While Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has been undergoing inquiry by Anti Corruption Bureau and facing a Public Interest Litigation for financial irregularities & cost escalations exposed during the irrigation scam of 2012, the State Government of Maharashtra continues to push new projects in the ecologically sensitive region of Vidarbha.
State Government of Maharashtra has decided to give yet another try to revive Human River Project, a major irrigation project proposed on the Human River near Sirkada Village of Sindewahi Taluka, Dist. Chandrapur. Human dam with storage capacity of about 247 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) plans to irrigate 46,117.00 ha. for which it will submerge 7651.11 ha of land. This disproportionately large submergence (nearly 16% of the proposed irrigation!) also includes 1925.55 Ha of rich full grown forest of Vidarbha. (which is nearly 4.2% of the proposed irrigation!) (Earlier figure for forest submergence in print media and few other documents was 1535.85 ha. But latest official documents mention 1925.55 Ha)
Human River is a tributary of the Andhari River that merges into the Wainganga. The reservoir that will be created after impoundment of the waters will be just 4.25 km from the boundaries of the Tadoba National Park and 3.2 km. from the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), a vital area for tiger conservation in central India. The proposed dam falls in the Eco-Sensitive Zone of TATR and thus needs National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) clearance.
The project is being pushed by Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is currently a State Cabinet Minister of Finance, Planning, and Forest Departments in the Government of Maharashtra. State Government is seeking clearance from State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) before it could be sent to NBWL for approval. In September 2014 a four-member high-powered committee constituted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to visit Human dam site at Sirkada, 3.5km from TATR in Chandrapur district.[i] The meeting in which the decision was taken to revive the project was held due to Mungantiwar’s follow up with then Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar.[ii]
Reaching exasperating lows of environment decision making, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC is a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) formed under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. FAC appraises Forest diversion proposals) has recommended Forest Clearance to the 3000 MW Dibang Project on Dibang river in Arunachal Pradesh.
This was the very same NHPC proposal which was rejected twice by the FAC in the past, despite this token 10 meter height reduction. In fact in April 2014, the FAC said that 10 mt reduction does not take care of any pertinent impacts for which the proposal was rejected in the first place in July 2013! A 10 m reduction would still mean destruction of 3.24 lakh trees and submergence of 4577.84 hectares, nearly 12000 acres, of rich bio-diverse forest.
The usually reticent MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, MoEF earlier) too had issued a strong-worded rejection to this scheme in August 2014, stating that 10 meters reduction is nothing in the face of what is being lost. The rejection letter stated: “Such a marginal reduction in requirement of the forest land (445 hectares reduction, reducing forest requirement from 5056 hectares to 4577 hectares) for the project may not be able to reduce the adverse impact of project on such a biodiversity-rich mature forest ecosystem to the extent which could make the project environmentally as well as socio-economically viable in forest dependent tribal society of Arunachal Pradesh”.
This letter from the same ministry certified that the 10 m reduction proposal still leaves the project environmentally, socio-economically unviable. So an environmentally and socio-economically unviable project has been recommended clearance by the statutory FAC (and also the separate recommendation a week earlier by the same MEFCC’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects)!
This shows that the decision of FAC is devoid of merits, will invite huge opposition from Arunachal Pradesh, Downstream Assam, North East India, and even beyond and will not pass legal scrutiny. The decision seems to have been taken under pressure from the political masters. Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal has been dreaming of clearance to this project, as is clear from his road map published on completion of 100 days of office for the new NDA government. He has also been pressurizing the MoEFCC to clear the project by hook or by crook. The FAC was reconstituted and the reconstituted FAC has obliged the minister in its very first meeting. In the process, the entire FAC has violated its mandate and should be held accountable for this.
Regrettably, MoEFCC seems to have become the willing punching bag of not only above-mentioned ministries, but even unrelated ministries like Ministry of Mines and Minerals, Ministry of Steel ,etc., whose ministers and Secretaries were present for the meeting: “to Expedite Clearances”. (Incidentally, when was the last time we heard MEFCC resisting such arm-twisting, or forthrightly suggesting any pro-environment measures to other ministries?)
Before the minutes of the September FAC meeting were out on Oct 22, 2014 (there was an inordinate delay this time, raising suspicion of negotiated minutes and again breaking all norms of conduct), there was discussion in media that Dibang was cleared, but even the hard-core skeptics believed that this recommendation must have come after a 20 meter or 40 meter height reduction, for obvious reasons.
But the FAC seems to have outdone itself. As stated above, the recommendation has come at 10 mts height decrease, for which the FAC had rejected the project and MoEF had issued a rejection letter in the past.
As we discussed in detail in our last blog on Dibang project, the twice-rejected project was up for discussions again in Sept 2014 only after considerable arm-twisting of the MEFCC by the Cabinet Committee of Investment, Ministry of Power, Project Developer NHPC and Arunachal State Government. This time it was for a supposed sensitivity analysis (done by the developer!)for studying the feasibility of reducing the height of the project upto 40 meters from its original height of 288 meters.
This sensitivity analysis was not shared with anyone, not even the FAC members till the day of the FAC meeting, breaking all codes of conduct of transparency, participation and informed decision making in governance. SANDRP wrote about this to the Minister and Secretary of MoEFCC as well as the Member of the FAC, but received no response.
Looking at the minutes, it is clear that the FAC members have lapped up the logic presented by the developer and the Ministry of Power which in a nutshell says that “10 meters reduction is sufficient as the ratio of forest land required per MW is lowest at 10 meters reduction.” This twisted logic reduces all decision making related to forests, even biodiversity-rich forests supporting endemic, unstudied species, local protests, downstream impacts etc., to mere number crunching of forest per MW. This criteria alone cannot be the basis for decision for forest appraisal committee.
As per the sensitivity analysis by NHPC, the ratio forest land required per MW for 40 meters reduction is 1.67 MW/ hectare, which is same as no height reduction and 1.78 MW/ hectare in case of 20 meter reduction. In terms of tariff, for 40 meters reduction, the power tariff will be 6.24 Rs./unit while it is 5.66 Rs/unit 10 meters reduction, 5.94 Rs./unit 20 meters reduction and 5.64 Rs. at zero reduction. The installed capacity will reduce by 120 MW (4%) MW for 10 meters reduction, 600 MW (20%) for 20 mt reduction and 780 MW (26%) for a 40 meter reduction.
Forest land required
MW capacity per ha Forest lost
First Year Tariff: Rs per unit
Reduction in installed capacity
Nil (288 m)
120 (2880 MW)
600 (2400 MW)
780 (2200 MW)
The proponent said: “Decrease in dam height and consequent sacrifice of power generation beyond 10 mt is not commensurate with saving forest land.”
How did NHPC reach this conclusion? What is the value of the mature, old growth forest land considered by NHPC? Without knowing this, how can this conclusion be acceptable to the FAC? It has to be remembered that Dibang is not an exclusive hydropower project, but a multipurpose project with a flood moderation component and costs have to be borne for this.
While the proponent and Ministry of Power did their best for pushing the project, the FAC did not do its duty of stating that the sensitivity analysis put forth by NHPC is a sham as it does not consider the worth of the forest being lost.
In this sabji-mandi haggling, when FAC had all the watertight justifications for rejecting the project, it did not bat for even a 40 meter reduction, which could have saved nearly 1355 hectares of forests and would have had a marginal impact on other factors. Its unclear why this happened.
Only one of the FAC members tried to battle the case saying that 10-40 meter reduction still does not address the upstream and downstream impacts, especially considering the biodiversity rich area. The minutes do not disclose the name of this member, but it seems the brute majority (majority of FAC members are govt officials) took the official line, alleging “subjectivity” and said that “To reduce subjectivity, it is important to analyse the issue objectively on objective parameters”. Forgetting that this is Forest Appraisal committee, not Power Developer Committee.
This is ironical. It was indeed the duty of the FAC to appraise the project “objectively” based on issues like destruction of 3.24 lakh trees, invaluable forests, unstudied biodiversity, rich wildlife and several Schedule I species, community dependence, traditional rights, downstream impacts, climate change impacts, options assessment, etc. But it did nothing of that and has in fact recommended the project “subjectively”, bowing to pressures outside their ambit.
Clearly, per MW forest land required and per Unit Tariff from a project are anything but objective criteria for FAC. FAC is supposed to apply its mind to a number of issues like the ones above. If FAC was not supposed to apply its mind to these aspects and its judgment, there was no need for an FAC, Power ministry and developer could have taken the decision independently.
The FAC decision does not address any pertinent issues raised by the same FAC while rejecting the project, it also does not address downstream impacts on Assam or assume any value for a rich forest. There is no discussion why 20 meters or 40 meters reduction is not seriously considered by FAC. Decision-making based on such biased, proponent-driven criteria is bound to be open to legal challenge and public protests.
Sham consideration of Downstream Impacts About Impact of the project on Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, the User Agency said that the issue was considered by EAC in its meeting on the 16th September (Please note this is just 6 days and 5 working days back from FAC meeting. There is no chance of minutes being firmed up by then. They were not in open domain in any case) and the EAC has recommended clearance based on the fact that there is less than 1 meter level fluctuation at DSNP.
This claim in any case is patently incorrect, again a case of project-friendly, anti-environment decision-making. The level fluctuation at DSNP can go way higher than a meter, anywhere from 7-8 feet every day in lean season, according to the studies considered by the EAC of the MEFCC itself. This has been pointed out by SANDRP to the EAC as well. There has been no study of the impacts of this project on downstream Arunachal Pradesh or Assam. The developer seems to assume that Dibru-Saikhowa is the only part of Assam worth considering.
There is no compliance under Forest Rights Act (2006) for such a massive project and despite this, FAC under some supposedly progressive members working on tribal issues, does not bat an eyelid before recommending clearance!
To conclude, pricing mature, biodiversity-rich forests in terms of per MW terms is an insult of those forests, the communities that depend on them and to the mandate of FAC. Downstream impacts of Dibang project are not studied, the impacts on Dibru-Saikhowa are based on compromised studies.
There is no merit in this decision from the newly appointed FAC which includes members also from reputed environment protection organizations in North East and from Tribal Welfare groups like Friends of Baripada. It is also sad to see that there is no dissenting note from a single member. The unnamed member who expressed dissent in the meeting has not written anything about this in public domain.
Decisions like Dibang lay further foundations for poor, pro-developer, anti-people, anti-environment decisions taken due to pressure from proponent and other ministries. Such decisions will not be legally tenable, nor acceptable to affected communities, nor good for sustainability and equity. In fact, by such reversals, FAC decisions are losing their sanctity. FAC has done this in the past too in case of Kalu Dam in Western Ghats which would submerge 18 villages and 1000 hectares forest.
Isn’t it ironical that the new government changed the name of the MoEF to MoEFCC but is sanctioning massive projects like Dibang which will have far reaching impacts on Climate Change as well as adaption and mitigation abilities of the affected communities? Without even considering these aspects or even mentioning them?
Legal Imitative for Forest and Environment, New Delhi
The review of Environmental Law is currently being undertaken by the High Level Committee (HLC) constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The task is huge and requires a much more detailed, comprehensive, real and effective consultative process than what is currently being done. The Committee is well within its right to say that such a task cannot be undertaken within such a limited and unrealistic time frame (2 months) and without the required expert composition.
The committee must give suggestions only on how to strengthen environmental law in India and not dilute environmental laws. Undermining environmental law is disastrous for the people, environment and even for economic development. It is pertinent to point out some events which have occurred in recent times which reflects on how the decisions on environment have had disastrous consequences both for the people and the economy.
Contrary to what is generally projected by the Industry Associations and a section of the press, environmental laws are not the cause of slow economic growth. Rather speedy and hasty approvals have been the cause of both environmental, social and economic loss and damage. It is imperative to focus on some facts which would be relevant.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest and its various expert committees never reject a project totally. Even if the approval is declined in one meeting it is presented in a subsequent meeting with minor modification. One can cite the recent case of Dibang Hydro Electric project in Arunachal Pradesh which was recommended for forest clearance despite being rejected twice by the Forest Advisory Committee.
An analysis of the approvals granted by the Regional Office of the MoEF based on recommendation of State Advisory group, the rate of approval is 78 Percent [See report of EIA Response Centre, study from January to April, 2014 at Annexure IIm, see the end of the blog]
The Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) constituted under the EIA Notification 2006 undertakes the task of appraisal at remarkable speed and hasty manner. It is worth quoting from the Judgments of Courts and Tribunals on the manner in which appraisal is done by the Expert Committees.
