Assam · Ministry of Water Resources

Present Tensed, Future Expensive: Large Irrigation Projects in Northeast India

The actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return” this was the unequivocal conclusion of a recent study done by a group of experts from Oxford University on dams around the world[1]. Similar conclusions can be reached from a recent analysis done by SANDRP on five large irrigation dam projects from northeastern region of India, where project costs have increased as high as 35 times from its original costs and projects are under construction for 35 years but yet not completed. The Oxford study which has assessed 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007 in 65 different countries in five continents, including 97 hydropower projects, 59 irrigation projects and 89 multipurpose projects with hydropower component, had identified enormous cost and time overrun as a major problem with large dam projects.

SANDRP had recently done an analysis (https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/) of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India. This analysis covered decisions taken by TAC from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting of December 2013. Within these five years, TAC has given clearance to 38 projects in North East India out of which major number of the projects i.e. 26 are flood and erosion control projects. Rest of the 12 projects includes 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects. All these 12 projects involve irrigation as a major component.

Among the 12 projects, five projects draw specially attention because of the humongous cost escalation and time overrun in the construction of these projects. But this focus on five projects out of twelve should not be taken as an ‘All is well’ certificate for the remaining seven projects. There are significant issues with those projects as well but from the perspective of time and cost overrun, these five projects present a very critical picture.[2] Besides, all the five projects discussed here are under construction projects. TAC had paid little attention to these critical issues and therefore very little information is available in the TAC meeting minutes regarding the five projects discussed here. In this analysis, along with details cost and time escalation other important issues related with the projects have been brought together. Three out of these five projects are located in Manipur where as two are located in Assam.

Starting with the three projects from Manipur, the table below summarizes the cost incurred in these three projects. All these projects are age old projects and how much benefits will be acquired from them once there construction is complete, still remains uncertain.

Name of the Project Year of Starting Original cost Considered in 2009 Considered in 2012
Khuga Multipurpose Project (Major- Revised) 1980 15 381.28 433.91
Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Medium – Revised) 1992 18.86 251.52 360.05
Thoubal Multipurpose Project (Revised) 1980 47.25 982 1387.85
Total  (all costs in Rs Crores)   81.11 1614.8 2181.81

Khuga multipurpose project was first considered in the year 1980 when the cost of the project was Rs 15 crores. 1. The Khuga multipurpose project is located near Malta village in Churachandpur district of Manipur, at least 10 km from the district headquarter. The project was to irrigate 15,000 ha of land, provide 10 million galons for drinking water and have installed capacity of 7.5 MW hydropower. The Khuga (considered in the 110th and 115th meeting of TAC) project witnessed cost escalations of 25.42 & 28.92 times respectively from its original cost.

Map of Khuga multipurpose project; Source: India WRIS Wiki
Map of Khuga multipurpose project; Source: India WRIS Wiki

In the 115th meeting of TAC held in July 2012, the completion deadline of Khuga multipurpose project was stated as March 2013 which implies that it would take 33 years only to complete the project. The minutes of the 115th meeting stated “The project authorities indicated that the increase in cost was due to frequent blockades and law and order problem in the project area, as a result Project authority were unable to obtain construction materials like cement, steel etc, in time, which in turn slowed down the progress of the project significantly. Regarding revised target date of completion, the Project authorities informed that land acquisition had been completed and the project would be completed by March 2013.

We came across some of very crucial issues about these projects discussed in detail in the Manipur based website Manipur online, Hueiyen Lanpao[3]. These issues were very much related with the viability of the Khuga project but none of these issues found any mention in the TAC meeting discussions. The project proponent seemed to have completely ignored these issues, some of these are given below.

  • The Khuga project is reported to be inaugurated by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi in November 2010.
  • This project was visualized to solve the irrigation, drinking water and electricity problem of Churachandpur district in particular and Manipur in general since agriculture is the main livelihood option of the region.
  • But, in terms irrigation it seemed unrealistic to many since Churachandpur is a hill district where jhum cultivation is practiced. In fact an inspection of the main right canal of the Khuga multi-purpose project showed the very sorry state of the canal.[4] The inspection led by an ex-Minister N Mangi came to the conclusion that the canal had never provided any irrigation to nearby paddy fields.
  • An audit report of Khuga multipurpose project of March 1999 on the performance review of the dam had stated “Since 1984, the IFCD, Manipur, carried out construction work on 25.37 km of canal over an area of 40.27 hectares of forest land in Dampi reserve forest without obtaining the required clearance for diversion of forest land. Barring the unaccounted environmental destruction (that still continues) the overall concept of the multipurpose Khuga Dam project in itself was unpractical and paradoxical.”[5]
  • Regarding drinking water, people in the area when faced with drinking water scarcity, were not sure whether the water reserved in Khuga dam would qualify as good enough for drinking. People of several villages living in the vicinity of the dam had reported that stagnant water actually smells.[6]

    Khuga Multipurpose project in Manipur. Source: http://manipuronline.com/
    Khuga Multipurpose project in Manipur. Source: http://manipuronline.com/
  • The electricity generation component had been scrapped totally even after the power house was reported to be completed by almost 80%. It was said that there were flaws in the design of the Khuga multipurpose project right from the beginning and the electricity generation was not a viable option. It was learnt that the power component was planned and designed without studying its operational feasibility and the power component can be operated for only about 3 or 4 months in a year when there is excess water.
  • There was also a report that a Joint Action Committee on Khuga Dam visited the national capital and submitted a petition to Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission demanding an expert team to investigate the execution of the project.[7] The Joint Action Committee also demanded that the 1.5 MW electricity for the people of Churachandpur district and compensation and rehabilitation money to the affected the villages should be cleared.  None of the above, even the petition submitted to the planning commission was not mentioned in the minutes of the TAC meeting.

Dolaithabi Barrage Project was first approved by the Planning Commission of India in 1992 with a cost of Rs 18.86 crores to be constructed in Imphal East district of Manipur.[8] 22 years have passed since then, but the project is yet to be completed.  The cost of the project has increased 19 times from its original cost when it was considered in the 115th TAC meeting held on 24th July 2012. In that meeting price escalation, change in design on the basis of model studies, detail examination of the project proposal by the CWC field unit had been cited as the reasons for increase in costs of the project. But there was no question on why the design of the project had to be changed 20 years after the project had started. TAC meeting minutes did not mention any completion year for the project, but state Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in an inspection tour to the project site in October 2012, had announced that this project would be over by March 2014.[9] This clearly sounds unrealistic. 

Location map of Dolaithabi and Thoubal project. Source: India WRIS Wiki
Location map of Dolaithabi and Thoubal project. Source: India WRIS Wiki

Thoubal multipurpose project was first considered by Planning Commission in the year 1980 and the original cost of the project was Rs 47.25 crores. The project is still far from completion and witnessed huge cost escalations. From 2009 to 2013, the Thoubal multipurpose project was considered in two meetings. In the 101st TAC meeting, when this project was considered the cost escalation was already 20.78 times the original cost. As per minutes of the 115th TAC meeting, the cost by then was 29.37 times higher from the original cost. The Thoubal project was also considered in 123rd meeting held on January 30th, 2014 where the projected cost was Rs 1694.27 crores. This is a 35.86 times increase in costs from its original cost. It is interesting to see that in the minutes of the 115th meeting the reasons provided to justify the delay in the construction of Thoubal Multipurpose project are exactly same as those given for Khuga multipurpose project.

Dhansiri irrigation project in Darang district of Assam is another glaring example of mind blowing time and cost overrun. This project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29th August 2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. This project started in 1975 and the original cost of the project was Rs 15.83 crores as per the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[10] The same website states that project is supposed to be completed in 2010, 35 years from the time it started.  But in the 119th TAC meeting March 2015 was stated as the new completion target. This implies that the cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but even after that the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost overruns (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or on whether this project which will take 40 years  just to complete will be viable or not.

Dhansiri irrigation project  command area: Source: India WRIS Wiki
Dhansiri irrigation project command area: Source: India WRIS Wiki

The project proponent stated that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed and the TAC seemed to be contended with this. But the minutes of the 119th meeting also showed that major components of the project were in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system completed. There was no detailed assessment of any of these aspects.

Champamati irrigation project in Chirang district of Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), Assam presents a very unique case. This project started in 1980 with an original cost of 15.32 crores. It was discussed in 103rd meeting of TAC held on 11th March 2010 with a revised cost of 309.22 crores which is clearly a 20 times increase from the original cost. This was 30 years after the project had started and referring to the observation of the Chairman, TAC minutes stated “both physical and financial progress of the work was rather going on a slow pace. He enquired to know whether there was any land acquisition problem persisting or not.”

Map of Champamati irrigation project command area. Source: India WRIS Wiki
Map of Champamati irrigation project command area. Source: India WRIS Wiki

Replying to this, the project authorities had stated that “the delay was mainly due to lack of fund and land acquisition problem. However, the main canals had been completed by about 80% while distribution system completed upto 30% which is likely to be completed in another two years.” But in the list of major/medium schemes in the website of Irrigation department, Govt. of Assam the proposed year of completion of this project has been mentioned as 2009.

But in midst of these tall claims of project completion, what is the present status of this irrigation project cannot be confirmed. There is little information available on this project in the internet and from those it can be clearly said that the project was not completed till the mid of 2013. In a news report titled “Centre worried over Cost overruns in old irrigation projects in NE” published in The Sentinal on 26th August 2013 the delay in construction of Champamati irrigation project was also highlighted. On other hand an earlier report “Irrigation scheme damned by delays” published in the Telegraph on 21st August 2006, had indicated that this project had substantial amount of construction left to be done “Till now, only the sluice gate (headwork) of the Champamati irrigation project has been completed, sources said. Of the 37 regulators, only eight are complete, of the 120 canal falls only 20 are complete, while 72 cross-drainage systems have been completed out of a total of 270. Of the 197 bridges, just 50 are finished. The earthwork of the main canal and the branch canal are also incomplete, with only 97.67 km out of 145.95 km finished.

How much benefit these projects will do to the people of India’s Northeast is the question which may appears in the minds of many after going through this analysis. After such humongous in costs and time overrun, the benefits expected to be derived from these projects, would hardly justify the costs incurred. Similar concerns were raised by the representative of the Planning Commission regarding Dhansiri Irrigation project “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.

Whether these projects can actually deliver what had been promised remains uncertain at best. From the history of Khuga project, it is very clear that the promises are never fulfilled and the benefits never reached the people. In fact the Khuga project is also an example of how the expected benefits of the project never become a reality even after completion of construction. The benefits from irrigation largely remained on paper.

This is the case with the several other irrigation projects in northeast. The case of Loktak Lift Irrigation project in Manipur can be cited here about which the minutes of the 122nd TAC meeting (20th December 2013) stated “Loktak lift irrigation project was commissioned in 1986 with an original command area of 24000 ha and 40000 ha as annual irrigation. Due to scarcity of funds from State Government the normal repair and maintenance could not be taken up and as of now the annual irrigation has reduced to 1800 ha.” This is possibly indicative of how much irrigation benefits have actually been accrued from irrigation projects.

