Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 14 Nov 2016 (Northeast Monsoon Failing, Water Crisis in South India to Become Worse)

To provide much-needed succour to those reeling under severe drought and facing acute drinking water shortage, as part of temporary drought-mitigation measures, the district administration has established helplines in all seven taluks.

A look at impacts of failing Northeast Monsoon on 4 South Indian States 

South India Northeast Monsoon Failing; Water Crisis To Become Worse Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala & interior Karnataka generally receives good rains during the Northeast Monsoon period that commences from Oct until Dec. However, this year, rains have remained scanty over entire Southern India region. Northeast Monsoon has also set in quite late during Oct end. As of now excluding scattered rain events, Monsoon like heavy rains are still far from coming to the southern region of the country. This is a clear indication of possibility of drought-like conditions that might prevail over south peninsula during Northeast Monsoon. In a nutshell, the picture is not very encouraging for next few days and also any significant increase in rains are not foreseen over the southern regions of the country.

In Karnataka with the “total failure” of northeast monsoon, it will be a double whammy for the farmers, who have already lost 50% of their kharif crops owing to poor southwest monsoon. As on Nov 11, the State received only 33.5 mm of rainfall from the northeast monsoon as against the normal rainfall of 157.2 mm, marking a deficit of 79%. Of the 176 taluks, the State govt has declared 139 of them drought-hit. 


Staring at 81% deficient rainfall in the Cauvery catchment, the govt is likely to inform the SC that it is unable to implement Cauvery order given on Oct 18. The State Govt was expecting good monsoon but now it feels that urban centres, particularly Bengaluru, would face severe drinking water shortage in the coming summer if it continue to release 2000 cusecs water to Tamil Nadu. Similarly the depleting Mettur dam level leave people high & dry as the meagre realisation of Cauvery water at Mettur for the past 20 days following the refusal of the Karnataka govt to release water from Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs and the failure of the north-east monsoon has turned the Stanley Reservoir into pools of water. Taking precautionary measures the KG Jagadesha DC of Mangaluru has put curbs on hydro power generation apart from issuing several other directions to effectively mitigate drought impacts in coming month.

To provide much-needed succour to those reeling under severe drought and facing acute drinking water shortage, as part of temporary drought-mitigation measures, Mandya district administration has established helplines in all seven taluks.

In Kerala, experts cite that present drought is fuled by reclamation of wetlands in Pallakad district. They also warn that destruction of paddy and wetlands & paddy fields has been affecting the ground water level alarmingly. Experts also said that Palakkad had already lost 47% of its paddy field and if the current trend of decline in paddy cultivation continues the entire paddy fields in Palakkad will vanish in 2 decades affecting the surfaced and ground water availability very badly.

Similarly the Cardamom hills of Iddukki district are facing a daunting drought despite the fact that the district is enriched by 4 main rivers Periyar, Pampa, Thalayar, Thodupuzhayar and various rivulets and lakes. This year the hills have suffered a 25% dip in rainfall during the South West monsoon and an alarming 66% dip in the North East monsoon precipitation. The grasslands and forested areas adjoining the traditional cardamom plantation have become vulnerable to logging, poaching and land grabbing which is magnifying the drought effects.   

The Andhra State govt on Nov 12 declared 23 more mandals as drought-hit in Prakasam district, taking the total count to 268. Earlier, the govt had declared 245 mandals out of the total 664 mandals in the state as affected by drought, due to lack of rainfall. Anantapur district is worst affected where 63 mandals facing a drought, followed by Chittoor district with 53, Prakasam district with 46, Kurnool district with 36, Kadapa district with 32, Nellore district with 27 and Srikakulam district with 11. As a relief measure Govt plans to commplete restoration or desiltation of 49,624 water bodies, tanks, farm ponds and community ponds within 6 weeks.