A. Samata Versus Union of India [National Green Tribunal , Appeal No 9 of 2011,] [Thermal Power Plant in Andhra Pradesh]
‘For a huge project as the one in the instant case, a thermal power plant with an estimated cost of Rs. 11,838 crore, covering a total area of 1675 acres of land, the consideration for approval has been done in such a cursory and arbitrary manner even without taking note of the implication and importance of environmental issues. On the same day the EAC took for appraisal not only the thermal power plant in question, but also other projects which would be indicative of the haste and speedy exercise of its function of appraisal of the project.
“As regards the functioning of the EAC, from the response of the MoEF to the RTI application referred to hereinbefore, it appears that the EAC granted as many as 410 mining approvals in the first six months of 2009. This is indeed a very large number of approvals in a fairly short time. We were informed that the EAC usually takes up the applications seeking environmental clearance in bulk and several projects are given clearance in one day. This comes across as an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The unseemly rush to grant environmental clearances for several mining projects in a single day should not be at the cost of environment itself. The spirit of the EAC has to be respected. We do not see how more than five applications for EIA clearance can be taken up for consideration at a single meeting of the EAC. This is another matter which deserves serious consideration at the hands of MoEF.”
C. Gauraxa Hitraxa Pauchav Trust Vs Union of India [Appeal No 47 of 2012 of NGT] [Pipava port, Gujarat]
“The relevant observations in the EAC meeting reveal that the presentation made by the Project Proponent was accepted as “gospel truth””
D. Sreeranganathan K.P and ors Vs Union of India : [Appeal No 172 -174 of 2013] [Aranmula Airport, Kerala]
“The Tribunal is able to notice a thorough failure on the part of the EAC in performing its duty of proper consideration and evaluation of the project by making a detailed scrutiny before approving the same……The EAC is constituted consisting of a Chairman and number of members who are experts from different fields only with the sole objective of national interest in order to ensure establishment of new projects or expansion of already existing activity without affecting the ecological and environmental conditions. Thus, a duty is cast upon the EAC or SEAC as the case may be to apply the cardinal and Principle of Sustainable Development and Principle of Precaution while screening, scoping and appraisal of the projects or activities. While so, it is evident in the instant case that the EAC has miserably failed in the performance of its duty not only as mandated by the EIA Notification, 2006, but has also disappointed the legal expectations from the same.
The above list is only illustrative and there are many other judgments reflecting the situation with respect to haste with which approvals are granted.
While undertaking any review the Committee must keep into account the following facts, issues and ground realities.
India’s Environmental law are a result of people’s struggle, international convention, commitments and judicial pronouncements and is aimed at ensuring sustainable development. Most provisions of the India’s environmental law have been an outcome of International Conventions pursuant to Article 253 of the Constitution eg, the Public Hearings and Environment Impact Assessment became part of India’s legal framework pursuant to the Rio Declaration of 1992 and the National Green Tribunal was set up pursuant to India’s committment to Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.
‘Principle on Non-Regression’ has to be applied while undertaking review.
The principle of non-regression is understood as the requirement that norms which have already been adopted by states may not be revised in ways which would imply going backwards on the previous standard of protection. This principle has been traditionally recognized in the area of human rights – that is, once a human right is recognised it cannot be restrained, destroyed or repealed. This theme is echoed in almost all the major international instruments on human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Environmental rights are closely related to human rights as well, including cultural and social rights, and can be interpreted to apply in the context of environmental protection as well. In addition, the principle is increasingly being invoked in the context of environmental protection. The European Union has adopted this view through a resolution: 
97. Calls for the recognition of the principle of non-regression in the context of environmental protection as well as fundamental rights.
The Resolution of the UN General Assembly as the outcome document of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development reflects the acceptance of this principle as well:
20. We acknowledge that since 1992 there have been areas of insufficient progress and setbacks in the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development, aggravated by multiple financial, economic, food and energy crises, which have threatened the ability of all countries, in particular developing countries, to achieve sustainable development. In this regard, it is critical that we do not backtrack from our commitment to the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. We also recognize that one of the current major challenges for all countries, particularly for developing countries, is the impact from the multiple crises affecting the world today.
Therefore, the principle of non-regression applies as a human and fundamental right, as well as under the principles of environmental law – like “sustainable development” and precautionary principle”.
The concept of Sustainable Development has to be comprehensively understood and cannot be equated only with economic growth. The Rio Declaration of 1992 has to be comprehensively understood and read not in isolation but as a whole. Public hearings (Principle 10), EIA (Principle 17) Precautionary Principle (Principle 15), Compensation and liability regime (Principle 13) are the core of Sustainable Development and have been incorporated as part of national law. The aim should be to further include these in various laws in a comprehensive manner. Rule of law, the right to participate effectively in matters which concerns one’s life.
Expert Committees, Advisory Committees, Appellate Forums constituted of Bureaucrats do not inspire confidence. This Committee must recommend that any committee or appellate forums should not have any bureaucrats. The working of the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) is a classic example of failure due to the fact that retired IAS and IFS officials were made vice chairman and member. The Delhi High Court in Vimal Bhai versus Union of India [CM No. 15895/2005 in W.P. (C) 17682/2005 has held:
“The list produced by the petitioners of appeals before the NEAA shows that most of the appeals disposed of thus far have in fact been dismissed, comprised as it is of retired bureaucrats, minus the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson. The NEAA is, therefore, at present neither an effective nor an independent mechanism for redressing the grievances of the public in relation to the environment clearances granted both either the State or the Central Government.”
There is clearly a need to review environmental laws. Yet neither the objective and purpose is clear of the present exercise. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 has numerous notifications issued under it. It ranges from EIA Notification to rules regulating the use of Plastics and microorganisms. Will the present review cover all these? These are issues which needs clarity. In addition, the Committee has to genuinely interact with all concerned persons across the country. The present process cannot be called consultative at all.
India’s environment has already impacted negatively due to hasty decisions as evident from numerous decisions of the Courts, the least this HLC can do is not to prepare a hasty report based on limited one sided information and limited public interaction.
[Earlier Blog on HLC: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/review-of-environment-laws-is-necessary-but-the-tsr-subramanian-hlc-lacks-credibility/]
Ritwick adds in post script: So far as ELMA is concerned, it is not even in a form that can be called as a Bill. The ELMA has many dangerous provisions and the sole aim is to manage the progressive provisions in all the other laws. ELMA gives overriding powers to the environmental authority to pass any direction. The thrust of ELMA is to ensure that those who approach the courts for redressal of their grievances face the threat of penalty. I feel that one of the most problematic provisions of ELMA is the fact that it combines all clearances (CRZ, EC and FC) into one (Single window) with very limited scope for appeal. The Appeal will have to be filed within 30 days of approval and before a Board constituting of two serving or retired secretaries to the Government! The process without doubt was a hurried one.
State Advisory Groups (SAGs): Recommendations for Forest Clearance during January-April 2014
The Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2003 under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, provide that proposal involving forest land of more than forty hectare shall be sent by the State Government to the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) while proposals involving forest land up to forty hectare shall be sent to the Chief Conservator of Forests or Conservator of Forests of the concerned Regional Office (RO) of the MoEF.
RO is empowered to scrutinize and sanction the proposals involving diversion of forest area up to 5 hectare. In respect of proposals involving diversion of forest area above 5 hectare and up to 40 hectare and all proposals for regularization of encroachments and mining up to 40 hectare, the proposals are examined by the RO in consultation with State Advisory Group consisting the representatives of the State Government from the Revenue Department, Forest Department, Planning and /or Finance Department and concerned Department (User Agency).
State Advisory Groups (SAGs) are constituted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for each State and Union Territory.
The view of the Advisory Group are recorded by the Head of the RO and along with the same, the proposals are sent to Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, New Delhi for consideration and final decisions.
The meeting of the State Advisory Group (SAG) is normally held once in a month at concerned State Capital as per a pre-decided schedule for each State and Union Territory.
Agenda and minutes of SAG meetings are uploaded on the MoEF website.
In this report, we have analysed minutes of SAG meetings all over the country from January to April 2014. During the period, minutes of meetings in 10 states are available in public domain.
As per the information available on MoEF website, there were 16 meetings during this period of four months in which 541 ha area has been recommended for diversion. These meeting happened in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Odisha. Gujarat leads with maximum diversion of 138 ha followed by Maharashtra with about 100 ha diversion.
It is interesting to note that Transmission Line is at top of the table taking maximum recommendation for diversion, 142 ha (26 %) closely followed by Roads with 138 ha (25 %). If we include Railways which takes 56 ha (11%), it is conspicuous that ‘linear intrusion projects’ are taking 62 per cent of the total recommended diversion.
The total number of projects considered by SAGs during the period was 41 of which 32 were recommended, i.e.78 per cent. It is alarming to note that not even one project was declined by SAG!
Every possible violation of norms, procedures, law and democratic governance is being committed in pushing clearances for the India’s largest capacity hydropower project, which involves India’s highest dam proposed so far & North East India’s Largest capacity reservoir: the 3000 MW Dibang Multi Purpose Project in Arunachal Pradesh. The players involved in these violations include the Union government of NDA led by BJP (UPA earlier), including its cabinet and Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MEFCC), Ministry of Power, State government, the project developer company NHPC Ltd, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
The project will need more than 4700 hectares of biodiversity rich Forest area with several Schedule I species in Arunachal Pradesh. It will also have significant downstream impacts on the people & environment of Arunachal and Assam and Dibru Saikhowa National Park. Most of its impacts have not been either properly assessed or considered by the developer, EIA agency or the EAC & MEFCC.
Déjà vu: We did the same for Lower Subansiri HEP! It seems the government is indulging in the same blunders that the previous NDA government indulged in over a decade ago while clearing the then-largest capacity hydropower project: the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project (LSHP), also in Arunachal Pradesh. Environment clearance for LSHP came on July 16, 2003 and stage I forest clearance came on June 10, 2003. Exactly the same set of players were involved in manipulating LSHP clearances over a decade ago. The developer is also the same: NHPC. The government at centre is again led by NDA.
Aaranyak environmental group of Assam, in a letter dated May 16, 2002 to the then-Chief Justice of India had highlighted the violations involved at various stages in the decision making of LSHP including during public hearings, in conducting EIA, in giving environment, forests and wildlife clearances. Almost all the issues that Aranayak letter raised then are applicable in case of Dibang with even greater force. But it seems in the twelve years since 2002 when that letter was written, our environmental governance has only degenerated.
The fate of the LSHP is a lesson in itself. After spending over Rs 5000 crores (Rs 50 Billion), the work on the project came to a standstill in December 2011. It has remained stalled for 34 months since then, following India’s biggest Anti dam People’s movement so far. This is unprecedented in India’s hydropower history. NHPC Ltd has been trying every possible trick to resume the construction work on LSHP, without genuinely trying to address the issues people’s movement has been raising.
Dr Mite Linggi, Representative of Kere A Initiative for Cultural and Ecological Security said exactly that at the public hearing of Dibang Project on March 13, 2013: “It is evident that the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project is stalled since Dec 2011 because the technical, environmental and social concerns of the people of Assam were not considered earlier… Ignoring downstream concerns will only ensure that this project to will meet the same fate as Subansiri Lower Project (2000 MW and get stalled by people of Assam.”
It seems none of the players have learnt any lessons from the blunders committed in LSHP’s decision making. If this is how Dibang Project is being pushed down the throat of the people of Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh and the North East India, they will have no option but to oppose the project and the Dibang Project may have the same fate as that of LSHP. Those who have been involved in the decision making now will then be held accountable for the wrong decisions and manipulations.
THE DIBANG PROJECT
The foundation stone of 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project on Dibang River was laid on 31st January 2008, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the project had no clearances, showing utter disregard the former PM had for statutory clearances or environment or affected people. The project affects Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and significantly, several districts in downstream Assam.
Considering the fact that Dibang has the largest installed capacity for a project in India, involving highest dam in India and biggest reservoir in North East India so far, one expected the EAC to be much more diligent while considering the project and even more so considering the experience of the LSHP. But that, it seems, was expecting too much.
The first thing that would strike any one who goes through the EAC and FAC documents is that the basic parameters of the project are yet unclear even as the EAC and FAC have recommended clearances, within the span of a week, under pressure from their political masters. Unbelievably, these two committees functioning under the same Ministry have recommended clearance for differing capacities, differing heights, differing submergence areas and so on!
