Dam Safety

2022: Growing Concerns over Dam Safety, Sustainability & Impacts

(Feature image: Breach in Karam dam, MP in Aug. 2022. Dainik Jagran)

This annual overview is focused on issues concerning structural and operational safety of dams that arose in 2022. It includes issues related to how climatic threats and siltation is making the large dams unsustainable. It also highlights the impacts of dams on river eco-system and riverine people amid some corrective measures being taken by the various state and central governments including the formation of National Dam Safety Authority.

Please see for links to SANDRP’s analysis on the issues in 2022 in India covering: (1) Dam induced floods, (2) Dam safety and related issues of Polavaram project, (3) Disasters and accidents caused by hydro power projects in Himalayan states, (4) Growing and ongoing resistance against destructive dams and hydro projects, (5) Fly ash dam breaches.

Centre constitutes National Dam Safety Authority The Centre constituted a 22-member National Committee on Dam Safety which will be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission. The NDSA, which seeks to maintain standards related to dam safety, prevent dam-related disasters and resolve inter-State issues in this regard, has come into force from Feb 18, 2022. The Dam Safety Act, passed by Parliament on December 8 2021, states that a NDSA will liaise with State-level dam safety organisations and owners of dams for standardising safety-related data and practices.

– The Gazette notification on Feb 17 2022 said the Authority will be headed by a chairman and assisted by five members to lead its five wings — policy and research, technical, regulation, disaster and resilience and administration and finance.

– The Centre also constituted a 22-member National Committee on Dam Safety which will be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-constitutes-national-dam-safety-authority/article65061558.ece  (18 Feb. 2022)

Emmanuel Theophilus:- Isn’t there a serious problem with the CWC heading every single committee? They are in all the committees that identify dam projects, supply flow data, commission EIAs, and decide on seismic hazard and so on. How will they ever find fault with their own decisions? Yes, Theo, very pertinent. SANDRP has been raising this issue for long.

Dam Safety Act does not encroach upon power of States: Centre to HC  The Dam Safety Act of 2021 enacted by the Parliament does not, in any way, encroach upon the power of the States and does not contain any provision to alter dam ownership, water sharing agreements or the operation and maintenance of the dams by the State governments, the Centre has told Madras High Court. The submission has been made in a counter affidavit, filed in response to a writ petition preferred by DMK MP S. Ramalingam, through senior counsel P. Wilson, challenging the constitutional validity of the Act on the grounds that it goes against federalism and is beyond the legislative competence of the Centre.

– Denying the charge that the law was hit by the doctrine of colourable exercise of power, the Centre said all States would benefit out of the legislation and that it creates a neutral body to ensure safety of dams, which extend between two or more States and that it would help ensure mutual trust. “The apprehension of the petitioner that through the said Act, the domain of the State has been intruded into and tinkered with are incorrect and unfounded. The said enactment is in the larger public interest and the States would also benefit out of the provisions,” the Ministry said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dam-safety-act-does-not-encroach-upon-power-of-states-centre-asserts-before-madras-hc/article65211949.ece  (10 March 2022)

Tamil Nadu Farmers association question the Dam Safety Act and question the continuation of the Cauvery Management Authority. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/farmers-question-cauvery-water-management-authoritys-status/article65065192.ece  (19 Feb. 2022)

TN Govt constitutes State Committee on Dam Safety The Tamil Nadu government has constituted a State Committee on Dam Safety and a State Dam Safety Organisation under the provisions of Dam Safety Act, 2021. The Engineer-in-Chief and Chief Engineer (General) of Water Resources Department will be the ex-officio Chairperson of the State Committee, constituted under Sub-section (1) of Section 11 of the Act. The Chief Engineer, Water Resources Department, State Dam Safety Organisation; Chief Engineers of Water Resources Department for Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi regions; Chief Engineer/Hydro, Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd., are members of the panel.

A senior official said that Mullaperiyar, being an inter-State dam, would not come under the new panel. But it would be under the purview of the National Dam Safety Authority. According to the National Register of Large Dams, released in June 2019 by the Central Water Commission, of the 5,334 then existing large dams across the country, 118 are in Tamil Nadu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/govt-constitutes-state-committee-on-dam-safety/article65590263.ece  (02 July 2022)

Kerala HC to govt: Monitor outflow from dams A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has directed the state government and Kerala Dam Safety Authority to take all possible remedial measures for managing reservoir outflow in the state during extreme rainfall and monitor it regularly.

The court passed the directive while disposing of a petition filed by Muhammed Afiffi of North Paravur and one of the victims of the 2018 floods. According to C Ajith Kumar, counsel for the petitioners, the failure of the government, irrigation department and the KSEB in releasing water from reservoirs without conducting a proper study and the impact of opening of dam shutters without following the norms of Central Water Commission had resulted in the 2018 floods, causing threat to the lives of citizens and damage to property.

