Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Kerala

Role of dams in Kerala’s 2018 floods

ABSTRACT: Many independent observers have argued that dams have played a role in increasing the proportions of Kerala flood disaster during July-Aug 2018. This article shows that Kerala dams violated many basic norms and if operated prudently, could have helped. It shows how post dam floods are different than pre dam floods. It lists the steps that would help in future disasters involving dams. The lessons are useful for all large dams of India.

In theory, every dam can help moderate floods in the downstream areas, as long as and as much as the dam has space to store water. In fact, every action that helps to store, hold, recharge (to groundwater aquifer), delay flow of rainwater from the catchment to the river would help moderate flow and hence flood in the river. Our catchments are fast losing that capacity, with continued destruction of natural forests, wetlands, local water bodies and also soil’s capacity to hold water. Continue reading “Role of dams in Kerala’s 2018 floods”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster

TALE OF A DISASTER FORETOLD: Bansagar Dam ready to create another flood disaster along Sone and Ganga

Bansagar Dam in Sone river basin in Madhya Pradesh already full, violating the rule curve, is ready to create yet another flood disaster along Sone river in Madhya Pradesh and along Sone and Ganga in Bihar.

As per Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Department website’s Flood Report[i] on Sept  10, 2018 afternoon (5pm) (see the screenshots of the website below), ten gates of Bansagar dam were opened by 0.5 m at 11 am on Sept 9, 2018, releasing 35315 cusecs water. The gates were further opened to 0.75 m at 4.40 pm on same date to release 54315 cusecs. A bit curiously, the website is completely silent about any gate opening before that, it implies that no gates were opened this year before 11 am on Sept 9, 2018. The website says the water level at Bansagar Dam reached 341.63 m at 12 noon on Sept 9, 2018, level is given only at intervals of 4 hours during the day. The Dam FRL (Full Reservoir Level) is 341.64 m, so it is likely that when they opened the gates at 11 am on Sept 9, the dam may have already reached FRL. The water level at the dam has remained at 341.58 m till 8 am on Sept 10, 2018,  just 4 cm below the FRL, as per the latest available information. Continue reading “TALE OF A DISASTER FORETOLD: Bansagar Dam ready to create another flood disaster along Sone and Ganga”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dams

Idukki Dam releases water when Kerala is in Floods: Could this have been avoided?

Kerala is facing serious floods. Army, Navy, NDRF, neighbouring states are all out. Dozens of people have died, landslides happening, houses washed away, the whole machinery is out to deal with the crisis.

In this flood crisis, Idukki & Idamalayar two of the Kerala’s biggest dams along with about two dozen others, are releasing water, adding to the floods and the disaster. Why are Idukki and Idamalayar, both having live storage capacity above a Billion Cubic Meters, releasing water NOW, when whole of Kerala is facing floods due to recent excessive rains? Standard excuse: The dams are full and they have no option but to release the water, they cannot store more. But why did they wait to start releasing water till the dams are full and they are faced with TINA: There is No Alternative. This love to be in TINA situation seems like a disease affecting all dam operators.

Continue reading “Idukki Dam releases water when Kerala is in Floods: Could this have been avoided?”

Assam · brahmaputra · Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Floods

Role of Doyang Dam in bringing unprecedented floods in Golaghat

When Dhansiri river broke the highest flood level mark at Numaligarh site in early hours of Aug 2, 2018 in Golaghat district in Assam, it was not only completely out of the blue, the whole episode was unprecedented.

The earlier Highest Flood Level of Dhansiri River at Numaligarh was 79.87 m. The new HFL, it seems, was 80.18 m, full 31 cm above the previous HFL. This is rather rare, normally the new HFL would be a few cm higher, not almost one third of a meter. Secondly, the water level remained above 79.87 cm, the old HFL, for over 60 hours. This is also unusual, normally the water level rarely remains above HFL for more than a day or so. Thirdly, the earlier HFL was achieved on Sept 24, 1985, so this sudden episode of flood was breaking 33 year old record. Continue reading “Role of Doyang Dam in bringing unprecedented floods in Golaghat”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dam Safety