This is because the NHPC knowingly misled the EAC in its meetings by presenting the 288 m height (above the deepest foundation level) dam with 545 m elevation at Full Reservoir Level (FRL) and 3.75 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) of storage capacity at FRL. The same NHPC, in FAC meeting on Sept 22, 2014 provided sensitive analysis with dam height reduced upto 40 m, but this was not even mentioned before the EAC!
Let us review the how the EAC and FAC dealt with the project.
A. ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARNACE FOR THE DIBANG PROJECT:
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the MoEF, which holds the distinction of having a zero rejection rate for the projects it appraises, recommended Environment Clearance to 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project in its 77th meeting on 16th Sept, 2014.
The Project was given TOR (Terms of Refence) clearance on 17.8.2009. Public hearings in Lower Dibang and Dibang Valley districts were held on 11.3.2013 and 13.3.2013 respectively, with huge protests from affected people. The EAC earlier considered the project in 68th meeting in Sept 2013, in 73rd meeting in March 2014, in 74th meeting in May 2014 and now in 77th meeting in Sept 2014.
Some key questions that arise as to how the EAC arrived at the positive recommendation:
1. Was there any Public Hearing in downstream Assam? Was there proper public hearing in Aruunachal Pradesh?
Although Dibang Multipurpose project will have impacts in the downstream Assam, as accepted by NHPC Ltd, WAPCOS and recorded in EAC minutes, no public hearing has been conducted in Assam, in complete violation of the EIA notification which clearly states that in all affected districts public hearings must be held. The submissions from Assam were not discussed during EAC minutes. The people of Assam have been completely ignored in the decision-making about a project that will affect them. Several people who spoke at the Dibang Public Hearing in Arunachal Pradesh in March 2013 raised this issue, but MEFCC and EAC failed to do anything about this even after SANDRP submissions to EAC also raised this issue.
Even in Arunachal, the public hearing process has seen several violations, leading people to oppose the project and the public hearings, see the quotes from the public hearings given below. Consequently, the public hearings were disrupted by the local people and had to be cancelled several times. The MEFCC, unfortunately, has no concern for the quality of the whole consultation process and sees it as only a box to be tick marked. The EAC does not even look at issues related to public hearings.
2. Were the issues raised at public hearing in March 2013 addressed?
No. As is clear from the report of the public hearing for the project held at Roing and New Anaya on March 11 and 13, 2014 respectively, the affected people raised a lot of critical issues about the project, EIA, EMP and Public hearing.
In the Minutes of the 68th meeting of EAC held in Sept 2013 and the 73rd EAC meeting held in March 2014, there is one paragraph (same para in both minutes) on public hearings: “Concerns Raised During Public Hearings It was explained that in general, the people were satisfied with the EIA and EMP reports and proposed R&R plan and community and social development plan. R&R plan has been formulated in line with the State R&R Policy, 2008. They took keen interest in knowing the R&R package and community and social development (CSD) plan. However, during public consultation prior to public hearing and during public hearings of Dibang Multipurpose Project, in addition to community and social development plan more infrastructural development in both Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley Districts were sought viz., up gradation of District Hospitals in both districts, financial assistance for schools, colleges and polytechnic, and construction of cultural museum at Roing and ITI at Anini etc. Besides this for downstream people, the main concern was protection of downstream area in case of dam break / high flood. Keeping this in view, a lump sum provision of Rs. 17100 lakhs has been proposed for consideration of MoEF for mitigative measures at downstream and other infrastructural facilities as raised during public hearings in addition to R&R and CSD plan.”
The claim that “in general, the people were satisfied with the EIA and EMP reports and proposed R&R plan and community and social development plan” is a complete lie, as we see from the quotes from the official public hearing minutes below.
It seems the EAC members have not bothered to read the public hearing report, and they have willingly or unwillingly been misled by the NHPC and EIA agencies. To illustrate the critical issues raised at the public hearings, we are giving below some quotes from the official public hearing report. Most of these reports remain unaddressed in the EIA-EMP submitted to the MEFCC, but MEFCC and EAC has not bothered to check this.
Shri Lokha Elapra, President, All Idu Mshmi Students Union: “Poor planning of mitigation from impacts during construction phase. Mitigation measures fail to address issues of demographic impacts, socio-cultural concerns and preservation of traditional land and livelihood… EMP does not have any provision to address this. EIA and EMP does not have any mitigation measures to preserve nor compeansation for permanent loss of mithun grazing areas, fishing grounds and medicinal plants thus endangering the loss of Mishmi Takin (rare Animal), Mishmi Monal (rare Bird) and Mishmi Teeta (rare medicinal plant)… Flood control of Eze (Deopani River to protect Roing Township… A cumulative impact study in the Dibang river basin must be undertaken.”
Shri Raju Mimi, Member, Mishmi Scholar’s Association: “NHPC had undermined the seismic design parameters as recommended by the experts of IIT Guwahati, Guwahati University and Dibrugarh University in respect of the Subansiri Dam. In this regard can the community members of the affected areas be certain that such careless disregard for dam safety be not repeated by NHPC in this case? All the documents related to dam design and safety be made public. Also, the documents should be peer reviewed by independent group of scientists. Ecological concerns like extraction of boulders from ecologically sensitive Important Bird Area (IBA). No impact assessment made regarding this in the EIA report… Hence a cumulative impact study in the Dibang river basin must be commissioned. Socio-economic concerns like the catchment area treatment (CAT) plan will restrict land use resulting in loss of land and livelihood. NHPC must ascertain such losses and compensate the people affected by CAT… There is possibility of loss of land by destabilization of soil due to the huge reservoir. What mechanisms will be implemented to address these losses? ”
Shri Kelo Pulu, President IMCLS: “Environment Monitoring Cell to assess and review the various mitigation measures as mentioned in the EMP is not convincing. Therefore, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh should immediately notify the formation of an independent Committee consisting of less than 5 members of local Idu Mishmi people.”
Shri Moba Riba: “Conduct Public hearing at Dambuk Sub division.”
Shri Jibi Pulu: “Additional EIA-EMP must be undertaken to ensure the minimum impacts to the ecology of Dibang area. The Community people will lose an area of 10390 ha that will be required for CAT plan. This area being grazing area of Mithun will be lost. The EIA does not have any data or estimate/ valuation of this resource. Without any compensation the livelihood rights cannot be taken away from the community. EIA studies about wildlife conservation is inadequate. EIA studies carried out regarding assessment of economic and medicinal plants is not project specific nor community focused. It does not have any reference, assessment and compensation of economically valuable plants like Piper mellusa and Paris polyphylla. The impact of 1950 earthquake of 8.7 magnitude.. Is the dam axis and reservoir standing along the seismic fault line? The impoundment of the drainage system by building dam will have major effect.. Hence, EIA studies on downstream impact particularly study of Deopani drainage and its siltation status is absolutely necessary.”
Dr Mite Linggi: “As recommended by the Planning Commission Committee we demand for a Dam safety design panel for an independent assessment of safety of Dibang Dam. There are lacunae in EIA-EMP reports. This must be rectified.”
Shri MartinLego: “Resistance capacity of the mountains which fall in the reservoir is not studied. Dam should be able to withstand flashflood. Construction of flood protection works with RCC wall supported by vegetative cover on both banks of Dibang River… Our demands must be fulfilled then only we will support.”
Shri Mibom Pertin, President Adi Bane Kebang (ABK):“Till date no initiative has been taken by the State Government, the district administration or the NHPC to educate the people… the EIA EMP must be modified/ rectified wherein safety measures and actions to be taken in case of dam break… Until and unless the above points are fulfilled the holding of this public hearing is strongly opposed by ABK.”
Shri Jowar Moyang: “Demand to establish a family dossier of the entire downstream people… Downstream not reflected in the EIA/EMP and DRP therefore, a separate guideline be made to include the downstream within the defined local area. The demands placed above must be addressed to within three months of this hearing or else will protest against the construction of the project.”
Shri Nun Pertin, President, Dibang Adi Students’ Union (DASU): “Downstream people are unaware of the project benefits, impacts and other issues which are mandatory to be known before the commencement of the project. Therefore, public hearing in this regard must be conducted within blocks and subdivision of Lower Dibang Valley. This must be furnished in written assurance form within one week’s time. ”
Shri Anjite Menjo, Zilla Parishad Member, Iduli Anchal Block and Shri Chiliko Meto, ZillaParishad Chairperson: “Environment Monitoring Cell to assess and review the various mitigation measures as mentioned in the EMP is not convincing. Therefore, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh should immediately notify the formation of an independent Committee consisting of less than 5 members of local Idu Mishmi people… Hence a cumulative impact study in the Dibang river basin must be commissioned.”
Dr Mite Linggi, Representative of Kere A Initiative for Cultural and Ecological Security (KICES): “It is evident that the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project is stalled since Dec 2011 because the technical, environmental and social concerns of the people of Assam were not considered earlier. Report of the Planning Commission appointed Committee of Dr C D Thatte and M S Reddy has raised several serious concerns about the downstream impacts of the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Project. Therefore, keeping this in mind, it is absolutely important that public consultation in Assam is carried out before the Dibang project gets environment clearance. Public consultation in Assam is not only necessary to address the concern of the people, but it is a pre-requisite for the people of Dibang Valley in the upstream… Ignoring downstream concerns will only ensure that this project to will meet the same fate as Subansiri Lower Project (2000 MW and get stalled by people of Assam. Rights of the people to use Catchment Area will be denied. Will compensation be included for them? Is it possible for NHPC Ltd to formulate new criteria for all those villages perched atop to include within affected families?”
Shri Lokha Elapra, President, All Idu Mishmi Students’ Union (AIMSU): Raises most of the critical issues raised above including need for Cumulative Impact Asessment, inadequate EIA-EMP, Impacts of demographic changes, lack of assessment of loss of grazing land, fishing right. “We do not want to be refugees in our land.. We the Idu Mishmi have a way of living where we live independently. Past history is proof of it. We had never been ruled and can never be ruled under any circumstance or vice versa. The plot which the NHPC Ltd claim giving free of cost is by virtue forcefully asking us to live in that piece of land where the PAFs are not satisfied.”
Shri Athupi Melo, Ex-ZPM, Anelih-Arju Block and Representing New Endoli village: “Public hearing on Dibang Multipurpose Project (3000 MW) was postponed 10-14 times earlier as the consent of the public was not taken before preparing EIA and EMP reports. The NHPC Ltd had cheated the entire affected people by concealing information and letting the awareness remain within the high reach people only. The NHPC Ltd as per their survey has shown 5 villages, 72 families, 243 persons, 938.8 ha of agriculture land as to be affected by the project. Do they know that the storage reservoir will submerge the land mass which belongs to another 34 villages of the valley?”
Shri Kupu Miku-ASM Arzoo and Representative of Apako village: “Had been resisting NHPC Ltd for the last ten years. Nothing was made known as to how much land would go and how much compensation would be provided.”
Shri Rezina Mihu, General Secretary, All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU): “It has been six yeas of resistance till this morning. The former President of AIMSU sacrificed his life fighting against the Dibang Project… the EIA-EMP is still not upto the mark.”
This selection of quotes from the Public hearing and reading of NHPC response, EIA-EMP and EAC minutes show that not only NHPC has failed to satisfactorily respond to most of these issues, the EAC and MEFCC has not even bothered to check the veracity of the claims of NHPC and uncritically accepted the NHPC claims. Inadequate response to the issues raised at the public hearing means that environmental clearance given to the project is legally untenable.
3. Has there been proper Environmental Impact Assessment of the project? Kalpavriksh, SANDRP, affected groups from Assam and Arunachal have made several independent submissions to EAC on the inadequacies of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment). SANDRP itself sent four different submissions (dated Sept 20, 2013, April 2014, May 2014 and Sept 12, 2014) highlighting various inadequacies of the EIA including:
Lack of compliance with the Terms of Reference of the EIA
Lack of basin wide cumulative impact assessment
Impact of mining of materials for the project not assessed
Lack of downstream impact assessment (more details below)
Lack of assessment of how climate change will affect the project and how the project will worsen the climate change impacts.
Lack of options assessment
Severe Impacts of Migration of Outsider on Local Tribal Community not assessed
Impact of the project on disaster potential in the project area as well in the downstream including Assam not assessed
Impact of changing silt flows downstream not assessed
As noted above, large number of speakers at the public hearing also pointed out the inadequacies of the EIA-EMP.