The KSEB had denied allegations that it did not take steps to bring down the level of water in dams and that was with the sole intention of reaping maximum profit by generating more power. The KSEB also denied the charge that it failed to open dam shutters in time Scientific flood mapping of rivers was not the responsibility of the Board, but of the CWC. As an operating agency, the Board had published an emergency action plan in respect of dams operated by it. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2022/mar/13/kerala-hc-to-govt-monitor-outflowfrom-dams-2429503.html  (13 March 2022)

Maharashtra Temghar dam repairs await state funds According to a state irrigation department official, even as 40 per cent works related to leakage control is yet to be completed, the Temghar dam is able to hold water to its full storage capacity of 3.7 TMC (thousand million cubic feet). The Maharashtra government had sanctioned Rs95 crore for the dam repairs in 2017. “Apart from pending repairs related to leakage that needs funds from the state government, we have also submitted another plan on dam strengthening to the state government,” said an officer from the state irrigation department. “We are awaiting financial aid from the state govt to complete repairs. The repair project of the dam started in 2017 and we have covered 90% leakage,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/temghar-dam-repairs-await-state-funds-101657305984800.html  (9 July 2022)

28 out of 35 seismographs near dams are useless, govt admits In response to a question, the Water Resources Minister revealed that 28 out of 35 seismographs installed near major dams in Maharashtra are not operational. These devices detect and record earthquakes. During its review of seismographs near all major dams in the state, the committee discovered that many analog seismographs installed throughout the state do not have spare parts or are old. The government is planning to install digital seismographs. https://theprint.in/india/maha-28-out-of-35-seismographs-near-dams-are-useless-govt-admits/787718/  (25 Dec. 2021)

CAG raises concern over pending dam repairs Of the 28 dams that were found to have major deficiencies of multiple kinds, deficiencies in 20 are to be rectified even after 11 to 69 months of their being pointed out, a report by the CAG of India has found. The rectification of deficiencies of dams has a direct bearing on the safety of these dams. “Estimates for repairs of only eight dams were prepared but estimates of the seven of them were not even sanctioned by the higher officials,” the CAG report on economic sector for the year ended March 31, 2019. https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay?newsID=907848 (24 Dec 2021)

3.3 magnitude earthquake at Koyna dam in Satara dist Tremors were felt in the villages surrounding the Koyna dam in Satara district on Feb. 1 2022. The earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter Scale was recorded at the dam at 9.47am. The authorities claim that the epicentre –5 km deep — was near the Kodoli village, around 10 km from the dam site and there was no damage to life or property. A month ago, the dam surroundings reported tremors measuring 2.9 on the Richter Scale, and the epicentre was in the Helwak village, located a few kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake recorded on Feb 1. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/3-3-magnitude-earthquake-at-koyna-dam-in-satara-dist/articleshow/89286092.cms  (02 Feb. 2022)

‘No leakage in Gosikhurd dam’ A senior official of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), has denied reports of any leakage in the Gosikhurd dam’s structure. Lately a video showing a stream of water flowing out had gone viral. This was claimed to be water leaking from the dam at Pauni in Bhandara. The locals residing in the nearby village — Buya — have demanded that they should be rehabilitated as it posed a risk to them. Lately the level of the Gosikhurd dam was taken to the peak level of 245.45 m. The VIDC is also observing its impact in the nearby areas.

However, a senior official dealing with the project said there was no leakage in the dam’s main portion or anywhere else. The water was flowing out from the outlets that are built in all dams like the Gosikhurd. These are called cross and long lines that go along the dams. From these outlets the excess water from the dam is taken away to a nearest water body. This can pose no threat to the villagers nearby said the officer. Villagers in the area where the leak was reported have also reported to have complained about accumulation of back water. There have been similar complaints in some other villages. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/no-leakage-in-gosikhurd-dam/articleshow/89552025.cms  (14 Feb. 2022)

Govt prohibits construction within 200 m of dams  The decision was taken earlier this month, amending the previous directive, where construction at one metre height from the water level was prohibited. Under the new decision, local bodies have been empowered to take action against properties (construction) developed within 200 metre periphery of catchment area of dam. However, the latest notification is silent on the existing constructions.

Recently irrigation department had filed the complaint with the MPCB for getting sewage in dam water from many resorts in Pune district, said Yogesh Bhandalkar, Assistant Engineer of Khadakwasla division. Pune district has 29 small and big dams and properties, resorts are mushrooming along water bodies. A senior official from the irrigation department, requesting anonymity, said that this decision has been made late and construction is already underway. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/state-government-prohibits-construction-within-200-metres-of-dams-101664219162354.html  (27 Sept. 2022)

Karnataka Dam-break scenarios for KRS, Kabini, Chikkahole reservoirs analysed The exercise is part of dam safety measures. The KWRD said that preparation of the EAP entailed a slew of exercises, including a dam-break analysis, development of inundation maps for different failure scenarios, calculation of the time of arrival of flood wave, evacuation plans, and marking of shelter points.

The flood hazard mapping for KRS indicates that 2.37 lakh people in 139 villages spread across four districts will be affected in case of a breach in the KRS dam. People living in downstream villages within 13.5 km of the dam will be most vulnerable, as the time required for the water to reach these places is just about 35 minutes. The EAP has identified potential emergency conditions and prescribes the procedure to be followed to minimise damage to property besides specifying the actions that needs to be taken. Besides, a local evacuation plan has identified 80 shelters, and inundation maps have been assessed to study scenarios arising due to over-topping failure, piping failure and large controlled release from the dam.

In case of a breach in Kabini reservoir, 92 villages in Mysuru district and 14 villages in Chamarajanagar district are likely to be submerged, and 11,61,159 people could be displaced or affected. Besides, 6.37 lakh animals could die in the resulting floods, and 15 bridges could be submerged. A local evacuation plan is part of the EAP. An analysis of a breach in Chikkahole dam indicates that 42 villages downstream in Chamarajanagar district could face submergence, apart from 24 other human habitations, and the devastation could impact 44,639 people. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/dam-break-scenarios-for-krs-kabini-chikkahole-reservoirs-analysed-emergency-action-plan-prepared/article65615940.ece  (8 July 2022)

Trial blasts around KRS dam start amid ‘go back’ stir A team of scientists began trial blasts on July 25 2022 to study the likely impact of blasts and mining activities on the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam in Srirangapatna taluk. This came even as farmers and activists held a ‘go back’ protest against the team. The scientists will conduct trial blasts at five places in Pandavapura and Srirangapatna taluks in the district till July 31. The scientists conducted spot inspections at Neelanakoppal in Srirangapatna taluk and Bebi Betta in Pandavapura taluk. The inspections were conducted amidst police security.

