1979 seems to be a watershed or may be bloodshed year about Dam Safety in India. That year, Central Dam Safety Organisation was for the first time set up in CWC (Central Water Commission). That was also a year in which over a 1000 delegates from all over the world gathered in Delhi under the aegis of ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams). But the most important event or rather gruesome tragedy preceded both these developments. On Aug 11, 1979, the Machhu II dam disaster happened in Morbi in Saurashtra, Gujarat, that killed between 2000 (officially accepted by Central Water Commission) to 25000 people (local estimates). Continue reading “Dam Safety Bill 2019: Will it help prevent Dam Disasters in India?”
Under India’s constitution, water is supposed to be STATE subject. That seems to be under serious threat. First it happened with Waterways Act in 2015 (this was opposed by a number of ministries at centre and number of states, but the bill still got passed). Now the three new bills, as listed below are further threatening this. The advocates of centralisation, including the World Bank and the Central govt big dam lobby, have been wanting to change the constitutional status, but they have not succeeded so far, but now effectively, they could achieve that objective if all these bills are passed.
3 Water Bills Threatening Federalism Three Bills are presented by the Centre in the recently concluded session: a) River Basin Management Bill, 2019 proposing 13 River Basin Authorities for various river basins in our country, b) River Water Disputes Bill, 2019, to have a dispute resolution committee DRC, and c) Dam Safety Authority Bill, 2019, which significantly shift rights and authority of the States over rivers to the Centre.
With these Bills staring at federalism, the new question emerging is: Who will have final say on the water in rivers; the Centre or the States, the Peoples’ representatives or bureaucrats? https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/three-water-bills-threatening-federalism (25 Sept. 2019)
The Interstate River Water Dispute Bill is making it mandatory for the Central government to make such scheme. Under the Act, the Central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin. The Bill provides that the Central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.
This amendment Bill is a mix of some good provisions which are very much required, and over-centralisation of power. Some States like Tamil Nadu and Odisha have expressed apprehension of appropriation of more powers by the Centre. https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/interstate-river-water-dispute-bill-2019-more-centralisation-of-centres-power (26 Sept. 2019)
Flood forecasting is an important activity during monsoon, considering the huge and increasing flood prone area, flood frequency, intensity and flood damages. Accurate and timely flood forecasting can hugely help reduce the damages due to floods. Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency responsible for flood forecasting in India. To understand the CWC’s flood forecasting better, we have compiled the list of the various flood, inflow forecasting sites and flood monitoring sites in India.
In this compilation, we have given state wise list of CWC’s flood forecasting, flood monitoring and inflow forecasting sites in North India, comprising of states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh. It includes available details like name of river, sub basin, Warning level (WL), Danger Level (DL), High Flood Level (HFL), Full Reservoir Level (FRL), Maximum Water Level (MWL), as applicable. As we see below, there are many gaps in this basic information for the sites that are part of CWC’s list. A similar zonewise overview of CWC’s sites was compiled in 2018, which can be seen here. Overview of CWC Flood Forecasting Sites 2018: North India. We have brought this updated compilation for 2019 as there are large number of changes as ou can see.
Its not everyday that Government of India’s National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meets. It’s even rarer when the NCMC meets to deal with issues related to a dam. And that too on a Sunday.
The National Crisis So when on Sunday, Sept 15, 2019, the Cabinet Secretary chaired the NCMC meeting[i] to discuss the issues surrounding the Gandhi Sagar Dam on Chambal river in Madhya Pradesh (close to Rajasthan border) and called it a National Crisis, it signified how serious was the situation. Continue reading “Man made National Crisis at Gandhi Sagar Dam in Sept 2019”
GANGA Uttar Pradesh Floodplain set to be demarcated for 1st time State government has demarcated the Ganga’s floodplain and submitted a final report to the Jal Shakti ministry. The NMCG under Jal Shakti ministry would be the final authority to decide the floodplain. Once the report is approved, the centre would notify Ganga’s floodplain in the state for the first time.
In the first phase, the river stretch from Haridwar till Unnao has been covered. At least 200 metres from the embankment in the city and 500 metres from the embankment in rural areas might be marked as the river’s floodplain. A floodplain is the maximum area that a river has flooded in 25 years. Though the river may not rise that high every year but the demarcating it will mark the area that a river may engulf.
After the floodplain demarcated, it would further be divided into ‘no-development’ and ‘restrictive’ zones. The activities for each of the zones would be defined by the Centre and state government. If any activity is allowed in the ‘no development’ zone, it would be agriculture but on the condition that no fertilizer would be used, said sources in the state government. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/gangas-floodplain-set-to-be-demarcated-for-first-time/articleshow/70877778.cms (28 Aug. 2019)
FANTASTIC piece of work that shows how Ministtry of Finance, NITI Ayog, MoWR and MoEF raised objections to the National Waterways bill, but it was bull dozed by Gadkari, without even sharing the comments with cabinet.
पोत परिवहन मंत्रालय को यह चेताया गया था कि व्यापक विचार-विमर्श के बिना किसी जलमार्ग को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करना सही नहीं होगा. इतनी बड़ी संख्या में राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विकसित करने पर न सिर्फ केंद्र सरकार पर आर्थिक बोझ पड़ेगा बल्कि पर्यावरण को भी गहरा नुकसान होगा, जिसे कभी ठीक नहीं किया जा सकता है. द वायर द्वारा सूचना के अधिकार (आरटीआई) के तहत प्राप्त किए गए आधिकारिक दस्तावेजों से ये खुलासा हुआ है कि वित्त मंत्रालय ने एक ही बार में इतने सारे जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर कड़ा ऐतराज जाहिए किया था.फाइल नोटिंग और आधिकारिक पत्राचारों की करीबी जांच से यह भी पता चलता है कि वित्त मंत्रालय की टिप्पणियों को केंद्रीय कैबिनेट के सामने विचार के लिए रखा ही नहीं गया और कैबिनेट ने बिना इसके ही राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग विधेयक, 2015 के प्रस्ताव को 25 मार्च 2015 को मंजूरी दे दी थी.
– देश के 106 जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के फैसले को लेकर केंद्र के दो प्रमुख विभाग नीति आयोग और वित्त मंत्रालय ने कड़ा विरोध जताया था.
– पांच फरवरी 2015 को भेजे अपने जवाब में नीति आयोग ने कहा कि जिन जलमार्गों को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने का प्रस्वाव रखा गया है, उसे लेकर ये चर्चा नहीं हुई कि आखिर किस आधार पर इन्हें राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित किया जा रहा है.आयोग के यातायात विभाग ने अपने पत्र में लिखा, ‘सबसे पहले किसी भी नदी को राष्ट्रीय जलमार्ग घोषित करने के लिए कुछ व्यापक मापदंड जैसे कि उद्योगों से संपर्क, पर्यावरण प्रभाव आकलन, पूरे साल में पानी की मौजूदगी, नौपरिवहन इत्यादि तय किए जाने चाहिए.’
The Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in a most path breaking, remarkable report to the Supreme Court on the Ken Betwa Link Project Phase I (KBLP-I), on Aug 30, 2019 has raised fundamental questions not only on the appropriateness of the Wildlife Clearance given to the project, but also the viability, optimality and desirability of the project. This a massive, fatal setback for the KBLP-I. We hope the government wakes up to the reality and shelves the project and immediately goes for more viable, quicker, cost effective and less damaging options for Bundelkhand. We also hope the CEC continues to look at the other projects and applications that come their way with the same vigour and forthrightness that they have shown in this report. Continue reading “Fatal setback for Ken Betwa Link Project from CEC”
One expects that River sand mining issues will be minimal in monsoon, with riverbeds flooded, but that is far from the case, as we can see from this week’s bulletin. Recent news include the positive story of Dakshin Kannada deputy commissioner being remembered for curbing illegal sand mining; Institute of Engineers demanding curb in sand mining around the 90 year old Krishna Raj Sagar dam on Cauvery considering its safety; in Tamil Nadu, the most dangerous place in the context of sand mining, there is the news of police forcing activists to apologise; While the TN minister is in denial mode about illegal sand mining round Chennai; firing between sand mafia and police in Rajasthan leading to two deaths and several injuries; in MP, a video is in circulation showing police negotiation with sand mafia; new sand mining policies in several states including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar and in Delhi the DJB has written to NGT to take steps to curb illegal sand mining downstream of Hathnikund barrage. And there is more.
That’s a lot of news during monsoon on River Sand mining. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the sandy tunnel. There is no effective policy or action on the horizon either from the states, centre or judiciary. It seems a lot more focused work is required on this issue.
Different kinds of Dam Floods is affecting India this monsoon. Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) Dam, thanks to decision of the Govt of India and its Ministry of Water Resources, Narmada Control Authority including its Chairperson UP Singh (Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources), Gujarat Govt is flooding hundreds of villages in Madhya Pradesh, displacing Thousands of families, whose rehabilitation has not been done even as per the Madhya Pradesh government. Medha Patkar and 1000 other women of Narmada Bachao Andolan are on indefinite fast. As we finslise this, the water level of Narmada at SSP Dam is already at 134.99 m and Gujarat Chief Minister has said it will be taken to Full Reservoir Level of 138.68 m this year. The Prime Minister declared his joy when water level crossed 134 M and he will shortly have occasion to celebrate again as water level crosses 135 m. There is not a word of concern for the thousands of victims of this joyous achievement from any of them. The Photo Blog by Parineeta Dandekar provides one perspective of the Narmada Valley events.
In Maharashtra, the govt has set up a committee to investigate the role of dams in floods in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur district in August 2019, but it does not seem to have people who can speak up independently and do not hesitate to call spade when they see one.
Karnataka is yet to set up such a committee for the Krishna basin floods in that state that happened the same time and a few days latter while Maharashtra was suffering. As SANDRP has written, there seems also a case of Dam induced floods in Uttara Kannada district too in Karnataka, that will require a separate investigation. We hope that too happens soon.
The Goa Chief Minister has written to his Maharashtra counterpart that Tillari Dam of Maharashtra created floods in Goa.