4. Are downstream impacts on Assam & Arunachal Pradesh Studied?
No credible study of the impact of the dam, dam break and peaking on Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the downstream has been done.
Several speakers at the public hearing raised this issue of inadequate downstream impact assessment, as can be seen from the quotes from the public hearing listed above.
It may be mentioned here that the biggest issue plaguing the LSHP is lack of downstream impact assessment, and the EAC, MEFCC, NHPC or the EIA agencies (WAPCOS, which by now is notorious for doing substandard studies and National Productivity Council). Even Assam and Arunachal Pradesh state governments also seem least bothered. Also, it seems no lessons have been learnt after Larji mishap when 25 students were washed away due to demand-driven water releases by upstream hydropower project.
5. Has the impact of Peaking on Downstream Assam & Arunachal Pradesh studied?
This is despite the fact that submissions were sent to the EAC from several organizations and individual also from Assam, drawing their attention to impact of peaking in downstream Assam, especially in lean season (winter) when flow fluctuations will range from 111 cumecs (Cubic meters per second) to about 13 time rise in volume at 1441 cumecs in a single day. Fluctuations can happen twice or thrice in a single day.
6. Has the impact on Dibru Saikhowa National Park in the downstream Assam studied?
The EAC has shown zero application of mid in this respect. There are several hydropower projects being constructed on the three main tributaries of Brahmaputra upstream of Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam. All these hydropower projects will undertake peaking operations. EAC has considered these projects separately, as a part of basin studies and as a part of downstream impact studies on Dibru Saikhowa National Park.
In all these studies, the level fluctuation at the National Park when the three major projects in the upstream undertake peaking operations is different, as per the convenience of the project proponent! EAC has considered all these studies without raising any questions about this convenient difference in figures even when the contradictions were brought to EAC’s attention by SANDRP.
The EAC has recommended Clearance to Dibang Multipurpose Project accepting the contention of the NHPC that “water level fluctuation in Dibru Saikhowa National Park (DSNP) will be less than one meter.”
However, the same EAC has considered EIA of Lower Siang HEP (by WAPCOS) where the fluctuation at Dibru Saikhowa when all projects are peaking is said to be 8 feet (2.38 meters)
The Report on “Effect of Peaking power generation by Siang Lower HEP, Demwe Lower HEP and Dibang Multipurpose HEP on Dibru Saikhowa National Park” also by WAPCOS states that level difference when all three projects are peaking is estimated to be 34 mts i.e. 7.67 feet. (Page 26)
EAC did not question these glaring differences in these models even when a submission highlighting these points was sent to the EAC on 13.09.14, before the 77th EAC meeting. The submission is not mentioned in the minutes, neither discussed, also violating Hon. Delhi High Court Orders (Utkarsh Mandal Case).
7. EAC decision violates its mandate; MEFCC & NHPC guilty of misleading EAC.
During the entire appraisal process, the EAC has failed to pose any difficult questions to NHPC, has not taken a stand supporting Assam, has not even initiated discussion in that direction, has turned blind eye towards submissions it received raising critical concerns, has overlooked contradictions, has overlooked precautionary principle and welfare of people in the downstream Assam and has refused to learn any lessons from the LSHP experience or the Larji Mishap.
While discussion about height reduction of Dibang upto 40 meters were initiated in MEFCC/ NHPC since Feb 2014, the MEFCC or the NHPC has not brought this proposal to the attention of the EAC and the EAC has taken absolutely no notice of this and has not even asked for this 40 m height reduction. The only reference we can find to the height reduction proposal is in the minutes of the 73rd EAC meeting, where too there is reference to only 10 m ht reduction. And yet, there is no mention of this in the minutes of the 77th EAC meeting where the EAC recommended clearance to the project.
This alone is sufficient to make the EAC decision legally untenable and make both MEFCC and NHPC guilty of not informing the EAC about these developments more than six months after they were initiated.
The EAC on its part has not shown the will to ask for a realignment of the project to minimize its downstream impacts, peaking impacts and submergence impacts. Such biased conduct and the decisions of the EAC, sidelining genuine concerns are in complete violation of the mandate given to EAC and extremely damaging to environmental governance of the country and are a reason for increasing conflicts, delays, protests and strife underlining its callousness towards environmental impacts and local resistance.
The issues that FAC raised while rejecting the Forest clearance are the very issues that EAC should be concerned about since they are under their mandate. But not only EAC did not raise them on their own, but even after they were brought to the EAC’s attention by SANDRP, the EAC failed to even discuss those issues.
8. Issues on Dibang raised in earlier EAC meeting remains unanswered
The decision making paragraph of the minutes of the EAC meeting of Sept 16-17, 2014 on Dibang Project reads: “After critically examining the proposal and considering the response to various issues raised in the earlier EAC meetings, the project was recommended by EAC for accord of Environmental Clearance to Dibang Multipurpose Project. However, EAC suggested that 20 cumec flow may be released towards e-flow in the 1.2 km diverted stretch as 15 cumec gives just sufficient quantity. EAC noted that beyond this 1.2 km, adequate flow will be available from TRT which will be minimum in the order of 85 cumec at 80% rated discharge of one turbine.”
It is clear that this paragraph does not reflect any application of mind by EAC if the response provided by NHPC to the various issues raised by EAC and others’ submissions to EAC are adequate. Even in this paragraph, it is not clear what is the basis of EAC decision to recommend 20 cumecs flow downstream of the dam and not the norm that EAC is following for other projects (30% in monsoon, 20% in lean season and 20-25% in non monsoon non lean season). Nor is it clear what is the basis and impact of operation of one of the (there are 12 turbines, each of 250 MW installed capacity in this project) turbine at minimum 80% capacity round the clock. This non application of mind on the part of the EAC is the norm of EAC and not an isolated incident.
In fact, reading through the minutes of all the EAC meetings since Sept 2013 where Dibang EC (Environment Clearance) was discussed, it is clear that while EAC has raised a large no of questions and reported some of the information submitted by NHPC, no where can we find application of mind of the EAC where it is stated that the information/ responses provided by NHPC is adequate or not. The uncritical acceptance by the EAC about the information/ responses provided by the developer is another noteworthy feature of EAC decision.
Let us illustrate this. The minutes of the 73rd EAC meeting held in March 2014 says: “A detailed fisheries (also flora and fauna) survey was conducted by Centre for Inter-Disciplinary Studies for Mountain and Hill Environment (CISMHE), Delhi University in the month of December 2013.” Immediate question than arises is, why were the fisheries and other surveys done only in one month and not across the year as is the normal practice? What were the outcomes of the study? You will find neither critical questions, nor any answers in the EAC proceedings.
Here is another example. The minutes of the 74th EAC meeting held in May 2014 says: “It was informed that fluctuation in the water level at upstream of Dibang-Lohit confluence due to peaking operation will be about 17 cm which is almost negligible considering the size of the river.” Shockingly, the EAC does not even ask: A. If this estimate is sound and if it is consistent with conclusions of other studies; B. What will be the level fluctuation at different points along 60 km stretch of the river upstream from this point to the project site and what will be the impact there of. EAC’s such uncritical acceptance of apparently contradictory and inadequate responses from the developer is the norm and not an isolated incident. Considering that EAC was considering the largest installed capacity project of India, highest dam of India and biggest reservoir in North East India so far, one expected the EAC to be more diligent. This was even more so considering the experience of the LSHP.
To further illustrate, the minutes of the 74th EAC held in May 2014 says: “The point-wise reply to the two representations submitted by Kalpavriksh was submitted to MoEF and EAC members and the same was also presented before EAC during the meeting.” Similarly, the minutes of the 73rd EAC meeting held in March 2014 says: “point-wise replies to the issues raised by Shri Chow Rajib Gogoi, Secretary, All Tai Ahom Student Union, Jorhat and Shri Pushp Jain, Director, EIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC), New Delhi were also given”. But in both cases, there is not even a word as to whether EAC discussed the NHPC response and if they did what was their conclusion about adequacy or acceptability of the NHPC responses.
As far as four separate submissions sent by SANDRP to EAC on Dibang Project are concerned, EAC neither mentioned them, nor did it seek NHPC’s response on them.
Considering all this, the decision of the EAC to recommend EC to the Dibang Project is clearly wrong, based on inadequate appraisal, in the absence of application of mind and legally untenable.
B. FAC DECISIONS ON DIBANG PROECT
It has been reported that the Forest Advisory Committee of the MoEF has recommended clearance to 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose project in its meeting on Sept 22, 2014, though the minutes of the FAC meeting are as yet unavailable. This decision is reversal of FAC’s clear rejection to the project twice in past 2 years in addition to MEFCC’s rejection letter to the project as late as on the 28th August 2014.
MEFCC was pressurized by the Cabinet Committee on Investment, Ministry of Power and even unrelated Ministries like Ministry of Mine, Ministry of Steel and Ministry of Coal into clearing the Dibang project. FAC itself was under pressure of the MEFCC minister and its highest officials to clear Dibang at any cost.
Relevant papers regarding height reduction proposal by NHPC were not uploaded on FAC Website in advance of the Sept 22, 2014 Meeting.
It is unclear if even the FAC Members had these documents, which form the basis of project consideration.
The height reduction proposal was not available to the EAC members a week earlier before EAC recommended clearance to the project.
FAC’s recommendation on Dibang project is clearly an undemocratic and illegal decision in the absence of prior information in public domain for all concerned, and when all the original objections raised by FAC while rejecting the project twice remain unaddressed.
Let us look at the timeline of FAC decision making on Dibang Project:
12.06.13: FAC rejects Dibang FC (Forest Clearance) Proposal. Reasons: “huge forest area with very good forest cover, irreparable and adverse impact on general eco-system of the area by felling of more than 3.5 lakhs of trees, several other HEP have been proposed in the same river valley apart from Dibang HEP, unavailability of study on cumulative impact of all the HEP, etc. The Committee is also of the opinion that ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast track of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the State, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project.”
13.08.2013: Meeting of Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Secretary, Ministry of Power held and it was decided that proposal will be considered again after exploring the possibility to reduce the requirement of forest land for the project.
9.12.2013: Project discussed by the Cabinet Committee of Investment which nearly ordered fast clearance for Dibang Project. It stated: “Ministry of Environment and Forests may grant the requisite clearance for diversion of forest land expeditiously.” Such direction from CCI was clearly in violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 which clearly defines the process for forest clearance and where CCI has no role.
10.02.14: NHPC revises proposal and submits two alternatives, reducing height by 5 m and 10 meters respectively. Marginal decrease in submerge of forest land due to 10 meters reduction. NHPC Officials say any further reduction will not be possible.
Revised Diversion proposal with reduction of 10 mts height and 445 hectares forest area submitted to MoEF with new proposal for total diversion of 4577.84 hectares.
29th-30th April 2014: Revised proposal discussed in FAC with 10 meters reduction. The revised proposal was incomplete in many basic respects like absence of maps, CAT Pan, FRA compliance, identified land for Compensatory afforestation, etc. In addition, the FAC noted that the region is home to Schedule I species, the reduction in forest loss due to decrease in height in minimal and will not have substantial ameliorative impact, It said “Such a marginal reduction in requirement of the forest land for the project may not be able to reduce the adverse impact of project on such a biodiversity rich mature forest ecosystem to the extent which could make the project environmentally as well as socio-economically viable in forest dependent tribal society of Arunachal Pradesh”. FAC also noted that impact of reduction of dam height on its economic feasibility was not put before the committee.
16.06.2014: Secretary Power writes to Secretary, MEFCC on 16.06.2014 to review the decision of FAC and accord the Stage-I forest clearance. Such direction from letter was clearly in violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 which clearly defines the process for forest clearance and where Power Ministry secretary has no role.
19.06.2014: Joint meeting held between Ministry of Mine, Ministry of Steel, Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change and Ministry of Coal, attended by the Ministers and Secretaries of the respective Ministries, as well as Secy, Ministry of Power wherein it was decided that a report on sensitivity analysis of dam height reduction by 40 meters shall be submitted to MoEF and action will be taken only after that.
24.06.2014: Secy, Ministry of Power writes to MEFCC & submitted a report on the sensitivity analysis on the dam height reduction upto 20 meters. However, MEFCC maintained that that as decided in the meeting the sensitivity analysis report was not submitted by the project proponent.
28.08.14: MEFCC sends letter rejecting Forest Diversion Proposal of Dibang Multipurpose Project on the basis of 10 meters height reduction, rich forest, social impacts and also downstream impacts on Assam, including Dibru Saikhowa.