Risk of collapse of Hidroituango Dam hangs over Colombia

Above: The abutment of the Hidroituango dam, showing the unstable slopes. Image tweeted by UNGRD June 10 2018. Dam is almost full to the brim

The 225 m high Hindroituango Dam on Cauca River in Colombia continues to face emergency situation since April, and collapse of the dam is one of the likely possibilities. It’s a very large embankment dam being built Cauca River near to Ituango in Antioquia Province in Latima American country Colombia.  The dam, estimated to cost $2.8 billion, was due to be completed this year.  When operational it will generate 17% of the electricity demand of Colombia, but critics have been questioning the need for the dam. As we see through the details below, it is clear that the mega dam has been taken up without adequate geological, social and environmental studies, and now there is a big question mark if it will be successfully completed. There is a lot for the world to learn, here, including for Indian and South Asian Dam supporters.

Ominously, William Gutiérrez, a fisherman and gold prospector, after escaping the floods due to the dam last month, with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, told Guardian as vultures circled overhead: “We’ve always said this river could not be dammed. But the dam is more important to those in power than our lives.” Continue reading “Risk of collapse of Hidroituango Dam hangs over Colombia”

Assam · Bhutan · Dam Induced Flood Disaster

Bhutan’s Kurichu Dam releases floods Assam, again

Above: Google Map showing relevant locations (Map by Bhim Singh Rawat of SANDRP)

Several media reports have alleged that sudden water releases from Kurichu Dam in Bhutan has led to floods in Beki and Manas rivers in Assam on Oct 13, 2016 (Thursday), affecting thousands of people in Barpeta district & also reportedly Baksa district. This is not the first time that Kurichu water releases have led to this kind of situation, it has happened in the past including in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 (150 villages affected[i]), among other instances. The Indo Bhutan joint mechanism, established in 2004-05, following the July 2004 floods, has clearly failed to effectively address this issue. Continue reading “Bhutan’s Kurichu Dam releases floods Assam, again”

Bihar · Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Floods · Ganga

A tale of two dams: Is Bihar’s unprecedented flood an avoidable man-made disaster?

Above: Map Showing the location of Bansagar Dam, Sone River, Ganga River and Patna

Water level of Ganga at Patna reached 50.43 m on Aug 21, 2016 morning with still showing rising trend. This level was already 16 cm higher than the highest ever recorded flood level (HFL) of Ganga at Patna of 50.27 m. By Aug 22, 2016, at three more sites along Ganga, the water level had already breached the highest recorded levels: Balia in Uttar Pradesh (Ganga Water level at 60.3 m, higher than the HFL of 60.25 m recorded on Sept 14, 2003), Hathidah in Bihar (Ganga water level at 43.17 m, higher than the HFL of 43.15 m recorded on Aug 7, 1971, that is 45 years back) and Bhagalpur in Bihar (Ganga water level at 34.55 m, higher than HFL of 34.5 m recorded on Sept 3, 2013). This means that the highest flood level that started at Patna is now travelling both upstream and downstream along Ganga.

Several districts of Bihar along Ganga are facing floods, with at least 10 lakh people affected and about 2 lakh people displaced. On Aug 21 alone, NDRF teams have rescued over 5300 people from Didarganj, Bakhtiyarpur,  Danapur Chhapra, Vaishali and Maner. At least ten lakh people have been affected in Bihar, two lakh have been displaced and scores have been killed. It seems more like and annual natural calamity.

But that is not the case, if we look closely. Available information shows that the unprecedented floods that we are now seeing in Ganga in Bihar and UP are largely due to contribution of two dams: Bansagar Dam along Sone river in Madhya Pradesh in the upstream and Farakka Dam (misleadingly called a Barrage) on the Ganga river in West Bengal. If Bansagar Dam was operated in optimum way, than it need not have released over ten lakh cusecs of water. As pointed out by Bihar government, the high floods brought by Ganga in Patna are majorly due to the high flow contributed by Sone river upstream of Patna. Continue reading “A tale of two dams: Is Bihar’s unprecedented flood an avoidable man-made disaster?”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dams · Disasters · Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas

Kinnaur in crisis; Sheer Negligence in hydro projects claiming lives. Who is accountable?

