On March 14, 2019 the Spencer dam on Niobrara river, located south of Spencer in Nebraska state in USA breached, killing four people in the downstream. The Investigation Report about the disaster has been made public now on April 24, 2020. The remains of Spencer Dam — a skeleton of concrete and steel amid a sea of sand — became one of the iconic images of the March 2019 “bomb cyclone” flood that caused billions of dollars in damage across Nebraska.
Less than four months later, on July 2, 2019, Tiware dam breached[i] in Chiplun taluka of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, killing 23 people. The then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on July 6, 2019 announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the disaster, the SIT was to submit a report in two months, but the report was submitted in January 2020, but the report is not in public domain. When SANDRP talked with the chairman of the committee, he disclosed that the report has been submitted to the department in early Feb 2020 and it can only be made public by the department once they accept the report. He revealed that the SIT had found that there were issues with material of construction (masonry in place of Concrete) and design of the conduit of the dam. He agreed that the report should be made public promptly, but expressed his helplessness in face of the norms in India. SANDRP also called Secretary, Department of Water Conservation, Govt of Maharashtra, but got no response.
There is a lot to learn for us in India in comparing the two dam breach incidents and how both are treated.
Continue reading “A tale of two dam breaches: Spencer (USA) and Tiware (India)”
A fly ash Dam of Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project of Reliance Company has breached[i] in the evening of April 10, 2020, near village Harrahva in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh, killing six people and destroying downstream river and fields. Following the breach there was massive flash flood of coal ash mixed sludge reportedly affecting hundreds of villages and destroying crops on thousands of acres.
Of the six people feared to have been killed in the flash floods, dead bodies of two have been found in faraway areas, while four are still missing. Two women injured in the aftermath are reported to be in stable condition in local hospital. Reports also suggest that many people could be trapped in their homes because of the poisonous sludge.
Continue reading “Singrauli Fly Ash Dam Breach: Who regulates these dams in India?”
The South West Monsoon in 2019 in India brought the highest rainfall of last 25 years and issues related to heavy rainfall continue even to the end of October 2019. Here we have listed major instances during the monsoon when there were question marks over safety of dams either due to structural safety or due to wrong operations of the dams. Some issues of breaches of embankments/ canals are also included here. As we can see, the instances come from across the country, including North East, North, West, Centre, South.
Continue reading “2019 Monsoon: Instances when Dam Safety Came into Question”
The 275 MW Kopili Dam Power House of NEEPCO (North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited, a Union Ministry of Power Underaking) in Assam suffered major disaster on Oct 7, 2019. The penstock pipe that takes water from the Umrangso dam to the hydropower house burst during early hours in Assam’s Dima Hasao (earlier called North Cachar Hill) district, and massive quantity of water erupted, a lot of it entered the power house, where four employees of NEEPCO are feared to have been trapped/ washed away[i]. A large portion of the Kopili Hydro Electric Plant was also inundated and a temporary bridge was also washed away[ii]. Some videos of the situation are also available.[iii] Continue reading “Major disaster at Kopili Dam of NEEPCO in Assam”
1979 seems to be a watershed or may be bloodshed year about Dam Safety in India. That year, Central Dam Safety Organisation was for the first time set up in CWC (Central Water Commission). That was also a year in which over a 1000 delegates from all over the world gathered in Delhi under the aegis of ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams). But the most important event or rather gruesome tragedy preceded both these developments. On Aug 11, 1979, the Machhu II dam disaster happened in Morbi in Saurashtra, Gujarat, that killed between 2000 (officially accepted by Central Water Commission) to 25000 people (local estimates). Continue reading “Dam Safety Bill 2019: Will it help prevent Dam Disasters in India?”
Late that night of July 2, shouts of “Dharan Futla, Dharan Futla” (The dam has breached!) saved the already-scared 62 year old Narayan Gaikwad and his family, as the family ran to nearby hill[i]. Tivare Dam (Longitude: 73° 42′ 0″; Latitude: 17° 36′ 0″ as per CWC’s National Register of Large Dams), across a rivulet in the Vashishthi Basin of coastal Maharashtra breached around 9.30 pm on July 2, 2019, taking 24 men, women and children with its fury.
But how many and how much of Maharashtra would be saved considering the fact that Maharashtra has India’s highest number of large dams, BY FAR? And especially considering the serious questions this episode is raising about the absolute lack of accountability of the government dam establishment.
These questions become pertinent for Konkan region of Maharashtra, where Tivare was located as this region faces highest rainfalls in the state, steepest slopes and is tainted with several incomplete, illegal, inefficient dams which are posing a risk to humans and environment. SANDRP had published a report on incomplete and illegal dams in Konkan region 3 years back[ii]. High Court, SIT Committee Report headed by Madhavrao Chitale and even CAG [iii]had singled out dams in Konkan for their inefficiency and violations at multiple levels. The situation remains the same till date. Experts and past dam bureaucrats put on record that conventional dams-and-canals approach does not work in the steep and hilly region of Konkan. Quality assurance of dams is nearly nonexistent, lighter soils are used in dam cores and even after doing all this, displacing thousands of people and submerging Western Ghats forests, “Area irrigated by Konkan dams may be less than the area submerged by them”[iv] Continue reading “Tivare Dam Disaster: Surviving in the State with maximum dams”
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”
New Rivers appearing in Morro Basin in Argentina This is unheard of, amazing story, a frightening and yet fascinating one, of how large scale deforestation, combined with wet cycle and fragile top soil has lead to NEW RIVERS suddenly appearing in Morro Basin in Argentina over the last decade. The deforestation has been mostly done for brining the land under Soya Beans, the biggest contributor to exports from Argentina, Argentina is the world’s third largest producer after US and Brazil, 60% of its arable land under this single crop. So much so that commentators have called the new river as Soya Bean river and Argentina as Soya Bean republic, in line with Banana republic. Some 2.4m hectares of native forest have been lost in the last 10 years, according to Greenpeace. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 2 April 2018: How New Rivers are born in Argentina”
USA’s tallest, Oroville Dam on Feather river in California suffered severe spillway damage, as discovered on Feb 7, 2017. As we wrote in our blog “Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come”[i] on Feb 12, 2017, worse was yet to come, but the author did not imagine the threat would materialize so soon. Here we try to capture the key events since that blog. Continue reading “Oroville Dam damage in US: Many questions”
Oroville Dam, the tallest Dam in USA was found to have suffered severe damage to its spillway on Feb 7, 2017. A crater of about 180 feet width, 250 feet length and 30 feet depth was found in lower portion of the 3000 ft long spillway on Tuesday when 55000 cusecs (cubic feet of water) was flowing down the spillway.
That water release down the damaged spillway was stopped the same day. But the water level in the Oroville dam was than already over 80%, fast climbing to over 90% by the evening of Feb 9, 2017 and with inflow of 128000 cusecs on Feb 7, rising to 191000 cusecs on Feb 9, the officials of Department of Water Resources (DWR) of California decided to first test the damaged spillway by releasing 20000 cusecs twice on Feb 8, 2017. This further damaged the spillway, increasing the depth of the crater to upto 300 ft as per some reports and not only increasing the length and width, but also eroding the adjoining hills. Continue reading “Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come”