(Feature Image: No Means No Campaign message against hydro projects on a rock in Kinnaur. Source: ToI)
There have been many instances of opposition by local people, organizations and experts against unviable hydroelectric power (HEP) and destructive dam projects in 2022. Such instances of the resistance from across the country have been successful in a number of ways including leading to the funding agencies, corporate houses and government agreeing to withdraw from the project in many cases. This overview presents top ten stories highlighting successful opposition to hydro and dams projects in 2022 in India followed by some relevant reports on the issue. In first part of the annual overview, SANDRP has tracked the dam failures and dam induced floods incidents in India in 2022, along with separate report on unraveling of Polavaram project and another one on breaches of fly ash dams.
1. ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Hydro Projects being scrapped VELCAN HOLDINGS suspends 571 Mw Hydropower projects: “During 2021, despite the many efforts and various attempts, the Group’s existing hydropower concessions located in India (571 Mw) did not make any progress due to long lasting administrative impediments faced notably in the land acquisition procedure and the hydroelectricity distribution regulatory framework. The crucial amendments of the concession agreements were not agreed to by the Government. Not seeing any possibility of further discussion with Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Velcan Holdings decided to suspend the projects, as they are not in a position to make any progress at all under such circumstances. An additional provision or Eur 7.5 million for 2021 was booked on the intangible value of the Indian projects, in addition to the previously booked provisions. This brought the total provision to Eur 15.0 million (100%).”
“In India, after more than 5 years of discussions, the negotiation of the amendment of the concession agreements of the hydro projects came to a deadlock, as the Government of Arunachal Pradesh (GoAP) refused categorically to consider vital provisions, despite further exchanges and discussions between April and July 2021. The main amendments at stake relate to the allocated installed capacities, the administrative fees, the development timeframe, the conditions under which Velcan Holdings would be obliged to start the projects’ constructions, the obligations of both parties, and the increase of the free power to the GoAP against the withdrawal of its potential equity participation in the projects. The GoAP only agreed on the later point, whereas Velcan Holdings considers the GoAP had initially no right to any equity participation in the projects.”
CEA CLEARANCE NOT VALID ANY MORE “In absence of the above-mentioned amendments, notably appropriate allotted capacities and development timeframe, the current concession agreements are inadequate and the Techno-Economic Clearances granted by the Government of India in 2015 are technically not valid anymore, as their renewal depends on the amendment of the concession agreements.”
SECTION 11 of LAND ACQUISITION EXPIRED “The surveys required by the section 192 of the land acquisition procedure were restarted in February 2021 by the government after 1 year of inactivity. The surveys and boundary marking were completed by the District Administration in March 2021. But as of the date of this report, the Group has not received the official survey report and list of land owners from the District Administration. Because Section 19 has not been completed, it is the understanding of the group that the section 11 of the procedure, which is crucial as it enacts the consent of the land owners to land acquisition, expired on 25th Sept 2021.”
NO PROGRESS ON OTHER FRONTS “As for the other project activities (access road, forest clearance and power purchase agreement) presented in detail in the annual report 2020 published in April 2021, no progress is to be reported for 2021.”
ENTIRE INDIAN OPERATIONS SUSPENDED, LOOKING FOR MAJORITY PARTNER: INDIAN HYDROPOWER MARKET NOT FAVOURABLE “The Group’s entire Indian operations were suspended, and the Group’s New Delhi Office as well as site offices have been shut down by the end of Q3 2021. The Group will continue to monitor the evolution of the Indian hydropower market, & although it is not favorable at the moment, has started looking for a possible majority partner to take over the projects and the development operations.” https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/04/28/2431755/0/en/Velcan-Holdings-Annual-Results-2021.html (28 April 2022)
2. HC directs govt to cancel construction of 44 hydro projects on Siang In a significant development, the Guwahati High Court-Itanagar Bench while hearing the PIL N.10/2014 has directed the state government to cancel contracts for the construction of at least 44 Hydropower Dams in the Siang valley over the River Siang and its tributaries. Senior Advocate and the counsel for the PIL, Nalo Pada informed that the PIL was filed in 2014 by the indigenous people of Siang belt raising serious issues with regards to the initiative of the government to build Hydro-Power Projects in the Siang valley over the River Siang. In the petition, locals said that 233 Nos. of MoAs/MoUs have been executed and out of those at least fifty were over the Siang River and its tributaries. It has been stated that the projects have been initiated in a reckless manner without any regard to the consequences of the same and without following any scientific research.
On 6th Sept 2022, Court chaired by Justice SK Medhi & Justice Malasri Nandi directed to cancel the contracts for the construction of Hydro-Power Dams in the Siang River, informed Advocate Pada. The Advocate General of Arunachal Pradesh K Ete, in its additional affidavit dated 26.07.2022 has submitted that all the projects have been abandoned and the process for cancellation of the contracts, if any, are also being taken up. He also submits that in case of any such projects being taken up, the same can be done only by following the procedure established by law including clearance from statutory authorities in which the adequate safeguard and safety of the indigenous people would be taken care of. However, the court has submitted that in the event the State takes a decision to go ahead with the new dams, those are required to be done strictly in accordance with the law and taking into consideration the safety, security, and all other aspects of the affected people. http://www.easternsentinel.in/news/state/high-court-directs-arunachal-government-to-cancel-construction-of-44-hydropower-dams-over-the-siang.html (28 Oct. 2022)
44 deals with private power developers scrapped The govt has scrapped 44 memorandums of agreements signed with private power developers more than a decade ago for failing to start working on them, the 60-member State Assembly was told on Wednesday (March 16, 2022).
Deputy CM Chowna Mein, who holds the Hydropower portfolio, said the terminated projects have been offered to the central public sector undertakings (CPSUs). Beginning 2007, the govt had inked 153 deals with various CPSUs and independent power producers for hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 46,943 MW. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/44-deals-with-private-power-developers-scrapped-in-arunachal-pradesh/article65233438.ece (17 March 2022)
3. HIMACHAL PRADESH: No Means No Campaign In Kinnaur, locals want end to hydel projects Campaign, ‘No Means No’, has been gaining momentum with support from not only those who are likely to get affected by the upcoming 804MW Jangi-Thopan-Powari hydroelectricity project, but people from all walks of life. Everyone in this tribal region, including employees, students and youngsters and even those settled in other parts of the country, are supporting the movement against hydro projects.
Villagers of Spillow, Kanam, Moorang, Jangi, Akpa and Rarang informed that the proposed Jangi-Thopan-Powari hydroelectricity project was a major threat to inhabitants. They said such projects had ruined the area’s ecology and now threatened the existence of tribal people who are otherwise protected through special statute. The minutes of meetings between officials of the dist administration & representatives of six villages, which are likely to be affected due to Jangi-Thopan project showed that the locals categorically conveyed their refusal to the project.
Activists of Zila Van Adhikar Sangharash Samiti, Kinnaur, & Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Kinnaur, have been submitting memorandum to all candidates contesting assembly polls, asking them about their stand on hydroelectricity projects. Some villages had even boycotted and abstained themselves from polling in the byelection held for Mandi parliamentary seat in 2021.
Another activist, Dinesh Negi, a member of a block development committee (BDC), said another demand was to let the Satluj river from Spiti to Powari and the Chenab flow freely. A former banker, Dinesh said youngsters of the area had organised themselves with the backing of elders and women. “We want immediate implementation of PESA 1996 and The Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 that secures the legitimate community ownership rights of the tribal communities living in forest areas,” he said.
