Dams, Rivers & People News Bulletin, Sep 14, 2015


He Watered the Arid Fields of Administration with Intellectual Rigour and Honesty: Amita Baviskar payes tribute to Ramaswamy Iyer Iyer’s critical view of large dams became stronger when he was appointed to review the Tehri project in 1996 and to head the India country study for the World Commission on Dams in 1997. Subsequently, studying trans-border river conflicts between India, Nepal and Bangladesh, he began to see dams as only one element in the larger mismanagement of water by engineers impervious to social and ecological impacts. In one more news report paying tribute to him R. Uma Mahashwari writes that Ramaswamy R. Iyer used to see rivers as inextricable parts of the lives of communities 


HIMACHAL PRADESH Dadahu villagers in Sirmaur raise stand up in protest of Renuka Dam as the village panchayat has refused to give no-objection certificate to the project, arguing that blasting for tunnels and other works will cause irreparable loss to ecology. Villagers also feel that felling of 4.5 lakh will increase the threat of cloud burst apart from leading to increased soil erosion. Meanwhile the revised estimated cost of the project had shot up from Rs 3,572.19 crore to Rs 5,243 crore due to delay in execution.

UTTARAKHAND Mindless mining and Hydro Power projects in Uttarakhand puts Great Mahseer under threat and sport tourism in lurch Environmentalists for some years have been warning about the end of the gigantic golden fish, which grows up to nine feet. But now the impact of its disappearance is being felt in Uttarakhand like never before.  As per Sumanta Ghosh, founder president of the Society for Mahseer Conservancy mindless quarrying hydro-power projects and lack of a comprehensive policy on fishing are responsible behind fast disappearance mahseer of the fish. September 9 is observed as ‘Himalaya Divas’ in Uttarakhand state and there is a news report that finds that Climate Change a big threat for  Himalaya and Alaska glaciers  Interesting report it urges India to invest in renewable energy, green technology but at the same time discourages building of hydro power projects in Himalayan region revealing that the fragile Indian Himalaya would have one of the highest average dam densities in the world, with one dam for every 32 km of river channel if the Govt. go ahean with all planned and proposed dam and hydro power projects. It also says that the ongoing glacial changes (glacier lake expansion, outburst and flooding) and geo-hazards will threaten the dam infrastructure downstream.

SOUTH Mini hydel plant on Kuntala in Telangana sparks debate  After remaining out of news for about two years, the controversial issue of establishing a mini hydel power station on the Kuntala waterfalls has come back to haunt the Adivasi villagers in Neredigonda mandal of Adilabad district. Reports about the Forest Department being favourably inclined towards the project has raised the hackles of activists, who allege that the place would lose its pristine beauty once the hydel power plant becomes a reality.

SIKKIM Govt clears Teesta-III hydropower project, Subansiri in Arunachal next on radar Power Minister Piyush Goyal said his next objective is to speed up NHPC’s 2,000 megawatt Subansiri hydroelectricity project spread across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states. It’s about eight years behind schedule and may cost more than twice the original forecast, according to government estimates. He also said that people have lost interest about investing in hydro and he wants to reignite that interest.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH State Govt. commissioned Study okays 11 hydropower projects in Tawang basin Surprisingly the study says that no human population or habitation will be displaced due to implementation of the proposed projects since all the projects are run-of-the river schemes and do not involve the creation of reservoir. The reports did not mention that series of Ron of the River projects on a single stream are equally disastrous like big reservoir projects. Secondly countless Run of the River projects as seen across Himalaya (Himachal, Uttarakhand) are far more destructive to local ecology, climate and the river itself.

‘Clean’ hydroelectric power poses northern methyl mercury threat: Harvard University Study The study says that Methyl mercury, a neurotoxin created as mercury blends with bacteria and is linked to heart issues and intellectual problems in children. High levels of the substance in Arctic marine life have been traced to global warming as sea ice melts. Researchers urge govt. to consider potential effects of flooding vast swaths of land before turning to hydroelectric dams as a cleaner way to curb climate change. 