Functioning of TAC Barring the cost and time overrun of these projects, the functioning of TAC also needs to be looked into. The Advisory Committee of MoWR very much works like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. A reading of the minutes of its meetings reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the projects and for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the considered projects suffer from. Nor is there any discussion about the performance of the projects. Considering the importance of TAC in India, we believe the committee needs to be more serious in performing its duties. It needs to question the merits and need of a project before clearing and need to do performance evaluation. It should no way become a clearing house for projects. Effective steps need to be taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable. SANDRP has written letters to the concerned authorities in this regard, but we are yet to see an effective change.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar) (meandering1800@gmail.com)

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END NOTES:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/do-large-dams-deliver-deception-and-delusion-oxford-university-research-says-they-do/
[2] In the 100th TAC meeting along with Khuga and Dolaithabi projects there were four other under construction irrigation projects considered by the committee. Three of these projects were from Tripura and one was from Assam. Due to unavailability of the minutes of 100th meeting in the CWC website, those four projects could not be discussed here.
[3] See news sections of http://www.manipuronline.in/ and http://www.hueiyenlanpao.com/
[4] http://www.hueiyenlanpao.com/headlines/item/7311-khuga-multipurpose-project-a-complete-failure-says-mangi
[5] http://manipuronline.com/features/khuga-dam-boon-bane/2011/03/08
[6] ibid
[7] http://manipuronline.com/headlines/jac-negates-ifc-minister-on-two-counts/2011/03/27
[8] http://kanglaonline.com/2012/10/dolaithabi-barrage-to-be-complete-by-2014/
[9] ibid
[10] http://irrigassam.nic.in/

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources

Analysis MoWR’s Advisory Committee’s Decisions for Northeast – January 2009 to Dec 2013

This is analysis of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India[1] from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting held in December 2013. In our last analysis of TAC minutes we have covered the decision taken for NE states from July 2011 to December 2013 which  is available at – https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/. In this analysis, we have covered the same for an extended period. In these five years TAC has accepted project proposals worth of 5515.46 crores. In calculating the total cost of the projects considered we have considered only the projects whose proposals were given clearance by TAC. In these five years, some of the projects also made two appearances with revised costs. In such cases the higher revised cost has been taken into consideration, e.g. Khuga Multipurpose Project and Dolaithabi Barrage Project, both located in Manipur were accepted by the committee in its 100th meeting (held on 9th October 2009) with revised cost of Rs 381.28 crore and 251.52 crore respectively. In the 115th meeting (held on 24th July 2012) of the TAC, these two projects were considered again where the cost for Khuga Project was Rs. 433.91 cr and for Dolaithabi Project it was Rs. 360.05 Cr. The same is the case for the Thoubal Multipurpose Project which appeared in 101st and 115th meeting of the TAC.

Within these five years, TAC has given financial clearance to 26 flood and erosion control projects and majority of these projects are from Assam. The committee gave the clearance to 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects.[2] The committee also gave clearance to a strom water drainage improvement project below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong in Sikkim within this period.

In this period, largest no of considered (25) and approved (20) projects were from Assam. Assam also has the maximum cost of projects among all states (Rs. 2631.99 Cr). Highest number of projects were considered (16) and approved (14) in the year 2009, with total cost of Rs 2321 Crores, which too was highest among all the years.

As found in our previous analysis, in the last five year from 2009 to 2013 TAC has not rejected a single project. Five projects had been deferred but were approved in the subsequent meetings within the same period. In the 108th meeting (held on 4th January 2011), the TAC did not discuss two projects on the Brahmaputra river stating “It was observed that the flood control and anti erosion scheme of Brahmaputra Board are implemented through Central Fund, which do not require investment clearance from the Planning Commission. Therefore, these schemes need not be put up to the Advisory Committee. However, the technical aspect of such project may be looked into by Central Water Commission as per past practice.”  But both these projects were reconsidered in the 110th meeting of TAC (held on 20th July 2011) and were cleared by the committee.

So this seems like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. Reading of the minutes of the meetings also reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the questions for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the projects suffer. Nor is there an discussion about the performance of the projects.

As we noted earlier, this committee functions in most non transparent, non participatory and unaccountable way. Neither the minutes nor the agenda notes of the meetings are in public domain. Following our letters along with TAC analysis in April 2011, addressed to Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission and members of the National Advisory Council, for the first time, TAC minutes were put up on CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.gov.in/main/webpages/TAC%20minutes.html). However, the last uploaded minutes were for the 115th meeting held in July 2012, after which minutes have stopped being uploaded. Secondly, some of the links are not working and all the files are unnecessarily large PDF files since only scanned pages of the minutes are put up, in place of the PDFs of normal word files, which would be of much smaller size. The TAC also has no independent, non government members, all the members are government officials. As we wrote to MoWR and Planning Commission in April 2011 and again in March 2014, there is urgent need for TAC to have  such members so that they provide objective perspective about the projects that come up before TAC.

The importance of functioning of this committee cannot be over emphasised. As we  wrote  in our letter to MoWR and Planning Commission, TAC “considers dozens of such projects with huge economic, social, environmental and other implications for the country in every one of its meetings. All of these projects are supposed to be public purpose projects, and are taken up using public resources. The Planning Commission accords investment clearance to the projects only after the TAC clearance. This Committee’s decisions are perhaps the ones which impact on India as a whole the most – as they relate to land and water – which are the basic life sustaining and livelihood providing resources for the people.”

It is high time that first effective steps are taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable.

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

State No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 106.6
Assam 25 20 2631.99
Manipur 10 10 2268.99
Meghalaya 1 1 5.63
Sikkim 1 1 48.55
Tripura 6 6 453.7

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 5 years period.

Year-wise List of Projects Cleared by TAC

Year No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
2009 16 14 2321
2010 5 5 663.67
2011 12 9 497.33
2012 5 5 2208.81
2013 9 9 1439.45

Meeting-wise List Projects Cleared by TAC January 2009 to December 2013

Sl. No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
95th 20.01.2009 4 3 1 0 196.07
96th 16.02.2009 2 2 0 0 168.14
100th 09.10.2009 6 5 1 0 264.73
101st 30.11.2009 4 4 0 0 77.26
102nd 28.01.2010 1 1 0 0 59.91
103rd 11.03.2010 1 1 0 0 302.22
106th 16.09.2010 3 3 0 0 301.54
108th 04.01.2011 2 0 2 0 0
109th 04.03.2011 3 3 0 0 70.13
110th 20.07.2011 5 4 1 0 211.56
111th 17.08.2011 1 1 0 0 167.09
112th 14.09.2011 1 1 0 0 48.55
115th 24.07.2012 5 5 0 0 2208.81
117th 21.03.2013 1 1 0 0 155.87
118th 30.07.2013 2 2 0 0 467.38
119th 29.08.2013 2 2 0 0 601.67
120th 13.09.2013 1 1 0 0 42.96
121st 08.10.2013 2 2 0 0 146.01
122nd 20.12.2013 1 1 0 0 25.56
Total   47 42 5 0 5515.46

95th meeting (20.01.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 196.07 crores (revised costs have been taken into consideration)

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Protection of Sialmari Area Morigaon/ AS 2002 B’putra 14.29 (25.73) Accepted
2 Protection of Bhojaikhati, Doligaon and Ulubari AS 2002 B’putra 14.52 (27.92) Accepted
3 Protection of Majuli Island Ph II-III AS New B’putra 116.02 Deferred the proposal with suggestion to prepare the cost at current prices.
4 Raising & strengthening Dyke from from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti erosion measures AS New B’putra 142.42 Accepted

96th meeting (16.02.2009): Accepted Total – Rs 168.14 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Flood protection of Majuli Island Ph-II & III AS New B’putra 115.03 Accepted
2 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New B’putra 23.32(53.11) Accepted partially & suggested that proposal of coffer dam, pilot channel, etc. may be put up to the Standing Committee for expert opinion

100th meeting (09.10.2009): Accepted: TOTAL – Rs 897.53 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Borolia Irrigation Project AS 1980 Brahmaputra 92 m 6.775 (135.93) 9717 15,000 Ha Deferred due to non-submission of State Finance Concurrence
2 Khuga Multipurpose (Major- Revised) Manipur 1980 Khuga/ Imphal 230 m 15 (381.28) 9575 14,755 Ha Accepted
3 Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Med Revised) Manipur 1992 Iril/ Manipur 79 m 18.86 (251.52) 5,500 7,545 Ha
4 Gumti Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1979 Gumti 96 m 5.88 (83.01) 4,486 9,800 ha Accepted
5 Khowai Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1980 Khowai 96 m 7.10 (83.01) 4,515 9,320 Ha Accepted
6 Manu Irrigation Project Tripura 1981 Manu 82 m 8.18 (98.71) 4,198 7,600 Ha Accepted

101st meeting (30.11.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 1059.26 crores

SN Project State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA/ flood prot. Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Raising & strengthening to Puthimari embankment Assam New B’putra NA 30.23 15000 Ha NA Accepted
2 Anti Erosion measures to protect left B’putra Dyke Assam New B’putra NA 27.97 5000 Ha NA Accepted
3 Protection of Gakhirkhitee and its adjoining areas Assam New B’putra NA 19.06 20,000 Ha NA Accepted
4 Thoubal Multipurpose Project (revised) Manipur 1980 Thoubal/ Imphal 1074 m 47.25 (982) 21,862 ha 33,449 Ha Accepted

102nd meeting (28.01.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 59.91 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original Cost-CrRs Benefit-flood protsn Decision
1 Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Dist Assam New Brahmaputra 59.91 18,000 Ha Accepted

103rd meeting (11.03.2010): Accepted: TOTAL Cost of approved projects: Rs 302.22 crores

Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs CCA (Ha) Annual Irrigation (Ha) Decision
Champamati Irrigation Project Chirag/AS 1980 Champamati/B’putra 258.5 m 15.32 (309.22) 17,414 24,994 Accepted

106th meeting (16.09.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 301.54 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Raising & strengthening of tributary dyke on both banks of Kopili River Assam New Kopilli/ B’putra 110.72 Accepted
2 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Dibrugarh/ Assam New Brahmaputra 61.33 Accepted
3 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Palasbari/ Assam New Brahmaputra 129.49 Accepted

108th meeting (04.01.2011): Accepted TOTAL- Rs 0

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New Brahmaputra 23.32(53.11) The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.
2 Protection of Majuli Island from flood & erosion, Ph II-III AS New Brahmaputra 116.02 The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.

109th meeting (04.03.2011): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 70.13crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Dikrong Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Dikrong 23.68 Accepted
2 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Bhareli sub Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Bhareli 16.81 Accepted
3 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Siyom Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Siyom 29.64 Accepted

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection in Tawangchu basin ArP New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood & Erosion Ph II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration of rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in W Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost decision
Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon Sonitpur/Assam New Brahmaputra Rs 167.09 Cr Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

 

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 155.87 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Protection of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 467.38 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

 

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal W Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

 Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar

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[1]While this article only contains the details of the North East India Projects considered in TAC for the five years, we hope to soon provide details of the projects considered by TAC from all over India.

[2] Sicne Khuga Multipurpose, Thoubal Multipurpose and Dolaithabi barrage project, all from Manipur appears twice in this period, they have calculated only for once here.

[3] Feature image – Khuga Mutipurpose project. Image courtesy – http://manipuronline.com/

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources · Sikkim

Lack of Transparency and Accountability Remains the Norm of Functioning for MoWR’s Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) is a very important committee. It accords the financial clearance for any irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project. TAC is supposed to discuss the techno-economic viability of projects as per the resolution published in the Union of India Gazette Notification No. 12/5/86-P-II dated Nov 27, 1987. This committee came into being replacing a similar committee that existed earlier in the planning commission. Even now, the guidelines for functioning of the committee are issued by the Planning Commission.

The Gazette notification cited above also said, “The committee may also invite representatives of any other Government organizations, scientific body of experts in the relevant fields to participate in its deliberations.” This seems like a window to appoint credible, independent, non-government persons in the committee, but this window does not seem to have been used. Among the functions of the committee listed in this notification include, “The functions of the Committee will be to examine projects proposed by State Governments, Central Government or other organizations and satisfy itself that the schemes have been prepared after adequate investigations” and “the need of environment conservation and proper rehabilitation of project-affected persons have been taken into account.” However, our perusal of the functioning of the TAC shows that TAC has failed to fulfill both these mandates.

As noted in the Guidelines for Submission, Appraisal and Clearance of Irrigation and Multipurpose Projects, 2010 available on the CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/publications.html), “The project proposal, thereafter, is put up to the Advisory Committee for clearance, which is, by and large, like single window clearance.” The importance of such a single window clearance becomes all the more important. The guidelines further note, “On the basis of examination conducted by the Advisory Committee, decision on techno-economic viability of the projects is taken in the meeting of this Committee. The projects found acceptable by the Advisory Committee shall be recommended for investment clearance by the Planning Commission and inclusion in the Five Year Plan/Annual Plan.” This shows how important is the role of the TAC in judging techno-economic viability of projects and also from the point of view of prudent planning.

No Transparency, independent participation or accountability of TAC Considering the above, there is strong case for clearly defined norms for transparency, participation and accountability in (1) functioning of TAC; (2) The screening process of the projects at initial stages that also happen under these guidelines in the Central Water Commission, based on which approval for DPR preparation is given.