Police stop farmers and members of other organisation involved in ‘Go Back’ movement. DC, July 2022

The protesters demanded that the scientists return without conducting the trial blasts. The blasts must not be conducted when the dam has water up to its full reservoir level, they said. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/karnataka-districts/trial-blasts-around-krs-dam-start-amid-go-back-stir-1130047.html  (25 July 2022)

Lives, Harinala dam under threat from quarry blasts in Belagavi The gelatin blasts at stone crushing units in Marikatti and Ganikoppa villages of Bailhongal taluk are not only posing threat to the life of villagers and animals but also to the environment and a water reservoir located close by. Walls of many houses near the units have developed cracks due to the impact of the blasts which are allegedly carried out in violation of the guidelines and conditions set by the mines and geology department. The Harinala dam situated between Navalgatti and Tigadi villages near the units is also facing threat.

The Harinala dam in Tigadi village lies within 5-km radius of the land which experiences vibrations due to the blasting activities. The dam, built over 40 years ago, is the source of drinking water to over 20 surrounding villages. Vitthal Talwar, a gram panchayat member of Marikatti village said that Tigadi, Kallur, Sampaon and some other villages situated downstream of the dam are at high risk. Many farmers have stopped farming in the surrounding areas as the stone dust spreads over crops and causes losses to farmers. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2022/sep/13/lives-harinala-dam-under-threat-from-quarry-blasts-in-belagavi-2497579.html  (13 Sept. 2022)

Supa Dam goes dry opening floodgates of memories The Supa dam in Karnataka is left with just 14.8% of its live storage capacity filled, drying up most of the reservoir and exposing the 47 villages including their wells, statues, buildings etc. The dam was filled to max capacity upto FRL of 564 m (101 m above riverbed) with capacity of 145 TMC) only once, in 2006, between 1990 and 2022. In 2019 it received a lot of water, but the water level did not touch FRL. It hit lowest level of 506.8 m in 2003.  https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/supa-dam-goes-dry-opens-floodgates-of-memories-for-residents-1117630.html  (13 June 2022)

Telangana Officials dismiss Mallannasagar earthquake theory Critics said that the reservoir’s location was risk-ridden since sub-surface lineaments are believed to exist in the area. A reservoir of 50 TMC capacity and standing water column to a height of about 60 m would induce tremors in the reservoir area which in turn will cause heavy damage to lives and properties around the reservoir in case it breached, citing the example of Koyna dam in Maharashtra where, they said, standing water in the reservoir induced tremors in 1967.

A top irrigation official told the govt had the subsurface strata at Mallannasagar area examined by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune, that ruled out the existence of lineaments as claimed by the critics. Prior to the detailed sub strata examination by the CWPRS, reconnaissance and LiDAR survey were conducted in and around the reservoir site by WAPCOS, a Central govt organisation, which prepared a DPR for Kaleshwaram project. Analyzed borehole data extracted from hundreds of boreholes driven on dam line and within submergence area did not reveal any lineaments or loose strata in the reservoir area, the official said. https://telanganatoday.com/mallannasagar-safe-earthquake-theory-baseless-irrigation-dept-officials  (27 Feb. 2022)

LMD gates’ iron cables needs replacement Lower Manair Dam (LMD) authorities have proposed the replacement of iron cables of the floodgates as a precautionary measure. The dam safety committee informed authorities that frequent flooding has weakened the iron ropes. However, Superintended Engineer P Shiva Prasad said that the dam gates and bund were safe. “For the safety of the dam, we have recommended that the iron cables be replaced,” he said. The recent floods damaged the gates of the Kadam dam, which made the LMD authorities seek sanction for the maintenance work on a priority basis as the proposal was postponed until after the monsoon. Irrigation Dept officials said they were monitoring the dam’s safety. They added that the dept would replace the cables of another 10 gates before the next monsoon. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2022/aug/12/telanganas-lower-manair-damgates-iron-cables-needs-replacement-2486748.html  (12 Aug. 2022)

MP demands experts panel on dams Congress’ Nalgonda MP Uttam Kumar Reddy on Sep 17 demanded that the state govt constitute an expert committee to study the safety of all existing dams and implement all its recommendations. Reddy who inspected the left canal of Nagarjunasagar Project which got breached last week, interacted with officials on the extent of damage and the repair works carried out. He spoke with residents of Mupparam, Gantukagudem and Narsimhulagudem, who had lost their crops, spread over 1,000 acres. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/170922/uttam-kumar-reddy-demands-experts-panel-on-dams.html  (18 Sept. 2022)

Kaleshwaram under water: Learn lessons to move forward The benefits of this project are still to be seen and so far it provided no significant irrigation, water for domestic use or for Industry. Before that the project has run into several unexpected problems. Damage due to flooding in July 2022 to equipment and safety of structures, crops, private properties may run into thousands of crores. The water discharges were much higher during the 1986 floods. So, the current water discharges of Godavari is not the highest recorded. Imagine the damage, if 1986 level of water discharge occurs. Why the pumps are submerged? Last year too water entered pumping stations. Independent review of the project is the only way forward. https://www.siasat.com/kaleshwaram-under-water-learn-lessons-to-move-forward-2372618/ (Biksham Gujja, July 19 2022)

Govt yet to take steps to protect Kadem dam The govt’s proposal to add five more crest gates to the Kadem project in Nirmal district to protect the dam in case of heavy flooding, still remains on paper. Though the technical team has submitted its report, the State govt has not taken any initiative towards implementing the suggestions. In the last week of July, 2022, flood water flowed over the dam owing to inflow of over 5 lakh cusecs of water into the project.