A letter by locals to the PMO has explained the threat Western Himalayan tribal areas were facing from hydro projects. “Catastrophic landslides have hit the region, leading to loss of lives and infrastructure. We understand these events are not standalone natural disasters, but a lethal combination of a sensitive landscape altered rapidly by detrimental climatic events and destructive development projects,” says the letter sent to PMO. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/in-kinnaur-locals-want-end-to-hydel-projects/articleshow/95416247.cms (13 Nov. 2022)
Following residents of Kinnaur, locals in Lahaul-Spiti also started campaigns against proposed hydel projects after landslides in Kinnaur and neighbouring Uttarakhand. Residents of both Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts, which have a similar topography, have been protesting against proposed hydel power projects in their respective regions. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/shimla/kinnaur-and-lahaul-spiti-districts-we-will-vote-for-whoever-opposes-hydro-projects-8252208/ (10 Nov. 2022)
The construction of a large number of hydropower projects leading to environmental degradation, climate change, increasing landslides and frequent road blockades are the major poll issues in the reserved Kinnaur Assembly constituency, bordering Tibet. The construction of hydropower projects has contributed in climate change and incidents of cracks developing on the walls of houses in nearby villages due to digging for tunnels, says RS Negi, convener of the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, a retired IAS officer. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/hydropower-projects-road-blockades-main-issues-443887 (23 Oct. 2022)
As the State prepared for the Assembly election on November 12, a group of youngsters in the State’s tribal district of Kinnaur decided to confront the candidates in the poll fray, asking them to give an ‘affidavit’ surrounding a promise against setting up of any new hydropower project in the district. https://www.thehindu.com/elections/himachal-pradesh-assembly/himachal-pradesh-assembly-polls-kinnaur-youth-seek-affidavit-from-candidates-against-construction-of-hydropower-projects/article66069683.ece (29 Oct. 2022) No Means No Protest Song by local youth against hydro power projects in Kinnaur. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf__qtPD3Lg (04 Nov. 2022)
Green issues dominated election in tribal belts Environmental issues dominated the electoral landscape in the tribal regions, especially in Lahaul and Spiti, and Kinnaur, with the voters asking the candidates to clarify their stand on new hydroelectric projects and implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The tribal districts reverberated with a ‘No Means No’ campaign against new hydroelectric projects after a series of landslides took place last year. The residents were also demanding that the candidates clarify their stance on the amendment made in the FRA earlier this year, which revoked the condition of getting a no-objection certificate from panchayats for construction of dams. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2022/dec/08/assembly-election-results-how-the-congress-won-himachal-2526252.html (08 Dec. 2022)
Tikender Panwar: Kinnaur tribals launch campaign against the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan Powari Hydroelectricity Project on Satluj. https://www.newsclick.in/no-means-no-kinnaur-tribals-oppose-hydropower-plant-protect-fragile-ecology (31 Dec. 2021) Its not mere opposition to dam project but a fight to save their existence. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/river/dam/Not-only-opposing-the-dams-the-youth-of-Himachal-are-also-fighting-to-save-their-existence-80547 (03 Jan. 2022) Two landslides in Kinnaur last summer which claimed 22 lives have made the local population more aware of the ecological dangers posed by hydropower projects, such as the proposed Jangi Thopan Powari project. https://thewire.in/rights/himachal-pradesh-kinnaur-protest-hydel-project (25 April 2022) Kinnaur youth club protest against 217 MW Hydro projects on Ropa Khad.
4. Firms not keen, 26 hydel projects scrapped Government has cancelled 26 hydel projects after the respective companies showed no interest in executing these. The Cabinet, at its meeting on May 10, 2022, decided to give another chance to companies for completing formalities with regard to other 191 hydro power projects under the amnesty scheme. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/firms-not-keen-26-hydel-projects-scrapped-in-himachal-pradesh-393677 (11 May 2022)
5. Madhya Pradesh Govt scraps all contracts related to Maheshwar Dam This massive dam on Narmada River upstream of Sardar Sarovar Project and downstream of the Omkareshwar Project was to be a multi-purpose project with a 400 MW hydropower component and water supply component among others. It was opposed by the people’s movement lead by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) for over two decades now. The project being implemented by the private textile company S Kumars showed no will or intention of taking care of the social or environment impacts of the project. Madhya Pradesh government so far was trying to push ahead with the project by hook or by crook, but finally had the sense to realise that this is going to be a massively costly affair at estimated Rs 42000 cr & the state and the people of state are only going to suffer costs and adverse impacts. The cancellation of all the contracts for the project signals a major victory of the people’s movement.
While congratulating the state government for cancelling the contracts, we would also suggest that the government needs to quickly decide about decommissioning of the dam, so that it does not pose safety risk to the people upstream and downstream and also perpetuate unnecessary adverse social and environment impacts. Earlier the dam is decommissioned, quicker will be the relief from these impacts. Moreover, the MP government should also not let the private company go scot free and all attempts should be made to recover the money spent & also penalise them for breach of the contracts. The private company should be made to pay for the decommissioning costs. https://sandrp.in/2022/10/03/drp-nb-031022-great-victory-of-people-mp-govt-scraps-all-contracts-related-to-maheshwar-dam/ (3 Oct 2022)
The project estimates also shot up. The estimated cost of Rs 1,670 crore shot up to over Rs 3,000 crore by 2011. The project was marred by several controversies of financial irregularities, which were also pointed out by Comptroller and Auditor General of India reports. CAG exposed serious corruption charges against the Maheshwar project in five reports in 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2014. The 2014 CAG report had suggested terminating the project for undue delay in its completion. The project company S Kumars had also allegedly diverted Rs 106.4 crore from loans granted by various banks and government institutions for the Maheshwar project to another company of the same group, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India said in a 2001 report.
Residents of 61 villages had been fighting against the project under the social movement Narmada Bachao Andolan for the last 25 years. The construction work was repeatedly interrupted because of corruption charges, said senior activist of NBA Chittaroopa Palit. “The work was stalled for 12 years,” she said. Protestors had alleged that there was no need for the project, which was wasting the taxpayers’ money. MP has electricity in excess after meeting its current needs and currently, power is available at Rs 2.5 per unit. The Maheshwar Hydroelectric Project was to supply just over 800 million units of electricity, whose cost would have come to around Rs 18 per unit, said the order issued now. NBA had repeatedly demanded a forensic audit of the public money received for the project. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/madhya-pradesh-govt-cancels-all-maheshwar-hydroelectric-contracts-85235 (30 Sept. 2022)
6. Aulliya irrigation project stopped for violating EIA norms During its meeting on February 14 2022, MP State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) – an agency of the MoEFCC – closed the case related to prior environment clearance for the project sought by the MP Water Resources Department (MPWRD) after finding that the project violated the EIA notification of 2006 by undertaking construction before getting the clearance.
The SEIAA probe into the matter came after the High Court served a notice to the MoEFCC while hearing a petition of the people displaced by the project. The displaced people, supported by the NBA, had objected to the illegal construction carried out by the water resources department without taking prior environment clearance for the project and not giving adequate compensation to the displaced persons.
The NBA has termed the decision of the ministry as a big win for the people hit by the Aulliya project. Senior activist of NBA, Alok Agrawal, said that about 600 tribal families are being affected by the project. According to the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1985 and the EIA notification of 2006, construction work on such projects could not start without prior environmental clearance. The MP government applied for the prior environment clearance in 2017, but started the construction work without receiving the approval. https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2022/02/25/mp-aulliya-irrigation-project-stopped-for-violating-environmental-clearance-norms.html (25 Feb. 2022) Please see NBA Hindi PR on this here and SPS Media report here.