In Tamil Nadu, till now, Northeast Monsoon remained subdued & drought like conditions prevailed over Chennai and Tamil Nadu. For next complete week, no significant increase in rainfall is expected over Tamil Nadu. However, on and off scattered rains will continue over the region, but that typical Northeast Monsoon rain will remain absent from the state. Regional parties there have urged the Central govt to ban Kerala’s proposal to construct a dam across the Siruvani as Tamil Nadu have not received any significant rainfall during Northeast Monsoon.


SANDRP Report Glimpse of India’s Rivers Himanshu Thakkar &Parineeta Dandekar This is just a glimpse of our heritage. Rivers are a complex phenomenon, linking rainfall, groundwater, forests, soil and rock and so linking habitats and communities in their wake!

Yettinahole Row NGT pulls up state, Centre for neglecting biodiversity Expressing unhappiness over steps taken to protect biodiversity of Western Ghats at Yettinahole project site by government agencies, NGT on Nov 11 asked the Centre and Karnataka governments to submit details of the project. The Tribunal also questioned the MoEF for granting permission to cut trees in the project area without proper assessment of the damage caused to the Western Ghats. The state govt claimed that totally 4995 trees would be cut on 13.90 hectares area to execute the project and so far 2,700 trees had been felled in accordance with law. The bench questioned the state govt how many saplings had been planted to compensate the loss. Also see, Anti-Yettinahole campaigners to take out ratha yatra on Dec 3 

Centre Got evidence of Saraswati An expert committee has found “convincing evidence” of the “ancient mighty” Saraswati river. The committee, constituted by MoWR in March this year, has, however, said there was “so far” no evidence of “subsurface existence” of the other branch of this river that is believed to have flown towards Allahabad to meet the Ganga and Yamuna at the religiously significant triveni sangam (confluence of three rivers). 

Gujarat Sabarmati River Pollution Video taken on Nov 7 shows a sweeper at sabarmati river front dumping the waste into river. First citizens pay for sweeping cost only to pollute river and then pay for cleaning and treating river water and all this after big talks of swachhta abhiyan.


GANGA Uttarakhand Matri Sadan protests illegal mining Shivanand has alleged that the CM Harish Rawat gives support to the stone crushers involved in the illegal 300 crore mining business by not taking any action against them & the mining activity is being carried out in broad day light in Ganga especially villages like Bishenpur, Bhogpur and Shyampur. He said when President Rule was imposed, then there was a blanket ban on mining and these district officials were also the same but as soon as the Rawat Govt came into force, illegal mining has become rampant. District Magistrate and other revenue officials are also silent over the issue. The villagers are also upset that the mining mafias are not only robbing the earth but also spoiling the farmland tracks. 

YAMUNA UP 80% construction on floodplain eligible for demolition The NGT on Nov 7 said around 80% of constructions near Yamuna in Agra are in the restricted area and are eligible for demolition. It directed the authorities to file their replies, stating what corrective measures they would take in this regard. The tribunal further stated that the installation of pillars in the Yamuna to demarcate flood plain zone was not proper and done with a ‘mala fide’ intention. It asked the departments concerned to inform the tribunal whether they would do the demarcation properly or not.   



SYL Row Punjab SYL law illegal: SC The Supreme Court on Nov 10 declared that Punjab reneged on its promise to share the waters of rivers Ravi and Beas with neighbouring States like Haryana by unilaterally enacting the controversial Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act of 2004. The court gave its opinion on a Presidential Reference made to it twelve years ago, on July 22, 2004, questioning the constitutional validity of the Act. The apex court concluded that the Act was illegally designed to terminate a Dec 31, 1981 agreement entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate the waters of Ravi and Beas in “overall national interest and for optimum utilisation of the waters”. The Haryana Congress & INLD on Nov 10 termed the verdict as “historic & a victory for the people of the state”.  On the other hand in Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh of Congress has decided to resign as Lok Sabha Member of Parliament protesting the Verdict. In response to this all Congress MLAs have also sent their resignations to Singh who is the chief of Punjab PCC. In the same note, the members of the Akali Dal has also conveyed their displeasure and are speculating resignation as a form of protest against the SC verdict. Earlier giving a fresh twist to the row, CM Parkash Badal had said Punjab would demand royalty from states sharing its river waters in the event of the SC delivering a verdict against the state over the sharing of its river waters. Meanwhile, farmer unions were also of the opinion that politicians should focus on real farming issues of Punjab which are farmer suicides, low income in agriculture, depleting ground water, polluted water etc. than politics on the issue. They said that state should rather focus on water recharge instead of fighting over water and the state needs to be more serious on water recharge as more than 70% of irrigation comes from ground water. One important thing is that why SC took take 12 years forthis decision. That has clearly encouraged Punjab to defy SC. In fact, apparently, there are no consequences of contempt of earlier SC orders, again encouraging Punjab (& other states) to violate SC orders. So Punjab is ready with special session of assembly on Nov 16-17. Also see, All you need to know about SYL row 