– Officials heaved a sigh of relief as the dam withstood the gushing floodwater. A breach in the dam came as a blessing in disguise as it opened up an outlet for floodwater, easing pressure on the project. People in several villages downstream of the project spent sleepless nights and hundreds were evacuated to safety as they feared that the dam would be washed away. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2022/dec/14/telangana-govt-yet-to-take-steps-to-protect-kadem-dam-2527979.html  (14 Dec. 2022)

Dams’ capacity down by 14.31% due to siltation 60 major dams’ capacity, calculated at 16,768 MCM, has gone down by 14.31 % as a result of the silt gathered in their reservoirs. Paryavaran Mitra director said, quoting official state govt figures that dams’ capacity has gone down by 2,400 MCM. https://www.counterview.net/2022/05/gujarat-dams-capacity-down-by-1431-due.html (7 May 2022)

Madhya Pradesh Dam safety mess: Publish the Karam inquiry report The inquiry committee report has been submitted, but it has not been made public. This is totally wrong and shocking. Dam Safety is a public interest issue and all information related to dam safety has to be in public domain. The inquiry committee report should be immediately put in public domain. More importantly an independent inquiry should be set up as the inquiry set up earlier was more of an in-house inquiry.

Close on heals of Karam dam disaster comes the news of risks due to unattended Maheshwar dam, a massive dam on Narmada river that remains unfinished and unattended, with one of the gates damaged and story of stolen motors, wires and other spare parts and power cut, which means the hydraulic system for gates is non-functional. Again the report of the NVDA-MWR officials after visit to the dam site should be in out in public domain, as also the reports of the dam safety committee reportedly set up the MP govt for assessing safety of all the dams of MP. https://sandrp.in/2022/08/29/drp-nb-290822-mps-dam-safety-mess-publish-the-karam-inquiry-report/  (29 Aug. 2022)

Breach in Karam dam in August 2022.

Karam Dam: Report raises finger at quality of construction A four-member team constituted to investigate the quality of construction of Karam dam in Dhar district submitted its report to the government. The report states that there has been negligence at the local level in the construction of the dam. Firstly, there was haste in filling water in the dam. As the dam is high, experienced engineers should have been engaged, which was not done. Although the team has pointed out irregularities in the construction work, it is also being said that several disclosures have been made in the report, which are aimed to give a clean chit to contractor and the officials. According to sources, the investigation team has pointed out several flaws in the wall of the dam. The soil of dam was black cotton soil, which was not covered with stone and mud from above. There were pebbles in the soil, which caused erosion in soil when the water was filled. https://www.freepressjournal.in/bhopal/bhopal-water-filled-in-haste-states-report-on-karam-dam-leak-raises-finger-at-quality-of-construction  (21 Aug. 2022)

Maheshwar Dam on Narmada river is standing unattended for six years since 2016 when last inspection was done. One gate of the 27 spillway gates have already fell down into the river due to a hydraulic pump burst about three years ago. Each gate weighs 225 tons, needs hydraulic power operated lift to operate them, but there is no electric supply and lot of motors, wires, other parts have been stolen and continues to be stolen. If more gates fall, there is risk of submergence in the upstream and then overflow. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/mp/bhopal/news/people-trapped-in-floods-living-on-mountains-shifted-9000-people-from-60-villages-of-bhind-morena-130234107.html  (26 Aug 2022) After publication of Bhaskar report, on Aug 27, a team of NVDA-WRD visited the dam site and will send a report to the dam inspection team that has been set up in MP after the Karam dam disaster. https://www.freepressjournal.in/indore/national-company-law-tribunal-declares-maheshwar-hydel-power-corporation-bankrupt  (07 Oct. 2022)

Gandhi Sagar needs immediate repair: CAG report Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP added: Dam safety has been in a bad shape. So, these problems prevail and have come out in the report. They can result in two kinds of disasters: One, when the structure fails, and second when the operation is not proper. Both can cause disasters in the downstream area.

The Dam Safety Act 2021 passed in the Rajya Sabha with much fanfare earlier this month doesn’t elicit much hope, said Thakkar. “The whole idea is to have independent voices. But the act will be implemented by current authorities,” he added. So, essentially the idea of accountability being fixed to change the scenario will hardly be addressed, the expert believed. The act, thus, will not really be of much help, according to Thakkar. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/india-s-old-dams-gandhi-sagar-in-mp-needs-immediate-repair-says-cag-report-80941  (03 Jan. 2022)

This Dainik Bhaskar report of June 10 2022 claims, quoting govt officials that Gandhi Sagar dam is safe and fears expressed by CAG report earlier may be ill founded.