5.09.2014: MEFCC writes to (NHPC/ Min of Power) to submit sensitivity analysis of reduction by 40 meters.
08.09.14 (This letter of 08.09.14 was uploaded on MEFCC FAC website on the day of the FAC meeting, 22.09.14): NHPC submits letter to MEFCC about sensitivity analysis for height reduction from 5m-40 meters. While it highlights the loss in installed capacity (780 MW) and loss in revenue due to 40 m reduction, it downplays the fact that 40 mts reduction will bring down forest land requirement by 26%. It concludes, without substantiation that “Decrease in dam height and consequent sacrifice in power generation beyond 10 mts reduction is not commensurate with saving forest land” and further recommends only 10 mts height reduction, which proposal the MEFCC had rejected in its Apr 29-30, 2014 meeting.
21.09.14: No sensitivity Analysis uploaded on MoEF FAC Website. SANDRP sends a submission urging FAC not to consider the project in the absence of this analysis in public domain as it violates CIC orders. People affected by the project have no idea of this analysis which is the basis of decision making in the next day’s meeting.
22.09.14: Day of the Meeting: Suddenly Additional Information document accessed (and downloaded) on 21.09.14 changes, with two additional pages and letter from NHPC about sensitivity analysis is uploaded ON THE DAY OF THE MEETING.
23.09.14: News that FAC has recommended clearance to Dibang was already public.
CONCLUSION As noted earlier, the Dibang Project is the largest capacity hydropower project, the highest proposed dam and largest proposed reservoir of North East India. One expected all concerned to be diligent in taking decisions on such a project. However, it is clear from this narrative that the process of environment and forest clearance for the Dibang Project is fundamentally flawed, inadequate and in violation of all norms of democratic and informed governance. Significantly, it is also illegal and untenable. Such manipulative decision-making has led to flawed decisions of environmental and forest clearances in case of LSHP in 2003, with the project stalled by people’s agitation since 34 months now. If the Dibang Project, which is bigger than LSHP in every respect and with much greater impacts, is pushed in such a manner, it is likely to face the same fate as that of the LSHP. We hope that the final decisions related to Dibang Project will be more informed, diligent, democratic, unbiased and objective. Admittedly, such hope seems rather farfetched at this moment.
 This is not to state that the UPA government that ruled India during the 2004-2014 decade was in anyway more sensitive to environment or democratic concerns. In fact part of the EC and FC time line and some of the manipulations happened before May 2014 when the current government took over. However, it is apparent that the current government has indulged in much more violations and manipulations and pressurized the statutory bodies (including FAC & NBWL reconstitution).
River Netravathi in the upper reaches Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
Like a many-headed serpent, Yettinahole (Netravathi) Diversion Project refuses to die. Every time one of its head is cut, it grows a new head.
Following criticism of the Project Report [i](based on which Karnataka Government had already made budget provisions in 2013), a new DPR of the project has been prepared in December 2013 by EIT RIP JV [ii] which tries to amend blatantly illegal stands taken earlier. However, after scratching the surface, it is clear that the DPR is just as illegal and dangerous as the interim Project Report was.
Yettinahole, or rightly the Netravathi Diversion Project has always been a political project, visualized to earn political mileage and brownie points. Veerappa Moily originally from Dakshin Kannada, moved to Chikkaballpur constituency in 2009, from when he started pushing the project strongly. As the Environment Minister, Moily also laid the foundation stone of the project in Chikkaballapur, just before the Loksabaha Elections in March 2014 [iii]. Strategically, the stone was laid in Chikkaballapur and not in Hassan, from where the water actually be diverted. No political party has opposed the project consistently.
Even before a complete DPR, Karnataka 12-14 Budget of the Congress Government allocated nearly 2800 crores for this scheme. The current govt lost no time and directly awarded contracts worth nearly 1000 Crores to Hindustan Construction Company, in a joint venture with GVPRL, without any clearances or any public consultations[iv].
Before the laying of the foundation stone of the project, SANDRP had presented a detailed analyses if the Project Report proving how the project is violating Environmental Protection Act by evading Environmental Clearance.[v] A number of eminent personalities from Karnataka had jointly written to the MoEF to appraise the Project for EC. In response to this, the MoEF had written to the Karnataka Govt and Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited (KNNL), seeking clarifications on the nature of the project. Although this move was triggered due to the submission made by SANDRP and other groups, we never saw KNNL’s response despite specifically asking for it. We only saw MoEF’s lame justification, bailing out KNNL and Karnataka Government and turning a blind eye to the huge impacts of the project.
When Karnataka CM Siddramaiah was about to lay the foundation stone along with Mr. Moily, SANDRP wrote an open letter to him[vi], as the Environment Minister, asking a direct question as to how can he himself formally initiate a scheme which is blatantly violating laws governed by his own Ministry. Following this, the ceremony was cancelled[vii], only to be held surreptitiously later.
During all this, there was huge and unprecedented opposition to the project from Dakshin Kannada and Mangalore. Farmers, students, workers, women groups all came together, united in their opposition against a project that would divert their Netravathi. People stopped trains, organized hundreds of dharnas, boycotted voting, organised signature drives, etc. Leaders in all hues came together in a rare show of discontent. On the day of foundation stone laying, people in Dakshin Kannada voluntarily observed a strict Bandh. Funnily enough, even the beneficiary district of Chikkaballpur opposed the project as the 2.82 TMC water that it would be getting after so much of fanfare was too meager, in the face of the grand promises of lush fields and no worries.
Despite these unprecedented protests and in the face of 2014 Loksabha Elections, foundation stone was laid on a dais in Chikkaballapur. The dais was burgeoning under the weight of several political strongmen.
This event stands out as an example of undemocratic behavior for an elected government.
The Government of Karnataka did not hold a single public meeting in Dakshin Kannada, trying to understand and address people’s apprehensions. When eminent personalities from Dakshin Kannada planned to hold a National Consultation on Yettinahole Diversion in NIT Suratkhal in August 2013, the meeting was cancelled at the last minute due to political pressure on the organizers.
As things stand now, the project does not have Environmental Clearance, Forest Clearance, Wildlife Clearance, has not started rehabilitation and resettlement of over 10 villages that it will submerge, but its work can start at any moment.
SANDRP accessed the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Project from local activists, who obtained it under RTI. Analysis of the DPR reveals a number of issues. KNNL has drastically changed the initial Project Report, avoiding mention of contentious issues we had raised like hydropower generation, irrigation component, etc., thus strongly vindicating the objections raised. However, going further, it is clear that these changes are cosmetic. Deeper problems and severe unstudied impacts of the scheme remain.
SANDRP analyzed 4 volumes of the DPR and Annexures of the Project. What follows is some myth busting about the Yettinahole Detailed Project Report.
1. What is the Current Project? Is it different from the last Project Report?
While the Project Report of June 2012 was titled: ‘Scheme for diversion of flood water from Sakleshpura (West) to Kolar/ Chikkaballapura Districts (East)’, the DPR dated December 2013 has taken out all the random stuff on Kolar and Chikkaballapura and simple calls it as “Yettinahole Project”.
Current Project as per the DPR, is divided in Two Phases.
Phase I: 8 weirs will be built in the Western Ghats, on the streams Yettinahole, Kerihole, Kadumanehole and Hongadahalla. It also includes several pump houses next to weirs, raising mains that run for several kilometers are nearly 5 kms wide, 3 Delivery Chambers (DC) and a gravity canal taking waters from Weirs 3, 4 and 5 to Doddanagara (DC 3) in the Western Ghats forests.
From the weirs, 85 cumecs (Cubic Meters per second) water will be drawn 24*7 in the six months of June-November.
This will be delivered through 4 Delivery Chambers with the last DC: DC 4 at Haravanahalli.
Phase II: From DC 4, water will be diverted to a canal running 274 kilometers, cutting across the ridge line dividing Cauvery and Krishna Basins and culminating at a Balancing Reservoir at Byragondlu and Thumbadi, in Koratgere Taluk. Thumbadi Reservoir will store about 3 TMC water and will submerge nearly 700 hectares of land and three villages[viii] while Balancing Reservoir at Byragondlu will store 5.7 TMC water and will submerge 7 villages [ix]and an area of about 2000 hectares. The Reservoir at Devaranyadurga, which was proposed in the Project Report has been replaced by these two.
It includes construction of several storage tanks and reservoirs for en route water supply. It will also delivery water to T.G. Halli and Hesarghatta Reservoirs, which supply water to Bangalore. It also plans to supply water to Devanhalli Industrial Area.
The project envisages constructing 7 additional storage reservoirs and 10 major canals. Water will also be used to fill morethan 500 Minor Irrigation (MI) Tanks in many districts and taluks.
It is amazing how the project envisages filling MI Tanks to 50% capacity: The DPR says that water will be pumped and released to the highest point and an additional sluice gate will be made to all MI tanks to let water flow into the cascading MI tank. This sounds highly impractical.
The project also includes constructing over 100 bridges in villages and nearly 100 road brides on major roads.
So although details have changed, the basic of the project remain the same. There is no change in Western Ghats, except for the fact that not 24 TMC, but 47 TMC water will be pumped now!
2. What is the cost of this current Project? Can the cost be borne easily by KNNL or Karnataka Government?
The cost of the Project as per DPR stands at nearly 13000 Crores as per 12-13 price line. This exceeds the entire 13-14 years’ budget of the Karnataka Water Resources Department, which stands at 8007 Crores and is nearly five times the annual budget of KNNL, the implementing agency.[x] This is a colossal amount of money to spend to convey approximately 7 TMC water to Kolar and Chikkaballapur and other nonspecific projects.
3. Who are the Main Beneficiaries? Will Kolar and Chikkaballpur really get 24 TMC water as promised?
The supposed beneficiaries of the project are several towns, villages, cities and industrial areas[xi] and No, Kolar and Chikkaballapur again lose out and get only about 7 TMC water.
4. Then who will be getting this water?
The DPR puts out a diffuse list of beneficiaries ( see Annex below) including Bangalore urban area through TG Halli and Hesarghatta Reservoir and the Devanhalli Industrial Hub. There are no population projections or future need calculations for this region like all other regions and at no place does the DPR say that water will go to Bangalore. However, TG Halli and Hesaraghtaa reservoirs are both used by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sanitation Board [xii]for Bangalore City and in the last Budget, the government had itself stated that water will be used for Bangalore Urban Area’s needs.
A review of beneficiaries:
Bangalore gets 3 TMC water: The DPR says that about 3 TMC water will be released to TG Halli and Hesargahtta Reservoirs and for the Devanhalli Area.
Minor Irrigation Tanks and hence irrigation gets maximum water at 9 TMC: Nearly 9 TMC water will be used for filling more than 500 MI tanks upto 50% of their live storage capacity. This water will be supposedly used for “groundwater recharge”. There are several participatory, cheap and sustainable ways for recharging groundwater, which seem to have been rejected in favor of long distance transfer. In any case, this groundwater recharge will be used for agriculture, as most of the agriculture there depends on groundwater and hence, the project qualifies for Environmental Clearance.
The project is being pushed for the drought affected taluks in Kolar Chikkaballapur and Tumkur and even a brief glance at the calculation shows that even in 2023-24, the drinking water demand of these places cumulatively will be just 12 TMC! Then why are we diverting 24 TMC water, double of the ten years’ estimate?
5. What is the basis for diverting 24.01 TMC?
The report provides no justification about why 24 TMC is supposed to be diverted. In fact, after population calculations and making provisions for drinking water supply for the beneficiary districts and villages, the DPR simply states : “This has resulted in a balance availability of 8.9 TMC” . This is a strange statement to make. What is meant by “balance availability”? Is there compulsion for diverting 24 TMC by hook or by crook from the Western Ghats?
6. 24 TMC Diversion? No 47 TMC Diversion!
The project envisages diverting 85 cumecs (Cubic Metres per second) water[xiii], purportedly for six months of June-November. The DPR states that pumps will function 24*7 during this period. Even a simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that 85 cumecs diversion leads to nearly 47 TMC diverted over six months and not 24 TMC, as is claimed.
7. Was there a detailed hydrological study to arrive at 24 TMC diversion?
The proponents have no flow data from individual streams. The 13,000 Crores project is to be based on shoddy hydrology data.
They have used gauge data from Bantwal across Netrvathi, which is approximately 60-70 kilometers downstream and in a completely different eco-region from the hills. This gauge data is simply extrapolated based on catchment area of each stream. This is highly unscientific.