Neyyar Row SC frames issues to decide the dispute The SC on Nov 8 framed the issues to be heard in the Neyyar river water dispute between neighbouring States Kerala and Tamil Nadu, including whether the river can be classified as an inter-State river. The apex court decided to move ahead with the long pending suit between the 2 States and agreed to hear on several disputed issues, including whether the supply of water to Tamil Nadu by Kerala since 1965 was only a gesture of good will or a legal obligation imposed by Section 108 (2) of the State Re-organisation Act, 1956. 


Centre Goel for timely implementation of river linking projects The Minister of State for Water Resources during 11th meeting of the special committee on Inter-Linking of Rivers  said the linking rivers is an “attempt to boost surplus water availability to needy states. Energy Minister Piyush Goel also expressed hope that the National Water Development Agency will work with “more vigour” and complete delayed inter-linking projects in a time-bound manner. Among the issues taken up during the meeting included status of various statutory clearances of Ken-Betwa Link Project Phase-I, present status of DPR of Ken-Betwa Link Project Phase-II, Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada Link projects and restructuring of the NWDA.


On the other hand in the meeting ,  MP has demanded to link Bina Complex with the second phase of the Ken-Betwa river linking project which shows why it is more important to have a cumulative impact assessment done before making any move on ground. 



Centre Shipping Ministry to seek waterways project nod by Dec. With contracts worth Rs 2000 cr already awarded, the Union Shipping Ministry will now seek Cabinet approval for the Jal Marg Vikas project, under which National Waterways-1 is being implemented. The Ministry is also planning a maiden issue of infrastructure bonds worth Rs.1000 cr in two tranches to fund this World Bank-aided project. The cost has ballooned from Rs.4200 cr at conception in 2013 to Rs.5369 cr now. It involves developing a 1,620-km navigable waterway between Haldia and Varanasi. The entire project is expected to facilitate navigation of commercial vessels with capacity upto 2000 tons. 


Arunachal Stir against Subansiri dam The All Assam Students’ Union & Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti have renewd their movement against the 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydropower project along the Assam-Arunachal border. Aasu alleged that the Centre has expedited work on the mega dam keeping the people of the state in the dark.  The just ratified Climate pact targeting record renewable energy generations (175GW by 2022) including hydro & Power Ministry’s move to revive & reclassify hydro projects  are strong indications that Govt will not easily stop pursuing its BIG hydro dreams regardless of environmental consequences and social repercussions. 