NVP underground tunnel collapses, 9 workers trapped A major accident took place in the Katni district on Feb 12 evening when the underground tunnel of Bargi Underground Canal being built under the Narmada Valley project has collapsed, due to which 9 workers were trapped inside. This accident happened in the tunnel coming out from under NH-30 of the Sleemanabad area. As per administration 5 out of 9 labourers trapped in the debris have been rescued.  https://www.sinceindependence.com/accident/madhya-pradesh-underground-tunnel-of-narmada-valley-project-collapses-in-katni-9-workers-stranded (13 Feb 2022) 11 km underground tunnel is being constructed from Salaiya Phatak to Khirhani village near Sleemanabad in Katni dist. This construction was supposed to be completed in 3.5 years, but even after many years, the work has not been completed. https://hindi.thequint.com/news/states/madhya-pradesh-tunnel-caved-in-katni-many-labourers-trapped-rescue-operation-on#read-more  (13 Feb. 2022) Around 7.30 to 8.00 pm, when the laborers were working, the soil started sinking from the side and they got buried under it. The pit got filled up to 30 feet with soil creating problem in the rescue operation. https://www.jagran.com/madhya-pradesh/bhopal-katni-tunnel-collapse-9-buried-7-laborers-were-rescued-due-to-submergence-of-tunnel-under-underground-canal-in-katni-madhya-pradesh-22463044.html  (13 Feb. 2022) The cost of Sleemanabad underground canal of Bargi Diversion Project is Rs 799 crore and the length is 11.95 km. The contract was signed in March 2008 and was to be completed by July 2011 over a period of 40 months. Now, the CM has asked the concerned to complete the tunnel work by June 2023. https://www.naidunia.com/madhya-pradesh/katni-underground-canal-collapsed-in-katni-slimnabad-six-laborers-buried-rescue-underway-7295009  (13 Feb. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Govt forms new body forupkeep, safety of dams The state government has established a new body, State Dam Safety Organisation, which will carry out periodic maintenance and ensure safety of 139 dams across Uttar Pradesh. Of the total 139 dams, 71 were constructed more than 50 years ago. Till now, it was the irrigation department which used to carry out maintenance and repair works through superintendent engineers.

The network of dams has been broadly divided into three divisions – Rohilkhand, comprising eastern Ganga and Sharda river channels and tributaries, Vindhyachal which covers Son and Saryu channels, and Bundelkhand, comprising Betwa and its tributaries. While the civil division of the irrigation department is responsible for strengthening embankment and desilting of streams near the structure of the dam, the mechanical division of the department is responsible for ensuring smooth functioning of the stop gates and hydraulics.

At least 18 assistant a& junior engineers will be deputed as key officers under eight divisional executive engineers. The final responsibility to ensure the safety of dams will be on three superintendent engineers. Director of the central design directorate of the dept, VK Mishra said: “Till now, departmental orders were issued before the monsoon for safety of dams and barrages. However, the govt order will now be binding for the members of the organisation. The hierarchy, tasks, responsibility & accountability has been defined for the 1st time.”

The organisation has been constituted as per the directives of the Union ministry of Jal Shakti which has set up a National Dam Safety Authority and asked the state govt to take similar measures. In Uttar Pradesh, three dams –Rihand Dam on Rihand river in Sonbhadra (1962), Matatila Dam on Betwa river in Jhansi (1964), and Rajghat on Betwa in Lalitpur (2005) – have been classified as dams of national importance. Officials said 70 dams in the state were more than 15 m high and have extremely large reservoirs. “The ones built in the past are structurally strong. Regular maintenance is required for the dams that were established after 1971. Also, the dams of national importance have the height of over 100 m and storage capacity of 1 BCM or above,” said an irrigation dept officer. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/up-forms-new-body-forupkeep-safety-of-dams/articleshow/91387607.cms  (07 May 2022)

UPHPCL to seek Rs850cr to desilt, strengthen Rihand dam U.P. Hydro Power Corp Ltd, the owner of the Rihand dam, will prepare a proposal seeking funds under the DRIP Phase-II from the Central govt, apart from chalking out an action plan for strengthening of the dam. This decision was taken in a meeting chaired by chief secretary Durga Shankar Mishra on June 24 2022.

“The UP hydro power corp has been asked to prepare a proposal to seek funds of ₹850 crore under the DRIP Phase-II and move the same immediately to the Centre’s Jal Shakti ministry for necessary action,” a senior energy dept official said. “Of the total ₹850 crore to be sought from the Centre, ₹650 crore will be spent on desilting the dam and the remaining to carry out other dam strengthening activities,” he added. Under the scheme, 70% of the project cost will be provided by the Centre while 30% will come from the state government as its share. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/rihand-dam-to-be-maintained-under-new-safety-guidelines-strengthened-101656177571069.html  (26 June 2022)

Minister for probe in dam project Jal Shakti minister Swatantra Dev Singh on April 23, 2022 called for a probe against irrigation dept officials responsible for the Betwa canal-Barwar Bhasnesh dam project. He further directed chief engineer Maheshwari Prasad, superintending engineer Sanjeev Jha and executive engineer Umesh Kumar of the irrigation dept to complete the pending project with best quality, said an official source. “In Betwa canal-Barwar Bhasnesh dam, the govt has already invested Rs 48 crore and Rs 20 crore more will be pumped-in due to negligence of officials in the project, which kick-started in 2016,” said a statement shared by the Jal Shakti minister’s office. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/jal-shakti-mantri-for-probe-in-dam-project/articleshow/91040724.cms  (24 April 2022)

W Bengal CAG report reveals lapses in flood management A performance audit on the implementation of flood control measures in W Bengal by the CAG has revealed lapses in planning, monitoring and even in quality of materials used in flood control works. WBengal is one of the prime flood-prone areas in the country with 37,660 sq. km. which is 42% of the total geographical area that’s susceptible to floods. The report pointed out that during 2013-17, the value of damage caused by floods to crops, houses and public utilities was ₹43,997.27 crore, the average annual damages being ₹8,799.54, which is much higher than the all-India average of the last 60 years. The audit report, which was tabled in the W Bengal Legislative Assembly last week, also refers to non-utilisation of funds for flood management. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/cag-report-reveals-lapses-in-west-bengals-flood-management/article65284406.ece  (02 April 2022)

Farakka Barrage Impact of Farakka barrage is felt in Bhagalpur with reduced river depth, lower carrying capacity, the floods come more frequently. This says a study by Central Govt is going on and will be completed in two months.