Above: Entirely destabilised house next to 100 MW Sorang HEP transmission lines Photo: Sumit Mahar

Immediate Press Statement from Himdhara 02/12/15

In the last two weeks a half a dozen lives have been lost in the Kinnaur region alone in three separate incidents that have one thing in common – accidents at hydropower project sites. The first event took place in Burang village on the 18th of November 2015 where a penstock pipe burst of the 100 MW Sorang Hydro-electric project led to the death of three people. On 29th November, two labourers died in blasting operations in the 450 MW Shongthong Karchham project, some others were seriously injured. And on the same day in the Bhabha Valley, a young teacher lost her life in a landslide that occurred in the area. Continue reading “Kinnaur in crisis; Sheer Negligence in hydro projects claiming lives. Who is accountable?”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster

Damodar Valley Dams role in W Bengal Floods – DVC Dams could have helped reduce the floods, they increased it

As at least 222 blocks of 13 districts of South Bengal suffered massive floods with over 51 lakh people affected and crops on 5 lakh hectares ruined, questions have once again been raised if Damodar Valley Corporation[1] dams played a role in increasing this flood disaster. Available information and the statements of the DVC officials leave no doubt that DVC dams indeed released water into the rivers and this release worsened and prolonged the flood situation in South Bengal. If DVC had held back the water while cyclone Komen was active in the region, bringing heavy rains, then the flood intensity, its impact area and the flood duration could have been reduced. The DVC operators should also have kept in mind that this was high tide period when the rivers’ capacity to drain out the water was significantly lower in the delta area. The DVC dams had sufficient storage capacity to hold this water during the period. However, instead of holding back the water during this crucial period, DVC increased water releases from the dams during the flood disaster. Continue reading “Damodar Valley Dams role in W Bengal Floods – DVC Dams could have helped reduce the floods, they increased it”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013: Lest we forget the experience and its lessons

June 16, 2014 This is a sad day, reminding us of the Uttarakhand disaster that began on this day a year ago. The disaster was triggered by unseasonal and heavy rainfall in which indicates a clear footprint of climate change. At the same time, the role played by massive infrastructure interventions, including an onslaught of hydropower projects and dams in Uttarakhand’s fragile ecosystem, in magnifying the proportions of this disaster manifold is also undeniable[1]. It is a sign of callousness of our system that till date we do not have a comprehensive report about this disaster that throws light on what all actually happened, which institutes played what role, which institutes failed or succeeded in their assigned role, what were the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions, processes, plans and policies, and what lessons we can learn from this experience.

The lessons from this experience hold significance for the entire Himalayan region.

Uttarakhand and the union government declined to even investigate the role of hydropower projects in the disaster. It was left to the Supreme Court of India, through its order of Aug 13, 2013, to ask the government to set up a committee to assess the role of existing and under construction hydropower projects in the disaster.[2] The apex court also asked governments to stop clearances to all such projects in the state in the meantime. The reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) took two more months to set up the committee which was headed by Dr Ravi Chopra.[3]The committee submitted the report in mid April, 2014, but two months later the MEF is yet to put up the report in public domain. Or make it available to the people of Uttarakhand in their language or invite their views. SANDRP had written in detail about the recommendations of the EB, the committee certainly said that the hydropower projects played a significant role in the disaster[4]. Eminent geologist Prof K S Valdiya has also written in Current Science in May 2014 (Vol. 106, p 1-13) that most projects are being built in landslide prone, seismically active area and should not be built there.

It was again left to the Supreme Court on May 7, 2014 to order stoppage of work on the 24 hydropower projects. The Expert Body recommended cancellation for 23 of these projects and change of parameters for one project. There is immense hope in further proceedings in the apex court in coming months, since the results will provide a guide for the whole Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, in other states in India and even for the Himalayan region beyond the border.

At the same time, it is unfortunate to see that the MEF, the Union government and Uttarakhand government seem to have learnt no lessons from the disaster. These bodies have been trying all sorts of manipulations to push massive projects like Lakhwar and Vyasi in Yamuna basin even without Environment Impact Assessment, Cumulative Impact Assessment or public consultations.

