the Adit 6 of the tunnel. The leakage occurred during testing of the generating units.
In April 2012 there was a massive leakage in the 16km HRT of the 231 MW, Chamera III project just above the Mokhar village in Chamba district leading to severe threat to the village downhill so much so that the 40 families residing there had to be evacuated. This picture is of the Adit 6 of the tunnel. The leakage occurred during testing of the generating units.
2.Leakages in the surge shaft of the 231 MW Chamera III tunnel just above the Mokhar village in Chamba
Leakages in the surge shaft of the 231 MW Chamera III tunnel just above the Mokhar village in Chamba
Vidya Devi’s house in Mokhar  was completely damaged by the landslide caused due to the seepage from the surge shaft in April 2012
Vidya Devi’s house in Mokhar was completely damaged by the landslide caused due to the seepage from the surge shaft in April 2012
Shri Jagdish Sharma standing in front of the debris of his leftover house after the leakage tragedy
Shri Jagdish Sharma standing in front of the debris of his leftover house after the leakage tragedy
The pastures of the village buried under the landslide caused by the seepages in Mokhar village
The pastures of the village buried under the landslide caused by the seepages in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village
Damages caused by the leakage in the HRT to houses in Mokhar village

New Links :  http://www.jagran.com/news/state-10802084.html

http://www.jagran.com/news/state-10802084.html

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120418/himplus.htm#2

 Chanju Hydro Electric Project, Chamba

Project Chanju HEP
Capacity (MW) 36
Basin Ravi (Chanju Nallah)
District Chamba
Village Dhalanjan
Pictures was taken on 30/04/2014
Cracks on the walls of Aaganbhadi Kendra of Dhalanjan village due to the tunnel construction of 36 MW, Chanju HEP in Chamba on Ravi basin’s Chanju nallah
Cracks on the walls of Aaganbhadi Kendra of Dhalanjan village due to the tunnel construction of 36 MW, Chanju HEP in Chamba on Ravi basin’s Chanju nallah
Lilo Devi’s house was located just above the HRT of the Chanju project. 12 houses were completely damaged by the tunnel construction in this village in December 2013
Lilo Devi’s house was located just above the HRT of the Chanju project. 12 houses were completely damaged by the tunnel construction in this village in December 2013
Power house site of Chanju HEP, where 1000s of trees were damaged by the blasting for the tunnel construction due to activation of a landslide
Power house site of Chanju HEP, where 1000s of trees were damaged by the blasting for the tunnel construction due to activation of a landslide

People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures

People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures

People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures
People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures
People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures
People of Dhalanjan village show their destroyed and dilapidated structures
People of Dhalanjan village are now residing in temporary shelters
People of Dhalanjan village are now residing in temporary shelters

A.T. Hydro Power Project, Chamba

Project A.T. Hydro
Capacity (MW) 5
Basin Ravi (Tarela Nallah)
District Chamba
Village Alwas
Pictures taken on 01/05/2014
Landslide at Alwas due to road and channel construction for 5 MW Tarela project in Chamba
Landslide at Alwas due to road and channel construction for 5 MW Tarela project in Chamba
Cracks in the house of Shri Baija Ram due to Tarela Project in Alwas village
Cracks in the house of Shri Baija Ram due to Tarela Project in Alwas village
Lanslide close to Alwas village due to Tarela project
Lanslide close to Alwas village due to Tarela project

Ginni Hydro Power Project, Chamba

Project Ginni Hydro
Capacity (MW) 5
Basin Ravi (Tarela Nallah)
District Chamba
Villages Tarela, Junas
Picture was taken on 01/05/2014
Watermill rendered dysfunctional due to landslide cause by construction work for the 5MW Ginni Project in Tarela village in Chamba. The Project also diverted the water that was being used by the village for the watermill. Almost 15-20 watermills in this village have dried up due to the project’s construction activities
Watermill rendered dysfunctional due to landslide cause by construction work for the 5MW Ginni Project in Tarela village in Chamba. The Project also diverted the water that was being used by the village for the watermill. Almost 15-20 watermills in this village have dried up due to the project’s construction activities
The location of the landslide which dried up the watermill
The location of the landslide which dried up the watermill

Landslide due to the construction activities and then subsequent destruction of the penstock of the Ginni project further led to soil erosion. The village above the slides, Junas has 20 houses and now stand threatened

Landslide due to the construction activities and then subsequent destruction of the penstock of the Ginni project further led to soil erosion. The village above the slides, Junas has 20 houses and now stand threatened

For Part 2 of the photo essay related to tunneling impacts of hydropower projects in Kinnaur district, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/photo-essay-on-the-impacts-of-blasting-and-tunneling-for-hydropower-projects-in-kinnaur-district-in-himachal-pradesh-2/

END NOTES:

[1] The photo blog also appears here: http://www.himdhara.org/2014/08/06/photo-essay-when-mountains-are-hollowed/

[2] For a detailed article on this issue, Seeping through the cracks, see: http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/seeping-through-cracks.html