The earlier Project Report used an entirely different method for calculating this yield, based in rainfall in individual catchments. Interesting to see that although to different methods were used by two different reports, divertible yield is exactly the same to the last decimal point of 24.01 TMC!
The fact of the matter is that there have been no scientific studies to find out the level of safe diversion. The DPR makes a fantastic statement in conclusion to the effect that:
“According to the revised computations, the divertible yield has been assessed as 22.14.TMC. However, Prof.Rama Prasad , who has conducted the Hydrology studies has opined that the yield of 22.14 TMC at 50% dependability is very much on a conservative side and 24.01 TMC of divertible yield is available across the streams. This has been taken note off and for the present proposal, 24.01 TMC of water has been considered as the divertible yield from the selected streams to proceed further regarding finalization of the scheme in total.”
This just shows the random way in which divertible yield has been fixed!
8. How about the downstream Impacts of this diversion, which was the main reason for protests in Dakshin Kannada and Mangalore? Were the impacts studied?
There has been NO assessment of downstream water needs or impacts of this diversion on the downstream people or ecosystems. The DPR just ‘assumes’ that there will not be any impact on downstream users of ecology!
This is evidently misleading. One example of the problem in such assumption is that the flow data of Hongadahalla maintained by KPCL (given in Annex) indicates that flow in streams like Hongadhalla in August near the gauging point, has not exceeded even 20 cumecs. However, the according to the DPR[xiv], arrangement has been made to divert a whopping 30 cumecs from Hongadhalla from Weir 7 during June-November. This means that in the downstream, the rivulet will be rendered dry.
9. Was Impact Assessment for Western Ghats conducted?
The project proponent has not even clarified as to what will be forest land required for diversion. The section on Impact Assessment in the EMP deals largely with the beneficiary region without dealing with impacts on Wesetrn Ghats at all. There has been no study on eflows as per the HLWG (High Level Working Group on Western Ghats/ Kasturirangan Committee Report)report, no study of estuarine fisheries, no study of drinking water needs.
10. Will there be profound impacts in the downstream region?
Yes. Yettinahole Project will “divert” water out of the basin and unlike most other irrigation or hydropower projects, the water will be permanently lost from the basin. The ecosystem and livelihoods in the downstream are closely linked to the hydrology of the Netravathi. In fact even in June, which is supposed to be a “peak season” for diversion, Mangalore and other parts of Dakshin Kannada have been facing water shortages[xv]. In addition, there are several estuarine and riverine fishermen dependent on the Netravathi for their livelihoods. There are many industrial areas, SEZs coming up in Mangalore which will be needing more water. While there has been a prospective study of the population and water demand growth of the beneficiary region in the DPR, there has been not even a mention of Mangalore and its increasing needs in the future in the DPR, highlighting the bias of the proponents.
There are several functioning mini hydel projects on the individual streams as well as tributaries which depend on the assured flow from upstream. They have not even been consulted before this decision was taken.
11. Will there be a severe impact on Ecology and Wildlife?
The project falls within 10 kms boundary of the Pushpagiri Sanctuary, one of the specific World Heritage Sites in the Western Ghats[xvi]. The entire region has exceptional biodiversity. The project also affects the Mysore Elephant Reserve.
The region has exceptional fish biodiversity, with several new species [xvii]being discovered from the region. There have been efforts to declare this area as a specific fish sanctuary.[xviii]Despite this, the Environmental Management Plan of the DPR states that the fish diversity in most streams is “Poor”. This is a very irresponsible and misleading statement.
Man Animal Conflicts in Sakaleshpura are on a rise. Mega infrastructural activities envisaged in Yettinahole Project will worsen the situation further. There has been no mention of this.
12. Considering the impacts and the strong opposition from Dakshin Kannada, were any public consultations held?
No. there has not been a single open public consultation held by the proponents or the Karnataka Government in the affected region. This indicates lack of respect for democratic values and transparency. Shockingly to the question: “ Have-public debates about utility of projects been held and the response thereof outlined in the Report?” has been answered as “Yes” in the DPR.
In fact there has been no such report in the DPR.
The DPR also states: 1.14: “Many public meetings have been held by the Govt. to make the people aware of the importance of the scheme both in the initial reaches and the end reaches of the project.”
This is entirely false as no such meeting has been held on Dakshin Kannada where informed discussions can be held.
Yettinahole diversion or Netravathi Diversion Project is an extremely costly ( 13000 Crores +) project of the Karnataka Government. It has been based on weak hydrology, nonexistent impact assessment of the downstream region, no Forest Clearance, no Wildlife Clearance and no public consultations. It is violating Environment (Protection) Act 1986, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and Wildlife (Protection)Act 1972. As has been proved by SANDRP, Karnataka has violated Environmental Laws in the recent past[xix].
The project provides no justification for diverting 24 TMC, plans to divert more volume than that, most of which is meant for urban areas and irrigation, without options assessment of cheaper and more sustainable options.
The project has illegally awarded tenders worth Rs 1000 crores without clearances.
In the interest of ecology, downstream population of Dakshin Kannada, public resources, wildlife, World Heritage sites and even future generations, at least until we have basis for informed decisions including a credible EIA, SIA, Options assessment and participatory decision making process, Projects like Yettinahole need to be shelved. Already multiple PILs against the project have been filed in the High Court and routed to the NGT. We hope NGT will also take a strong view on the serious issues involved here.
Severe downstream impacts and drying up of streams due to Yettinahole project reminds one of the tale of Sage Durvasa, meditating on the banks of the Tunga, not very far from Dakshin Kannada. Durvasa loved the river and was known for his short temper. As Bheema dammed the flowing River, Durvasa was agitated to see dried up river bed in the downstream. Yudhishthira saw this and advised Bheema to break the dam himself, to avoid the wrath of Sage Durvasa. Bheema relented and broke the dam, to allow the free flow of the river once more. (One of India’s first decommissioned dams?)
Let us hope that Netravathi flows unhindered and continues to support human and non-humans alike like she has been doing for centuries. Even for the areas claimed to be benefiting from the project, there are cheaper, sustainable and credible options available than this mega project.
RAMPANT ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS OF MAHARASHTRA WATER RESOURCE DEPARTMENT: STATE FOREST AND ENVIRONMENT DEPT AND CENTRAL MOEF NEED TO TAKE URGENT ACTION
A shocking expose by the CAG Report on Management of Irrigation Projects in Maharashtra, 2014, highlights the repeated and rampant Environmental Violations in Maharashtra which have led to huge impacts, environmental issues, stoppage of work, wastage of funds and violations of multiple laws.
CAG states that as many as 249 projects in Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) alone started work without receiving the legally required Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests or the State Environment Department. There are large number of projects also from Konkan IDC, Tapi IDC, Godavari Marathawada IDC and Maharashtra Krishna Valley Dev Corporation. In test cases, an expenditure of Rs 376.96 crore was incurred up to March 2013 without obtaining EC by VIDC alone. In addition, work was started in 89 projects and Rs. 7,129.76 crore were spent without Forest Clearance, in violations of Forest Conservation Act by all IDCs. Issues due to this led to an additional expense of nearly Rs. 2000 Crores. Some of the important CAG findings:
There was no mechanism in the WRD to monitor compliance of environmental clearance conditions. However, the responsibility of monitoring compliance also falls with the State and Central Environment Departments and Ministries and the Pollution Control Board. They too have violated the laws by not taking any action against the WRD and are to blame for the terrible state of affairs. Following indicates that some of these agencies refused to take action even when SANDRP and other organisations pointed out the violations in the past.
Some examples of projects without Environmental clearance are: Surya, Virdi, Nardawe, Kondane: Konkan IDC, Janai Shirsai LIS and Chaskaman extension by MKVDC (Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation), Katepurna barrage, Lower Dnyanganga, Januna, Pangrabandhi, Warajahangir, Sukli and Lower Wardha Major Project by VIDC, Kurha Vadoa project by Tapi IDC and Vishnupuri Project Phase II by Godavari Marathawada IDC which includes 13 barrages on the Godavari.
After the CAG report, the Environment Department, GOM has issued notices to 38 projects without EC. Director, Environment Department told SANDRP that Forest Department may issue a separate notice to projects violating the FC Act.
Violations of Forest Conservation Act (1980). Some of the important CAG findings:
188 projects valuing Rs 46,652.44 crore under the jurisdiction of five IDCs remained incomplete (June 2013) because of pending forest clearances by GoI and GoM. 18 projects were not granted forest clearance due to violation of Forest Act.
139 projects from above mentioned 188 projects needed 19,489 hectares of forest land.
An expenditure of Rs 7,129.76 crore was incurred on 89 projects out of these pending clearances under the Forest Act in violation of Forest Conservation Act (1980). For 61 projects and 7636 ha land, no NPV (Net Present Value, required to be deposited for use of forest land) was deposited.
In 19 out of 89 projects, commencement of work without forest clearances necessitated changes, stoppage of work etc. resulting in blocking of funds to the extent of Rs 1,944.92 crore.
While the CAG report has done a comprehensive assessment of the violations of Environmental Act, Chitale Committee Report, also brought out around the same time misses many of these projects and violations. However, the Chitale Report also recommends strict action to be taken against Executive Engineers for starting working without clearances.
SANDRP had tried to bring several such violations from bigger projects to the notice of both Govt of Maharashtra and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India consistently. However, most shockingly, no action was taken about these violating projects by these bodies. Letter about irregularities in Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project to Mr. A. Rajeev, Principal Secretary Environment Department, GOM in July 2013, as also to the MoEF, has been unanswered till date.
Additional HUGE projects which have commenced without EC include the Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation Scheme in Solapur, Lower Tapi Project in Dhule, and as many as 9 lift irrigation schemes based on Ujani.
SANDRP had sent relevant information on the above projects in form of submissions to MoEF time to time, but NO ACTION WAS TAKEN BY THE MINISTRY.
The State Wildlife Board, Maharashtra, under the Chairpersonship of the Chief Minister has cleared violating projects in its last meeting which were under construction and had already violated the Supreme Court Orders as well as the Environment Protection Act 1986. These projects include Nardawe Medium Irrigation Project and Alewadi and Ar Kacheri Nallah Projects in Buldana. Here too, SANDRP had pointed out the violations to the SWB, but it chose to take no action.
Additional Environmental and Forest violations are documented by SANDRP in projects including: Balganga, Kalu, Shai, Talamba and Sarambale Dams of KIDC, Upper Godavari Interbasin Transfer and Manjarpada Phase I project and Components of Gosi Khurd in GMIDC.
Lift Irrigation Schemes like Shirapur LIS, Sangola LIS, Barshi LIS, Bhima Seena Link Canal, Dahigain LIS and Seena Madha LIS based on Ujani. All information about these has been given by SANDRP in January 2013 to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF which grants Environmental Clearance to these projects. But no action has been taken by MoEF.
This points to the inescapable conclusion that the state forest and environment department and ministry as well as the MoEF, Delhi, are equally responsible for consciously turning a blind eye towards violations by WRD, Maharahstra.
Any action taken by these agencies following the CAG report is only to save face and is too little too late, as environment and forests are already impacted and huge amounts of public funds are already spent or locked in these projects without even basic impact assessments or appraisals. This shows that the government, politicians and bureaucrats have no respect for environment and forest clearances, appraisals, impact assessments & affected community’s opinion through public consultations. Strict action should be taken against all those ministers, officials, engineers & contractors, who are responsible for sanctioning and starting such work. Action also needs to be taken against agencies which have looked the other way and have failed to take necessary action, along with WRD Maharashtra for violating laws of the land and affecting forests, environment, people, society and economy of the state.
While the responsibility of ruling coalition of Congress and NCP is greater, the opposition alliance of BJP and Shiv Sena is also equally to blame for not raising these important issues which are crucial for the people of Maharashtra.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the MoEF in its meeting on the 11th and 12th of July did not recommend Forest Clearance to Kikvi Drinking water project coming up in Nashik.The proposal entailed diverting 172 hectares of forest land and a massive 761.52 hectares of agricultural land, totalling 933.98 hectares, without even a rehabilitation or resettlement plan. The project proponents pushed the project claiming that Gangapur dam is being silted up, but shockingly, did not present any alternative of desilting Gangapur Dam or even mentioning that Nashik already has three more drinking water supply sources in the upstream and downstream of Gangapur Dam.