Jharkhand Govt agrees to Bengal’s proposal on joint regulation of Tenughat Dam Jharkhand govt has agreed to the proposal of the Bengal government for joint regulation of the Tenughat dam at the Eastern Zonal Council meeting on Dec 17 2022 under the chairmanship of union Home Minister. So far, the dam has been regulated solely by Jharakhand. In the meeting, the Bengal government also agreed to the Jharkhand CM’s proposal for joint management of Massanjore Dam.

– “The Tenughat Dam has been solely regulated by Jharkhand and we hardly used to get any information of release of water from Tenughat Dam. So, when large volume of water is released from the dam it hits Panchet Dam in our state which gets overflowed and is compelled to release water resulting in flood like situation in areas like Khanakul in Hooghly, Udaynarayanpur in Howrah to name a few” a senior official of WB said. https://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/jkhand-agrees-to-bengals-proposal-on-joint-regulation-of-tenughat-dam-502794  (20 Dec. 2022)

Odisha Agency yet to study cracks in Hirakud dam Even two years after the dam safety division of Water Resources dept flagged cracks in different structures of Hirakud reservoir and recommended further inspection and repairs, a detailed study of the world’s longest earthen dam is yet to be conducted, let alone the restoration part. Sources said the dam authorities continue to scout for an agency having expertise in studying cracks. CWPRS has declined, saying lack of expertise, now CSMRS has been approached. Chief engineer of Mahanadi river basin Anand Chandra Sahu said “There are several private firms, which are approaching us to carry out the study and repair works.”

A study was supposed to be taken up at least once every five years for mapping of the new cracks and checking the status of old ones. But no fresh survey on the safety of the dam has been undertaken since 1999. 

In 2020, a team of dam safety review panel (DSRP) had visited Hirakud dam and noticed cracks in its operation gallery, foundation gallery, gate shaft and sluice barrels of both left and right spillways. The team had recommended a drone-based inspection of the downstream face for locating any cracks on downstream glacis of the spillway and underwater videography of the upstream face of the concrete spillway to check its condition as it could not be inspected visually. Sahu, however, claimed the situation is not alarming. The cracks were initially studied in 1995 by a Netherlands-based firm following which Hirakud rehabilitation division was opened and most of the cracks repaired by 2003, he added. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bhubaneswar/2022/dec/17/two-years-on-no-agency-yet-to-study-cracks-in-hirakud-reservoir-in-odisha-2529063.html  (17 Dec. 2022)

Tripura Gumti dam lost 24% capacity to siltation in 36 years The original gross and live storage capacity of Gumti reservoir in 1984 were reported as 328.48 MCM & 312.90 MCM respectively. In 2003 a Satellite Remote Sensing Survey was conducted using optical imageries that indicated a live storage capacity of 249.070 MCM. In the present study, it is found that live capacity of the Gumti reservoir in 2020 is 235.672 MCM witnessing a live storage loss of 77.228 MCM (i.e. 24.681 %) in a period of 36 years during 1984 to 2020. This accounts for live capacity loss of 0.685% per annum since 1984. http://cwc.gov.in/sites/default/files/sedimentation-assessment-gumti-reservoir-through-srsmar21.pdf 

Some Relevant Reports

Is climate Change making big dams MORE dangerous? That big dams are dangerous, disaster prone is well known, the parliament having passed the Dam Safety Act is just one of the clear evidence of it. However, are big dams becoming even MORE dangerous in changing climate? All the science and also practical evidence seems to suggest that. This is also what the SCROLL report mentioned below concludes.

What is shocking is that the CWC (Central Water Commission), India’s premier technical body on dams and water, when asked about this through an RTI, is in slumber. CWC told the journalist that there are no such cases! This should be worrying for everyone concerned including those in the risk zone of the dams, the beneficiaries of the dams and also the dam operators. This also exposes how weak is the mechanism set up by the Dam Safety Act passed recently by the Parliament is. This is because under the act, CWC Is the main organisation responsible dam safety in India. Can CWC really save us from unsafe dams, structurally unsafe or operationally unsafe? The SCROLL article illustrates through the example of Andhra Pradesh dams that CWC cannot. It also quotes the compilation of SANDRP where to the frequency of disasters are only going up and there is again no confidence inspiring role from CWC.

Coincidentally, just in the week when this article is published, we had another major disaster at Kopili Dam in Assam on March 26, 2022. The same dam had similar disaster in Oct 2019. There was no independent enquiry into that disaster, so no lessons were learnt, no accountability was fixed, no changes done in the SOPs. CWC remained in slumber. And now we have another disaster at the same dam. This time in March, in middle of summer, not even in monsoon or soon after monsoon.

Until and unless we change this, and ensure there is INDEPENDENT enquiry done in public domain after each disaster, which also helps fix accountability, help learn lessons, and help make necessary changes in the way we maintain and operate our dams, we are in for more disasters, whose frequency and intensity is only likely to go up. https://sandrp.in/2022/03/28/drp-nb-28-mar-2022-is-climate-change-making-big-dams-more-dangerous/  (28 March 2022)

Climate change making big dams dangerous Data from the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), a non-profit that works on dam safety issues, shows that since 2009 there have been 20 floods in the country as a result of dams breaking, or excess water being released from them. In response to RTI requests filed by Scroll.in asking for data on such floods, the CWC responded that it had no such data.