7. Uttarakhand THDC’s Vishnugad Pipalkoti HEP On July 24 2022, a number of social, environmental and political bodies protested at Helang village in the Chamoli district following the incident of stopping women from cutting fodder from the sole pasture land of the village, which has been acquired by the Tehri Hydro Development Corp as a muck dumping site for the Vishnugad Pipalkoti (444 MW) project, which is in the making for the last 15 years.
The video of the incident went viral on the Harela festival day when the entire state celebrates greenery through plantations. Women in the state are considered a frontrunner in protecting its trees, forest and natural resources, so their harassment for exercising traditional rights was taken seriously by many groups. https://www.newsclick.in/uttrakhand-helang-incident-snowballs-major-controversy (24 July 2022) The story from Helang was that Mandodari Devi and her family have been opposing the attempt by THDC to take over the only pasture land in her village. This was in clear violation of the govt order Jan 27, 2014 signed by Revenue Commissioner & Secretary P S Jangpangi ordering all the district magistrate & revenue officers to ensure that the usage or transfer of the pasture land or Gauchar for any other purpose than grazing has been declared invalid by the Supreme court. https://countercurrents.org/2022/08/spirit-of-chipko-echo-in-the-cry-for-justice-in-helang/ (2 Aug 2022)
Helang may appear a minor incident as it is but one of many instances in Uttarakhand where hydropower companies have been employing all kinds of deceitful tricks and oppressive practices to function and appropriate as much land as they can for years now.
As per villagers the particular ‘pasture land’ is not the THDC’s sanctioned muck dumping site and that the THDC has manoeuvred the Gram Pradhan and the Van Panchayat Sarpanch of Helang into accepting the construction of a playground there. THDC thus came up with the dubious justification that it is dumping the tonnes of debris being generated in the excavation of its 13.4-metre-long tunnel to level the land for this said construction. The villagers have repeatedly written to local authorities, pleading with them to stop the THDC from treating the land as a dumping ground. They have also physically obstructed the tree felling and muck dumping there in the past.
The incident at Helang proved a tipping point and has brought together diverse forces struggling to protect rights over the jal, jungle, and jameen. It is evident that the protesting alliances formed in Uttarakhand are prepared for a long struggle ahead, and the way they are taking things forward to provide ample grounds for hope. https://thewire.in/rights/uttarakhand-hydro-project-helang (25 Aug. 2022)
An independent panel of the World Bank is considering a plea by residents of Haat village, to investigate environmental damage from the under-construction 444 MW Vishnugad Pipalkoti HEP of THDC. The project is primarily funded by the World Bank and was sanctioned in 2011. About 40% of the funds for the $792 million project (₹6400 cr approx.) had already been disbursed.
Residents in their complaint to the bank panel have said muck dumping from the dam threatens the local Lakshmi Narayan Temple, which is deemed to be of historical and cultural importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The historical significance of the temple wasn’t known until the ASI investigated and submitted its report this year, said Mallika Bhanot, an environmentalist based in Uttarakhand. 83 people of the affected villages have filed the complaint, their identity is confidential. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/world-bank-panel-mulls-investigation-into-complaints-against-vishnugadh-hydropower-project/article65814816.ece (26 Aug. 2022)
The Uttarakhand high court issued directions to halt dumping of muck in the vicinity of 8-9 century old Laxmi Narayan temple cluster built on the Alaknanda River in Haat village by Vishnugad Pipalkoti HEP authorities while hearing a PIL on Sept 21 2022 filed by Haat Gram Sabha through its Pradhan.
The PIL stated that last year taking cognisance of the cultural importance of the village and ancient temple structures, the INTACH also recommended restoring the entire village in its letter to the World Bank & THDC India Ltd. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/dehradun-news/uttarakhand-hc-issues-directions-to-halt-muck-dumping-near-chamoli-temple-101663864574339.html (22 Sept. 2022)
Priyadarshini Patel: The ancient temple of Laxmi Narayan is a piece of living history. Today this temple is being systematically buried under tonnes of debris by the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) declared that nothing of ‘cultural significance’ was to be found in the project area, and on this falsehood, clearances were obtained. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/listening-to-unheard-voices/ (25 Nov. 2022) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_lJ55obiJ8 (24 Sept. 2022) The workers of the HCC Company working on the Vishnugad Pipalkoti HEP went on strike on Nov. 12 demanding wages for work done during Covid 19. https://twitter.com/atulsati1/status/1591332867434778624?s=20&t=shesI9tghNPVUfKopz5_RQ (12 Nov. 2022) In May 2020 also the HCC workers protested against non-payment of salaries for four months. https://www.amarujala.com/uttarakhand/chamoli/project-workers-went-on-strike-gopeshwar-news-drn3442539119 (14 May 2020)
8. Kerala 128 HEPs in limbo for decades 128 small hydroelectric projects with an aggregate capacity of 798 MW remain non-starters despite being proposed several decades ago. They do not include large ventures like the 163 MW Athirappilly project. Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty admitted that several small hydroelectric projects are stuck due to “minor issues”. However, he said the government has identified several such projects and implement them in the next 12-18 months.
– Four small hydroelectric projects – Poringalkuthu (24 MW), Thottiyar (40 MW), Bhoothathankettu (24 MW) and Pallivasal (60 MW) will be implemented in 12-15 months, while the foundation stone for the Mankulam (40 MW) project will be laid in the coming week, he said. Tendering process on for: Olikkal (5 MW), Poovaramthodu (3MW), Marippuzha (6 MW).
– “The minor land issues that delayed Chinnar project (24 MW) have been sorted out. Tendering processes for Olikkal (5 MW), Poovaramthodu (3MW), and Marippuzha (6 MW) are on,” he said. He said the 128 small projects were identified for implementation by the Union power ministry over several years in various studies. “However, not all of them are viable and feasible. So, it’s not proper to say all 128 projects are pending,” he said.
– Krishnankutty said that the government is also moving quickly to establish the second powerhouse at Idukki. Consultancy firm WAPCOS Ltd, a PSU under the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, is in the final stages of preparing a detailed project report for the 800 MW project.
– Other pending projects include Bavalippuzha–II (8 MW), Valamthodu (8 MW), Pambar (40 MW), Achankovil (30 MW), Chenkulam augmentation (24 MW), Upper Chenkulam (24 MW), Vakkalar (24 MW), Kakkadampoil-I (20 MW), Karikkayam (15 MW), Keezharkuthu (15 MW) and Nakkayam (12 MW). https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2022/feb/14/128-hydroelectric-projects-in-kerala-in-limbo-for-decades-2419045.html (14 Feb. 2022)
9. Goa More dams will threaten water security Environmentalists reacting to agriculture minister Ravi Naik’s suggestion that more dams be constructed in the state said that such a move would only serve to threaten Goa’s water security rather than solving the issue of water scarcity.
Environmentalists said that the construction of more dams & bandharas will not solve the water shortage. “Instead water harvesting & conservation carried out in an eco-friendly manner backed by traditional wisdom is the need of the hour,” they said. “Goa already has a sufficient number of dams & bandharas. The water scarcity issue is due to the govt’s failure to properly manage the existing water resources,” environmentalist Subodh Naik from Latambarcem said. Talking about conserving existing water resources, environmentalist from Bicholim, Ramesh Gauns, said that all construction activities on hill slopes should be stopped. “Forest covers act as a sponge during the rains & release water during the lean period,” he said.