In its decision, the FAC noted that
· “The project proponent has not given due diligence in assessing water requirement of the area and available resources already in existence to meet this requirement.
· No evidence is made available to prove that an authenticated study has been conducted to assess water requirement
· There are three more drinking water/irrigation projects in Nashik but user agency could not establish any link between capacity of these and future water requirement.
· Possibility of enhancing storage capacity of Gangapur dam to its installed capacity of 7.2 TMC by way of desiltation has not been explored.
· It is also not understood how rehabilitation plan is not required if submergence of agricultural and is involved.”
FAC has asked for further clarification and reports before the project can be considered again. This includes a detailed study to assess present and future requirement of water for drinking irrigation and vis a vis available sources, an integrated plan which may include desilting study for Gangapur dam as well as a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan for the population whose agricultural land will be submerged. It has also asked for compliance of Forest Rights Act.
This is indeed a welcome decision by the FAC. The proposal highlighted callous and casual approach of the Nashik Municipal Corporation while diverting an entire river and affecting agricultural lands in over 10 villages in Nashik, without even mentioning agricultural submergence clearly in its application.
Submission to the Forest Advisory Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests urging them not to grant Forest Clearance to Kikvi Drinking water supply Dam coming up in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik, in the absence of relevant studies and justifications. The project will submerge nearly 1000 heactres of agricultural and forest land in Western Ghats, and there is no justification provided that Nashik needs a new source. The city already takes water from 4 dams, is building a fifth weir and is allegedly supplying more drinking water to help India Bulls Thermal Power Project.
Chairperson and members,
Forest Advisory Committee
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Subject: Concerns about Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Project, Brahmanwade, Nashik
Respected Chairperson and Members,
We see from the agenda uploaded on MoEF Website that the FAC will be considering proposal of Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Dam in BrahmanwadeVillage in Nashik, Maharashtra diverting 172.46 hectares of Forest in its upcoming meeting on 11th and 12th July 2013. The entire submergence of the project is a massive 933.98 hectares in the Northern Western Ghats. Partners from SANDRP visited the site on the 7th July 2013, studied the ecology and talked with the local farmers to be affected by the project. Based on the visit and analysis of Site Inspection report (SIR), FormIA and Factsheet uploaded on MoEF Website, we would like to highlight some strong concerns about this proposal:
No evidence that Nashik needs a new source of drinking water: The Site Inspection Report of the Additional Principal Chief Secretary of Forest Department in June 2013 simply says “The project should be encouraged as it is a drinking water project”.
This is a strange statement coming from Forest Department, entrusted with protecting the dwindling forests of the country. There has been no supporting evidence provided by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone that Nashik actually needs this project for its drinking water supply needs.
In fact, there is no information provided in the Site Inspection Report, FormIA or the Fact sheet justifying the need for this project.
There is no estimation of Nashik’s current water demand, existing drinking water sources, future water demand, options assessment, demand management explored, etc.
In the absence of any such studies, how can Forest Department simply “encourage” a project to divert 172.47 hectares of forest (it will also submerge 776.52 hectares of agricultural land) only because it is a drinking water supply project? This is unacceptable and FAC should ask all the concerned officials to apply their mind before accepting to such proposals, including looking at the justifiability of the proposal and assessment that given project is the best option. This is important for all projects, but particularly so for a project that does even have environmental and social impact assessment.
2. Nashik has a number of existing drinking water supply projects There are already three dams in the upstream of Nashik city on the river Godavari and its tributaries. Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation for drinking water in each of these dams. These include the Gangapur Dam, Kashyapi Dam and Gautami Dam. Kashyapi and Gautami Dams were built to supplement Gangapur Dams water storage because it was silting up. Kikvi project is also being pushed stating the same reason that Gangapur dam is silting up.
In addition, Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation of 350 million cubic feet on the Darna Dam, 28 kms downstream Nashik.
Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) is also building one more weir on DarnaRiver with a capacity of 144 million cubic feet.  There is no study to show that Nashik has been using all these available resources efficiently and that it is taking necessary steps to reduce the siltation of the Gangapur dam effectively and also considering the desilting of the reservoir.
It is clear that NMC already has many sources to supply drinking water. With efficient water supply, demand management, effective use of rainwater harvesting and gray water recycling (which have been compulsory since 2009, but which are yet not implemented effectively) the water demand of NMC may come down. These options should be explored first rather than a new dam project that is ecological, economically and socially costly. Forest Clearance to such projects should not be given in the absence of supportive studies.
3. The City Development Plan prepared by Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) under the JNNURM does not consider a new drinking water source in its Phase I work till 2016. Why then is there a hurry to divert forests and submerge agricultural lands? (http://nashikcorporation.gov.in/pagedetail.aspx?id=22&mid=69). Even for the phase beyond 2016, unless there is credible study that shows that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently and has exhausted all available options, there should not be any consideration for the current project.
4. No exploration of desilting Gangapur Dam While the Form IA and Factsheet claim that the project is needed as capacity of Gangapur Dam is decreasing due to siltation, it logically follows that the first attempt should be to arrest siltation and desilting of the reservoir. Gangapur Dam also provides irrigation water. Hence, desilting should be explored seriously. During the current 2012-13 drought, Government had undertaken desilting of some reservoirs in Maharashtra. In fact, the Chief Minister himself said that a capacity of 8 TMC has been added in Pune division due to desilting projects. Thus, desilting should be carried out even before discussing new costly sources.
5. Wrong representation in Form IA FormIA states that there is no dependence on forests of the communities and the project does not involve any rehabilitation. This is incorrect.
The entire project involves submergence of 933.98 hectares of land, with 761.52 hectares of agricultural land. This also includes farm shelters and temporary houses of farmers. Farmers and tribals in this region depend heavily on the forests for a number of produce. Hence, the claim in FormIA that there is no dependence on forests is incorrect and should not be accepted.
In fact, there is a strong opposition to the project by villagers of nine villages which are losing agricultural lands to this project.
6. Fact sheet claims lands under submergence and not irrigated: As our partners witnesses this is a misleading statement. Large proportion of land under submergence is irrigated by groundwater through private shallow wells sunk by farmers. This irrigated area will also be submerged, along with the wells.
7. Over developed region The SIR, Form I and Fact sheet mention that there is no alternative alignment of Kikvi project possible due to existing projects in the upstream and downstream. This gives an idea of the overdeveloped region in terms of projects. One more project in this area will add to the cumulative impacts of the existing projects on ecology as well as sociology, but there is no cumulative impact assessment available.
8. Violation of Forest Rights Act: While it is clearly stated by the State Government in the Fact Sheet that: “10. The project authority has partially fulfilled the compliance under the Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Right) Act, 2006. The compliance is not in proper format.” (emphasis added), it is surprising to see that the Form IA mentions that the project authority has fulfilled the compliance under Forest Rights Act 2006!
Thus, Forest Clearance should not be recommended unless the status of FRA compliance is known clearly.
9. Restoration of Forests needed, not further diversion The SIR by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone, notes that submergence of 1960 trees “ will have no ill effect on the area, in fact it will have positive impact due to water body”. This is a shocking statement to be coming from the Forest Department. How can loss of 1960 trees have no ill effect? As for the positive impact due to water bodies, this is a baseless claim for a region that has many water bodies and receives 2600-3000 mm rainfall annually.
The further justification given to divert forests is that the forest is pruned and lopped with low density. When partners of SANDRP visited the site on the 7th of July 2013, they found that the region is poorly managed by the Forest Department, with no security. This has encouraged encroachment and lopping. Instead of addressing these problems and restoring the forests under their control, Forest Department is using this as a justification to further divert forests. This argument is not acceptable.
10. No Environment Impact Assessment, Public Hearing or Environmental Clearance process: Due to an unsound and arbitrary exclusion in the EIA Notification 2006, drinking water supply projects are excluded from the ambit of EIA, Public hearing, Environmental Clearance and hence, Environment Management Plan and environment monitoring. The current project will submerge a total of 933.98 hectares of land without these checks and balances and hence, the FAC needs to consider this project very seriously. Not only will this affect the forest, it will also affect the agrarian economy of the region. FAC should first demand a project specific EIA, SIA and also cumulative impact assessment before even considering this project.
11. No mention of environmental flows: The proposed project will be entirely diverting the water of River Kikvi for drinking water use through Gangapur Dam in Nashik. Such a complete diversion of river has a profound ecological and social impact on the downstream. The issue is serious here as this region forms part of the Western Ghats. Hence, there has to be a study of the environmental flows that should be released from the project in the downstream for social and ecological needs.
As the project will not be applying for an Environmental Clearance, FAC needs to pay serious attention to these aspects.
We hope that the Forest Advisory Committee considers this project seriously and not simply as a drinking water supply project. Nashik Municipal Corporation has been reported to be supplying more drinking water to Nashik city than its need. This is allegedly to benefit the India Bulls Thermal Power plant which is based on the treated sewage water from Nashik Municipal Corporation.
In this scenario, FAC should not recommend a forest clearance to this project, with no justification. The points becoming more pertinent considering that this is a project which has a potential to drown nearly 1000 hectares land in the Northern Western Ghats without any project specific EIA, SIA or cumulative impact assessment without any options assessment or study to show that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently.
Looking forward to a point-wise response to the issues raised above.
Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune
Jui Pethe, Independent Botanist and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik
Amit Tillu , Independent Wildlife Researcher and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik
The present drought in Maharashtra is dubbed as being worse than the one in 1972. This article conclusively proves that these critical conditions are not due to the rainfall, but due to poor water management decisions. The rainfall in 2011-12 has been more than 1971-72 in most of the worst drought-affected districts. Mismanagement of water in the dams, and irrational promotion of water-intensive sugarcane, unjustifiable west ward water diversions for hydro power generation have all led to the dearth of water to a much larger extent than the quantum of rainfall.
Maharashtra has 209 sugar factories, the highest in any state in India. most of them in worst drought-affected districts. Of its 30 cabinet Ministers, 13 either own sugar factories or have considerable shares in them. This article examines the impact of this hegemony on the state’s farmers and it’s water.
Some of the oldest dams in the world exist in India with around 100 large dams are more than 100 years old. These are increasingly unsafe. MoEF needs to consider dam decommissioning as a viable option for restoring the ecology of rivers
This article analyses the National Register of Large Dams. It is a disturbing situation that the agencies that are responsible for our large dams do not even know for majority of our large dams the names of the rivers on which they are located!
National Chambal Santuary is one of the very few protected river sanctuaries in India.This article describes a project to provide a peer-reviewed and open-access compilation of vertebrate fauna of the Chambal River basin, which highlights the regions ecological significance as also the threats it faces
This article discusses the various conflicts developing in the Indian Sub-continent. International, inter-state, and inter-sectoral conflicts are discussed. The article also discusses the steps that need to be taken to achieve greater water cooperation across the world
The HC order to release water from upstream dams to Ujani dam for mitigating drought in Solapur is examined. Unfortunately, the Maharashtra water resources department is unable to curb unathorised water use, let alone promote equitable usage of water from canals, dams and rivers
Through an unfortunate and short sighted decision, the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has gone back on its decision of rejecting Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam that it took on 2nd April 2012. It reconsidered the project and in its last meeting on 3rd-4th April 2013, and has actually recommended the Kalu Dam project for FC, involving 1000 hecatres of Forests in the Western Ghats. It has done this when all the illegalities and irregularities from the proponent still stand today, entirely unaddressed.
We have sent a submission condemning this decision on behalf of Shramik Mukti Sangathana as well as villagers to be affected by Kalu Dam to the Forest Advisory Committee and Minister of Env and Forests Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan. (see below)
You can support the communities and Forests in Kalu by sending similar letters to MoEF Minister and Forest Advisory Commitee.
Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan,
Minister of State (IC) for Environment and Forests,
Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi
Subject: Request not to grant Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam in Maharashtra due to several procedural and legal irregularities on the part of the Project Proponent and also the Forest Advisory Committee.
Respected Madame Minister,
This is to express our utter shock and dismay at FAC’s decision of recommending Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam falling in Western Ghats area in Murbad, Thane District, Maharashtra as seen in the minutes of the FAC meeting of April 3-4, 2013.
Just one year ago on the 2nd of April 2012, the Forest Advisory Committee had rejected this proposal, raising substantial points against the proposal and closed the file. This was a respite for the communities facing displacement, community groups working on the issue, for the Western Ghats ecology and the forests. We had then thanked FAC for this decision of April 2012.