CRF 14 Sep 15 IMD

Cumulative Rainfall Map; IMD till 13 Sep 2015 Deficit increased to 16%, only one region West Rajasthan is shown in excess rainfall category, 17 are in normal and the rest 19 regions are in deficit category. 

Also see India Ratings fears that Deficient monsoon may impact outlook for both kharif and rabi crop. It also says that a second consecutive year of less-than-normal monsoon does not augur well for the Indian economy which is still struggling to get back to over 8% growth levels. One the contrary IMD says that ongoing rain in Central and South India is a sign of revived monsoon. However the showers have not improved the nationwide rain deficiency which still stands on 12%. The report also discloses that despite deficit rains, the total sowing area under kharif crops as on September 4 was at 998.67 lakh hectares (ha) compared with 979.40 lakh ha in the year-ago period. Sowing of pulses has increased 11 per cent, while paddy acreage has risen marginally by over one per cent so far.


Maharashtra faces severe drought Marathwada is reeling under the worst drought in recent years, pushing scores of locals to migrate to cities in search of livelihood, with Beed witnessing a steep rise in farmer suicides accounting for 105 cases in August itself. The agrarian crisis in Marathwada has been compounded for the fourth successive year, forcing many of the 25 lakh people in drought-wrecked region, comprising 70 per cent of the area’s population, to cities like Mumbai in Western Maharashtra. While Vidarbha reports the highest farmer suicides in the state, cases have been spiralling in Marathwada too, which earlier faced a drought in 2012 and 2014. Crops had also been destroyed in the region which had been ravaged by hailstorms in 2013. One more news report says that Marathwada drought is triggering farmer suicides. In an interview Maharashtra CM estimates that drought relief work will cost more than Rs 7000 crore. Also,Dry spell for MGNREGS jobs in rain-starved Marathwada. In Drought hit Marathwada, even MGNREGS jobs have dried up, it is clearly getting neglected even as people need jobs.

Bombay High Court serves notice to Maharashtra Govt. challenging its decision of releasing 3 TMC water from Gangapur dam for three shahi snans at Kumbh Mela in Nashik amid compounding drought situation.

Farmers in Maharashtra are under stress due to drought  effect. While it is good that author Ashok Gulati here raises the unsustainable sugarcane in Maharashtra as a reason for its severe stress at every drought, one would have expected more useful suggestions from him, including stopping westward diversions.

Rain-deficit Maharashtra receives heavy Monsoon showers  that lashed several parts of rain-deficit state of Maharashtra. Marathwada, Madhya Maharashtra and Konkan region recorded moderate to heavy shower, while, Vidarbha region received rain with reduced intensity.This spell of rain will bring down the rain deficiency substantially, which earlier has been as high as 50%.


Sardar Sarovar Dam Scam Bigger Than Vyapam: Medha Patkar The Namarda Bachao Andolan activist alleged that Gujarat government had issued Rs.2,300 crore for rehabilitating the Sardar  Sarovar dam affected people but a scam of Rs.1,000 crore has occurred in that too, as a total of 2,143 families despite being eligible have not been allocated land and 54 villages have been declared out of the inundation area. Meanwhile  3-member judges’ panel visits Sardar Sarovar dam hit areas to hear grievances The field visit by the panel of retired justices PC Jain (Rajasthan high court), Nag Mohan Das (Karnataka HC) and VD Gyani (Madhya Pradesh HC) comes just a day before the independent people’s tribunal at Rajghat in Badwani. The independent tribunal has been called as part of the ongoing ‘Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha’ (right to life sit-in) by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists that started on August 12.

Storage Status of 91 Major Reservoirs of the Country as on September 10, 2015  The Water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country was 92.379 BCM which is 59% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This storage is 77% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 81% of storage of average of last ten years.


MP calls second wildlife board meeting, may push Ken-Betwa river-link project After failing to get the Ken-Betwa river-link project cleared by the MP state wildlife advisory board at its August 11 meeting, the Madhya Pradesh government has hurriedly called another meeting on September 22. Though the agenda of the meeting has not been circulated so far, wildlife experts feel the state government has called the meeting with the single point agenda to push through the union government’s ambitious river-linking project. 