In view of the significance of TAC, this is SANDRP’s third analysis of the decisions taken in TAC meetings. The present analysis covers decisions taken for North East India from 110th to 122nd TAC meeting. In the two previous analysis done by SANDRP, TAC meeting decisions taken from 95th meeting to 109th meeting has been covered. Here it is important to note that lack of transparency has been observed right from the agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings. The agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings should be uploaded on CWC website but CWC website has minutes only till the 115th meeting held on 24th July 2012 and the website has been last updated on 31/08/2012.

In this analysis we have covered 13 TAC meetings held from July 2011 to December 2013. In these 13 meeting, 21 projects from 6 northeastern states have been considered. But out of the 13 meetings held, projects from northeast were considered only in 10 meetings. TAC has accepted the proposals for projects with a total cost of rupees 4075.46 crore. Majority of the projects were given clearance at the first time of consideration. Thus, on an average TAC  had cleared projects worth of 407.55 crores from the North East in each of these 10 meetings. Number of the projects considered by TAC in each meeting along with their total cost is given below. A state-wise and a project-wise list is also provided.

Total Cost of Projects Cleared by TAC July 2012 to December 2013

Sl No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered from NE No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
1 110th 20-07-11 5 4 1 0 211.56
2 111th 17-08-11 1 1 0 0 167.09
3 112th 14-09-11 1 1 0 0 48.55
4 115th 24-07-12 5 5 0 0 2208.81
5 117th 21-03-13 1 1 0 0 155.87
6 118th 30-07-13 2 2 0 0 467.38
7 119th 29-08-13 2 2 0 0 601.67
8 120th 13-09-13 1 1 0 0 42.96
9 121st 08-10-13 2 2 0 0 146.01
10 122nd 20-12-13 1 1 0 0 25.56
  Total     20     4075.46

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

Sl. No State No of projects approved Total cost of the approved projects, Rs Crore
1 Arunachal 1 36.47
2 Assam 7 1526.85
3 Manipur 7 2268.99
4 Meghalaya 1 5.63
5 Sikkim 1 48.55
6 Tripura 3 188.97

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 30 month period.

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

1. Zero Rejections The TAC did not reject a single project. There was only one project which was deferred in the 110th meeting but it was approved in the next meeting. Rest of the new projects were were approved in the very first meeting of their consideration.

2. Lack of information The TAC minutes provide little information about projects. Specially in case of newer projects, detailed discussions should have happened. The minutes of TAC meetings do not give much of an idea about size, location, benefits of a particular project. In the project- wise list provided towards the end of this analysis, we have provided limited information available in the minutes. Some of the noteworthy missing information is listed below:

– In the 115th meeting, 5 projects from Manipur were considered. Out of these five projects, 2 were multipurpose projects and 3 were barrage projects. Surprisingly, there was no information about where these projects are located, on which river, what the size of these projects. None of the minutes mentioned about whom these projects will actually benefit. Only two projects mentioned about increase in annually irrigated land but no more detail was provided.

– In the 118th meeting, construction of embankments on both banks of river Ranganadi for flood management and river training was considered. But the cost of the project was on the higher side compared to the embankment construction work to be done on the river Dikrong, considered in the same meeting. This cost escalation may be due to the difference in the length of the projects. But this cannot be confirmed since minutes do not mention the length of the proposed embankments.

India's First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
India’s First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

But the increased costs may also be due to the use of Geo bag technology for construction of Ranganadi embankments. Use of Geo-bag technology is a costly affair but nothing has been mentioned about the use of this technology in the minutes of 118th meeting. This is stated in the annexure (Annex VI as mentioned in the document) of the meeting. Interestingly this annexure too has been mentioned only as a corrigendum.

3. No Detailed Discussion on Projects Considered This was very evident in the two previous analysis done by SANDRP and situation remains the same this time as well. In case of all the projects, including the ones considered for the first time, there was no detailed information or any detailed discussion. There is no discussion on technical viability of the project. Reading through the minutes gives an impression that approval for any project considered by TAC is fait accompli. There is no discussion about whether the project is a desirable project, if there are other options available, if this is the best option and so on. Under the mandate given to it, TAC is supposed to discuss all these issues. TAC accepted projects proposals with huge cost and time overruns but little enquiry has been made why such escalation happened.

Dhansiri irrigation project This is a glaring example of cost escalation. The project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29.08.2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. But, it was surprising to find that original cost of the project in 1975 was Rs 15.83 crores as according to the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[1] The same website states that project started in 1975 and supposed to be completed 35 years later in 2010. In the TAC meeting a new time schedule of March 2015 was stated. The cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost over runs (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or whether this project which will take 40 years just to complete will be viable or not. On the contrary, the planning commission representatives said, “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.”

The TAC should have done a detailed assessment why the project took so long time to complete. But it seemed to be contended with the rational that the project authorities provided which was that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed. But in the meantime minutes of the meeting also showed that that major components of the project are in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system were reported to have been completed. There has been no detailed assessment in to any of these aspects.

Imphal Barrage project In this project, the cost of the project mentioned in the minutes of the 115th meeting contradicted with the cost provided in the annexure. The cost of Extension, Renovation and Modernization (ERM) of the Imphal barrage project as mentioned in the minutes is Rs 16.80 crores. But a letter from the Under Secretary, Govt. of Manipur to the Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Manipur dated 21.07.2012 stated the cost of the project as 23.41 crores. This reflects the lack of serious discussion over projects in TAC. It is also surprising that TAC, being the committee which gives the techno economic clearance to projects, does not have clarity about even the cost of the project.

4. No Discussion over Social, Environmental and Other impacts of the Projects The projects cleared by TAC have serious social, environmental and other impacts but the committee never discussed these impacts. TAC does not at all take into account the impacts a project would have on the environment.

In the 118th meeting (30.07.2013), while considering the proposal for flood management of Dikrong along with river training works on both banks, the minutes stated “Effectiveness of existing embankments of river Dikrong has been deteriorating due to lack of repair, siltation of river bed and consequential change in river behaviour, change in flow pattern due to release of Ranga Nadi hydel project etc.” But this is one of the rare instances when TAC mentioned about the environmental impacts on embankments. But rather than asking for more details on these impacts or to see whether embankment would really be a viable option or not, the TAC accepted the proposal. On the other hand nowhere the committee discussed what impacts an embankment has on river bed, siltation or downstream stretches of a river.

Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong/Pare. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
River Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is also important to note here TAC also does not take into consideration impacts of the hydropower projects on the embankments in the downstream of the river. In the above mentioned case, the increased costs of Dikrong embankment should have been charged on the Ranga Nadi HEP, but there is no discussion on this. The Pare hydropower project (110 MW) in Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh is currently under construction on Dikong / PareRiver. Moreover there are at least 10 hydropower projects at various stages in the combined Ranganadi-Dikrong basin in Arunachal Pradesh, including one operating, three TOR approvals given and five additional MoA signed (in addition to a proposed project). There is no provision to assess the impacts of these projects on the embankments downstream of DikrongRiver in Assam. In fact there is no provision for any impact assessment study for embankments even though studies show the disastrous impacts of embankments on environment, floods and on the lives of the people living close to the river.

5. Clearing Same Embankment Projects over Years In terms of embankments, it is observed that the TAC had cleared same projects over the years. Not emphasizing on the environmental impacts of embankment projects is one of the major reasons for this. In the 117th TAC meeting held on 21.03.2013 the proposal for “Protection of Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta at different reaches from Lotasur to Tekeliphuta from the erosion of river Brahmaputra Assam” was considered. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 155.87 crore. But on the same embankment, a project titled “Raising and Strengthening to Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti-erosion measures (to protect Majuli and Dhakukhana areas against flood devastation by the Brahmaputra, Lakhimpur district, Assam) was accepted in the 95th TAC meeting held on 20.01.2009. The estimated cost of the earlier project was 142.42 crore.

A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.
Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

The minutes of the 117th meeting, about the previous scheme said that it “was taken up primarily for closure of breach in the then existing embankment including raising of embankment around the breach area only.” But the minutes of the 95th TAC meeting had said something totally different about the project. The minutes stated that project proposal envisaged – (i) Raising and strengthening of embankment for a length of 13.9 km, (ii) Construction of retirement bund with geo-textile tubes of length 5000 m. This shows how the discussion on the Brahmaputra dyke Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta is 117th meeting is completely misleading. TAC does on even take into account its previous meeting discussions before clearing a project. This possibly gives a hint of a scam.

The Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta has a long history of facing severe erosions. The first geo-tube embankment was constructed on this dyke in Dec 2010. Crores have been spent for the protection of this embankment. But even after that the Dhakukhana sub-division always remained in the headlines during the flood season in Assam. There is need for area specific detailed study assessing the impact on and of the embankment, but little has been done in this regard. Besides, the Bogibeel Bridge, the fourth one on the BrahmaputraRiver, is coming up in the upstream of this embankment. Construction of this bridge would make this dyke even more prone to erosion since the length of this bridge will be 4.94 km, shrinking the wide river to great extent. In a personal visit to the area, one of the government officials informed that as a result of this “funneling action”, the force of water will increase and it will directly hit the embankment leading to more erosion. But TAC has never dealt with these issues in its meetings but cleared all the proposals that it considered.
Short History Brahmaputra Dyke from Sissikalghae to Tekeliphuta[2]

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6. There is no independent, critical voice in the meetings. The agenda, proceedings, or decisions of the meetings are not even in public domain.
7. There is no mechanism to hold the TAC accountable for any wrong decisions taken.
8. The TAC is clearly not fulfilling the mandate given to it in the guidelines for TAC meetings. The guidelines themselves need revision from several points.
9. There is no attempt to assess the justifiability of the kinds of projects that are being accepted and if they are indeed delivering the promised benefits.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection work Arunachal Pradesh New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood and Erosion Phase II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration fo rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in West Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya  New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon against erosion of the river Brahmaputra Sonitpur/Assam  New Brahmaputra 167.09 Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below GreenfieldAirport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Protecion of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
2 Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
1 Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
2 ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal West Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
2 Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

[2] From the brochure published by WRD, Assam at the time of commissioning the geo-tube embankment in Matmora

Ministry of Water Resources

Shalmala River Protection Rally: Local Actions on the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers

On the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers (14th March), more than 1500 people gathered on the Ganeshpal Island in the Shalmala River. The mood was upbeat and there was spring in each step, young and old. The crowd was made up of a remarkable majority of women, all of them with flowers in their hair. There were barefooted farmers, planters with gardens along the river, priests in dhotis clutching files full of river protection stories, swamis who were to deliver a tough message, researchers working on rivers, tribal groups who venerated the Shalmala and after 5 pm, even school children who splashed around in the river! The densely forested river banks were decorated with garlands of flowers and mango leaves and there was a local band drumming rhythmic beats.

"Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers"
“Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers” Photo: All photos by Parineeta, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

The gathering was here to celebrate the lovely Shalmala River, a life giving resource to these villages. On one of the boulders inside the river was a painted notice: “If anyone tries to destroy our environment and rivers, we will NOT allow it”

Sign on a river boulder
Sign on a river boulder

They were unaware that this remarkable local phenomenon was resonating with a similar global endeavor. That the International day of Action for Rivers celebrates just this spirit: of protecting, celebrating and fighting for our rivers. Residents along Shalmala have been taking action for their river for more than 10 years now.

Shalmala River, as the name suggests, evokes lyrical beauty and magic. This small river is a tributary of the West Flowing River Bedthi of the Western Ghats, in Uttar Kannada District of Karnataka.

Bedthi herself is a special river. In the 1980’s when the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited announced its proposal for damming this river for a hydroelectric project, the resultant protest movement brought together myriad groups from Uttar Kannada led by Panduranga Hegde, Ananth Hegde, researches , economists, scholars and activists like Sundarlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva from across India. Like the Narmada and Silent Valley struggles, Bedthi struggle helped lay the foundation stones of an informed discourse surrounding dams and rivers. While it talked the language of a local peasant who did not want his land to be submerged and his river to go dry, it also talked the language of a scholar working on cost benefit analysis and ecological goods and services. The movement is an inspiration to many because the Bedthi still flows freely and the dam is all but scrapped, bowing to the opposition.

Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies

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Shalmala, a smaller tributary of Bedthi is no less special. For one, it is one of the very few protected rivers in India. Following untiring research and advocacy by Bhalchandra Hegde and local communities and with support of Forest Department Officials and erstwhile Chairperson of Western Ghats Task Force Ananth Hegde Ashisara, Shalmala the river has been protected through constitution of Shalmala River Riparian Conservation Reserve in June 2012. With Shalmala River Riparian Ecosystem Conservation Reserve, Uttar Kannada now has 4 CRs under its belt: all of them protecting important rivers in the region, without affecting local traditional use. These include Aghanashini-Lion Tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Bedthi Conservation Reserve and Hornbill Conservation Reserve along the Kali River. Several researchers like Dr. TV Ramchandra from IISC, Dr. Praveen Bhargava, Politicians, Swamijis of local Matths, and importantly the local population have supported this cause.

Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions
Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions

Conservation Reserve is a new concept in the rigid framework of Protected Areas under the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002. The novel part of these reserves is that they seek to protect habitats that are under private ownership also, through active stakeholder participation. They are typically buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved protected forests in India. They are designated as conservation reserves if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the government but used for subsistence by communities, and community reserves if part of the lands are privately owned. Administration of such reserves would be through joint participation of forest officials and local bodies like gram sabhas and gram panchayats.

Shalmala Conservation Reserve was declared in June 2012 through a gazette notification. It encompasses more than 15.9 kms of the Shalmala River, with 100 mts riparian buffer on each bank. The reserve starts at Sahasralinga and culminates at Ganeshpal, the island where the rally took place. Just downstream Ganeshpal, the river takes a plunge down a steep gorge to form the Ganesh falls. From here, the boundaries of the Bedthi Conservation Reserve begin.

One of the important arguments in the proposal for conservation reserve is the unique cultural value of Shalmala River. At Sahasralinga, one is awestruck to see hundreds of Shivlingas carved on the bedrock of the river. The river itself is a temple, with carvings of Shivalingas, Nandi (Basaveshwara), Garuda, deeps and inscriptions. There is a huge pilgrimage here on the occasion of Shivratri.

Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga
Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga

Hydel Project in the Conservation Reserve

Even as the conservation reserve was declared in June 2012, Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) has allotted a 24 MW Hydel project right inside the conservation Reserve across the Shalmala! This 24 MW Ganeshpal hydel project by KARE Power envisages a trench weir as well a dam to store and divert water away from the river. The proposed location of the weir is just upstream of Ganeshpal isalnd. The project envisages a 4.4 kms long Head race tunnel to divert water from river to the powerhouse. The powerhouse is planned to be at the foot of the waterfall.

Through this tunnel diversion which will need blasting in the river bed and riparian zone, nearly 5 kms of the rivers well as the Ganesh Falls will be rendered dry. As a trench weir is proposed, there is no possibility of releasing eflows.

Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala
Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala

The Ganeshpal Island, where the rally took place will be exposed, without a river caressing it and Ganesh Falls will dry up. The project also envisages a 15 kms long transmission line to the power station and most of this area is under forest. In addition, the DPR of the project plans  for construction of roads to the weir, powerhouse and tunnels as well as workers colonies and rest house with recreational facilities. If materialised, this small hydel project which does not legally require an Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing, will destroy the Shalmala Conservation Reserve.

The local people are opposing this project with all their might. One of the resolutions of the rally was an appeal to the government to install solar power projects in Uttar Kannada in non-forest regions, which will be heartily supported by locals, but to leave their river alone. It is understandable. The economic, social and cultural ethos of the region is very strongly linked to flowing rivers. People worship rivers, they fish from them, use water for drinking water needs, diver streams for irrigation g their lands and look upon the rivers in awe in the monsoons.

People after the rally
People heading back home after the rally
Enjoying Shalmala
Enjoying Shalmala

The protest rally was organised and addressed by Sri. Ananth Hegde Ashisara, past Chairperson of the Western Ghats Task Force and past member of the State Wildlife Board, noted economist B. Kumarswamy, Dr. Subhashchandra from IISC, Bangalore, Adv. Shankar Bhat from Bangalore, Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP and Shri. Karunakar Gogate from Hosamat, Dakshin Kannada. Shri. Gogate shared now Kukke hydel project planned in his region has not disclosed even its submergence details after 3 years of being told to do so by the government. Incidentally, Kare Power Projects which is proposing Ganeshpal Hydel,  is constructing the Thangarabalu Hydel Project across Krishna in Gulbarga and here too, the company has not shared submergence details for a dam as high as 22 meters!

The meeting was presided over of Swamiji of a Svarnavalli Matth. He is locally known as the Green Swamy. Rather than going into religious sermons, Swamiji told the people: “Along with Shanti Mantra, now is the time for Kranti mantra. Do not let project developers who have no link with your river, come here and destroy it. We have a duty towards our river and we will fulfil it.”

More than 1500 people stood and vowed to protect Shalmala river and their entwined lives in days and years to come.

After the rally, school children splashed about in the river, researchers went for bird watching along the riparian stretch, farmers returned to their gardens to water their crops and the elderly sat down on the river sands for a gossip.

The Shalmala flowed by serenely. May this flow continue…

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

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Ministry of Water Resources

River Yamuna through the Prism of Political Manifestos in Delhi

Deteriorating health over the decades of river Yamuna in Delhi is a perfect example of an abject governance failure. All grandiose plans to restore the river to its past glory have been in vain. Yamuna Action Plans (YAP) implemented since 1993 with a consolidated spent of around Rs 1500 crores have succeeded (sic) in only taking the river closer to its demise in the city-state. 

River Yamuna in Delhi
River Yamuna in Delhi

So, it is but natural if one is tempted to search for a long awaited redemption for the river, at least in terms of vision (if any) and promises (action plan) made in the manifestos of the three key political parties seeking to gain a popular mandate in December 2013 to govern the city-state of Delhi.

Releasing a political party’s ‘manifesto’ in advance of a state or national election for membership to legislative assemblies or the Parliament has become routine. Of late in this age of 24×7 news coverage these have become a newsworthy event.

Experts from Congress Manifesto on Yamuna
Experts from Congress Manifesto on Yamuna

The manifestoes for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections were released on 20 November 2013 by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) and on 26 November 2013 by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These three political parties, AAP being a rookie, claim to be the key contenders for political power in Delhi.

A comparative assessment of the three manifestoes reveal none too hopeful picture for the city’s life-line river, Yamuna. Let me explain.

Is there a vision?

Creation of a ‘vision’ shall pre-requisite a holistic understanding of the issues involved. Prima facie, notwithstanding pious words, such understanding is conspicuous by its absence.   

While both the AAP and the BJP do swear by river Yamuna being the life line river of the city-state and a national heritage respectively, for the INC it is no more than a source of water and dumping ground for sewage.

This vast difference of understanding between them is exhibited by AAP and BJP manifestos devoting at least a chapter to the river, while by the INC the river finds mention in a chapter devoted to the Delhi Jal Board, with a suffix titled ‘making every drop count’. For the INC to adopt the ‘business as usual’ approach in the matter is most perplexing  since clearly it is this very approach that has seen the health of the river in the city go from bad to worse during its (INC) 15 year long reign since 1998.

During Monsoon Yamuna Waters Reaches the Colonies Built on its Flood Plains
During Monsoon Yamuna Waters Reaches the Colonies Built on its Flood Plains

Is there a viable action plan?

Ironically, there is one which could help the city bid a final good bye to the river. For if the INC had its way then the final nail in the river’s coffin – in form of its revived channelisation [one thought that the ghost of river channelisation had been buried with its disapproval in the current MPD (Master Plan of Delhi) 2021] and planned construction of dams upstream – is ready to be hammered.

On the contrary, BJP has been bold enough to commit itself to “Dirty water, flowing through nullas will NOT AT ALL be allowed to be deposited in Yamuna. Instead, it will be recycled and used for public parks, industries and also for toilets.” (Emphasis provided in the manifesto document itself). And yet, presumably with Akshardham standing in the flood plain like the proverbial mill stone around its neck, the party has failed to make any commitment on how it plans to deal with flood plain encroachment/s. It is not clear if it understands the importance of protecting the floodplain. Even as far its claimed objective is concerned, BJP has not shown how it aims to keep untreated sewage out of Yamuna.

With what purpose does BJP plan to constitute a ‘Delhi Yamuna Development Authority’ (while a PM appointed and LG chaired River Yamuna Development Authority already exists) remains unanswered? Although inclusion of this sentence with its belief on river Yamuna being a national heritage seems to suggest that the said authority might have a heritage angle to it?

Moreover, BJP’s press release (dated Nov 26, 2013) announcing the publication of its manifesto, strangely mentioned, “Beautification of Yamuna like Thames and Sabarmati rivers”. To put it most charitably, this also shows its short sighted vision. Yamuna is so unlike Thames, the very comparison shows how limited is its (BJP) understanding. As far as Sabarmati is concerned, the water that is seen in it, in the limited stretch within Ahmedabad is actually Narmada waters, meant for the drought prone Kutch and Saurashtra, illegitimately being used in Sabarmati. And downstream from the city, the river Sabarmati remains as dirty as ever!

The AAP scores most points here. It not only provides a preface to its action plan but devotes two para to keeping the city’s sewage and industrial waste away from the river. It also boldly commits itself to stopping encroachments in the river’s flood plains.    

High Rises in the Flood Plains:  Akshardham Temple and Commonwealth Games village both were built in Yamuna flood plains
High Rises in the Flood Plains:
Akshardham Temple and Commonwealth Games village both were built in Yamuna flood plains

The problem as we see in these manifestos?

Bold statements apart, that “clean river is a revived river” imagery underlies all the three manifestos. This we see as one of the key problems with the approach taken.

A ‘revived’ river is not just a ‘clean’ river. It is also a river which if perennial (like river Yamuna) then it must flow round the year; whose flood plain is secure; which floods in a regular and natural manner and where biodiversity is thereby thriving. We find an absence of such inter-related allusion in all the three manifestos.

Yes, indeed river Yamuna is the city’s key supplier of water, but can that dependence justify it (river) being put on the line, as a living natural entity of unimaginable antiquity? If only there were efforts made to manage the water demands of cities, industry and irrigation, it is not impossible for the river and its dependent humans to co-exist in a state of mutual harmony and health. 

Is there no silver lining?                     

There are quite a few. There is talk of rain water harvesting and grey water re-cycle to meet non potable water needs. Improved sanitation is another welcome objective.  

The fact that perhaps for the first time ever, river Yamuna finds conspicuous mention in all the political party manifestos is a welcome beginning. 

But if only, one of the root causes of the river’s ills, namely the impugned inter state MOU (which has enabled a total drying of the river in non monsoon months) on sharing of river Yamuna water signed in 1994 had been understood and addressed for its rectification in any of these manifestos?

The Yamuna Manifesto

Incidentally, a different, The Yamuna Manifesto has just been published. A bilingual (Hindi and English) publication, combining the views of activists and artists, blurring boundaries between fact and the imaginary, it is an attempt to widen ideas around ecology, to re-territorialize it, and to move beyond binary narratives of catastrophe and untouched nature, to one of multidimensional reframings. The political parties can possibly benefit from it. For copies, write to the author.

Manoj Misra (yamunajiye@gmail.com)

Ministry of Water Resources

Rajasthan Remains Silent As Madhya Pradesh Goes Ahead with Dam Projects in Interstate Chambal Basin

It seems Rajasthan state is ignored and is silent as Madhya Pradesh is going ahead with massive water resources development projects in interstate ChambalRiver basin. Some of these projects were even part of the interstate projects discussed for several years between the two states and now Madhya Pradesh is going ahead with them unilaterally. Mohanpura and Kundaliya projects were also part of the ParbatiKalisindh ChambalRiver link, one of the priority links of Union Government, but now MP is going ahead with them without any consultation with Rajathan or Government. In response to SANDRP questions, Madhya Pradesh responded, as recorded in the minutes of 68th meeting of EAC held in Sept 2013, “It was clarified that the NWDA scheme has not been accepted by the M.P. Government and is not likely to be implemented in the near future. The M. P. Government wants immediate implementation of Mohanpura Project”.

Life irrigation project in the NCS. Source: SANDRP partners
Lift irrigation project in NCS. Source: SANDRP partners

Not only that, the MP has ten times increased the size of the projects, which will have huge, unassessed downstream impacts on people, river and environment. The interstate National Chambal Sanctuary (NCS) will also be seriously adversely affected, but the downstream Rajasthan seems neither consulted nor concerned.