Gauns also highlighted the urgent need to take necessary steps to provide protection on priority basis to the catchment areas of Goa’s rivers. Giving an example, he referred to the Anjunem dam. “The deforestation that has taken place in the catchment area of the Anjunem dam over the last quarter century has increased sedimentation and siltation in the reservoir, thereby decreasing its water holding capacity,” Gauns said.
Subodh added that mining activities around dams should also be curtailed and pointed to the presence of 15 mining leases around the Salaulim reservoir, which caters to the maximum drinking and irrigation water needs of South Goa. He also said that the govt has failed to take any remedial measures to stop laterite quarrying around the Anthane reservoir. “In order to tap raw water, the Goa govt has constructed a bandhara across the Mhadei at Ganje and has also enhanced its height. Despite this, the Opa water treatment plant is struggling for raw water,” Subodh said. Villagers from Bailpar are opposing construction of a new pump house & bandhara across the Bailpar nalla. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/more-dams-will-threaten-goas-water-security-greens/articleshow/90715175.cms (08 April 2022)
10.Karnataka Mekedatu project will create a disaster “The Mekedatu will create a disaster,” said T V Ramachandra, a professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science at a Bengaluru 2040 panel discussion about protecting and restoring the biodiversity of Bengaluru. “The project will submerge 5,000 ha forest. Instead, we should look at local solutions like rainwater harvesting.” The forests in the area have a catchment capacity of 100 TMC, replacing that with a dam that has a storage capacity of 65-67 TMC is a myopic decision, he said.
According to Leo Saldanha, coordinator of the Environmental Support Group, there is a trend towards centralisation. “Is it not a paradox that our leaders are elected for the state but they are focused on the development of one city?” he asked. The Cauvery has been exhausted, and instead of focusing on local systems of water management, the focus is on large-scale projects. “The rajkaluves (stormwater drains) have been encroached upon and we have not followed the recommendations by the Justice N K Patil committee to protect lakes,” he said. “Endemic vegetation can be planted along the drains so natural filtration happens. The need is for low-cost solutions.” https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/mekedatu-project-will-create-a-disaster-says-ecologist-1090325.html (11 March 2022)
Several organisations led by water conservationist and film actor Chetan Kumar on March 9, 2022 raised objections against the Karnataka govt’s move to build the Mekedatu reservoir. In a press meet, Chetan said that the Mekedatu project is not in the interest of the public or environment but “only for political and economic gains of vested interests”. “This project is nothing but political propaganda but it is going to cost the citizens as it will not only displace many poor people but also will cause harm to the environment,” said Chetan. The press meet came after the BJP-led Karnataka govt allocated Rs 1000 cr for the Mekedatu project in the Budget. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/water-conservationist-actor-oppose-mekedatu-project-say-it-will-harm-environment-7813923/ (10 Mar 2022)
Wrong push by Engineers’ body Amid the political slugfest over the Mekedatu project, the 101-year-old Institution of Engineers (IoE) on Friday offered to help the Karnataka government by constituting an expert committee to look into various technicalities. The body is willing to extend its expertise and services to the government free of cost, IoE Karnataka chairperson M Lakshmana said.
The IoE had organised a discussion on the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project. Speaking at the event, Lakshmana said the Mekedatu project will bring the pressure down on upstream dams such as Kabini and KRS. This will be useful to Karnataka, especially in the peak season when there is water scarcity.
In order to help the government iron out the technical glitches in securing permissions, the IoE will constitute a 5-member committee that will include experts who have worked in water resources earlier and are familiar with the processes. An exclusive office will be set up for the purpose. The committee will extend aid to the government, free of cost, he said. A memorandum will also be submitted to the state government urging it to expedite the process. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/engineers-body-offers-to-help-govt-with-mekedatu-project-1068957.html (07 Jan. 2022)
Bengaluru can do without Mekedatu water: Experts According to government estimates, by 2030, Bengaluru needs 2,020-2,030 MLD of water. At present, Bengaluru draws 1,450 MLD from Cauvery river and will get 750 MLD by March 2023 under the Cauvery 5th stage. Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board officials claim that 35-40 per cent of the work is completed.
Water Resources Department officials admitted, “No water or land audit has been done for the city. The BWSSB’s projections have not been reviewed or questioned. If you closely assess developments over the years, no water recycling, borewell recharge and re-use of treated water assessment has been done.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2022/jan/15/bluru-can-do-without-mekedatu-water-experts-2407029.html (15 Jan. 2022)
Opposition to dams, hydro projects in North East
Arunachal Pradesh Protest against arrest of activists Several movement groups and activists from across India raised question over the imposition of the condition on lawyer and activist Ebo Milli and graffiti artist and activist Neelim Mahanta by the court while releasing them on bail. Urging the judges of the Yupia district & sessions court to review the bail condition, the groups in a joint statement said that “if dams are a part of our reality as Arunachal Pradesh celebrates its 50th anniversary of statehood, the opposition to the dams is also part of the reality.”
“If murals of a dam can be painted over the walls of our cities, juxtaposed right next to our rich eco-cultural heritage, then appealing to protect and nurture our rich bio-cultural heritage, origins and history with art should also be part of the cityscape. “To coerce the public opinion in favour of these projects, both Arunachal and the central government agencies terrorised the communities, especially the Idu Mishmi people who opposed the series of dams planned on the Dibang river,” the statement read. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/04/03/anti-dam-movement-groups-question-bail-condition-imposed-on-milli-and-mahanta/ (3 April 2022)
EXCELLENT COMMENT BY Tongam Rina in Arunachal Times: The state government’s unwillingness to accept any form of dissent was in full display as its police arrested lawyer-activist Ebo Mili and graffiti artist Nilim Mahanta for defacing a mural with controlled water gates. The two allegedly painted ‘no more dams’ and a sign of resistance over the hydro mural, triggering discussions on freedom to dissent and the pros and cons of hydropower in Arunachal. The defaced mural has since been covered with a dark sheet by the govt, symbolic of the protest. The best step should have been to ignore all or leave the portion as a site where people can express themselves.
Sensitive to criticism and replicating the rest of BJP India, where criticism isn’t accepted, Pema Khandu’s govt went ahead and arrested them, thereby unwittingly reigniting a debate on hydropower that it definitely does not need right now, given how sensitive the issue is. Not used to any form of dissent and blinded by its supporters who reacted as if the very idea of Arunachal has been threatened by the defacing of a tiny portion of a wall with the image of a controlled river, the govt reacted with pettiness seen on earlier occasions too. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/03/30/intolerant-governance/ (30 March 2022)
Detailed write up about arrest of artists for writing anti dam slogans and anti-dam movement. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/will-a-defaced-mural-two-arrests-renew-arunachal-s-focus-on-anti-dam-movement–news-190158 (06 April 20222)
Despite the arrest and the removal of the slogan, Mahanta is not displeased. “I think the wall painting has achieved its objectives,” he said. Arunachal Pradesh has a long history of anti-dam movements, but it has rarely travelled outside the state. “The anti-dam message has reached all across the country making national headlines, which is a minor success,” he said. “But we will consider it a success only if no more dams are built in the region.” https://scroll.in/article/1021441/can-an-artists-graffiti-breathe-new-life-into-arunachals-anti-dam-movement (10 April 2022)
Dams, art and protests After years of muted voices, concerns over hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh are once again beginning to be raised. Using art as a tool for recent protests has brought the issue to the forefront as the govt push for building dams has increased. With the central govt giving the go-ahead for two major dam projects on the Dibang River and the state govt seems intent to push hydropower with renewed gusto, the state’s Pakke Declaration on climate-resilient development, appears contradictory. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/07/dams-art-and-protest/ (4 July 2022)
Tawang Valley SMRF reiterates opposition to hydropower projects Save Mon Region Forum (SMRF), the Tawang-based organisation led by monks, has said that it is opposed to the government’s plan to hand over proposed hydropower projects in Tawang district to the NEEPCO. In a letter to the chief minister, the SMRF said that “all the projects should be terminated in the region, given that people of the area have been consistent in their opposition to hydropower, instead of transferring it from one group to the other.” https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/08/09/smrf-reiterates-opposition-to-hydropower-projects-in-tawang/ (09 Aug. 2022)
Dibang Valley Govt says no land for national park, NGT drops its own case The NGT has dismissed the case it took up suo motu on the grant of forest clearance for the 3000-MW Dibang hydel project without meeting the precondition of declaring a national park. The Tribunal did so after it was informed by Arunachal Pradesh that “the local people… are not willing to part away their land for declaration of National Park”.
Responding to the NGT notice, the Arunachal government, in an affidavit on August 22, said “the local people in the Unclassed Forest/Community Forests enjoying customary rights since time immemorial are not willing to part away their land for declaration of National Park” and the “development has been communicated to the Ministry of Environment” on August 17. Taking note of this submission and a compliance report of other FAC conditions, the NGT on September 22 ruled that “nothing further remains for adjudication” and dismissed its own case.
Environmentalist Ashish Kothari, who served in several expert panels of the Ministry, said the state government’s stand “puts a big question mark on the project which was anyway rejected twice for the damage it will cause to forests and communities” in Dibang. “The condition for a national park was put to justify its eventual clearance, without taking into consideration local people’s rights. Now if that condition can’t be met, the project’s clearance process must start again or the project be abandoned,” Kothari said. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/dibang-hydel-project-arunachal-says-no-land-for-national-park-ngt-drops-its-own-case-8176877/ (28 Sept. 2022)
IMES says no to hydro projects Anini-based Idu Mishmi Elite Society (IMES) decided to say no to construction of hydropower projects in Dibang Valley district. Referring to the Dibang Multipurpose Project (DMP), among several other hydro projects in the district, the IMES said that the DMP “comprises a slew of discrepancies in the environment & social impact assessment reports & the state govt’s proposals.” https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/01/11/imes-says-no-to-hydropower-projects-in-d-valley/ (11 Jan. 2022)
“Save Dibang Valley” film shows how the mesmerising Dibang Valley, one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world is under grave threat of destruction due to 17 hydel projects being planned in this highly earthquake prone and climate sensitive region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iuosfaaHSw
PAFs of Etalin demands unmet Etalin project affected people demand the compensation due to them, not received even though the land acquisition process has been completed since 2019 and wonder if they will have to fight for scrapping the project. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/08/23/pafs-in-etalin-demand-release-of-compensation/ (23 Aug. 2022)
Researcher, lawyer visit Etalin HEP site Independent researcher Bhanu Tatak and human rights lawyer Ebo Mili recently visited Etalin in Dibang Valley district to assess the ground situation of the proposed 3,097 mw Etalin HEP on the Dri and the Taloh rivers. The duo said that “the majority of the public remain unaware of the notifications by the central government on the reservation of indigenous local forests to national parks or conservation/community reserves. “The locals are also unhappy with the compromised compensation rate,” they said.
Further, it is believed that the construction of mega dams will threaten food security in the region. “Dri and Taloh river basins are very fertile and has bountiful produce of local/native vegetables and forest products. Mega dams threaten the food security of the inhabitants in the area of Etalin circle as a whole (possibly even downstream, as ecosystems are balanced & intertwined),” they noted during their visit. “Also, the local people are unwilling to part away with their ancestral land, even after the acquisition, on witnessing the case of the 2,880 mw DMPP compensation discrepancies,” the duo said. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/11/26/researcher-lawyer-visit-etalin-hep-site/ (26 Nov 2022)
Excellent report on Etalin Project and about opposition to it. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-seeks-arunachal-s-views-on-hydro-project-amid-protests-by-indigenous-people-101671647590528.html (22 Dec. 2022) The Hindustan Times edit on Dec 23 2022 asks the govt to listen to the Dibang hydropower project rather than blindly pushing the project. https://www.hindustantimes.com/editorials/listen-to-the-dibang-valley-protesters-101671722107557.html (22 Dec. 2022)
Ranganadi HEP Govt faces opposition from PAFs Ranganadi Hydroelectric Project MoU Demand Committee (RHEPMDC) has rejected the constitution of the LADC. The RHEPMDC claimed that, as per the NHPP-2008, Clause 10.1 (h), “the LADC must compose of a district collector as chairman, the head of the project as a member from power developers, one male member from PAFs, and one female member from PAFs.”
“We object to the inclusion of different HoDs of the districts concerned as they have no connection to the aspirations of local PAFs and are against the spirit and provisions of the NHHP-2008. We also object to the inclusion of PRIs as 2 percent LADF is exclusively for project-affected areas (PAA). The inclusion of these bodies will only politicise the fund meant for the land donors,” the RHEPMDC stated, reacting to the notification.
It further said that “the government must understand that PAF members in LADC will be the only link between power developers and PAFs and the LADF is exclusively meant for PAAs.” “We strongly object to this composition of LADC. This is discriminatory in nature and goes against the promise made by CM Pema Khandu in 2017. After waiting for five years, we are very much hurt by this one-sided discriminatory act of the state government,” the RHEPMDC added. The RHEPMDC also warned that, in case the government neglects its concern, it would “take the next course of action as a guardian of aspirations of PAFs of the state’s first 405 mw mega hydro project.” https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/06/27/govt-notifies-ladf-for-hydropower-projects-affected-people-faces-opposition-from-pafs/ (27 June 2022)
Film Impact of KaHEP on river people The NEEPCO’s 600Mw Kameng hydroelectric project in Bichom river has reduced the once mighty river to a stream. Fishes have disappeared, and the villagers downstream are facing acute water shortage leading to dwindling of horticulture and agriculture activities.
The KaHEP Downstream People’s Affected Forum (KDPAF) has sought intervention by the govt and the NEEPCO. It has asked that the flow of the river be maintained, and that the affected villagers be compensated. – Video courtesy: KDPAF https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leZfWMIKrzU (12 Dec. 2022)
Indigenous issues vis-à-vis hydro projects The Indigenous People of Arunachal Pradesh and India have written to delegates of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), expressing concern over “the interests of corporate and political groups that seek to erode the cultural ethos and livelihoods of the indigenous people here under the garb of ‘development’.” Stating its opposition to hydropower projects in Arunachal, the organisation said that, prior to drafting memorandums of understanding and pre-feasibility reports, the state and the union governments must consult the affected upstream and downstream indigenous people and communities in public hearings. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/08/09/org-writes-to-unpfii-regarding-indigenous-issues-vis-a-vis-hydropower-projects-in-arunachal/ (09 Aug. 2022)
Protests against hydro projects to continue According to Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers & People, the Indian government has been eyeing the north eastern region since the beginning of the millennium but could not make progress in the first two decades due to intense opposition. Protests will continue in this decade as well, he predicted. (By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya) https://science.thewire.in/environment/northeast-hydroelectric-power-indigenous-peoples/ (18 Nov. 2022)
Excellent report on Etalin Project today and about opposition to it. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-seeks-arunachal-s-views-on-hydro-project-amid-protests-by-indigenous-people-101671647590528.html (22 Dec. 2022)
Nagaland Tribal body shuts hydro project The Yimkhiung Tribal Council (YTC), on Jan 4 2022, decided to shut down the Likimro Hydro Electric Project indefinitely over the failure of the Nagaland government to declare Shamator as a district.
The council also banned visits of all tourists to Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary, Mt. Saramati, and stone caves at Mimi and Salomi which fall under Shamator. In a public notice, YTC executive chairman Y Makezho said all sorts of activities at these sites will remain suspended indefinitely. The council has also asked individuals or officials who are currently stationed there to leave within 24 hours. https://thenortheasttoday.com/states/nagaland/tribal-body-shuts-hydro-project-over-nagaland-govts/cid6170779.htm (04 Jan. 2022)
Meghalaya Villagers stage protest against Kulsi Dam project The residents, NGOs and local leaders on Feb 1 staged a protest at Kyrshai under Rambrai-Jyrngam, urging the Meghalaya government not to give the No-objection Certificate (NOC) for the said dam project at Khri river. The locals of Kyrshai — Khasi, Garo and Rabha, are of the view that if the project is completed, it will adversely impact 35 villages & many of them will be inundated. The protestors have demanded both the Meghalaya & Assam govts to listen to the voice of the protesting people of the area and give up the idea of construction of the dam in that area.
Residents of around 35 villages have been protesting since 2019 against the proposed construction of a dam for the generation of hydro-electricity by the Assam government through the Brahmaputra Board in Kyrshai area. It may be mentioned that Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma had earlier informed that the State govt would take a call on the proposed Kulsi Dam along the border with Assam after examining the detailed project report. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/02/01/meghalaya-villagers-stage-protest-against-kulsi-dam-project/ (01 Feb. 2022)
Govt cancels MoA signed with Athena Power, JayPee Group Power minister Prestone Tynsong on Apr 20 2022 informed that the govt has decided to cancel the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed with Athena Power Private Limited and JayPee Group for the construction of Kynshi stage 1 and Kynshi stage 2 HEP Project respectively. Tynsong said it was based on the project developers expressing their inability to continue the projects as they were not feasible. The project area belt also touches Uranium deposits. https://www.eastmojo.com/news/2022/04/20/meghalaya-govt-cancels-moa-signed-with-athena-power-jaypee-group/ (20 Apr 2022)
TMC flags threat to Umiam dam The opposition Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday raised concern over the safety of the Umiam bridge due to the plying of overloading trucks. Moving a short duration discussion on the second day of the autumn session of the Assembly, the TMC’s Umroi MLA George B Lyngdoh referred to the state government’s contention that the vibration levels of the vehicles crossing Umiam are safe enough for the longevity of the dam. Lyngdoh wondered if the right materials were used to construct the dam bridge. “The dam is under constant pressure. The government needs to ensure that it is safe and not subjected to overloading. Overloaded vehicles have been a major concern,” he said.
In his reply, Transport Minister Dasakhiatbha Lamare said the state govt is concerned about the condition of the Umiam bridge. “We have deployed our officers to ensure overloaded trucks do not damage the bridge. We are trying to find the best solution to this issue,” he said, adding that a consultant has been engaged to study the feasibility of constructing a new 500-m dam. https://theshillongtimes.com/2022/09/13/tmc-flags-threat-to-umiam-dam/ (13 Sept. 2022)
Why Indigenous People Fear Hydropower Projects This report from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim documents the local people’s protests and apprehensions around India’s mega hydel push in the north-eastern region, part of two of the world’s 36 global biodiversity hotspots, sitting on India’s most-active seismic zones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaI-pQmINZQ (11 Dec. 2022)
North West Himalayan States
Himachal Pradesh Apple growers halt work on hydro project near Rampur Fruit growers have forced the authorities to stop work at Luhri Stage-1 Hydro Electric Project, Neerath, near Rampur, as the dust emanating from the site due to blasting is affecting pollination in apple. “Apple trees are in full bloom and fruit will be set in another 10 days. However, dust is settling on the flowers and is affecting pollination, which will hit the yield,” said Sandeep Shroal, pradhan, Thanadar panchayat.
– “The SJVN Ltd, which is building the project, had been ignoring our requests to stop blasting for 10 days. So we forced them to stop the work,” he said. Fruit growers of 13 panchayats of the Kullu, Rampur and Kotgarh areas were affected.
– To ensure that the work remains stalled, the panchayats have begun a dharna at the site for the next 10 days. “On our first day of the protest, no one from the company approached us,” said Kaku Ram, vice pradhan, Shamathla panchayat. “We are now fighting to save the apple crop. Our livelihood depends on the yield. We can’t remain mute spectators to the destruction unleashed by the project,” he said. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/crop-at-risk-apple-growers-halt-work-on-power-project-382504 (01 April 2022)
Mandi Darang villagers object to 2 hydro projects The residents of Segli panchayat under Darang subdivision in Mandi district have opposed the move of the state govt to build two micro power projects on the Chalhar nullah. They are apprehensive that the hydropower projects will lead to water scarcity in their area. The residents said that they were dependent on cultivation of vegetables and other agricultural produce, which required adequate water for irrigation. Also, some families were running water mills to sustain their livelihood.
“Recently we held a meeting & decided that if the govt doesn’t consider our demand amicably, the residents of this panchayat will hold a massive protest to oppose the decision of the govt. This panchayat was already affected by the natural calamities in the past,” Chhape Ram, vice-pradhan of Segli gram panchayat said. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/darang-villagers-object-to-two-hydropower-projects-453095 (21 Nov. 2022)
Renuka Dam affected people gave an ultimatum to the authorities to notify the status of the people by May 10, if they are categorised as most affected less affected or least affected and their entitlements, or face stir. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/notify-dam-oustees-or-face-stir-samiti-385563 (12 April 2022)
Court seeks property details of Renuka dam to compensate displaced people The Renukajee Dam Project is a widely publicized dam project. Nearly 1142 families face displacement due to this. As reported several of them including people of Deed Bagar village have not received their compensation amounting to around Rs. 420 million and the issue of their dues has been pending for a long time. Finally the distressed people went to court to obtain justice.
– As reported in a leading newspaper Amar Ujala in early December the District and Sessions Judge of Sirmaur issued important directions for attaching the property of the dam management so that the pending compensation payment of dam evictees can be made from this. As a step in this direction information regarding all this property was sought by the court.
Subsequently the same newspaper reported two days later on December 4 that soon after these court orders came the dam management has issued instructions to the land acquisition officer of the dam project to clear the entire pending dues of these evicted persons within 15 days.
– It would have been good if author Bharat Dogra ji should have mentioned that there is no justification for the dam for the cause for which it is being proposed. https://countercurrents.org/2022/12/judiciary-shows-the-way-for-providing-speedy-justice-to-displaced-people/ (06 Dec. 2022)
Himdhara Collective Court ignores Renuka dam EC expired in Oct. 2022 The District & Sessions Judge of Sirmaur issues directions for attaching property of the renuka dam management for pending compensation payment of dam displaced. But what about environment clearance status of the project which MoEF extended to Oct 2022? Minutes of the 2019 meeting when the decision was taken. ‘In case, the construction work is not completed by October, 2022, then the proposal shall be considered as de-novo’. Construction work of the project has not even started. https://twitter.com/EndangeredHimal/status/1600099568187625475?s=20&t=FQYZ55xtu3AadxPbUljEIQ (06 Dec. 2022)
Following the order of District and Sessions Judge Sirmaur, Renuka Dam Management has directed the Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) to pay the amount to the Renuka dam affected people within 15 days. On last Friday (Dec. 02), the court has ordered to attach the property of Renuka Dam Management. This amount has been estimated around 42 crores. The dam management has not been able to pay this to the oustees. The oustees challenged the matter in the court and demanded payment of their amount. https://www.amarujala.com/shimla/sirmaur-renuka-dam-management-came-into-action-after-court-order-compensation-will-be-paid-within-two-weeks (03 Dec. 2022)
Here power minister wrongly blames locals and courts for delaying HEPs projects. In fact its not the public opposition, judicial intervention but absence of proper communication with affected communities, fraudulent EIAs, flaws in planning, corruption are real reasons behind hydro projects facing delays, cost escalation in addition to poor track record of providing promised compensation, rehabilitation to affected people. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/opposition-by-locals-leads-to-rise-in-power-project-cost-himachal-power-minister-378219 (16 March 2022)
Hydro power generation dipped by 5% in June Another impact of climate change leading to reduced hydropower generation in Himachal in June this year compared to June last year in spite of better snowfall in winter. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/power-generation-dipped-in-june-408350 (01 July 2022)
Muktadhara Tirthan: How one fish & many people saved a river Story of possibly the only River Valley in India that is a No-Go for Dams and Hydropower Projects. How did this come to pass? https://sandrp.in/2022/06/15/muktadhara-tirthan/ (15 June 2022)
The Role Of Himalayan Dams In Climate Crisis Climate scientists have failed to adequately acknowledge risks associated with large-scale hydropower development in the Himalayas by Manshi Asher. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/the-role-of-himalayan-dams-in-climate-crisis-news-208448 (12 July 2022)
Time to let our rivers flow freely again Avay Shukla: https://hillpost.in/2022/05/free-dammed-rivers-to-their-wild-state/117582/ (08 May 2022)
UTTARAKHAND Vyasi HEP The first stage of the Lakhwar-Vyasi hydropower project is nearly complete, but protests, complications over land acquisitions and increasing disasters mean the debate on the 50-year-old project is far from over.
https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/lakhwar-vyasi-project-fears-of-devastation-yamuna-river/ (24 Jan. 2022) Manoj Misra, head of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is of the opinion that whether the project shall deliver the benefits as claimed in its benefit: cost ratio is anybody’s guess since most HEPs in India are underperforming. In the Himalayan belt, the influence of climate change is also an unknown determinant which this and similar projects have not been assessed for. As usual amid cost escalation, delays, looming geological, climatic threats, norms violations and social injustice, the tall claims of the hydro project developers continue to be contradicted by the ground realities. https://www.newsclick.in/Uttrakhand-Local-Agitations-Disasters-Hit-Hard-Already-Delayed-Yamuna-Dam-Project (29 Dec. 2021) After commissioning the project failed to produce power due to insufficient water level & the submerged Lohari village apart from causing mass fish death. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/story-power-generation-is-not-happening-in-vyasi-dam-turbine-stopped-due-to-lack-of-water-in-yamuna-river-6348506.html (25 Apr 2022)
Kishau Dam Farmers demand shifting of dam location to save hundreds of bighas of fertile land from submergence. (Dainik Jagran, 19 Aug. 2022)
Pancheshwar Dam The proposed project which was a burning issue in Pithoragarh in the 2017 state elections, hasn’t even been mentioned by any political party in the fray this time, even in Jhulaghat town, as there is no movement on the dam issue due to Indo Nepal border dispute. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/in-jhulaghat-which-faces-the-threat-of-submergence-due-to-pancheshwar-dam-no-political-party-talking-about-the-joint-indo-nepal-project/articleshow/89487211.cms (11 Feb. 2022)
Jammu & Kashmir New Ganderbal Hydropower Project non-starter Announced in 1996, the work on the much-awaited 93-MW New Ganderbal Hydropower Project is in limbo as the authorities have failed to start the construction work of the power project. Coming up on River Sindh, the New Ganderbal Hydropower Project was estimated to be completed at a cost of over Rs 800 crore. The project was conceived as a run-of-the-river scheme on Sindh Nallah with three units of 31-MW each.
Official sources said that in 2014, a two-stage bidding process was adopted for the selection of the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor for the project in which Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) emerged as the successful bidder with a negotiated cost of Rs 819.18 crore. However, for a variety of reasons HCC failed to implement the project till 2017. Subsequently, the contract was cancelled. A senior official said that the project was in the tendering process. “The date of submission of the bids was October 10, 2022, which has now been extended till October 31,” the official said. “Work on the project will be started once the tendering process is completed.” https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/powering-growth-announced-26-years-ago-93-mw-new-ganderbal-hydropower-project-non-starter (18 Oct. 2022)
Opposition to Dams, Hydro Projects in Other States
Madhya Pradesh Ken Betwa Affected people protest land acquisitionThe residents of about 15 villages affected by the Ken Betwa link project are opposing the land acquisition process being initiated in violation of all norms. The notices have not been pasted in the affected villages, gram sabhas have not been conducted and the information promised in the notice is not available at the designated places. When questioned, the Madhya Pradesh officials have responded arrogantly. The history of manipulations and violations that has been the norm every step of the way in Ken Betwa Project continues. In fact the project does not have final forest clearance, its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee and its Environment clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. In absence of the clearances, the land acquisition should not even be started if there is any place for prudent norms. It would be best if the govt stops the process and starts it only if and when it gets all the clearances and after taking all the concerned into confidence through a prudent confidence inspiring process. https://sandrp.in/2022/04/11/drp-nb-11-april-2022-ken-betwa-affected-people-protest-land-acquisition/ (11 April 2022)
Opposition to Chinki Boras Barrage People of Raisen and Narsinghpur in upper Narmada basin are opposing the proposed Chinki Boras barrage project at the public hearing to happen on Nov 9, 2022. The MP PCB website even does not have the full EIA nor the Eng version of the ex-summary, in complete violation of the norms. https://www.patrika.com/narsinghpur-news/chinki-boras-barrage-project-public-hearing-rural-objection-redres-7859607/ (09 Nov. 2022) People opposed the proposed Chinki Boras Project at the public hearing. https://www.naidunia.com/madhya-pradesh/raisen-raisen-news-6730786 (1 March 2021)
Protest against Runj dam Protest by affected people for lack of adequate compensation due to displacement for the Runj Dam project in Panna district. https://youtu.be/FGogOJQyZQg (23 Nov. 2022) Runj medium irrigation project in Panna district is in the eye of the storm as project affected villages, majority of them adivasis, complain that they have not been compensated even though 60% of the dam construction work is over. https://www.gaonconnection.com/lead-stories/runj-dam-madhya-pradesh-protest-compensation-panna-adivasi-development-land-acquisition-tribal-farmers-51444 (23 Nov 2022) The displaced farmers and tribals coming in the submergence area of the project are angry for not getting the right compensation and the construction work has been stopped several times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tvNTqwiwDk (03 Nov. 2022)
Book Review Narmada Andolan in the words of Adivasi leaders An account of the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s activities woven from the memories of two Adivasi activists, who were in the midst of it all, provides rich insights into the movement & gives voice to grassroot activists. https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/narmada-andolan-words-adivasi-leaders (1 Aug 2022) The book is a meticulous effort to tell the story of the NBA and highlight the role of tribal leaders and their struggles. It is a compilation of the conversation with Keshavbhau Vasave & Kevalsingh Vasave. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/06/narmada-bachao-andolan-through-the-eyes-of-lesser-known-tribal-leaders/ (20 June 2022) https://www.orientblackswan.com/details?id=9789354422973
Gujarat Thousands of tribals gather on Feb 28, 2022 to oppose the proposed dam in Dharampur, Valsad district.
Even some Congress and BJP leaders also joined and warned the govt against going ahead with the dam. (Gujarat Samachar March 1 2022)
Maharashtra Raju Shetti opposes privatisation of hydroelectric power plant The Mah govt has decided to hand over the 27 hydropower projects of small-size capacities to the private firms on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. These power plants were transferred by the state govt to the Maharashtra Electricity Generation Corp Ltd (Mahagenco) for 35 years. Now, they have completed 35 years and are transferred back to the water resources department, which has started the process to hire private firms to run and maintain the plants. The policy to privatise hydroelectric power projects is in place since 2005. Farmer Leader Raju Shetti opposed: “The state government is planning to buy the power to be generated from the six plants by the private players at the rates higher than it charges to Mahagenco. It will ultimately increase the power tariffs. We will take up the issue with the higher authorities.”
The state govt has invited quotations for Yeldari, Vaitarna, Bhatghar, Koyna stage 3, Koyna base station, Paithan (Jayakwadi) hydroelectric plants. These six plants have a total capacity of 470.5 MW. “We claim that many leaders across political parties are desperate to run the power plants for commercial benefits. We smell a scam similar to the one involving the selling of the cooperative sugar mills to the private firms owned by the political leaders.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/shetti-opposes-privatisation-of-hydroelectric-power-plants/articleshow/89651704.cms (18 Feb. 2022)
Andhra Pradesh ‘Cancel permission to hydro power projects’ Former Union Power Minister EAS Sarma has asked the Union Govt to cancel the permission given to three hydropower projects in coastal Andhra as the permission of the National Commission on Schedule Tribes has not been taken. The projects in question are the hydro-pumped storage projects at Kurukutti and Karrivalasa in Parvathipuram Manyam and at Yerravaram in Alluri Sitarama Raju district.
– In a letter addressed to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Sunday, Sarma who is also a former AP State tribal welfare commissioner, said the conduct of grama sabhas is mandatory to get permission from tribals for the projects as per the two Acts. He urged the Chief Minister to withdraw the consent given to the hydro projects honouring the rights of tribals and Acts enshrined in the Constitution for the protection of their interests. it was not proper to hand over the projects without going for competitive bidding as per the national hydroelectric policy. Sarma felt that the three projects will seriously impact the living conditions and culture of tribals as they will disrupt the natural resources. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2022/dec/19/cancel-permission-to-hydro-power-projects-former-union-secy-to-govt-2529630.html (19 Dec. 2022)
Telangana Oustees of Gauravelli reservoir on warpath Gudatipally village in Siddipet district is on the boil as people whose lands were acquired for building a reservoir are on the warpath demanding fair compensation. The village and its surroundings have been witnessing protests, arrests and police lathicharge for the last 3 days. The entry of opposition parties Congress and the BJP in support of the oustees has turned Gauravelli reservoir into a flashpoint. https://www.telugu360.com/why-are-oustees-of-gauravelli-reservoir-project-in-telangana-on-the-warpath/ (15 June 2022)
How Dam affected are treated in Telangana. That could be seen in what happened in irrigation projects in Siddipet district, the native of CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao and also represented by him and Finance and Health Minister T. Harish Rao. Heavy police force with head gears and lathis swooped down on Gudatipally village in Akkannapet mandal of Siddipet district in the wee hours of June 13 2022, switched off power supply and arrested several persons who are reportedly obstructing conduct of a survey to release water to Gouravelli reservoir for the dry run of motors. Officials say that the villagers have been obstructing officials from conducting the survey for the past one week and they were forced to send the force. Villagers claim that about 100 people were taken into custody by the police. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/oustees-at-receiving-end-always/article65526715.ece (14 June 2022)
Corruption in Dam, Hydro Projects
Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals 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. https://sandrp.in/2022/09/05/drp-nb-050922-corruption-in-large-dams-pro-dam-media-mughals/ (5 Sep 2022)
Report India must focus on dam projects to fight corruption In his eighth Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined the need to fight against corruption & nepotism. However, during the speech, the PM did not speak about one sphere that remains dogged by corruption & scams – dams & hydropower projects. Karam dam disaster of MP is the latest example.
But why was the Karam project given to ANS Construction, whose license was suspended and cancelled by the Madhya Pradesh govt in 2016-17 for indulging in corrupt means? The work on the dam was allotted to ANS at Rs 113 crore. The firm in turn hired Sarthi as a sub-contractor, at less than Rs 100 cr.
In 2021, the state govt informed the assembly that the dam was one of the projects under investigation by the Economic Offence Wing because of corruption charges in the e-tender process. A Congress party leader alleged that Sarthi construction is owned by a friend of a senior leader from the BJP. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Jaswinder Singh alleged that after a scam was identified in the tender process, the Enforcement Directorate accused the company of paying Rs 93 crore as bribe money. https://thewire.in/politics/if-india-is-to-fight-corruption-the-focus-must-be-on-dam-projects (By Amit Ranjan, 31 Aug. 2022)
Arunachal Pradesh Another Hydro scam REC had asked for TOYOTA vehicles for clearing transmission lines from 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP on Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. After exposure of the same by journaist Nivedita Khandekar, MOEF has revoked those conditions, but clearance has been granted. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=929900 (23 Feb. 2022)
Jammu & Kashmir CBI probe recommended into hydro contracts The J&K administration has recommended a CBI probe into awarding contracts for a hydropower project and group insurance for the govt employees. The decision was taken following allegations levelled by former Governor Satya Pal Malik that he was offered a bribe of Rs 300 crore in return for clearing the files of two big industrial houses. Malik “refused to take the bribe and cancelled the contracts”. “Two files had come for my consideration. One of the secretaries told me that if I approve these, I can get Rs 150 crore each. I turned down the offer saying that I had brought five ‘kurta-pyjamas’ to Kashmir and will just go back with them,” Malik had said at a function in Rajasthan in October. The govt has now recommended that the CBI investigate the matter to ascertain the facts and the details.
The CBI will also inquire allotment of the Rs 9,000 crore hydropower project in J&K. Sources say the contract of the proposed 1,540 MW Kiru hydropower project was allotted in violation of the govt guidelines. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/j-k/cbi-probe-recommended-by-jk-into-insurance-hydropower-contracts-380482 (25 March 2022)
CBI raid in connection to power project case The CBI is conducting search operations at 14 different locations in Jammu, Delhi, NOIDA, Mumbai, Srinagar, Trivendrum, Darbhanga in connection with the 9000 Cr Chanab Valley Hydro power project. The case is related to the Rs 2200 Cr civil works of the Kiru HEP given in 2019 to a private company flouting rules. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/cbi-conducts-raids-at-14-places-in-connection-to-power-project-case/90981370 (21 April 2022)
Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (email@example.com)
People on roads against hydro projects that govt is pushing People of at least four states are opposing hydropower projects that the central and state governments are pushing, ignoring all the ground realities. 2022 is thus ending with people’s active protests across the country against destructive, disaster prone and unviable projects being pushed against their wishes and in violation of any proper consultations or even any credible impact assessments. In the escalating impacts of climate change, these projects are even more problematic as they not only worsen the adaptive capacity of people and invite more frequent, intense and spread of the disasters, but they also destroy the mitigation tools like forests and flowing rivers. This when all these projects are not even economically viable, and when better, cheaper options are available. It would be best if sooner the government listens to the people and stop pursuing such projects. https://sandrp.in/2022/12/26/drp-nb-261222-people-on-roads-against-hydro-projects-that-govt-is-pushing/ (26 Dec. 2022)