On 4th of April 2013, the same Forest Advisory Committee (now with a changed constitution) went back on its decision and recommended Forest Clearance (FC) to Kalu Dam even when nothing has changed on ground and all of the objections based on which FC was rejected in the first place still stand today. The Project Proponent (PP): KIDC, Maharashtra Water Resource Department, has not been able to respond in credible way to any of the points raised by the FAC, Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), State Forest Department, affected villagers or civil society organisations.
We strongly condemn this decision by the FAC of recommending Forest Clearance for diverting nearly 1000 hectares of Forests in the Western Ghats.We urge you (i) not to recommend FC for Kalu Dam; (ii) request you to take steps to make Forest Advisory Committee more transparent, responsive and accountable to issues of communities and forests; specifically, all the documents from the project proponent, including all the annexures of the Form A and gram sabha resolutions for the projects on FAC agenda must be on FAC website at least ten days in advance as per CIC orders and as also assured by you in public; (iii) We also urge you to direct action against those responsible for illegal construction of the Kalu dam as noted by the FAC minutes; (iv) urge you ask FAC to hence forth recommend strict action against such violations.
Major issues about recommending FC to Kalu Dam:
Non-transparent decision making in violation of CIC Orders: None of the documents submitted by the project proponent about the Kalu Project were available in full with all the annexures on the MoEF website even a week before FAC meeting on the 3rd and 4th of April. This is a blatant violation of the CIC orders and we had pointed this out to the FAC through our letter dated March 25, 2013, but the FAC chose to ignore this. As a Minister, you had taken a strong stand against this and had said in October 2012 “These actions and decisions of the officials are unacceptable to me. The forthcoming meeting of the FAC will be postponed, and I shall resolve these (violation of CIC orders and non-compliance of FRA) issues.”
Considering that the lives and livelihoods of about 18000 people will be affected by this project, and when they have the first and foremost right to have all the information on decision making around this project, such irresponsibility on the part of FAC is unacceptable and it is also bad in law. Petition against Kalu Dam is in the High Court of Bombay currently and this point will be raised there.
Complete reliance on Project Proponent’s (PP) claims While recommending FC, the FAC has relied entirely on claims of the proponent, without checking the veracity of the claims or applying its mind. FAC has not even mentioned the numerous submissions made by communities and community-based organisations raising pertinent points against PP’s claims. The FAC needed to keep in mind that the same proponent has gone against its word many times earlier and each time, it has been pointed out to the FAC. It has wilfully violated the Forest Act by starting construction of the project in the absence of FC when the project is to submerge nearly 1000 hectares of land in a biodiversity hotspot, it has gone against its written word when it said that ‘no new project will be required for Mumbai until 2031”, in the process of seeking Stage I Forest Clearance for Shai Project, barely 20 kilometres from Kalu Project.
But the FAC, instead of taking any strict action against the proponent in this regard, has simply accepted its claims, which are again misleading and false.
Grounds for rejection of Kalu Project in 2nd April 2012 by FAC: The FAC minutes state:
· Submergence of 18 villages and their connectivity,
· Initiation of construction without Forest Clearance,
· Breach of commitment given by the Project Proponent during Stage I clearance of Shai Dam,
· Location of the dam within 7 kms of Protected Area
· Location of the project in eco sensitive Western Ghats
· Non-furnishing of: Rehabilitation Plan, Environment Impact Assessment report, Technical Report on Wildlife Status, Gram Sabha resolutions about compliance of Forest Rights Act
NONE of the issues stated above are resolved through the PP’s responses as clarified below:
· No Gram Sabha Resolutions Passed supporting the project: Misleading the Forest Advisory Committee: PP has claimed that it has secured Gram Sabha Resolutions from 8 villages out of the 11 villages that will be fully or partially submerged by the dam. In fact, Shramik Mukti Sangathana has letters from 10 Gram Panchayats out of these 11 that they have not issued any such resolutions at any stage. The last resolution in this regard that they passed was AGAINST the project. These were sent to the FAC on 16.11.11.
If the Project Proponent has the resolutions as claimed, why have they not put these up on the FAC website with the necessary documentation from the PP?
Why did the FAC not see the need to ascertain this even when it was pointed out by us in our letter dated 29.10.12 and again in 25.03.13 that no such resolutions exist?
· Clear violation of the Forest Conservation Act (1980): The proponent accepts that it violated the Forest Conservation Act (1980) by starting work before an FC, but states that it stopped AFTER High Court Orders. High Court Orders were in response of a PIL filed by Shramik Mukti Sangathana against the illegal nature of the work. So, stopping AFTER HC orders is no justification for committing the illegality. Before the High Court orders, Shramik Mukti Sangathana had written several letters about this violation to the Collector, Chief Secretary and Forest Department and had also served a notice to the PP. It did not stop work then.
Considering this, the Forest Advisory Committee ought to have penalised the project proponent for violation of Forest Conservation Act (1980), not recommend the same project for clearance.This only gives out a signal that no action will be taken by the MoEF even after it knows that violation of Forest Act is happening, that too by a state agency.
· Continued violation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) It has been pointed out several times to the FAC that Kalu Project is violating the Forest Rights Act (2006) as community and individual claims are yet to be settled. The Forest Rights Act was passed to safeguard historical injustice on Forest-dependent communities, but the FAC itself is encouraging the PP to violate FRA, PESA, Rehabilitation Policy and Forest Conservation Act. You, as a Minister, had reasserted MoEF’s commitment to implementation of Forest Rights Act.
· No Rehabilitation Plan has been submitted at the time of recommending Forest Clearance There is no such plan available in public domain, nor has there been any participatory process of approval of the plan with the affected people. A claim of a rehabilitation package of Rs 68.75 Crore does not constitute a Rehabilitation Plan. This point was raised several times by community organisations, State Forest Department, Chief Conservator of Forests as well as the FAC. Villages to be affected by Kalu Dam fall in Tribal Subplan and attract PESA. Without any legally mandatory process, just the claim of rehabilitation package of Rs 68.75 crore seems good enough for FAC. It was clearly wrong on the part of the FAC to recommend FC based on such claims.
· Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations letter that “it is not necessary to construct any new water source till 2031”: This was submitted to the MoEF while seeking Stage I Forest Clearance for Shai Dam, less than 25 kms from proposed Kalu dam in 2010-11. FAC recommended Stage I Clearance to Shai Dam based on that assurance. In less than 3 years, the proponent feels that Shai dam, whose clearance was obtained on such a claim, will not be sufficient till 2031. This is unjustifiable and tantamount to misleading the FAC with false assurances.
· No Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Conducted The Kalu Dam falls in ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. The Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel had categorised the region in ESZ I where no large dams should be permitted. Even as per the Kasturirangan Committee Report, more than 5 villages affected by Kalu Dam are falling in the ESA.
The State forest Department, Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), community groups have all urged that EIA as well as a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the Project has to be done before granting Forest Clearance. In fact, this was one of the conditions laid by the State Forest Department. Looking at the ecologically sensitive location of Kalu Dam and submergence of nearly 1000 hectares of Western Ghats Forest Land, this was a reasonable expectation.
Despite these clear conditions, the PP argues that EIA is not required. And despite this, the FAC recommends FC to this project!
In this context, Section 2.3 (ii) of FCA (1980) read, “Notwithstanding the above, if in the opinion of the Ministry or the Advisory Committee, any proposal should be examined from the environmental angle, it may be required that the project proponent refer the case to the Environment Wing of the MOEF.” So irrespective of the requirement of EIA notification, the FAC has been provided powers to refer to an such project to the environment wing of MoEF or EAC for examination of the project from the environment angle, but FAC failed to do this just under the claim of the PP that EIA is not required under EIA notification.
FAC recommendation that Cumulative Impact Assessment has to be undertaken for drinking water projects around Mumbai is welcome but again, it could have been done before considering this project for clearance and not after recommending clearance. Similarly their recommendation to the MoEF to amend the EIA notification to ensure that such dams are included for environmental impact assessment is welcome, but they could have waited for MEF response rather than recommending Forest Clearance.
In this regard we urge you: (i) immediately change the EIA notification to include Kalu and all such large dams under the ambit of the EIA notification, irrespective of the purpose of the project; (ii) Direct specifically that Kalu Dam require EIA and Env clearance, using the above mentioned part of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and EPA, 1986; (iii) Order a cumulative impact assessment of all the projects in the western ghats region around Kalu dam, as recommended by FAC and (iv) direct that FC for Kalu will NOT be considered till all these requirements are fulfilled.
· Forest Conservation Act requires Gram Sabha clearance Moreover, section 2.1(vii)(4) of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 clearly states: “Therefore, whenever any proposal for diversion of forest land is submitted, it should be accompanied by a resolution of the ‘Aam Sabha’ of Gram Panchayat/Local Body of the area endorsing the proposal that the project is in the interest of people living in and around the proposed forest land except in cases wherever consent of the local people in one form or another has been obtained by the State or the project proponents and the same is indicated in the proposal explicitly. However, it would be required where the project activity on forest land is affecting quality of life of the people residing in nearby areas of the site of diversion; like mining projects, displacement of people in submergence area, etc.” This provision is particularly applicable to a project like Kalu that has not had EIA or public hearing as stated in the same section in FCA, 1980. Recommending FC for Kalu Dam project without fulfilling this requirement is clearly a violation of the FCA, 1980 by the FAC.
We urge you to direct the project proponent to get gram sabha resolutions on the lines mentioned above in FCA Section 2.1(vii)(4) and direct FAC consider the project only after these have been received.
· Distance from Protected Area: The submergence of the project is less than 10 kms from Kalsubai Sanctuary. Considering the fact that no EIA is conducted, no report on Wildlife Status exists, this makes ecological impacts of Kalu Dam on Western Ghats ecosystem even more serious. Considering all these issues, FC should have been rejected on this ground alone. In fact the PP goes ahead to say: “No rare or endangered flora or fauna has been reported from this site” How can this be stated when no EIA has been conducted and no wildlife report exists?
· The PP states that only “44566” and “44611” that is ‘only’ 89177 tress will be felled during and the rest ‘may be’ saved. Ninety thousand trees in Western Ghats is a huge number. But it seems FAC does not see any objection in this. The claim that the rest of the 60 000 trees can be saved is of doubtful credibility. Similarly the claim in the FAC meeting minutes that “No rare or endangered species of flora and fauna has been reported in the area” is also without any credible basis.
· We would like to reiterate that no options assessment about water supply options to Mumbai has been done. No consideration of rainwater harvesting, using saline water for some uses, grey water recycling, demand management, water use efficiency, and conjunctive groundwater use has been done. The FAC minutes notes this, but from the minutes it seems it has not applied its mind to these issues and recommended FC as a matter of blind support for the project. The mention of the letter from the Chief Minister in the minutes only adds to the suspicion that the FAC has cleared the project without looking into merits of the issue.
· Contradictions in FAC conditions? The FAC has recommended FC to the project, with some additional conditions, one of the additional conditions states: “The User agency will abide by all conditions by Regional Office, Bhopal and State Government during inspection of the project.” So the PP has to adhere to all the conditions imposed by the Regional Office, Bhopal and the State forest Department while inspecting the project.
One of the conditions imposed by the Regional office, Bhopal included: “…the State Govt. may be directed to stop all the construction related activities till all the legal formalities and forest, wildlife and environment related studies are completed and a well-considered decision regarding forest diversion is taken based on proper scientific documentation and studies.”
We seem to be in a funny situation now. The FAC, while recommending FC, put a condition that says that decision of FC should not be taken without “proper scientific documentation and studies”, but FAC has done just that! In any case, one implication of this is that the project should not get even first stage FC without the studies recommended by Regional Office, Bhopal, including EIA has been done.
Similarly the State forest department too has asked for (i) Rehabilitation Plan (ii) EIA (iii) technical report from WII on impact of project on wildlife in and around the project area (iv) gram sabha resolutions from all affected villages under FRA. The project should not thus be given even stage I clearance without satisfaction of all these conditions.
Most of these issues have been brought to the attention of the FAC time and again by us, Shramik Mukti Sangathana and other community groups. However, the FAC still went ahead with the incomprehensible decision. Hence, we are writing to you with the hope that after looking at all the points raised above, you will definitely not recommended Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam. We also hope that MoEF will punish violators of FC and FRA Acts to send a strong signal and will take steps to make the present Forest Advisory Committee more transparent, accountable and responsive to issues ailing our forests and forest-dependent communities.
We will look forward to detailed response on this from you. Thanking you for your attention,