Gharial resting on a sand bank with Indian Cormorants and Lesser Whistling-ducks in the NCS  Source: SANDRP partners
Gharial resting on a sand bank with Indian Cormorants and Lesser Whistling-ducks in NCS
Source: SANDRP partners

Below we have given some information about some of the projects that have come up for clearance before the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects (the meeting number and date of meetings are given) over the last couple of years. All of these projects are in Chambal basin in Madhya Pradesh and are being taken up without consent of or consultation with state or people of Rajasthan.

Mohanpura Major Irrigation Project

Dist/ State Rajgarh / Madhya Pradesh
River/ Basin                       Newaj
Proposal TOR
Developer Water Resource Department, Bhopal, Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Height of Dam (m) 47.90
Drinking water supply 20 MCM
Industrial Water Supply 60 MCM
CCA (Ha) 65,000
Submergence area (Ha) 7051
Area required (Ha) NA
Villages affected 36 (1800 families) (10,240 persons)
ForestLand NO

Decision

52nd Meeting (16-17.09.2011) Decided that some additional information may be submitted
53rd Meeting (11-12.11.2011)  No effective discussion on the parameters of the project could be made and it was decided that the project shall be discussed again along with the information submitted by the M.P. Govt.
54th Meeting (26-27.12.2011) Recommended scoping clearance and TORs with the same comments and observations made for Kundaliya Project.

This Mohanpura project (for more information on this, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/mohanpura-dam-in-madhya-pradesh/) have been under discussed in the EAC now for full environment clearance and does not include any reference to Rajasthan, interstate aspects, downstream impacts, or impact on Chambal River of National Chambal Sanctuary. Some details in this respect are given below.

Much bigger Mohanpura Reservoir proposed compared to the PKC proposal It is clear from the perusal of the Feasibility Report of the PKC link given on the NWDA website that the project now proposed by the Govt of Madhya Pradesh is much bigger and an unviable scheme. The Gross and live storage of the NWDA scheme is 140 MCM and 52.5 MCM, where as the proposal now has gross storage of 616.27 MCM and live storage of 539.42 MCM, which means the live storage proposed now is more than ten times the live storage proposed in NWDA scheme. In fact the NWDA scheme had the proposal to transfer 464 MCM from the Patanpur Dam to the Mohanpura dam and yet, under the Mohanpura live storage capacity proposed under NWDA scheme was much smaller. 

Location map of the Mohanpura Project (Source: Project EIA)
Location map of the Mohanpura Project (Source: Project EIA)

Interstate aspects ignored The project is coming up on an interstate river basin and will have clear implications for the downstream state of Rajasthan, but there is no mention of this in the EIA. Several meetings have also happened between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan about the PKC link mentioned above. The Government of India has prioritized this link, but by taking up this project unilaterally without consent of Rajasthan or Centre (Ministry of Water Resources) the Madhya Pradesh government is violating the interstate and federal norms. The EIA does not even mention any of these issues.

Kundaliya Major Irrigation Project

Dist/ State Rajgarh and Shajapur Districts/ Madhya Pradesh
River/ Basin                       Kalisindh
Proposal TOR
Developer Water Resource Department, Bhopal, Govt of Madhya Pradesh
Height of Dam (m) 44.50
Drinking water supply 18 MCM
Industrial Water Supply 84 MCM
Diversion 1037 cumecs of LakhundarRiver to river Kalisindh
Live storage capacity 495.20 MCM
CCA (Ha) 58040
Catchment Area (sq km) 4900
Submergence area (Ha) 7476
Villages affected 56 (8630 persons)
Forest land 680 ha

Decision

52nd Meeting (16-17.09.2011) Desired some more info.
53rd Meeting (11-12.11.2011) It was decided that the project shall be discussed again along with the information submitted by the M.P. Govt. The Committee felt that considerable area of forest land is to be submerged in the project (680 ha). The forest maps provided as a part of additional information lack clarity.
54th Meeting (26-27.12.2011) Recommended scoping clearance and TORs with some suggestions/comments.

Kalisindh Major irrigation project

Dist/ State Sajapur/ Madhya Pradesh
River/ Basin Kalisindh
Proposal TOR
Developer Water Resources Department, Govt of Madhya Pradesh
CCA 49023
Submergence area (Ha) 4239
Area Req (Ha) 4919
Village affected 15 (2384 PAFs)

Decision

61st Meeting (12-13.10.2012) Sought some additional information.
62nd Meeting (23-24.11.2012) Recommended clearance for pre-construction activities and TOR with some additional TORs.

It is high time Rajasthan government and people wake up to this reality of upstream developments and write to Madhya Pradesh, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and also Union Water Resources Ministry against these developments.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

Floods · International Water Issues · Ministry of Water Resources

Bangladesh’s Amazing and New Flood Forecasting: A Tip for India’s CWC to Improve its Flood Forecasting Performance

Bangladesh has come up a new flood forecasting and warning system with several amazingly useful features of forecasting floods available on their website from June 2013. Flood forecasting is a vital non-structural measure to mitigate flood losses which can be very useful for a deltaic nation like Bangladesh which face brunt of floods annually. The Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) is under the aegis Bangladesh Water Development Board and is supported by UNDP through the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (Phase II) and Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. The website can be accessed at http://www.ffwc.gov.bd/index.php.

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While the features have become available on website since June 2013, many of them have been otherwise available since 2011. In fact, Interactive Voice Response [Calling from mobile (phone no- 10941), flood and weather messages can be heard in Bangla (charge applicable)] facility is available since 2011.

The Deltaic Bangladesh Geographically, Bangladesh is country located in one of the biggest active deltas in the world with an area of about 1,47,570 sq km.  The climate of the country is subtropical-monsoon climate where annual average precipitation is 2300 mm which varies from1200 mm in the north-west to over 5000 mm in the north-east. Bangladesh, as stated in its Annual Flood Report of 2012, has a total of 230 rivers out of which 57 are Transboundary Rivers. 54 of these transboundary river flows from India to Bangladesh which includes the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. Bangladesh consists of flood plains of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna rivers and their numerous tributaries and distributaries. The FFWC carries out monitoring of 86 representative water level stations and 56 rainfall stations across Bangladesh.

The FFWC Website The homepage of the FFWC website presents a map of the whole country and its rivers, marked with flood forecasting sites in Bangladesh which is really useful for a number of reasons:

(i) For a first time visitor it gives a good idea of the rivers in Bangladesh and their flood forecasting sites.

(ii) When the cursor stops at a particular forecasting site, a pop up site appears with location details, water level, highest water level and danger level at that particular site.

(iii) with locations of forecasting sites on the same river clearly marked, one can get an overview of the situation across the river basin.

(iv) colour code of the symbol at each FF location gives an idea if the water level is above/ below warning or danger level or High Flood level.

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The homepage of FFWC offers an option to view the whole website in Bangla. This is very welcome and useful since this important information can be accessed and used by people in local language.

The home page also provides information on the sites where water level is currently on the rise or above the danger mark. Below the line of tabs of the website, name of the sites where water level is on the rise keeps on scrolling. Clicking in any of the sites in the scroll, leads to a pop-up where the rise in water level is presented in graph for the previous one week. The rise in water level for each day is also showed according to time which appears when the cursor is kept on any of the dots of the graph.  This pop up can also be saved either as a photo, as a pdf or as a SVG vector image.

The FFWC website provides rainfall data and water level data of every designated site in the four river basins of Bangladesh under the ‘data’ tab: Bramaputra (13 sites), Ganga (17 sites), Meghna (15 sites) and South East Hills (10 sites).  The rainfall data table gives rainfall of the day, along with previous two days rainfall, normal monthly rainfall and cumulative rainfall for the month. But here FFWC can add the total rainfall data for the whole season which will make it more useful.

The water level data table provides water level of the day, previous day water level and projection of water level for the next three days along with name of the river and location name for 38 sites in Brhamaputra basin, 27 sites in Ganga basin, 26 sites in Meghna basin and 7 sites in South East Hill Basin. ps 10

The FFWC website under the ‘Forecasting and Warning’ tab provides very substantial information regarding floods under following heads: ‘Flood Summary’, ‘Flood Bulletin’, ‘3-day Deterministic Flood Forecast’, ‘5-day Deterministic (experimental) Flood Forecast’, ‘Medium Range (1-10 Days)Forecast’ ‘Structure Based Forecast’ (available for a few structures like embankments or bridges on experimental basis) and ‘Special Outlook’ (only in Bangla language).

Under the ‘Map’ tab, the website has ‘Rainfall Distribution Map’ and ‘Inundation Map’. The rainfall distribution map[i] provides at a glace picture of rainfall over the last 24 hours. The latter provide the options to view inundation maps[ii] for the given day and forecasts for next two days, both for Dhaka and for Bangladesh as a whole. ps 2

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The ‘Reports’ tab holds annual reports on floods in Bangladesh for last five years. In the ‘Hydrograph’ tab, the website first provides of forecast of water level for each site through a graph. Under ‘Forecast’ the website provides observed water level at each selected site for the day, previous six days (with all the observations available on the graph) and forecast for the next three days. This is provided for 89 sites which include 8 sites from South East Hills basin, 26 sites in Meghna basin, 21 sites in Ganga basin and 34 sites in Brahmaputra basin. Division wise break up is: Borisal-1; Chittagong-11; Dhaka-30; Khulna-6; Rajshahi-14; Rangpur-12; Sylhet-15. It also provides monsoon hydrograph for 104 sites, where the water level throughout the monsoon is given, some of the graphs seems to show flat levels, though, raising questions if these are providing correct information.

Here for some sites several selected years’ monsoon season data is also represented through graph for some of the sites but it becomes bit confusing since no rational for choosing a particular year is provided. Providing the basis for choosing a particular year monsoon will clarify the picture. In both ‘forecast’ and ‘monsoon’ options the sites are presented not only river basin wise but also on the basis of regions making it more easy to use. Hydrograph also includes ‘Real Time Data’ of three sites. The real time data of these three sites presents the water level from one day to last 60 days through graph.

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GoI-CWC’s Flood Forecasting website If we compare this with the flood forecasting website of Government of India’s Central Water Commission (http://www.india-water.com/ffs/index.htm), the CWC site home page has two options ‘list based’ and ‘map based’ but the latter surprisingly never worked for this whole monsoons season, it has never worked, it seems. Clicking on the map based option leads to page which asks for plug in download. There is also an option for map browser installation but that never worked.

The ‘list based option’ has the flood forecasting sites under three options – state, basin and region-wise. But there is no page where all the flood forecasting sites can be found at one place. CWC flood forecasting site provides forecasts available at a given point of time, only for one day and which is removed as soon as the time of forecasting gets over. The forecasting in table format is made only for those sites where the water level has crossed the warning level. The CWC flood forecasting website does not provide three day, or five day or ten day forecasts. This is in contrast with the flood forecasting done by Bangladesh because the website provided water level data for each site in the country in one place and it is fast, more responsive and user friendly. Besides, on CWC site there is no option of keeping a record of previous forecasts. All the forecasting data available in the CWC website is available in English and not even in Hindi.

In case of CWC, there were also instances when water level even after crossing the danger level did not appear in the flood forecasting table. This has been observed for example in case of the Sahibganj site on the GangaRiver. Sahibganj did not appear in the flood forecasting table even for once even though the site was witnessing low to moderate floods as shown in the list base option of the same website.

There are also several other issues with the CWC flood forecasting website e.g. wrong flood forecasting, no forecasting of the floods during the Uttarakhand disaster and inadequate flood forecasting sites which had been pointed out to CWC by SANDRP[iii].

CWC need to do serious homework to improve its performance in flood forecasting for and in doing so it can take some good lessons from Bangladesh.

Extending the forecasts to GBM basin There is a huge scope for Transboundary cooperation in extending the flood forecasting across the countries sharing Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basins, including Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal and China. In fact Md Amirul Hossain, Executive Engineer at FFWC wrote to SANDRP in response to a question, “The FFWC of Bangladesh has been receiving little (rather very little) upstream data/ information on water level or flood situation. This little data helped us very much for generating everyday flood forecasting. If we would be in a position to share hydro-met data of the upstream, most of within India, few in Nepal & Bhutan, then the Flood Forecasting and Warning Lead time could further be increased/ extended. FFWC-Bngladesh likes to share the information, skill and experience and would be happy to participate in an effort to develop “BASIN FLOOD FORECASTING AND WARNING” for Brahmaputra-Ganges and Meghna basin (GBM-Basin).” It is heartening to see this offer from FFWC, Bangladesh. We hope steps will be taken to realize this potential and more and transparent sharing of flood forecasting information across the countries will be a reality soon.