Uttarakhand Tapovan HEP  to be commissioned by 2019 New development: 520 Mw Tapovan Vishnugad HEP had recently come for review through Pragati platform where PM Narendra Modi reviews vital infrastructure projects through Pragati says Jagdish Roy, GM, Tapovan Vishnugad and Lata Tapovan HEP. He further claimed that this is one of the few projects of NTPC where there is no land acquisition problem, rehabilitation & resettlement and environmental issues. The project was originally scheduled to be commissioned in the year 2011 but is facing inordinate delays mainly due to flash floods in 2012 and 2013. On the other hand, High Court on Nov 7  ordered all hill stations and glaciers in the state to be declared as eco-sensitive within 3 months and put a ban on all construction within 25 km radius of the glaciers. Court also said there should be restriction on the number of people visiting the glaciers besides imposition of a tax on them. It also directed all municipal boards and nagar panchayats along the Ganges and the Yamuna to set up STPs within six months besides asking the govt to check water quality every 24 hours.  Similarly a workshop titled ‘hydropower irrigation nexus in upper Ganga headwaters’ recommends to involvement of people in the development of hydro power projects in the State. Also see, Angry, swirling waters a review of Hiridesh Joshi book titled Rage of Rivers by Amita Bhaduri The book is written on 2013 Kedarnath aftermath and role of hydro power projects in amplifying the effects. The blow-by-blow analysis of the response and recovery effort during the floods keeps the narrative tight. 


Centre Dams lack climate resiliency One of the contentious provisions in the 2016 dam safety bill is that it does not provide specific provisions for dams and reservoirs, which are owned, operated and maintained by a state, but are located in another state by virtue of longstanding inter-state agreements upheld through various SC judgments. According to water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar in the wake of climate change, there is heavy rainfall on certain days. Such aspects were not factored in when dams were designed and built. 

Maharashtra Many dams were built first & designed later Purna Barrage-2 Nerdhamana dam project in Vidarbha, the irrigation department issued a tender based on a tentative design and after the contractor completed 40% of the work, they gave him the actual design. The revised cost shot up to Rs 521 crore from the earlier Rs 189 cr, an increase of over 300%. Similarly Kondhane dam cost shot up to Rs 614 cr from Rs 56 cr. Here, the dam design was copied from Gadh dam in Konkan. The contractor for Balganga dam in Raigad was given a design for Shai dam in Shahpur, which was 140 km away. The cost of the project shot up to over Rs 1400 cr from Rs 489 cr. 

Tamil Nadu Ban construction of dam across Siruvani: Vasan Tamil Manila Congress leader G.K. Vasan has urged the Central govt to ban Kerala’s proposal to construct a dam across the Siruvani. 


MP Women on hunger strike over illegal sand mining Up in arms against illegal sand mining from Ken river in Chattarpur, over 100 women were holding fast unto death at Barikheda village bordering UP and MP till the police persuaded them to give up the protest on Nov 8. Mafia has been operating and transporting over 1000 truckloads of sand to UP every day. They are using our farms to transport the sand, thus damaging our crops. Armed mafia men terrorise villagers. As large number of heavy vehicles ply in the small village, thick cloud of dust covers the area, making it difficult for us to breathe. 


Maharashtra People to protest against lack of clean water The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s failure to provide legal water connections supplying clean drinking water to slum dwellers, has prompted them to stage a protest. A ‘Pani Pilao Abhiyaan’ will be carried out at civic body headquarters on Nov 28. Close to 2,000 slum dwellers will march to the BMC’s office carrying bottles filled from dripping pipelines, tankers and nullahs, from where they collect water for their daily needs.


Rajasthan Don’t use Kumbhalgarh sanctuary water to irrigate fields’ Interesting villages around sanctuary opposing demand of other villages seeking irrigation water from a reservoir inside sanctuary citing wildlife concerns. 

Chandigarh 100+ villages face shortage of drinking, irrigation water The failure of the Irrigation Department to reconstruct a water channel has led to a crisis in which more than 100 villages in Mansa district have almost no access to water for irrigation and drinking for the last one-and-a-half month.

Report Water pollution is more deadly: Jairam Referring to the smog crisis in the national capital, Ramesh rued that the country wakes up to air pollution only when Delhi gets affected. Ramesh said the intensity of environmental pollution, involving air, water and chemical contamination, was worse in densely-populated industrial areas like Dhanbad or Chembur in Mumbai than Delhi but no body talks about it.


25 lakh litre water sprayed to tackle dust While air pollution comes with its repercussions, measures required to tackle it are no less a strain on the environment. On Nov 7, approximately 25 lakh litres of water was sprayed on roads, kerbs and central verges to settle the dust, with the promise of intensifying the drive in the coming days. The PWD used a little more than 250 tankers for spraying water along major roads across the city. The water used was treated effluent from sewage treatment plants.  The court on Nov 8 asked why helicopters were not being used to sprinkle the water. There are talks of even going for artificial rain by cloud seeding to resolve the persistent smog. According to experts, Delhi’s dry weather is not suitable for cloud-seeding. First, some clouds are needed to carry out the seeding process. Second, the humidity in the air is too less for it to succeed in Delhi.  Delhiites are amused by the idea of ‘artificial rain’ to wash down pollutants. Experts said it was a “dreamy idea” and its implementation would be difficult as well as impractical. 


Op-Ed The arhar solution to pollution One of the permanent solutions to the pollution problem must address paddy burning. This is where pulses come in. In the Subramanian Committee report on pulses the possibilities created by a new variety of arhar (pigeon pea) developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute were discussed. This variety (Pusa Arhar16) has the potential to be grown in the paddy-growing regions of Punjab, Haryana, UP & eventually in all of India. Its yield (about 2000 kg/hectare) will be significantly greater than those of the existing varieties and because its size will be uniform, it will be amenable to mechanical harvesting, an attractive feature for farmers in northern India who currently use this technology for paddy. Most important, arhar straw, unlike paddy straw, is green and can be ploughed back into the soil. 


Kishanganga HEP India disapproves WB’s move to follow parallel mechanisms India on Nov 10 voiced its disapproval at the World Bank deciding to follow two “parallel mechanisms simultaneously” to resolve differences with Pakistan on the 330 MW Kishanganga HEP coming up in J&K saying that it “cannot be party to actions that are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty”. Govt says that a Neutral Expert and setting up a Court of Arbitration at the same time is legally untenable. The Ministry of External Affairs, said the govt “would examine further options and take steps accordingly.”


Bhutan Climate commitment goods but there are causes for concern As Bhutan grapples with these realities, it has now started contemplating building reservoirs for its hydropower dams. The plans for the Bunakha, Sankosh, and Amochhu power plants already incorporate reservoirs. This will have large ecological impacts that the country has been able to avoid so far. Externally, though, it will also lead to an uptick in Bhutan’s emissions. When reservoirs are built, submerged organic matter (trees, etc) breaks down, leading to large carbon emissions. Moreover, the type of emissions released from reservoirs is often methane, which is a much more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Bhutan may lose its poster boy image on climate change soon if it goes ahead with the plans.

Nepal Irrigation demands aggravate fishing threats The new research paper says that river channel dynamics can influence exposure to anthropogenic risks for aquatic species and irrigation demands cause critical declines in depth of even unregulated rivers in Nepal as a result fishing pressure and low river depths threaten a small dolphin population in the Karnali basin. It sums up that ecological flows can help mitigate water abstraction impacts on dolphin bycatch in fishing nets. Very interesting paper on how change of course of Karnali River in Nepal led to deterioration in state of Dolphins. 



Myanmar Govt probes controversial China-backed dam The fate of the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam in northern Kachin state has hung in the balance since it was abruptly halted by Myanmar in 2011 following protests over environmental and safety concerns. A final decision on the project’s fate would take into consideration environmental costs, the “desires and opinions of local people and societies and potential effects on foreign investment”, the report added. Local opposition to the dam has been fuelled by a mix of concerns, including its location near an active seismic fault line, the impact of flooding on local residents and a general lack of transparency in a project viewed as a resource grab by Beijing. Informative piece throwing some light on China’s strong financial influence over Myanmar economy and how moves against China interests can even affect the democratic processes in Myanmar.

Vietnam Climate change, dams threaten rice industry Worries about the future of the Mekong Delta increased after an extreme lack of water this year caused the area to become saltier than normal. Scientists say the area also faces a threat from the increasing numbers of hydroelectric dams being built on the Mekong River in China, Laos and Cambodia. They warn that the dams will change the flow of rivers and tributaries and lower water temperatures, among other effects. 


Dam building spree in Tibet Beijing’s elaborate plans to harness the waters of the rivers in Tibet have serious strategic and socio-economic implications for India. Therefore, instead of adopting a policy of appeasement, Delhi must forcefully take up its concerns with Beijing. There is an urgent need to formulate a national policy that factors in both the strategic and legal dimensions. Besides, the constitution of a body of experts would go a long way in addressing the issue in its entirety.

Taiwan River restoration in dense urban areas  Interesting case study of urban stream restoration from Taiwan. Several features are shared by Indian rivers. 


Research Dams raise global warming gas A new study estimates that dams produce 25% more methane by surface unit than estimated. The current and planned boom of hydroelectric projects would double the current cover of dams in the world and will aggravate the problem. The research states that dams emit about a billion tons of greenhouse gas, which is responsible for 1.3 % of total annual global emissions. Within a 100-year timescale, dams produce more methane than rice plantations and biomass burning. 

Canada Dam risks poisoning indigenous diets Bolstered by a series of studies released from the lab of Elsie Sunderland, an environmental scientist at Harvard, opponents argue that the dam, which is being built at a waterfall in the Churchill River called Muskrat Falls, will send high levels of the neurotoxin methyl mercury downstream and into Lake Melville’s food webs. Since the area’s Inuit and Innu populations get much of their food from Lake Melville, that toxin would then percolate into their diets, threatening traditional ways of life. There are widespread protests highlighting the mostly overlooked side effect of hydroelectric projects all over Canada: The reservoirs behind the dams tend to develop high levels of methyl mercury, leading to mercury poisoning among people who eat fish or game caught downstream. Seems like a new issue related to Canada’s hydropower plants. Also see, Impacts of Methyl mercury exposures of indigenous communities 

Study How land use change affects water quality, aquatic life Using 20 years of data from federal and state agencies, a fisheries biologist and a scholar are tracking how land use changes have impacted the water quality and aquatic life in lakes and streams in northeastern South Dakota. These environmental impacts can put pressure on aquatic ecosystems that, in the short term, can have a more dramatic effect than climate change.


Marrakech summit  India makes presentation on water resources During the opening session on “Climate Change Adaptation Preserving Water Resources”, officials outlined the water resources scenario in India and made a presentation on the National Water Mission. Initiatives taken by the National Water Mission for adaptation and mitigation of impact of climate change on water resources in particular was discussed. As usual, there is no attention to governance, institutional issues or attempt to identify vulnerable sections or regions. 


US Trump is going to be a disaster for the planet Trump has been crystal clear about his environmental plans. He called global warming a Chinese hoax. He also tapped Myron Ebell, an avowed climate denier, to head his EPA transition team. Trump has said, straight up, he wants to scrap all the major regulations that President Obama painstakingly put in place to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions, including the Clean Power Plan. With Republicans now controlling Congress, this is perfectly doable. Again, if Congress follows, he’d have the power to get rid of other regulations on mercury pollution, on ozone, on coal ash, and more. Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal. There’s nothing stopping him there, either. 



Report India is becoming a drier, hotter and angrier country Worst hit are the world’s freshwater systems, which have lost 81% of their animals, which are indicators of the health of these systems. As these animals disappear, so does the freshwater, and that is why growing stresses and conflicts over such water supplies are sky rocketing. The Western Ghats are a giant sponge, absorbing water as it falls, giving life not just to forests but sustaining peninsular India’s major rivers, the waters of which drain a fourth of India and give life to 245 million people across five states. That is more people than live in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Interesting report citing numbers Studies & Research Paper. Also see, Privatizing nature, outsourcing governance: the economics of extinction It rightly says that tigers, elephants, forests, wetlands and rivers are not commodities whose value can be siphoned off into the pockets of investors and ignored when they don’t make a profit. They are our collective inheritance.

You may also like to see DRP News bulletin 07 Nov 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 31 Oct 2016

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