Work on Godavari-Krishna link will be completed by March 2016: Irrigation Dept. Andhra Meanwhile about 600 cusecs water from Godavari river has been diverted from Tadepudi for supply into Prakasham barrage on Krishna river and later to the delta region. This move is seen as a major step towards linking Godavari and Krishna rivers. State Irrigation Minister D Uma Maheshwara Rao and senior leaders were present when the water was let into Krishna pathway through a canal. The State is working on Polavaram multi purpose project and the Pattiseema project to link Godavari and Krishna rivers. While the Government expects to complete Polavaram by 2018-19, the Pattiseema project would be ready by March 2016. In one separate news report Irrigation Department officials agreed that a 15-20 per cent transmission loss is inevitable as the water will against natural gradient and will take 3-4 days to reach the Prakasham barrage located at a distance of 132 km. Also see Godavari and Krishna rivers interlink to know in detail about the project.


UP farmers feel unhappy and confused over Rs. 6000 crore subsidy rhetoric to sugar industries as they have got no relief so far.

In a separate development Ayush Ministry has raised concerns with the environment ministry on the possible adverse impact GM crops could have on certain wild varieties of medicinal plants used for Ayurvedic purposes.


West Bengal takes up Rs 500 crore scheme to improve agriculture productivity This seems like an expensive scheme as each check dam or water harvesting structure is to cost Rs 60 lakh, since 800 such structures are to be built at the cost of Rs 500 crore under the W Bengal Govt’s Jalatirtha project in 4 districts of Bankura, Birbhum, Purulia and W Midnapur to benefit 32000 ha of 4000 farmers.

MAHARASHTRA : Irrigation scam Anti-Corruption Bureau Summons NCP Leader Ajit Pawar Mr Ajit and Mr Tatkare, currently state unit president of NCP, are under scanner for allegedly awarding tenders to contractors by flouting norms which resulted in massive cost escalation for Kondhane, Kalu and Balganga irrigation projects in Konkan region during their stints as Water Resources ministers in the Congress-led Democratic Front government.  Let us wait and see how far this goes.

Meanwhile in a study paper scientists warn that salinity and water logging is serious threat to sustainable crop production particularly in the north-western states.


NGT issues notices to 14 NCR builders for illegal ground water extraction The order was passed after perusing inspection reports filed by the local commissioners who conducted surprise visits on construction sites in Delhi-NCR and found serious impropriety in relation to use of water. The construction projects which have been issued notice include – BPTP Ltd, Sector-94, Noida; Sunshine Trade Tower Pvt Ltd; J C World Hospitality Pvt Ltd; Wish Town, Sector-128, Noida; Assotech Reality Pvt Ltd; Three C Properties Private Limited, D-107, Pancheel Enclave, New Delhi; Sikka KG One, Sector-98, Noida.


In a move to make clean and safe drinking water available to people on the move DJB plans to install 670 drinking water kiosks across Delhi  all over the capital free of charge. The kiosks will be primarily placed near bus stops, at markets and other busy spots. In one more news report CM Arvind Kejriwal says no to privatisation in water sector however he said that his Govt. will continue awarding some works, relating to DJB, on contractual basis, but it should have the ownership of water and its distribution. Also read after civil society group raise concerns, Delhi govt to change draft water policy Meanwhile Central Ground Water Authority which was investigating a number of complaints by residents, has stumbled upon the shocking fact that reveals that  ground water table in zones which were declared over-exploited zones in SE Delhi is rising and can pose flood threat. According to the CGWA, about 27 years ago the groundwater levels were extremely shallow in these locations due to their proximity to Yamuna and second error comes from urban planning that allowed construction of basements. In 2006, DJB commissioned the Sonia Vihar treatment plant and these areas began getting piped water supply and as a gradually the groundwater levels started coming up again. In one more news report to reign in illegal extraction of ground water NGT asks  Central Ground Water Board and NCR authorities to set up a committee and probe the matter illegal extraction of ground water in construction. The court also directed the officers to see if the treated sewage water can be used in construction.  On the other hand Revenue department Delhi is all set to hand over water bodies in Rural areas to DJB  for restoration and and to make them suitable for rainwater harvesting. 