 Himanshu Thakkar and Parag Jyoti Saikia

Ministry of Water Resources

MoWR’s Draft National Policy Guidelines for Water Sharing – Agenda to push Big projects and Inter Linking of Rivers?

Draft National Policy Guidelines for Water Sharing[1]: Comments[2]

 Copied below are the Comments sent by SANDRP to the Union Ministry of Water Resources in response to MWR’s invitation to send comments by July 31, 2013.

1. What is the value added by these Draft National Policy Guidelines on Water Sharing? What is the immediate reason for bring out these guidelines? The guidelines do not make this clear. This becomes particularly important as under constitution, water is a state subject and among states there is increasing suspicion that centre is trying to take over the rights of deciding about the water resources. If that is the case, as it seems (see comments below), than the guidelines also seem to violate the constitutional provisions.

2. The guidelines use the word “National Interest” at least four times, without explaining who will decide this and how. This is likely to raise suspicions among the states. This is particularly true with provisions like that in section 4.6 (c) saying, “The quantum of water exported from the surplus basin in overall national interest will not be counted as water available for sharing in that basin.” This seems to give unfettered rights to the centre to decide about inter basin transfer of water citing “national interest”.

3. If the Union Ministry of water resources is going to decide what is in National Interest than it is likely to invite risk of ridiculous and risky propositions. For example, the ministry some years ago came out with a scheme of National Projects, but most of the projects under this scheme did not have statutory clearances, or were unviable or were controversial and involved unresolved interstate issues. Thus use of such terms without clear definition and clear checks and balances is not likely to be acceptable.

4. It is pertinent to note that conflicts over river waters, whether inter-country or intra-country, invariably seem to arise only in the context of large projects. So long as the river is flowing freely without any such big projects, there is no cause for any conflict between the upper and lower riparians. As soon as any riparian State plans an intervention (dam or barrage or other diversion structure), anxiety in other riparians is triggered, and a potential for conflict arises. It would appear that large projects tend to become the foci of conflicts. This is essentially because (a) they tend to drastically alter geography and hydrological regimes, and (b) they involve issues of control, power and political relations, social justice and equity. The best course to avoid conflicts is to refrain from such interventions as far as possible, keep them minimal, give advance notice of an intended intervention to all the other riparians, provide full information, take the concerns and consent of the lower riparian into account, and refrain from causing ‘substantial harm’ or ‘significant injury’ to the lower riparian. This point has not been covered in the guidelines.

5. On similar lines, the guidelines basically take a macro view and do not seem to have a place for micro, local, bottom up process or democratic perspective.

6. The sharing should be only of what is available for sharing after the ecological functions of the river (in all its manifestation and catchments) are ensured. These would include the sustaining of wildlife, aquatic life and vegetation; the maintenance of the river regime and the capacity of the river to cope with pollution and regenerate itself; the maintenance of the micro climate; the support of the lives and livelihoods of people dependent on the river on both sides of the political or administrative border; the recharging of aquifers; the preservation of wetlands; the protection of the health of the estuary; and so on. This does not find mention in the guidelines.

7. Its very important to note here that groundwater is increasingly the main source of water for all sources and more and more areas. This is likely to remain the situation whether we like it or not. Under the circumstances, sustenance of rivers flowing all round the year with freshwater as one of the most important groundwater recharge mechanism is also important, both at intrastate as well as interstate level. This aspect should have found a key place in these guidelines.

8. An inter-State river is not a sequence of Statewise segments, it is one continuous flow, one integral whole as a hydrological/ecological system. Allocating so much of its waters to State A, so much to State B, etc, involves a segmentation – a chopping up – of the river. The ideal course would be a joint, agreed, integrated, holistic, harmonious use of its waters by all the basin States coming together. Any statement of sharing principles should begin with this recognition.

9. If a sharing becomes necessary, equitable sharing for beneficial uses must of course be the governing principle, and the Ministry’s draft says this in section 4.3.

The word ‘apportionment’ is best avoided because it suggests an imposition by a judicial or other agency. As mutual agreement is also possible, the word ‘sharing’ seems better. As contending States often argue on the basis of other principles such as ‘territorial sovereignty’ (the Harmon doctrine) or ‘prior use’ or ‘prescriptive rights’, the National Statement of Principles should not merely lay down the principle of equitable sharing but specifically rule out other principles such as those referred to above. Three, it is not enough to say ‘equitable sharing’; the words ‘for beneficial and justifiable uses’ must be added, because the sharing is not for non-use or waste.

The term ‘equitable sharing’ immediately leads to the question of what constitutes ‘equity’, and the draft has something to say about this. The Helsinki Rules enumerate a large number of criteria and leave the actual applicable criteria and the relative weights to be attached to each criterion to be determined in accordance with the circumstances of each case. These are missing here.

Thus, it is not clear how this equitable sharing will be applied and how it will get change with other principles like prior use, high economic value use, etc come in the picture. This principle has always been there, and in spite of such principles, in Maharashtra, a state with largest number of big dams, 70% of irrigation water gets used up by 2% land under sugarcane. Similarly while parts of Krishna basin is highly drought prone, over 3 billion cubic meters of water get transferred from that basin to the high rainfall area of Konkan while the downstream areas in the Krishna basin is severely drought prone. This is also applicable at interstate level as is clear from the reservoir filling methods applicable in all basins, where the upstream dams will release water only when they are full and till than downstream areas wont get any water, irrespective of if  the downstream areas are in the same state or another one. So in absence of clearly defined publicly accountable mechanism to implement this principle, it is of little value.

10. Incidentally, one of the criteria, namely the ‘contribution’ of each BasinState, is a bit dicey. Can that fact give unfettered rights over that water to that state?  If not what will limit those rights? This is because, the State that receives the precipitation also needs downstream state to provide drainage; it follows that by virtue of providing that crucial drainage the lower State also acquires a certain right over those waters. This factor is not mentioned here.

11. The upper riparian tends to assume a primacy of rights, and in any case has control over the waters, putting the lower riparian at a disadvantage. The upper riparian often talks in terms of ‘giving’ water to the lower riparian or ‘sparing’ water for the lower riparian. It is necessary for the Statement of Principles to make it clear that there is no hierarchy of rights; that all co-riparians have equal use-rights over the waters of the inter-State river; that the lower riparian has a right to the waters. If there is a hierarchy, than the hierarchy should be made clear and also how that hierarchy is going to be ensured in real situation.

12. One of the key issues that a statement of principles must deal with is the problem of sharing in a low-flow year. This is clearly recognised in the India-Bangladesh Ganges Water-Sharing Treaty 1996. However, the draft guidelines do not make this clear.

13. The upper riparian, in using the waters, must not cause ‘substantial harm’ (Helsinki language) or ‘significant injury’ (UN convention language) to the lower riparian. (The India-Bangladesh Ganges Treaty contains a ‘no harm to either party’ clause.) The draft guidelines must include this.

14. Under the law as it stands at present, the parties to an adjudication under the ISWD Act are the State Governments. A more inclusive approach seems desirable so as to allow water-users (agriculture, industry, citizens, etc), as well as those likely to be affected by the projects in dispute, to be heard in the adjudication process.

15. Data of all kinds needed for the purposes these guidelines (e.g. section 6.1.1) shall be freely shared by the States concerned and put in the public domain for the information of all without any restrictions on the grounds of confidentiality or secrecy.

16. Section 4.3 mentions that storage of rainwater shall not qualify as direct use of rainwater. However, there are many techniques that require local storage of rainwater and such local storage should not disqualify from being considered as direct user of rainwater. This may be modified to say that storage of water beyond a certain quantity at one place (say 1 million cubic meter) may not qualify as direct use of rainwater.

17. The guidelines are only pertaining to interstate water sharing. However, any such (non binding) guidelines should also include provisions for intra-state, inter-sectoral water sharing.

18.  Section 4.8 is problematic as it does not define what “existing use” is. Is the use of water by fish, plants and nature “existing use”?  Does it count? It seems the existing use is entirely anthropocentric, but in case of an ecologically embedded entity like water this may be seriously problematic. Secondly, it seems to recognise use only when done through projects approved through due process. But there is a lot of informal use of water (e.g. by tribals) that is beyond the project-generated use. Does it count? Thirdly it makes a strange distinction of preplanned use. Do we have well documented and well recognised pre plan uses of water? Fourthly, the use of phrase “Every effort shall be made to protect the existing utilization” creates serious doubts as it gives an escape route that nothing is sacrosanct.

19. Section 4.9.1 also raises serious suspicions since it says even where an existing interstate agreement has approval of all the basin states, it may still not be good enough before “national interests”. This is bound to raise suspicion of all the states.

20. Section 4.10.2 is also likely to raise suspicions as it reads: “In the process of water sharing/distribution, in consultation with the co-basin States, the Centre would take care of the water sharing/distributions required in the national interest… Any State affected adversely due to such sharing/distribution would be adequately compensated by alternative means.” This seems to give rights to centre that so far belongs to the state. As far as the interests of the ecology and environmental flows are concerned, centre has the powers under Environment Protection Act, 1986 and do not have to resort to such seemingly extra constitutional guidelines.

21. The presence of section 4.12 on interlinking further raises the suspicion that this whole effort is geared towards pushing such projects. This should have had no place in these guidelines.

22. In section 5.1b there should have been explicit mention of groundwater use and climate change implications on water use and availability.

23. In section 5.4b(i) it is not clear what is the basis for review after 40 years.

24. The whole guidelines have no place for people, and also has no value for transparency, accountability or participatory processes.

25. Conclusion This exercise may be redone with more open ended terms of reference and holistic way of considering water in nature and with greater faith in the people and democratic processes.

The Ministry should not rush through this. It should give more time for feedback, take up extensive consultation and make the draft available in regional languages.

Himanshu Thakkar[3] (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)


[2] I have used some of the comments on this document by Shri Ramaswamy Iyer.

[3] South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, https://sandrp.in/

Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Ministry of Water Resources

LAKHWAR DAM PROJECT: Why the project should not go ahead

PRESS STATEMENT ON WORLD EARTH DAY: APRIL 22, 2013

We the signatories to this statement would like to bring some key issues to the attention of all concerned on the proposed Lakhwar Dam Project on the Yamuna River in Upper Yamuna River Basin in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand state.

The proposed dam involves a massive 204 m high dam with storage capacity of 580 Million Cubic meters, submergence area of 1385.2 ha, including 868.08 ha forest land, at least 50 villages to be affected by submergence of land in the upstream, many more in the downstream area. This site is just about 120 km downstream of the river’s origins from the holy shrine of Yamunotri.  The composite project involves, in addition to the Lakhwar dam with 300 MW underground power house, another 86 m high Vyasi dam with 2.7 km long tunnel and 120 MW underground power house and a barrage at Katapathar.

As can be seen from the details below:

a)      The project has not undergone basic, credible environment or social appraisal in any participatory manner.

b)      It does not have legally valid environment or forest clearance.

c)      There has not been any cumulative impact assessment of various existing, under construction and planned dams and hydro-projects in the Yamuna system.

d)      There has not been any credible assessment about options for the project.

e)      The project is to come up in an area that is seismically active, prone to flash floods and also prone to erosion and land slides.

f)       The spillway capacity of the project has been awfully underestimated resulting in significant risks of dam damage / breakage with concomitant risks of unprecedented downstream flooding and destruction. It may be mentioned here that Delhi is a major city standing in the path of the river in the downstream area.

g)      The religious and spiritual importance of the Yamuna River is at risk since whatever remains of the river will be completely destroyed both in the upstream and downstream of the project.

h)      No agreement exists among the Upper Yamuna basin states about sharing of costs and benefits of the project, which should be a pre-condition for taking up any such project.

i)        It is well known that Yamuna River is already one of the most threatened rivers in the country and the project shall further adversely affect the river system.