Now a new government has taken over at the centre. It is possible sign of things to come that India’s new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has chosen this anniversary day to lay foundation stone for a huge hydropower project in the Himalayan region, read his own statement dated June 14, 2014[1], about his impending trip to Bhutan on June 15-16, 2014: “During the visit, we will lay the Foundation Stone of the 600 MW Kholongchu Hydropower Project[5].” This possibly indicates the thinking of new government on this issue.

Picture1

The memory and lessons of this unprecedented disaster seem to be fading already. While going through the articles on this disaster in a number of newspapers like Indian Express, Hindu, Tribune, Business Standard, among others, I could find just one article in Business Standard[2] that mentioned the role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand disaster.

gangani1

It is very important, in this context to remember the issue. We are here presenting here some photos of the damaged hydropower projects of Uttarakhand in that context. The photos are mostly taken from official sources, namely 582 page annexures to the Ravi Chopra Committee report. Most of the photos have not been in public domain to the best of our information.

Assi Ganga I (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Letter from Regional office of MoEF to Uttarakhand Forest secretary dated 30 March, 2014 says:“The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” It also says that the project is in Ganga Eco Sensitive Zone and in the zone only projects below 2 MW capacity and serving the needs for the local population are allowed. Hence it says, “…the project should not start without obtaining fresh forest clearance and permission from the Central Govt.”

Assi Ganga II (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Similar letter from Regional office of MoEF says: “The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” Following photos from the monitoring report of the project speak about the damage this project suffered:

AssiGangaII

2AssiGangaKaldigarh HEP (9 MW in Uttarkashi district) The project heavily damaged in 2012 floods and it being in Eco Sensistive zone, the report says the project should not be allowed to restart without permission from central govt.

Kotli Bhel 1A HEP (195 MW on Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi district) The project has not given the final forest clearance. The stage I forest clearance was given on 13.10.2011 and environment clearance on 09.05.2007. The Ravi Chopra Committee report has asked for changes in the project parameters and Supreme Court order of May 7, 2014 has asked for stoppage of work on 24 HEPs, this project is on that list of 24 projects. The regional office report says that work on the project has been started on non forest land, which should now come to stop.

Kaliganga II HEP (6 MW, Rudraprayag district, Mandakini Basin) The Project got forest clearance on March 6, 2007. But project is yet to provide non forest land as required under act. The project is also within 2 km of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, but has not got clearance either from state wildlife Board or National Wildlife Board. The project construction thus is clearly illegal. Project has now suffered damages in June 2013 disaster, as can be seen from the photos below.

KaligangaII

2KaliGnaga

Madhya Maheshwar HEP (10 MW, Rudra Prayag district):

MadhyaMaheshwar

Phata Byung HEP (76 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):

PhataBuyung

Singoli Bhatwari HEP (99 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):

SingoliBhatwari

Bhyunder Ganga HEP (15 MW, Alaknanda river, Chamoli Disrict):

BhuynderGanga

Lata Taopan HEP (171 MW, Chamoli district):

Lata Tapovan

Tapovan Vishnugad HEP (520 MW, Chamoli district):

TapovanVIshnugad

Kali Ganga I HEP (4 MW, Rudraprayag District):

KaliGangaI

Banala Mini HEP (15 MW, Chamoli Dist):

BanalaMiniHEP

 CONCLUSION: We hope this would possibly remind us that Himalayas cannot take the hydro onslaught that is happening now.

What happened in Uttarakhand a year ago in June 2014 was possibly a warning.

These photos are a reminder that even the hydropower projects are not safe and they will invite not only destruction for themselves, but also for the surrounding areas. Lest we forget the warning.

-Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

References:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/expert-committee-following-sc-order-of-13-aug-13-on-uttarakhand-needs-full-mandate-and-trimming-down/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/

[5] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-woos-Thimphu-ahead-of-Bhutan-China-dialogue/articleshow/36623685.cms

End Notes:

[1] PIB statement of June  14, 2014, see: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx

[2] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/the-mountain-s-not-a-molehill-114061400858_1.html