KARNATAKA : Yettinahole project Students stage protest against Yettinahole Protests against the Nethravati diversion project continued, with students taking out a procession and staging a street play at Surathkal. Meanwhile, farmers have called off their proposed protest against the project at B.C. Road on September 15. Instead they would join activists at Uppinangady on the same day to block the Mangaluru-Bengaluru national highway. Also see campaign against Yettinahole project continues as Green activists distributed handouts with 10 questions to the State government as part of their continued campaign against the Yettinahole diversion project at Belthnagady and Ujire. Meanwhile more experts have come against the Yettinahole projects criticising it Prof. SG Mayya, National Institute of Technology Karnataka said that  the Yettinahole project not only highlights the plight of River Nethravathi, but of all the west-flowing rivers which will face the same fate in the days to come. 

POLLUTION A scientific study reveals that  Kali river contaminates groundwater endanger health of millions dependent  Testing of 16 water samples, eight of ground water and eight of the river water from eight districts which the Kali flows through, has shown that not only the river water has been seriously contaminated but that has also contaminated the groundwater of all the villages located on its bank in eight districts.

On the other hand, on a PIL filed be by a retired senior scientist and director of NGO Doaba Paryavaran Samiti Chandra Veer Singh NGT summons chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand over the issue of rising pollution levels in the Hindon, Krishna and Kali rivers which originate in the Doon valley and are tributaries of the Ganga.

One more pleasant news report reveals that  Kanpur development authority take steps to save Pandu river from pollution as the authority is considering to ban all types of constructions within 200 metre radius from the bank of Pandu river.

Meanwhile in another positive development, with the festive season starting with Ganesh puja round the corner, like every other year, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) has imposed restrictions/guidelines on immersion of idols in rivers, ponds and lakes to curb pollution of water bodies. The OSPCB has written to all district collectors directing them to seriously enforce the restrictions/guidelines imposed earlier in this regard. The Board has directed collectors to ensure that that places of immersion are not polluted and are cleaned immediately after immersion of idols.

SAND MINING States facing statutory dilemma in curbing the sand mining menace As per the report nine State Govts  have begun a crackdown on illegal sand mining activities by setting up flying squads, levying stiff financial penalties and initiating their respective policies to auction sand. However, in August 2013, the National Green Tribunal has held that environment is a Union subject and states are not competent to frame rules in this regard. On the other side one more news report says that in order to  to strike a balance between construction needs and environmental concerns while allowing sand mining in states, the Union environment ministry have come out with detailed “guidelines on sustainable sand mining“ in the country and proposed strict monitoring and crackdown against illegal mining that has been rampant in many states.

GANGA Govt. working on plans to turn Ganga in National Waterway up to Allahabad Farakka Barrage can open up almost 200 km of the Ganga for movement of goods as in October, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is going to invite tenders for setting up such a navigation lock at the 2.2-km-long Farakka Barrage. A navigation lock is a set of two parallel lock gates that helps boats negotiate different water levels on either side of a barrage. The World Bank-assisted ₹300-crore project will allow movement of cargo another 170 km up the Ganga till Barh, near Patna. In time, IWAI will extend the scope of movement of goods 1,600 km up the Ganga till Allahabad in UP. In another article author Ram Dutt Tripathi suggest that good governance and simple living is key to a clean river. He rightly says that The Ganga Action Plan was aimed at cleaning only a small fraction of polluted effluents coming through drains in big cities. It almost ignored taking steps to improve the health of the river itself.

YAMUNA  In a surprising development Delhi to turn to private sector for help in reviving waterway Very strange to see that Centre or state government has no money for Yamuna clean up, JICA is refusing to use their promised funds for the NGT clean-up plan and now it is being proposed that private sector will do this, that will possibly be a bigger disaster: On the other hand Delhi Urban Art Commission prepare comprehensive plan to revamp Najafgarh drain The study proposes a strategy keeping in mind the flood levels of the middle stretch of the waterway. Meanwhile disappointed by Govt. agencies performance NGT seeks record of STPs built for Yamuna cleanup. Also, as per the news reports doing rounds for past couple of weeks, finally Central and Delhi governments are to create a single agency, likely to named the Delhi Yamuna Development Authority to clean up Yamuna river. Both the govt seems to have realised that the multiple authorities engaged in the task have complicated the job. On the other hand scanty of rainfall in Yamuna basin is going to impact several cities on its bank adversely including Agra. A news report reveals that Agra is likely to encounter water crisis in the next few months with a dip in Yamuna water level. NGT too seems not happy with Agra as the green court has fined Agra builders Rs. 1.41Crore for polluting Yamuna. In a separate development adding more twist in Yamuna’s plight, environmental activists from Mathura, Brij and Virndavan concerned at the degradation of Yamuna river have approached Water Resource Ministry demanding commitment from the Haryana government on release of water in the Yamuna for the downstream towns and cities as directed by the National Green Tribunal to ensure a minimal flow of water in this largest tributary of the Ganges. Also see Kejriwal’s Yamuna And Modi’s Ganga: Who Will Clean It First?


Extent of Flood Damage 2015 so far (cumulative figures) 




lives lost





Live- stock


Cropped area


No. of houses




17 900 125 907 57 2 211 60 241 1000 562.88

(in ha)

794 557

(fully & partially)

132 019.88

(Rs. In lakh)

Source: National Disaster Management India.

The data is updated except for Arunachal Pradesh state. Also see Assam Flood: Loss in Number 61 dead, 31.59 lakh affected, 4,459 villages in 25 districts ruined, 8,100 houses damaged 3.41 hectares with standing crop destroyed, Rs 580.99 crore total loss. On the other side, much of Kashmir saw a shutdown against ‘government apathy’ towards rehabilitating victims of last year’s floods. Protesters alleged failure of the state and central governments to rehabilitate the victims even a year after the floods. Another news report discloses that with a series of mitigation measures recommended by experts remaining unimplemented over the past year, the threat of floods remains real in Kashmir. In one more news report reacting strongly over flood relief work J & K High Court says ‘Centre paid ‘peanuts’ to flood victims. The court also observed that that rehabilitation of victims of floods of such magnitude should have been given primary importance by the Central Government; the court also asked Union Finance Ministry asked to submit response by October 6.


India’s fading monsoon reveals wider Asian connections The report sheds some light on combined impact El Nino and Global Warming in form of erratic rain, floods, droughts and typhoons etc over Asian continent. It says that heat waves and floods in India and typhoon Soudelor in Taiwan and record high temperatures in Hong Kong – appear unconnected, but it appears increasingly apparent that weather systems over Asia are interlinked and feeling the effects of three phenomena: El Nino, global warming and local air pollution.

‘Upper Karnali project will impact downstream projects’ Irrigation projects downstream of Upper Karnali Hydropower Project will be affected if the project is developed according to the proposed design, a preliminary finding by a study of the downstream effect of the project revealed. According to the preliminary findings, the developer cannot construct a project to store water for about twenty-and-a-half hours daily during dry months and generate electricity at the full installed capacity of 900 MW during peak hours, which would be about three and a half hours long, and sell the energy at least twice the rate of normal hours.


Myanmar: Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight The increasing army presence to defend the construction of a controversial Salween river dam in southeastern Myanmar’s Shan state has sparked heightened concerns among rural villagers, who are determined to fight the development that threatens their livelihoods.


Study on ecological problems caused by largest cotton producing region in China The study highlights that natural land and water resources in unique landscape of Xinjiang region in northwestern China are being ruthlessly exploited. It says that over past 50 years farmers have sharply increased cotton fields (10% of world’s cotton is produced the region) and increasingly diverting lion’s share of Tarim river water for irrigation which turning the fertile soil saline. Moreover to expand cotton farming, farmers are cutting down Euphrates Poplar a rare tree speices. The Euphrates Poplar acts as a barrier against the sands from the neighboring Taklamakan desert. Without them, whole roads and fields would disappear under the advancing desert. The forests also help keep down temperatures through evaporation.

China uncovers more accounting problems with $59 billion Three Gorges Dam Three Gorges dam, the world’s biggest hydropower scheme mired with corruption and over-looked environmental concerns and rehabilitation issues. The report reveals that Chinese government auditors have found more accounting problems with projects linked to the $59-billion Three Gorges dam, the world’s biggest hydropower scheme, following a critical report last year that revealed nepotism and other corrupt practices. The dam has long been controversial. Between 1992 and 2009, all citizens had to pay a levy built into power prices across China to channel money towards its construction, a project overshadowed by compulsory relocations of residents and environmental concerns. Last year the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog slammed the Three Gorges Corporation for shady property deals and dodgy bidding procedures.

Typhoon Etau brings monsoonal tsunami in Japan, unprecedented downpour raises fear of radioactive contamination Record rainfall sees new ‘wall of water’ sweep across Honshu city of Japan causing rivers to burst their banks and landslides ripping the houses from their foundations.  As a result over 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. The aftermath of Typhoon Etau has also washed tons of radioactive water from the ruined Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific.  Record rainfall in Japan has burst riverbanks, ripped houses from their foundations and forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes. The aftermath of Typhoon Etau has also washed tons of radioactive water from the ruined Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific.


In a new path braking study an MIT team investigates the impacts of large-scale cropland irrigation on rainfall patterns in the East African Sahel around the Gezira Irrigation Scheme, now considered one of the largest irrigation projects in the world. After the researchers concluded their deep analysis of regional climate data, they concurred that large-scale irrigation development in the East African Sahel has consistently enhanced rainfall in areas to the east of the irrigated lands, while reducing rainfall directly over them. And there is more research paper revealing that over one million people in sub-Saharan Africa will contract malaria this year because they live near a large dam, according to a new study which, for the first time, has correlated the location of large dams with the incidence of malaria and quantified impacts across the region. The study finds that construction of an expected 78 major new dams in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years will lead to an additional 56,000 malaria cases annually.

Stand Up for West Fork River Dam Removals! Interesting report on The Fork River and its dwindling fish population due to unused water diversion projects It says that low head water diversion dams are responsible behind wiping out 80% of fish species including key species Mussels that contribute in cleaning of river and form an important part of the food web. While few govt. agencies including US Fish & Wildlife Service have been planning removal of purposeless dams, one major agency has become interested in acquiring the dams in order to stop the dam removal project without revealing the funding mechanism. Concerned people have initiated a campaign arguing that dam removal is a one-time cost, requires no future maintenance, and eliminates the safety hazard caused by a low head dam; most fiscally-responsible and ecologically-beneficial option for managing the obsolete infrastructure on the West Fork River. They believe that with the stream barriers removed, the freshwater mussel populations in the West Fork will be restored for over the next several decades.


25% of Western Ghats to be eco-sensitive, no bar on hydro power projects   The environment ministry has notified a draft of a broken eco-sensitive zone in the biodiversity rich Western Ghats spanning six states, which debars only mining, thermal power plants, big townships and critically polluting industries from the region. The zone is 56,825 sq kms or 25 % of the total Western Ghats area and was 3,125 sq kms less than what the former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had accepted on basis of the Kasturirangan panel. The panel had recommended continuous eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) or 30% of the Western Ghats in every state, whereas the new notification provides small ESZs, excluding human habitats and plantations. However, there will be no restriction on the repairs or extension of existing buildings falling under the ESZ and change in ownership of properties will also not be affected. The notification allows hydro-power projects, all other categories of industries and also asks the states to implement Forest Rights Act for allowing industrial activity. Also see Environment Ministry issues Fresh Draft Notification on Western Ghats

Environment Ministry Directs CPCB to Ensure Better Implementation of Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued directions under section 18 (1) (a) of the Water Act and the Air Act to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure better implementation of Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act, 1991. The Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act, 1991 makes it obligatory upon the user industries handling 179 types of chemicals and compounds and other classes of flammable substances to subscribe a special insurance policy to cover the liabilities likely to arise on account of any chemical (industrial) disaster/accident and payable to those affected people who are not the workers on ‘no fault basis’/ ‘absolute liability’. The Act establishes an Environment Relief Fund (ERF), which is subscribed by all such user industries by an amount equal to the annual premium amount of such insurance policies.

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