Recently as well as earlier last year thousands of people from Allahabad/ Vrindavan marched to Delhi, seeking a revival of their river Yamuna. The focus of the authorities should be on ways and means to restore the river Yamuna system rather than take such massive project without even basic appraisal.

We thus urge the official agencies at both the state and at the centre level to not go ahead with this project. We urge them to rather take steps to protect and preserve than destroy one of the biggest and culturally important river, without even basic appraisal at project or basin level or any options assessment carried out in a due participatory manner.

We hope that the government will not go ahead with this project until all the issues mentioned have been satisfactorily resolved.

Endorsed by:

Ramaswamy Iyer, Former Union Water Resources Secretary, Delhi, ramaswamy.iyer@gmail.com

E.A.S. Sarma, Former Union Power Secretary, Vishakhapattanam, eassarma@gmail.com

Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Badwani, nba.medha@gmail.com

Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh, Pune, chikikothari@gmail.com

Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Rajasthan, watermantbs@yahoo.com

Prof. MK Prasad, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, Cochin, prasadmkprasad@gmail.com

Bittu Sahgal,  Editor, Sanctuary Asia, Mumbai bittusahgal@gmail.com

Prashant Bhushan, Senior Supreme Court Lawyer, Delhi, prashantbhush@gmail.com

Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, Delhi, vandana.shiva@gmail.com

10. Amit Bhaduri, Prof. Emeritus, JNU, Delhi, amit.bhaduri@gmail.com

Ravi Agarwal, Toxics Link, New Delhi, ravig64@gmail.com

Madhu Bhaduri, Former Indian Ambassador & member Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, madhubhaduri@rediffmail.com

Prof S. Janakarajan, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, janak@mids.ac.in

Dr Dinesh Mishra, Barh Mukti Abhiyan, Bihar, dkmishra108@gmail.com

Sharad Lele, Centre for Environment and Development, Bangalore, sharad.lele@gmail.com

S. Faizi CBD Alliance, Kerala, s.faizi111@gmail.com

Rohit Prajapati, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat, rohit.prajapati@gmail.com

Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Former Professor-IIM Bengaluru, Uttarakhand, bharatjj@gmail.com

Vimalbhai, Matu Jansangthan, Uttarakhand, matujansangthan@gmail.com

20. E Theophilus, Malika Virdi, Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand, etheophilus@gmail.com

Ramnarayan K,  Save the Rivers Campaign Uttarakhand, ramnarayan.k@gmail.com

Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships, Gurgaon, kmenonsen@gmail.com

Dr RK Ranjan, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Manipur ranjanrk50@gmail.com
Jiten Yumnam, Committee on Natural Resources Protection in Manipur, jitnyumnam@yahoo.co.in

Renuka Huidrom, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, mangangmacha@gmail.com

Shweta Narayan, The Other Media, Chennai, nopvcever.new@gmail.com

Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, New Delhi insafdelhi@gmail.com

Nidhi Agarwal, Activist, Community rights on environment, Delhi, nidhi.sibia@gmail.com

Rahul Banerjee, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra, Indore, rahul.indauri@gmail.com
30. Subhadra Khaperde, Kansari Nu Vadavno, Khargone, subhadra.khaperde@gmail.com
Shankar Tadwal, Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Alirajpur, shankarkmcs@rediffmail.com

Michael Mazgaonkar, Gujarat, mozdam@gmail.com

Ranjan Panda, Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha, ranjanpanda@gmail.com

M Gopakumar, Bangalore, gopakumar.rootcause@gmail.com

Janak Daftari, Jal Biradari, Mithi Nadi Sansad, Mumbai, daffy@jalsangrah.org

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Ahdyayan Kendra, Pune, manthan.shripad@gmail.com

Prof Rohan D’Souza, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, rohanxdsouza@gmail.com

Dr Brij Gopal, Jaipur, brij44@gmail.com

Alok Agarwal, Narmada Bachao Andolan & Jan Sangharsh Morch, Madhya Pradesh, aloknba@gmail.com

40. Debi Goenka, Conservation Action Trust, Mumbai, debi1@cat.org.in

Shardul Bajikar, Editor – Natural History, Saveus Wildlife India, Mumbai shardulbajikar@gmail.com

Sankar Ray, Kolkata, sankar.ray@gmail.com

Samir Mehta, International Rivers, Mumbai, samir@internationalrivers.org

V Rukmini Rao, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad, vrukminirao@yahoo.com

Dr. Latha Anantha, River Research Centre, Kerala, latha.anantha9@gmail.com

Mrs Anjali Damania, Aam Admi Party, Mumbai, anjalidamania@rediffmail.com

Manshi Asher, Him Dhara, Himachal Pradesh, manshi.asher@gmail.com

Commodore (rtd) Lokesh Batra, Social and RTI activist, NOIDA, batra_lokesh@yahoo.com

Arun Tiwari, Water activist, Delhi, amethiarun@gmail.com

50. Ananda Banerjee, Writer and member, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi,

Sudha Mohan, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, sudhamohan@peaceinst.org

Dr Sitaram Taigor, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Madhya Pradesh, srtchambal@gmail.com

Bhim S Rawat, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi, we4earth@gmail.com

Prasad Chacko, Social activist, Ahmedabad, prasad.chacko@gmail.com

Swathi Seshadri, EQUATIONS, Bangalore, swathi.s@equitabletourism.org

Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com,

Manoj Mishra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi (09910153601, yamunajiye@gmail.com)

58. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi (09968242798, ht.sandrp@gmail.com)


Annexure

DETAILED NOTES

1. No Options Assessment There has been no assessment to show that this project is the best option available for the services that it is supposed to provide, including water supply to Delhi, irrigation in Uttarakhand, hydropower generation and water storage. It was not done during the process preceding the now out-dated environmental clearance given in 1986, nor has it been done subsequently.

It is well known that Delhi has much cheaper, environment friendly and local options that has not been explored with any sense of seriousness. These include reduction in transmission & distribution losses (which stand at 35%), rainwater harvesting (as National Green Tribunal order in April 2013 exposed, even the Delhi Metro is not doing this) including groundwater recharge, demand side management, stopping non essential water use, protection of local water bodies, protection of flood plains, streams and the ridge, recycle and reuse of treated sewage, among others.

As far as irrigation in Uttarakhand is concerned, in this relatively high rainfall area, and considering the local agro-geo-climatic situation and suitable cropping patterns, better options exist. Similarly about other claimed services.

It may be added here that the EIA manual of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, the National Water Policy and best practices around the world including the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, require such an options assessment study, including no project scenario, before embarking on such costly and risky projects.

2. No Basin wide cumulative impact assessment or basin study: Yamuna River is already in very bad situation in many senses, including being very polluted for lack of surface water flow. The river basin also has large number of projects existing and under construction, See: http://www.sandrp.in/basin_maps/Major_Hydro_Projects_in_Yamuna_Basin.pdf, for details. Particularly, see the concentration of projects in narrow upper Yamuna Basin. However, there has been no basin wide cumulative impact assessment of projects and water use in the basin in the context of its carrying capacity on various aspects. Without such an assessment, adding more projects may not only be unsustainable, it may actually be worse than zero sum game, since the new projects will have large number of adverse impacts. That we may have already crossed the basin carrying capacity upstream of Delhi seems evident from the worsening state of Yamuna over the past decades in spite of investment of thousands of crores rupees. Adding this project with its massive impacts without such an assessment may actually be an invitation to disaster.

We learn that a Yamuna basin study has been assigned to the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (Dehradun). However, it should be noted that in the first place, ICFRE has had poor track record. Its EIA study for the Renuka dam in the same Yamuna basin was so poor that it was based on the poor quality of the study that the National Green Tribunal stayed the work on the project for over a year now.

3. No valid environment clearance, no valid EIA-EMP or Public consultation process

The Composite Lakhwar Vyasi project got environment clearance 27 years back in 1986 without any comprehensive environment impact assessment (EIA) or preparation of environment management plan (EMP) or any participatory process. Some preliminary work started, continued only till 1992 and stopped thereafter for lack of funds.

a) In Sept 2007, the 120 MW Vyasi HEP, part of the original composite project, sought and got environment clearance although the minutes of the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF notes a number of unresolved issues. In Nov 2010 EAC meeting, the EAC considered the Lakhwar Dam for Env clearance, and raised a number of questions, none of them were ever resolved. The EAC did not consider the project in any meeting after Nov 2010.

This sequence of events makes it clear that Lakhwar Dam does not have valid environment clearance. The MoEF and project proponent assumption that the Environment Clearance (EC) of 1986 is valid is not correct, since if that EC was not valid for the Vyasi HEP which has sought and received fresh EC in Sept 2007, then how  could Lakhwar HEP Dam of which Vyasi HEP is a part, continue to possess a valid EC.

Thus to give investment clearance to Lakhwar dam without valid EC will be imprudent, and might invite long drawn legal challenge to the project, resulting in more delays and in turn unnecessary cost escalations.

b) The project also does not have valid EIA-EMP. What ever assessments were done before the 1986 EC cannot be considered adequate or valid today. The environment standards and also environment situation has hugely changed in the intervening 27 years.

The project did not have any public consultation process in 1986 or anytime there after. Fresh EC will require that and the project must go through that process.

4. Issues raised by EAC remain unresolved: When the 43rd meeting of EAC considered the project for EC on Nov 12-13, 2010, the minutes of the meeting raised a large number of questions, all of them remain unresolved. These issues are fundamental in nature. Without resolving these issues, the project should not go ahead.

Just to illustrate, EAC raised questions about the need and usefulness of various project components. It is clear from the EAC minutes that the project also involves construction of Katapathar barrage downstream from Vyasi Power House at Hatiari. However, just about 10 km downstream from this barrage there is an existing barrage at Dak Pathar.  It is not clear why this Katapathar barrage is required, the EAC asked. None of these issues have been resolved.

5. Project does not have valid forest clearance: The composite Lakhwar Vyasi project requires a very large area of forest land, at 868.08 ha, the diversion was originally permitted for the UP irrigation Dept, which was then transferred to Uttaranchal Irrigation Dept upon creation of the separate Uttaranchal State. However, the project has now been transferred to Uttaranchal Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited. The Vyasi Project was earlier transferred to NHPC and now stands transferred to UJVNL.

In Aug 2012 FAC (Forest Advisory Committee is a statutory body under the Forest Conservation Act 1980) meeting, there was a proposal put forward to transfer the clearance for 99.93 ha (out of total forest land of Rs 868.08 ha for composite project) forest land required only for the Vyasi Project to UJVNL from Uttaranchal Irrigation Dept. While discussing this proposal, FAC noted that the Vyasi project was earlier transferred NHPC, without getting the forest clearance transferred in favour of NHPC. In fact FAC has recommended, “State Govt shall examine the reasons for not obtaining prior approval of the Central Govt under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for change of user agency from irrigation dept to NHPC and fix responsibility”. Secondly what is apparent from the minutes of the Aug 2012 FAC meeting is that even the Catchment Area Treatment Plan for the Vyasi project has not yet been prepared. This shocking state of lack of preparation of basic management plan is the consequence of allowing the project based on outdated clearances. The FAC has now asked the user agency to fulfil all such requirements, before which the project will not be given stage II forest clearance. So the Vyasi Project also so far does not have stage II forest clearance.

Most importantly, the transfer of forest clearance for the remaining 768.15 ha of forest land required for the Lakhwar project from Uttarakhnd irrigation dept to the current project agency UJVNL has not been even sought. So the Lakhwar project does not have valid forest clearance even for first stage, and surely no stage II forest clearance. Under the circumstances, the project does not have legal sanction.

6. Inadeaquate spillway capacity The project spillway capacity is proposed to be of 8000 cumecs, as per official website, see: http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Lakhwar_D00723. However, as per the latest estimates, the location is likely to experience probable Maximum Flood of 18000 cumecs. This is as per a paper titled “The probable maximum flood at the Ukai and Lakhwar dam sites in India” by P R Rakhecha and C Clark, presented in the year 2000 at an international Symposium. Dr Rakhecha later joined Govt of India’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. The paper concludes: “For the Lakhwar dam site there would be significant flow over the dam crest after 12 h from the start of the storm hydrograph and this would be maintained for over 18 h. The maximum depth of flow over the crest would be 4 m which is large enough to cause major if not catastrophic damage to the dam structure.”

