In the Tirthan Valley of Himachal Pradesh, as we crisscrossed tiny wheat fields moist with dew and apple orchards laden with white blossoms, a rhythm accompanied the steps: a constant ghrr-ghrr-ghrr. It came from small slate shelters with sloping roofs, which looked like tiny shrines. Sometimes, the shelters were made directly over a stream, but many times they were on the banks, with a channel diverting some water to them.
These were the Gharats: water-mills running on the kinetic energy of flowing water and milling fresh, cool flour.
Throughout Tirthan Valley, Gharats dot the streams at several locations. Raju Bhartiji says that Tirthan had many more Gharats in the past, but the floods of 1995 washed many of them away and most remaining fell into disrepair. Even so, as compared to other parts of Himachal, Tirthan valley is fortunate. Hydropower dams, including mini hydro projects, with their headrace and tailrace tunnels, flow diversions and blasting have destroyed thousands of Gharats in Himachal and Uttarakhand. These water mills are special not only because they are decentralized and appropriate technology structures. They are a part of the heritage of the land: almost all of the materials for building one come from the surroundings and the masons who build them are artists.
Continue reading “In Photos: Gharats of Tirthan: For the tastiest Parathas” →
River Tirthan, a tributary of the Beas in Himachal Pradesh is one of the rarest rivers in India. Not because it is teeming with trout, not because the tiny valley is home to nearly 100 species of butterflies, not because it has several functioning water mills running with flow of the river, but because it is protected by the Himachal Legislature as a perpetually free-flowing river: A No-Go River for Hydropower and other dam projects. Read about how it came to pass here: Muktadhara Tirthan (https://sandrp.in/2022/06/15/muktadhara-tirthan/)
Continue reading “In Photos: People of the Free-Flowing Tirthan” →
In the Nadi-Matrik land (born to the river) of Bengal, where a blade of grass takes on layered meanings, river boats are not to be taken lightly. For boatmen who row down a vast river for days at end, a boat is more than a mode of transport. It is symbolic of the mortal body: frail, tattered and adrift, in search of a safe harbor.
Continue reading “Boat Races of Bengal: A River Carnival” →
(Feature Image:- The construction of the Polavaram dam across the Godavari river has posed a big threat to the Pulasa fish, as its movement to the upstream of the river could be curtailed. HT PHOTO).
Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned.
Continue reading “DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study“ →
A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.
Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.
Continue reading “DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers“ →
Flood forecast and monitoring is essential part of Central Water Commission’s (CWC) work. Presently, the agency claims[I] issuing flood forecasts at 332 sites including 133 Inflow Forecast (IF) sites and 199 Level Forecast (LF) sites. Since 2018, SANDRP has been presenting critical analysis of CWC’s flood forecast website[II] in region wise manner.
In 2022 SW monsoon season, we have already published the overviews for North[III] and North East[IV] regions of the country. This third part in the series covers the states in East India including Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal (Ganga Basin). Our previous overviews for the region can be seen here (2018[V]) and here (2019[VI]).
Continue reading “2022: CWC Flood Monitoring Sites in East India“ →
( Feature Image:- Satish Acharya’s illustration on Bengaluru floods: Whose land is it anyway? 07 Sept. 2022)
The wetlands reports tell us a lot, but the key point is that decisive judicial action is necessary if our wetlands are to have any future. The directions of the Tamil Nadu High Court to geo reference all wetlands of Tamil Nadu, including small (Less than 2.25 ha area) is good beginning, but the court will need to ensure continuous monitoring and ensure implementation. Because the past shows that the government and other stakeholders have collectively failed to take any decisive action to save our wetlands. The disastrous results are evident at so many places, this week it is most clear from the flooding of Bangalore, mainly due to encroachment of lakes, wetlands, water channels and their catchments.
Continue reading “DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands“ →
An analysis of the daily district wise rainfall data from India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the month of Aug 2021, 3rd month of India’s South West Monsoon 2021 shows that there were 667 (much higher than 431 in Aug 2021) instances when district rainfall of a day in a district was above 50 mm. The normal monthly rainfall of India Aug is 258.2 mm and actual rainfall was 3.5% above normal at 263.8 mm[i]. Such high rainfall instances included 553 (371 in Aug 2021) instances when rainfall was 50-100 mm, 98 (48 in Aug 2021) instances when it was 100-150 mm, 13 (11) times it was 150-200 mm and 3 (1 in Aug 2021) above 200 mm. Interestingly, in June 2022[ii] and July 2022[iii] there were 462 and 809 instances when rainfall in a district was above 50 mm. The July 2022[iv] and June 2022[v] rainfall all over India was 16.8% above normal and 8% below normal respectively.
Continue reading “High Rainfall days in India’s districts in August 2022“ →
(Feature Image: Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river. Source: Central Water Commission 30.08.2022)
As this article on corruption in large dams in India shows, it is open secret that large dams involve massive corruption, kickbacks and political funding. But the politicians from PM downwards across the party lines have understandably no interest in this issue.
But unfortunately, the large dams-corruption is not limited to politicians. The corruption in various forms plague even the media Mughals like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyer and Shekhar Gupta, both known for their fundamentalist pro dam views. They too have no interest in corruption in large dams. In fact some of them have no qualms accepting sponsorships of dam contractors for their media awards! They are however, ever ready to criticize Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar, though they have no clue about the issues they are talking about and keep using some flawed study whose reply (by Nandini Oza and Shripad Dharmadhikary) is already out in public domain. It is interesting that they have launched this fresh attack on dam critics just when Gujarat Chief Minister and country’s Home Minister have also launched attack on the NBA. Neither Gujarat CM, PM or HM is replying as to why Kutch, the main justification for Gujarat getting disproportionate share of Narmada waters, were the last to get their share of the water (even now not fully as the canal distribution system is still incomplete), almost two decades after the water rich Central Gujarat started getting Narmada waters. Nor are the pro dam media Mughals bothered about this.
Continue reading “DRP NB 050922: Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals“ →
In the just concluded month of Aug 2022, the third month of India’s South West 2022 monsoon, India received 263.8 mm rainfall, 3.5% above the normal Aug rainfall of 254.9 mm as per India Meteorological department (IMD). In Aug 2021, the rainfall was 195.9 mm[i], about 24.13% below normal and in Aug 2020, the rainfall was 327 mm[ii], or about 26.6% above normal.
Continue reading “June Aug 2022: District wise rainfall in India’s SW Monsoon” →