According to an analysis of the flood by the SANDRP, the “ring bund”, or the wall-like structure of Pincha dam, upstream of Annamayya, was damaged “amid heavy downpour” in the late hours of Nov 18 2021. This flushed “additional inflows of around 1.40 lakh cusecs in Annamayya dam.” As a result, on the morning of Nov 19, Annamayya’s inflow went up to 3.20 lakh cusecs, against its total discharge capacity of 2.85 lakh cusecs.

Annamayya dam’s reservoir lies barren in February. During the flood, more than 3 lakh cusecs of water gushed out of the reservoir – a volume equivalent to 1.8 million footballs every second. Scroll.In

But in India, the parameters arrived at through these calculations are no longer relevant, according to Himanshu Thakkar, of the SANDRP. “Both the PMP and PMF are derived by looking at the historical precipitation and flow data,” he said. “But all these figures are from the 1970s, when most of these dams were built. They are not relevant to the present-day realities, which have been altered by climate change.”

Right now the only government programme that aims at improving dams is the CWC’s Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project. Launched in 2010, with a $341 million loan from the World Bank, the first phase of the project ended in 2018. The second phase started in August 2021, at an expense of $250 million. But the programme focuses only on improving structures of old dams, and does not examine proposed new dams. That the project does not improve dams’ adaptation to climate change is apparent from the fact that before they unleashed the floods in the Periyar basin in Kerala in 2018, the Idukki system of dams had been improved under this programme. https://scroll.in/article/1020057/how-climate-change-is-making-indias-big-dams-dangerous  (23 March 2022)

The ever-growing risk of big dam failure  “India is one of the biggest dam builders in the world,” says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the SANDRP. “We have a stock of very large and very old dams, many of which have growing safety and maintenance issues. Big dams need constant monitoring and maintenance, but unfortunately we are pretty bad at this.”

After decades of deliberations, India passed its Dam Safety Act – which mandates surveillance and maintenance of large dams – in 2021. But, says Thakkar, the bill “does not inspire confidence” because rather than creating a new regulatory body, the same institutions that have long mismanaged the country’s dams have simply been given larger responsibilities. https://www.energymonitor.ai/finance/risk-management/the-ever-growing-risk-of-big-dam-failure  (14 July 2022)

Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable There are a number of things we can learn from this. Firstly that there are such credible independent assessment of dam failures, we have none in India even after multiple dam failures each year. Secondly, such assessments are promptly in public domain. Thirdly, the reports are completed in less then two years. We have none of these. Even the Dam Safety Act passed by the parliament does not have provisions for any of these.

There are a lot of implications for India here. It means for example that we will never know the real reasons for the dam related disasters. Secondly, we won’t be able to learn any lessons. Thirdly we will never be able to improve the governance of our dams and rivers. Fourthly, we won’t be able to fix accountability. There is so much at stake related to governance of our dams, but we seem completely unconcerned about it. There is a lot we can learn from others here.  https://sandrp.in/2022/05/09/drp-nb-9-may-2022-forensic-team-report-michigan-2020-dams-failures-were-preventable/  (09 May 2022)

Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion A new study this week has reminded us what has been known for long. Dams not only store water but also trap the sediment flowing in the river. Whatever smaller quantity of water flow from dams to downstream areas, has much lower or no silt. A lot of that silt was supposed to reach the coast, helping fight against the erosion of the coast due to sea tides and waves. With drastically lower sediment reaching the coasts, higher coastal erosion is the result. While climate change is definitely contributing to the increased coastal erosion due to more frequent and higher intensity storms from the sea, the role of dams tend to work as force multiplier in increasing the coastal erosion due to less sediment reaching the coasts from river.

While a new study by a Pune University has highlighted this phenomena in case of Godavari river, peninsular India’s biggest river, this is also happening at most other rivers and where they meet the coasts. As in case of Farakka, closer the terminal dam is to the coast, greater is its effectiveness to trap the river sediment and higher is its contribution likely to be to the increase in coastal erosion.

Unfortunately our Central Water Commission, Water Resources Ministry at Centre and states, environmental expert bodies like the expert appraisal committee, the environmental experts, environmental regulators like the environment ministries at the centre and states, the environmental judicial bodies etc, are yet to wake up to this reality and take it into consideration while taking decisions about dams and ignoring the need to take their decommissioning into account.  https://sandrp.in/2022/08/01/drp-nb-1-aug-2022-dams-reduce-sediment-load-in-rivers-leading-to-higher-coastal-erosion/  (01 Aug. 2022)

Rise in floods in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin Scientists say the problem will only increase as the impacts of climate change grow. After analysing 35 years of flooding data, a 2018 research paper concluded that rivers in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta will rise above dangerous levels more often in the future, as rainfall becomes more unpredictable due to higher global temperatures.

“Transboundary rivers do not understand political boundaries. 57% of the Meghna catchment lies with India and the remaining 43% rests with Bangladesh. Without an integrated water resources pact among co-riparian countries in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin floods cannot be managed,” AKM Saiful Islam, a professor at the Institute of Water and Flood Management in the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology said.

He emphasised that only the sharing of rainfall and hydrological data between India and Bangladesh can really help both countries prepare for more intense flooding as climate change worsens. Earlier this month Bangladesh and India signed a water-sharing agreement for the small transboundary Kushiyara River, but there is still no formal agreement on exchanging flood warnings for all the rivers the two countries share. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/climate/4-innovations-that-can-be-part-of-india-bangladeshs-flood-defences/  (29 Sept. 2022)

Godavari dams reduce sediment load Lead researcher Sumit Das said coastal erosion and loss of land in the Godavari delta may further intensify into an irreversible destruction phase as more reservoirs are built under a warming and wetter climate with the increasing intensity of tropical cyclones and sea-level rise. In the Godavari basin, a significant reduction in sediment load after 1995 was closely associated with the construction of dams and, as a result, entrapment of sediments in their reservoirs, he added. Since 1970, as many as 650 dams have been constructed in the Godavari basin, the highest in peninsular India.

The current environmental deterioration of the Godavari basin due to deforestation and land-use changes, increased agricultural activities, extreme rainfall events in central India may heighten human-induced sediment erosion at certain places, he added. Das said many Asian rivers have experienced such decline primarily due to sediment accumulation within dams in recent times. These rivers include Krishna, Cauvery and Narmada.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/maharashtra-godavari-dams-reduce-sediment-load-study-warns-of-spike-in-coastal-erosion/articleshow/93243317.cms  (31 July 2022)

Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers 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. https://sandrp.in/2022/09/19/drp-nb-190922-dams-bringing-unprecedented-changes-to-the-worlds-rivers/  (19 Sept. 2022)

The findings show that widespread 20th-century dam building in Earth’s northern areas—North America, Europe and Asia—reduced the global delivery of water-borne sediment from rivers to the oceans by 49% relative to pre-dam conditions. However, in Earth’s southern areas—South America, Africa and Oceania—sediment transport has increased in 36% of rivers due to major land-use changes, most of which are associated with deforestation. https://phys.org/news/2022-09-unprecedented-world-rivers.html  (13 Sept. 2022)

CWC accepts faulty operation of dams can lead to floods SANDRP has been at the forefront of pointing this reality for more than a decade and a half and authorities were in denial till recently. This acknowledgement came through a statement in Parliament by Union Minister of state for Jal Shakti on Aug 8, 2022, as reported by PIB (Press Information Bureau) Press Release. One hopes this is only the first step that will ultimately ensure that dams are operated in an optimal, completely transparent way to reduce the flood risks in the downstream area to the maximum possible extent and where this does not happen, there is accountability.

Unfortunately, as the same PR noted, no data on flooding caused by faulty operations of reservoirs are maintained centrally. In fact such data is not available with any official agencies anywhere in India. This needs to be corrected urgently. It is also necessary to define the norms of safe operation of dams and to ensure that all the relevant information in this regard is put up in public domain on daily basis for each dam in India. Similarly for each dam, rule curves should be updated and put in public domain so that everyone can see if the dam is operating according to rule curve or not. At the end of each monsoon, a credible independent review should be undertaken to see where we have faltered, who are responsible and what corrective measures are required.. https://sandrp.in/2022/08/15/drp-nb-150822-cwc-accepts-faulty-operation-of-dams-can-lead-to-floods/  (15 Aug. 2022)

However, their claim “The Dam Safety Act 2021 very comprehensively provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of the dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto” is not correct on many counts. Similarly their claim about flood forecasting is far from correct. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1849943 (8 Aug 2022)

Can we manage ill consequences of dams? Dam construction is one of the oldest, most preferred tools to manage freshwater for various uses. The practice reached a peak internationally in the 1960s and ’70s, but in recent years dam construction has faced increasing global criticism as the hefty environmental price paid for their benefits piles up.

The flows of most major waterways have been impacted by dams globally. Only 37% of rivers longer than 1,000 km (620 mi) remain free-flowing, and just 23% flow uninterrupted to the sea. Natural flows will be altered for 93% of river volume worldwide by 2030, if all planned and ongoing hydropower construction goes ahead.

This global fragmentation of rivers has led to severe impacts. Dams have contributed to an 84% average decline in freshwater wildlife population sizes since 1970. More than a quarter of Earth’s land-to-ocean sediment flux is trapped behind dams. Dams also impact Earth’s climate in complex ways via modification of the carbon cycle. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/06/dams-are-a-necessary-evil-across-the-world-but-can-we-manage-their-consequences/  (03 June 2022)

How safe are India’s dams?  Vinayak Chatterjee The long-term safety of a dam depends on the extent of degradation of its materials, weakening of the foundations & seismological threats. https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/how-safe-are-india-s-dams-122050401319_1.html  (04 May 2022)

Dams, Damage and Defenders However, across the country, dams for irrigation, power and flood control are blocking their pathways. Similar to how major roads and highways can block access to habitat for land animals, dams and diversions harm river connectivity, acting as physical barriers for wildlife. Dams also slow rivers down, allow invasive aquatic plants and non-native animals to thrive, increase water temperature and make riparian ecosystems and neighboring cities less resilient to climate change… And let’s remember that all roads lead to Rome, and all rivers flow to the sea. These familiar adages describe a fundamental reality for aquatic wildlife that use rivers like great highways—unless they encounter dams that act like roadblocks in their watery world. https://defenders.org/blog/2020/08/dam-it-dams-damage-and-defenders  (23 Aug 2020)

Legally enforceable Humane Rehabilitation needed: Madikheda Dam Guest Article by Bageshwer Singh and Pooja Chand Dam construction on any river is often preceded by displacement of locals and followed by submergence of villages, turning them into ghost villages. All the major river water projects involve large scale displacement of locals, and most of these displacements lead to creation of vulnerable groups. The stories of displacement and forced evictions can be traced back to construction of dams like Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada, or Tehri Dam on Bhagirathi or Hirakud Dam on Mahanadi. Almost always, these displacements are rife with little insight into the village specific consequences of dam construction, villagers are left with no option but to give up on their ancestral lands to move out to alien colonies with no land to their name. https://sandrp.in/2022/10/04/legally-enforceable-humane-rehabilitation-not-compensation-needed-madikheda-dam-in-madhya-pradesh/  (04 Oct. 2022)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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