Thus the spillway capacity of the project needs to be reviewed and it would not be prudent to go ahead without the same as the new PMF could cause major damage to the dam, the paper says. Any damage to this massive structure will have far reaching consequences all along the downstream area, right upto Delhi and downstream.

In fact even for the Vyasi HEP, while discussing the project in the EAC meeting of Aug 16, 2007, the minutes notes that the clarification sought by EAC on Dam Break Analysis for the project is incomplete, inadequate and far from satisfactory and the EAC desired further concurrence of Central Water Commission. In fact, EAC should not have recommended EC to the Vyasi Project with a flawed study. For the bigger Lakhwar project, there has not even been any such appraisal.

7. No agreement among Upper Yamuna basin states, Unresolved disputes The Lakhwar storage project is part of the Upper Yamuna basin. An interstate agreement was arrived at in 1994 for sharing of water in the Upper Yamuna basin among the basin states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (now also Uttarakhand), Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan. Each project under the agreement required separate agreements. However, there has been no agreement on sharing the costs and benefits of the individual projects under the agreement.

On Renuka project also in the same Upper Yamuna basin, there was an agreement that was arrived at in 1994, but the Ministry of Law has said that the agreement is no longer valid. For several years now the Upper Yamuna River Basin Board has been holding meetings, but has failed to arrive at any agreement for sharing the costs and benefits of Renuka dam. For Lakhwar dam there has been not been any serious attempt in that direction. The current project proposal envisages to provide 50% of water (about 165 MCM) to Delhi and 50% to Uttarakhand for irrigation (see: http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/work-on-300-mw-lakhwar-project-to-begin-by-aug-112062200178_1.html dated June 22, 2012 includes statement from project proponent UJVNL (Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd) Chairman). However, this proposal completely ignores the claims of share from the project by Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. To go ahead with the project without an inter state agreement on sharing costs and benefits would surely not be prudent.

8. Inadequate cost estimates As per estimate as on March 1996 the cost of the project is Rs 1446 crore out of which Rs 227 crore have been spent (see: official website http://uttarakhandirrigation.com/lakhwar_vyasi_project.html). Note that this cost was for the composite project, including Vyasi HEP. As per UJVNL official webstie http://www.uttarakhandjalvidyut.com/lakhwar.php, the cost of Lakhwar Project alone is Rs 4620.48 crore on Feb 2010. The same site gives the cost of Vyasi HEP at Rs 1010.89 crores, so the cost of combined project at Feb 2010 PL is Rs 5631.37 crores. The cost has thus seen 300% escalation in 14 years between 1996 and 2010. This is a very costly project and the cost is likely to be even higher at current prices. In any case, the estimate should be for current price level and the cost benefit calculations should also be for the latest date.

9. Seismically active area, erosion prone landscape: The project area is seismically active, flash flood, land slides, cloud bursts and erosion prone. In the context of changing climate, all these factors are likely to be further accentuated. When the project was first proposed in mid 1980s, none of these issues as also the issues of biodiversity conservation, need to conserve forests for local adaptation, forest rights compliance, environment flows etc were seen as relevant or important. However, all of these issues are important today. The project clearly needs to be reappraised keeping all these issues in mind.

~~

Ministry of Water Resources

India Water Week 2013: Another evidence of MoWR working like a big dam lobby?

India Water Week 2013

Another evidence of MoWR working like a big dam lobby?

It is well known that India’s water resources ministry in India and its offices like the CWC and NWDA work more like a big dam lobbies, now increasingly working for the private sector business organisations, rather than the communities that they are supposed to serve. If an additional proof was needed, it has become available in the form, content, inclusion and exclusion of the concerned groups in its India Water Week being organised at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi during April 8-12, 2013.

Ministry of Water Resources, Govt of India, along with organisations likes Central Water Commission, Central Ground Water Board, National Water Development Agency, some related ministries of Govt of India are collectively organising India Water Week during April 8-12. Sponsors of the week long show include some state dam and irrigation organisations to private sector business organisations like L&T and Jain Irrigation and also hydro power company from neighbouring country like the Punatsanchu Hydropower Authority of Bhutan. The theme of this year’s event is: “Efficient Water Management: Challenges and Opportunities”.

The official website (http://www.indiawaterweek.in/) says about the event, “Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India have established a key annual policy and technology showcase event… The event is targeted at International and National audience comprising of policy planners and technologists involved with water resources management in all key sectors of economy”.

Further elaborate statement (http://www.indiawaterweek.in/html/aboutus.html) says something different, “the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India have made a comprehensive plan for creating a unique platform for deliberating the issues involving all stakeholders including decision makers, politicians, researchers and entrepreneurs of water resources not only from Indian arena but also from International avenues”. So all stakeholders involved in India water sector are supposed to be participating in this. However, we see no sign of any scope for the most important stakeholders: farmers, women, tribals, fisherfolk or even critical voices from civil society. The organiser claims to have made efforts “for effective civil society involvement too in the consultative processes of India Water Week 2013”. We have not noticed any, but that must be our fault.

The registration fee: Who can afford? The fee is nominal: only Rs 8000/- per participant. Needless to add, the stakeholders have to make their own travelling and staying arrangements, not included in this registration fees. 99% of Indians cannot afford such fees, but we guess its not for them. The trouble, however, is that this is happening at public expense by the government of India agencies, in the name of people of India, most of whom cannot even participate it it.

The programme page of the official site (http://www.indiawaterweek.in/html/programme.html) opens with a telling statement: “Keeping in view the priorities of the Government of India towards making optimal usage of all the available water resources”. So, very interestingly, whatever the organisers are doing, is not only on behalf of water resources ministry and its subordinate offices, but the entire Government of India.

Commodification of Water That the event organisers equate water resources with water is apparent when they say: “the water resources are a single entity, which are shared by all the above sectors out of a common pool of utilizable water”. They simple do not seem to understand that water is an ecological good, embedded in the ecological entities and when water is taken out, it has consequences.

Enlightening definition of wide consultations What the Ministry understands by wide consultations is abundantly clarified by them. The Programme page says: “The theme for the event has been decided after wide consultations amongst the national and international level stakeholders and workers in the field. You can view the deliberations here.” When you click to view the deliberations, it takes you to: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/programme1.pdf. This page contains minutes of the meeting held on April 30, 2012, chaired by the Central Water Commission Chairman. It actually includes the list of 15 participants, and no prize of guessing that all, each one of them happen to be government officers! It is thus quite enlightening to know what is the meaning of wide consultations. Obviously those mortals who are not government officials have no place in the consultations.

National Water Policy It is learnt from the statements of the Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat that he will launch the new National Water Policy from the inaugural function on April 8, 2013. Here it should be noted that people of India have yet to see the final version of the new NWP, but those who pay the registration fees, will be first to see it! More importantly, it may be recalled that majority of the states that participated in the National Water Resources Council meeting held on Dec 29, 2012 opposed the policy. If one were to go by the latest draft available on MWR website (see: http://mowr.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/DraftNWP2012_English9353289094.pdf), the new policy is likely to advocate treated water as an “economic good”, encourage private sector to be service provider in public private participation mode and largely support business as usual practices rather than learn any lessons from past experiences. For more detailed comments on the new NWP draft, see: https://sandrp.in/wtrsect/Letter_to_NWRC_on_New_National_Water_Policy_Dec2012.pdf.

Buyer Seller meet for Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project There is an interesting session in the event with above sub title. DRIP is a World Bank funded programme managed by CWC for rehabilitation of some 243 dams that are more than 50 years old. The official programme website says, the objective of the event is to facilitate state dam agencies to get “exposure to state of the art technologies and solutions”. Its bit of a mystery what is going to be bought and sold, since even contours of the DRP programme are not in public domain. We hope, it is not about buying and selling of the old dams, as seems to be the case from the title of the session.

Hydropower A quick look at the detailed programme (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/html/event_plan.html) shows that the event will have four sessions on hydropower: 1. Water Availability and issues in development of hydro / thermal power 2. Hydro Power Green Power 3. Hydro Power Generation – Impact on Environment 4. Accelerated Development of Hydropower. The formulation, description and available names of moderators of these sessions clearly show how the MWR is acting like a big dam lobby.

For example, the page on first session (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/IWW-2013-IB2_30.pdf) does not talk about water availability issues at all, but about the huge untapped hydropower potential, like any lobbyist would do. The moderator is Mr A B Pandya, who is known to be proponent of big dams.

For the second session on Hydro Power Green Power (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/IWW-2013-IB2_49.pdf) the very title says that it is going to play the usual pro hydro jingle. Not surprisingly, the moderator is Mr Dasho Chhewang Rinzin from Bhutan’s Druk Green Power Corporation Limited. The session description includes, “Environmental Impacts of Hydro Projects need to assessed in proper keeping in view all aspects”. While former environment minister Jairam Ramesh, Assam Power Minister and many others are on record to have said that almost all EIAs in India are mostly dis-honest, cut and past jobs, to expect Managing Director of Bhutan corporation to moderate such a session is clearly inappropriate decision. It is open secret that Bhutan, in spite of its slogan of Gross Happiness Index, gives scant regard for social or environment issues of hydropower projects. Only where you can do that, can you get away with calling Hydro Power as Green Power.

For the Third Session on Accelerated Development of Hydro Power, (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/IWW-2013-IB2_42.pdf), the session is, to be moderated by the Chairman of Central Electricity Authority, which has been sanctioning every hydropower project that comes its way, without even fulfilling its  duty under Section 8(2) of India Electricity Act 2003, which asks CEA to evaluate the impact of the projects on basin wide context.

For the fourth session on Impact of Hydro Power on Environment (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/IWW-2013-IB2_15.pdf), the description actually talks only about positive impacts of hydropower on environment! Even about negative impacts, it says, “These impacts, however, may not necessarily be characterised as negative impacts”. The description actually shows how ostrich like the organisers are: “there is no universally accepted methodology for monitoring the downstream, reservoir or upstream ecological responses of the river systems”. They would not even like to acknowledge the existence of the report of the World Commission on Dams.

Session on Environment Flows It is indeed welcome to see the session titled: “Case for setting aside gains for environment flow”, though the title should be talking about gains from and not for environment flows. More worryingly, the organisers could not find anyone more credible than former Power Sector Shri Anil Razdan to moderate this session. Mr Razdan clearly has no environmental credentials and is rather known for his advocacy for more hydropower projects. This shows how insincere the organisers are on such vital issues.

There is only one more session on “Water Management and Sustainable Ecosystem” where there is likely to be some discussion on Ecosystem (see: http://www.indiawaterweek.in/pdf/IWW-2013-IB2_28.pdf). The session is to be moderated by Ms Sui Coates, Chief, WSH UNICEF. Good to see some representative of fairer gender at last. We hope UNICEF will in future speak up when dams destroy rivers, forests, biodiversity and livelihoods in future, which they have not done in the past, even though they are active in India.

In Conclusion: No-Water-weeks in India’s Drought Prone areas Even as the mandarins of water resource establishment host this multi crore  water week, very large parts of India, including parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are facing drought and crores are people are suffering no-water-week, week after week. The organisers of India Water Week have clearly scant regard for these crores of unfortunate people. They may in fact join in chorus with Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar (see: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/ajit-pawar-apologises-for-shocking-remark-if-no-water-in-dam-do-we-urinate-in-it-351163) in mocking at these people. It would however be useful to remind them that Maharashtra is the state of India that has the highest number of big dams, more than a third of India’s big dams are in that state, and yet that state is claimed to be suffering drought worse than the 1972 drought, when the rainfall is much higher than the 1972 drought in most drought affected districts (for details see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/how-is-2012-13-maharashtra-drought-worse-than-the-one-in-1972/) and when the states has built close to thousand big dams in these 40 years. Big dams are not going to be solutions of India’s Water Future, they are actually going to create more problems and we need to find real solutions, beginning with some honest review of past experiences, which is what such event should start from. But the organisers of India Water Week seem in no mood for any such exercise.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

Manoj Mishra (yamunajiye@gmail.com)

Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi (http://www.peaceinst.org/)

 

Dr Latha Anantha (rrckerala@gmail.com)

River Research Centre, Thrissur, Kerala

 

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

SANDRP, Pune

 

Shripad Dharmadhikary (manthan.shripad@gmail.com)

Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune