Disasters · Western Ghats

Malin Landslide Tragedy underlines the vulnerability of Western Ghats

In the tragedy at a tiny village of Malin in Ambegaon, Maharashtra, as per reports till now, around 40 houses are under huge debris created by a landslide that occurred early in the morning on the 30th July 2014. The death toll till now is reported to be 44 with 150-300 missing as per different estimates. Unfortunately, the chances of survival of the missing are dim as per the Chief of Rescue operations.

Destruction at Malin Photo by Atul Kumar Kale Local activist
Destruction at Malin Photo by Atul Kumar Kale Local activist
Photo by Atul Kumar Kale
Photo by Atul Kumar Kale

Let us look at some key factors at play here:

VERY HEAVY RAINFALL: This region is nestled in the Northern Western Ghats which receives heavy rainfall in the monsoons. The region was receiving particularly very heavy rainfall in the week between 25th to 31st July. SANDRP had posted an alert on this on SANDRP Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in) on the night of 29th July.

Cumulative rainfall in the week as recorded by NASA’s (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of US) TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, see: http://trmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/publications_dir/instant_2.html) was more than 600 mm, most of it between 29th-30th July. In fact on the 29th July, the region including Malin was shown purple in 24 hr rainfall map, which signifies the highest range of rainfall, exceeding 175 mm.

The region is still experiencing heavy to very heavy rainfall as we write this on Aug 1, 2014.

AccumulatedRainfall

scale

Malin receives very heavy rainfall on the 29th July, 9 pm by NASA TRMM
Malin receives very heavy rainfall on the 29th July, 9 pm by NASA TRMM
Malin receiving high rainfall on the 30th July 2014, 9 pm IST NASA TRMM
Malin receiving high rainfall on the 30th July 2014, 9 pm IST NASA TRMM

It was surprising to read report from Down to Earth about “mere 4 mm rainfall in 24 hours” before the landslide, which is clearly not the case.

With changing climate, frequency of such high intensity rainfall events is predicted to increase, making these areas even more vulnerable to disasters like landslides.

Landslide Warning

Following the very heavy rainfall in the regions around Northern Western Ghats, extending till Gujarat, NASA’s TRMM had also highlighted this region to be strongly landslide prone on the 30thof July.

See NASA TRMM Landslide Prone Area Map on the 30th July 2014 below which highlights Bhimashankar and Malin region:

NASA Landslide potential Map, 6 pm IST on July 30, 2014
NASA Landslide potential Map, 6 pm IST on July 30, 2014

The dam connection:

The Malin village is approximately 1.5 kms from backwaters of the Dimbhe Dam, which is an irrigation project involving a big dam completed in 2000. On the 31st July, the dam held 44% of its live storage, that is about 156 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) of water. The link between water level fluctuations in dams and landslides in the rim of the reservoir and backwaters is well documented. Some geologists have also recorded increased landslides activity in areas surrounding Dimbhe Dam in the past. ( http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/City/Mumbai/More-landslides-likely-in-5km-radius-of-Dimbhe-dam/articleshow/39314716.cms) Even if the dam was not overflowing when the tragedy occurred, it is well known that the dams can induce such landslides around the rim in view of standing water with fluctuating levels, change in drainage pattern and underground water flow pattern.

Google map showing Dimbhe Dam and location of Malin village close to the backwaters
Google map showing Dimbhe Dam and location of Malin village close to the backwaters

Key salient features of Dimbhe dam: Ht: 67.21 m; Lengh: 852 m;  Live Storage Capacity: 354 MCM (www.mahawrd.org); Reservoir Area: 1754.7 ha.

The role played by the dam and its operations on the geology of the region and its possible connection with the landslide needs to be investigated in depth.

Landslides are not entirely new for the region

The region has seen some landslides in the past (e.g. in 2006-7) according to Saili Palande Datar, an ecologist and historian with Kalpavriksh. According to Anand Kapoor of NGO Shashwat active for decades in the region, a landslide had occurred earlier than that, where some cattle were buried and people had to be rescued. In a massive landslide on July 23, 1989, in village Bhaja in Mawal about 60 km from Pune, 39 people were killed.

In the Western Ghats of Pune as well as Maharashtra, a number of landslide-related tragedies have happened. According to a resident of village Tikona Peth in the catchment of Pavana Dam in Mawal tehsil of Pune, a landslide took place in in her village July, 1994 after heavy rains. There were no casualties, four houses were demolished by huge rocks. In August 2004, one person died due to landslide in Male, near Pune, in 2004 again, a worker died due to landslide in work related to a tunnel for a lift irrigation scheme, in June 2005, 4 workers died due to landslide at a tunnel of Ghatghar hydroelectric project.

Role of large scale land modifications in the region

Indeed according to a landslide map developed by Dr. David Petley, International Expert on Hazards and Risks in the Department of Geography at Durham University, the entire region of Western ghats has experienced landslides.

Dr. Petley has also written about the Malin Landslide here: http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2014/07/31/malin-landslide-1/.

Dr. Petley told SANDRP, “Large scale land use modification and deforestation is the issue here”. He further said: “I would hypothesise here that the very heavy rainfall was the trigger, thick weathered soil, the shape of the slope and poor management of development and of water. A proper investigation should be able to ascertain whether this is right, but such large-scale modification of the landscape should be resisted.”

11_08 2011 map
From Dr. David Petley: Landslide events where fatalities have occurred. We can see that Northern Western Ghats also features regularly in the map.

Landscape modifications around Bhimashankar

Bhimashankar region, the origin of river Bhima which is an important tributary of Krishna, is a high rainfall region with spectacular biodiversity. It is also home to Maharashtra’s state animal Malabar Giant Squirrel. The region is home to a vibrant tribal community which has seen several assaults on its way of life through the formation of the sanctuary, displacement caused by Dimbhe & other Dams, recent windmill projects, etc.,

In the recent years, some of the major landscape changes occurring in this region are through mechanised terracing of slopes for cultivation as well as developments related to windmill projects on mountain tops, which entail deforestation as well as road cutting on steep slopes. Although there are no windmill farms in Malin, such farms exist in the neighbouring Khed tehsil. Plans for such farms in Ambegaon are in the pipeline.

It needs to be understood that terracing for cultivation has been a traditional occupation of the tribals in this region, as in most of the Western Ghats. Not only is it an important livelihood support factor, but it has been limited by its scale, location and implementation due to its inherent manual nature. According to Anand Kapoor of Shashwat, tribals themselves do not prefer terraces made by JCBs and other machines as these are not entirely suitable for cultivation.

However, it is also a fact that now some government departments are using heavy machinery like JCBs in their bid to push terracing program. Unscientific mechanized terracing, which comes together with muck dumping, slope instability, affected drainage etc., can play a huge role in magnifying the impacts on a naturally vulnerable, high rainfall region.

In fact, a preliminary report by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has singled out land flattening and terracing by heavy machinery as one of the primary causes for the tragedy. As per the preliminary report, a team of GSI experts noticed cracks where heavy soil erosion had occurred. The Deputy Director General of GSI has said that these cracks are a result of improper drainage system of rainwater. The flattening of land would have affected the water drainage resulting in the cracks. He says: “The slope of the hill was flattened almost halfway for agricultural purpose to such an extent that the hilltop had become unstable. The experts have also reported excessive deforestation disrupting the ecology of the hill. Added to this was the damage caused by use of heavy machinery over two years.” The Director General and Deputy Director General will be visiting the site on the 2nd and 3rd August for further analysis.

An independent credible review of the way the land levelling activities are going on under government policies and programs should be immediately instituted and till its report is available, use of heavy machines like JCB may be minimised.

Management of the region according to Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) Report and High Level Working Group Report (HLWG)

Both reports place Malin in Ecologically Sensitive Zone I and Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) respectively.

An ESZ I tag by the WGEEP report regulates a number of activities in the region, with participation of local communities. The report has specifically mentioned threat of landslides in this region.

While noting the impacts of windmills in the region surrounding Malin, WGEEP notes: “Apart from substantial forest destruction (including Forest Department estimates of about 28,000 trees being cut) via wide roads cutting huge swathes through Reserve Forest, the wind mill project has triggered large scale erosion and landslides through poor construction of roads with steep gradients, and all this rubble is ending up on fertile farmland and in reservoirs of tributaries of the Krishna.

The Forest Department is colluding with wind mill project operators in also illegally denying citizens access to these hills. Boards and check-posts have been put up by the company, falsely claiming to be authorized by the Forest Department. There are many traditional forest dwellers on these hills. Not only are their rights under the Forest Rights Act not being recognized, they are being illegally restrained in their movements on hills they have inhabited for centuries.”

If the WGEEP was accepted by the MoEF and state governments, this would have led to a more people-centred and ecologically-sound management of the Western Ghats region, but Maharashtra has been vehemently opposing WGEEP on the most unjustified grounds and the MoEF too has been busy downplaying the WGEEP.

While HLWG did include Malin village in its list of Ecologically sensitive Areas, however, this ESA tag did not mean much for the region it only regulates mining and red category industries. Most of the development activities that might threaten the region are not regulated by the HLWG. More importantly, HLWG has no role for the local communities in democratic decision making. There is also no mention of this region being landslide-prone in the HLWG, whereas the WGEEP specifically highlights this issue.

It is clear that HLWG is not much help for the region in avoiding tragedies like the Malin tragedy, but WGEEP report certainly would have helped.

Way forward

Northern Western Ghats which are characterized by heavy rainfall, rich biodiversity and predominant tribal population need more sensitive management approach than what it is subjected to right now. Although WGEEP had paved way for a more democratic, equitable and people-centred management of the region, the report was hidden, downplayed and finally rejected by the state as well as the central government. Episodes like Malin highlight the vulnerability and complex inter-linkages that affect the region which require a long term planning vision, integrating a number of components.

Despite this, several ill-conceived projects like townships, windmill farms, large dams and river linking projects like Damanganga-Pinjal and Paar Tapi Narmada are proposed in the region. Close to Bhimashankar region, Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) as well as the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation are pushing more than 12 large dams. Some of these dams entail huge tunnels under the mountain ranges of Western Ghats. Despite the several risks and impacts, many of these massive dams may also escape scientific Impact Assessments or public hearings. These projects needs to be opposed and urgently dropped as there is little justification of the projects in view of huge number of options available in the cities for which these dams are proposed.

Similarly, Maharashtra Government has plans to build three huge hydropower dams in the Velhe and Mulshi region, which also falls in the Pune District. Velhe region has already seen slope instability and also falls in Seismic zone IV, making any such development highly risky there.

Let us hope that the heart-breaking tragedy at Malin is a wake-up call for all of us, paving way towards more sensitive,responsive, democratic and sustainable management of the Western Ghats. As a first step, the state and central government need to accept and implement the recommendations of the WGEEP immediately in Malin and for the entire Western Ghats.

-Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

Western Ghats again highlisgted in Nasa Landslide potential Map for 9 pm ist 310714
Western Ghats again highlighted in Nasa Landslide potential Map for 9 pm IST 310714

End Notes and Further Reading on Developmental Pressures on Western Ghats, specifically related to water:

1. “Damning the Western Ghats”, presentation by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/rivers/Damming_the_Western_Ghats_Presentation_SWGM_December2012.pdf

2. Interbasin Transfers in Western Ghats of Maharashtra: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/interbasin-diversion-dams-in-western-ghats-unknown-impacts-and-uncertain-benefits/

3. How much does the Kasturirangan Committee report understand about water issues in Western Ghats? https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/how-much-does-the-kasturirangan-committee-understand-about-water-issues-in-western-ghats/

4. Living Rivers and Dying Rivers of Western Ghats, by SANDRP http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/living-rivers-dying-rivers-rivers-western-ghats-india-lecture-parineeta-dandekar-and

5. Video on Living Rivers and Dying Rivers of Western Ghats, SANDRP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDsNQejeNeU

6. SANDRP’s report on Dams in Western Ghats for Mumbai: https://sandrp.in/Dams_in_tribal_belt_of_Western_Ghats_for_the_Mumbai_Metropolitan_Region.pdf

7. Water Sector Options for India in a Changing Climate, SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/wtrsect/Water_Sector_Options_India_in_Changing_Climate_0312.pdf

Beas · Disasters · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropeaking · Hydropower

Nadiya Bairi Bhayi…

In a classical Thumri rendition, Ustad Rashid Khan sings about how a river, which was once a friend, has turned into a foe…Nadiya Bairi Bhayi.. Something similar is happening at a number of places in India, where the river, a life giving friend, is turning into a deadly force.

~~

Drowning of 25 students following sudden water releases from the 126 MW Larji Dam in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh is one more saddening and shocking incidence in the long list of hydropower-release related disasters in India where rivers are turned into death traps.

On the 1Radhika8th April 2014, 11 year old Radhika Gurung studying in standard fourth was accompanying her sisters Chandra and Maya along the river Teesta near Bardang, Sikkim. Suddenly, without having any time to respond, all three school girls were washed away by a forceful water released by upstream 510 MW Teesta V Hydropower project in Sikkim. While Maya and Chandra were lucky to be saved, Radhika was not so lucky. She lost her life. Residents here say that NHPC, the dam operator, does not sound any sirens or alarms while releasing water in the downstream for producing hydroelectricity and villagers live in constant fear of the river.[1] Residents demanded strict action against NHPC, but no action has been taken.

On the 28th March 2013, 5 people, including two small children aged 2 and 3 drowned in the Bhawani River near Mettupalayna when 100 MW Kundah IV HEP (Tamil Nadu) on the Pillur Dam suddenly released discharge of about 6000 cusecs water. The family was sitting on the rocks in the riverbed when water levels started rising, and they did not get enough time even to scramble out of the river with the two children, says the sole survivor. Tangedco officials stated that although alarm is sounded at the nearest hamlets, it does not reach the downstream regions.[2] Local villagers say no alarm is sounded. No action has been taken against Tangedco.[3]

On 8th JaSearchforbodiesnuary 2012, a family of seven people, including a child, drowned in the Cauvery River when water was released from the 30 MW Bhavani Kattalai Barrage-II (BKBII in Tamil Nadu). The same day, two youths were also swept off and drowned in the same river due to this release.[4] There are no reports of any responsibility fixed or any action taken against the Barrage authorities or Tangedco, although it was found that there was not even a siren installed to alert people in the downstream about water releases.[5]

Uttarakhand has a history of deaths due to sudden releases from its several hydropower dams. In April 2011, three pilgrims were washed away due to sudden release of water from Maneri Bhali-1 Dam on the Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand.[6] In 2006 too, three women were washed away by such releases by Maneri Bhali.[7]  The district magistrate of Uttarkashi district ordered filing a case against the Executive Engineer of the dam after a number of organisations demanded action against the guilty.  Again in November 2007, Uttarakhand Jal VIdyut Nigam Limited was testing the opening and closing of gates of Maneri Bhali Stage II, when two youths were washed away by these releases. [8] Following a protest by locals and Matu Jan Sangathan, the Executive Engineer and District Magistrate simply issued a notice which said that “Maneri Bhali Hydropower Projects exists in the upstream of Joshiyada Barrage and water can be released at any time, without prior notice from here”.

Similar notice is also given by NEEPCO, which operates the Ranganadi Dam and 405 MW Dikrong Power House in Arunachal Pradesh, on the Assam border. “The gates of Ranganadi diversion dam may be opened at any time. NEEPCO will not take any responsibility for any loss of life of humans, animals or damage to property”.

Similar notice sits on the bankAthirappillys of the Chalakudy River near the Athirappilly falls in Kerala and the Kadar tribes, which traditionally stay close to the river and are skilled fisher folk too, are fearful of entering the river.

Chamera HEP in Himachal Pradesh has been held responsible for sudden water releases and resultant deaths in the downstream. As per retired IAS Officer Avay Shukla who resides in Himachal, similar incidences which resulted in loss of lives have also happened due to Nathpa Jhakri and other dams in the state.

In December 2011, three youth were drowned in the Netravathi River when water was released by the fraudulently combined 48.50 MW AMR project (Karnataka) now owned by Greenko[9]. Villagers protested at the site, but this has not been the first instance of drowning because of this project. Villagers accuse the dam for the deaths of as many as 7 unsuspecting people in the downstream. This dam is now increasing its height and one more project is being added to it.

Protest against sudden water release by fradulently combined 48.50 MW project in Bantwal, Dakshin Kannada by Greenko Photo: Daiji World
Protest against sudden water release by fraudulently combined 48.50 MW project in Bantwal, Dakshin Kannada by Greenko Photo: Daiji World

On October 1, 2006, at least 39 people were killed in Datia district in Madhya Pradesh when suddenly large amount of water was released from the upstream Manikheda dam on Sind River in Shivpuri district. There was no warning prior to these sudden releases and hence unsuspecting people crossing the river were washed away[10]. Chief Minister Shivraj Chauvan ordered a judicial probe into this incidence in 2006, however, and a report was submitted by retired High Court Judge in 2007. Since then, the report has been buried and several attempts of RTI activists to access the report have been in vain. The government has not released the report, forget acting upon it or fixing responsibility after 8 years[11].

In April 2005, at lDharajiDewas Frontlineeast 70 people were killed at Dharaji in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh due to sudden release of huge quantity of water from the upstream Indira Sagar Dam on Narmada river. Principal Secretary Water Resources Madhya Pradesh inquired into the incident and found that “there was no coordination between agencies”[12]. No accountability was fixed and no one was held responsible. NHPC, who operated 1000 MW Indira Sagar Project, simply claimed that it was a case of miscommunication and that it was not aware of the religious mela in the downstream of the river. As SANDRP observed then, “ It just shows how far removed is the dam operator from the welfare of the people in Narmada as the fair annually gathers more than 100,000 people of the banks of the river. It is a scandal that no one was held responsible for the manmade flood which resulted in the mishap[13].”

Above incidents make it clear that incident at Larji is not the first and will not be the last, if we continue non transparency and non accountability in hydropower dam operations.

Some Questions that arise from these events:

Do sanctioning authorities and dam operators reaslise that each of these projects convert an entire river ( not limited to the hydropower project) in the downstream area into a potential death trap? Do they assess the impacts of the various possible operations of the projects in the downstream area and envisage, plan and implement measures to avoid death and destruction in the downstream areas?

Can cordoning off and alienating a river, indicating that it is dangerous, be a solution to this? Are measures like alarms, sirens, lights enough when a river experiences order of magnitude sudden change in its flow due to dam and hydropower releases?

Is it ok to have hundreds of dam-related deaths in the recent years due to irresponsible and non-transparent dam operations and not have any responsibility fixed?

The obvious answer to the above seems NO.

Some Recommendations: As we have seen above, many man made disasters have happened in India over the last decade and governments  and dam operators have learnt no lessons. The avoidable tragedies are repeating without any change. India is possibly the only country in the world where such events have been happening in such large numbers. Here we are recommending some basic steps if we want to avoid or minimise occurrence of such tragedies in future.

MEASURES FOR TRANSPARENT, INCLUSIVE MANAGEMENT NORMS IN OPERATION OF ALL EXISTING DAMS AND HYDROPOWER PROJECTS:

For every operating Dam and Hydropower project in India there should be clearly defined operating procedure in public domain. This operating procedure will include the steps taken before release of water from dam or power house, how the releases will be increases (the increase should be in steps and not suddenly releasing huge quantity) or decreased, how these will be planned in advance, who all will need to be informed about such plans in what manner and what safety measures will be taken. This will also include who all will be responsible for designing, monitoring and implementing these measures. There should be boards at regular  intervals  in the downstream area in language and  manner that local people and outsiders can understand and the boards should also indicate the danger zone and what kind of sirens and hooters may blow before the releases.

The operating procedure will take into account where there are upstream projects and how the upstream projects are going to influence the inflow into the project and  how information will be shared with upstream and downstream projects and in public domain. The Power Load Dispatch Centres should also remember that when any hydropower project is asked to shut on or off, there are consequences in the river and they should be asked to keep such consequences in mind and time required to alert the regions in risk.

For every dam there should be a legally empowered official management committee for the project management, in which 50% people should be from govt and 50% should be non govt persons, including local community representatives and this committee should be in charge of providing oversight over management, including operation of the project and should have  right to get all the information about the project.

Hourly water levels and release data of hydropower dams be made available in public domain on daily bases. Water levels corresponding to discharges (and possible timings where applicable) should be physically marked on the river banks, local communities should be involved in this, evacuation methods and mock drills should be organised by dam proponent from time to time in all places along the river where the impacts reach.

THE EXISTING DAMS AND HYDROPOWER PROJECTS SHOULD BE MANDATED TO PUT ALL THIS IN PLACE WITHIN A PERIOD OF NEXT THREE  MONTHS THROUGH A LEGALLY EMPOWERED STEP IN ALL STATES.

SANCTIONING PROCESS FOR NEW PROJECTS, INCLUDING FOR UNDER CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS:

Safety measures related to, including water releases for all kind of eventualities and their downstream impacts and management plan should be an integral part of EIA and EMP. The aspect should be thoroughly discussed while appraising the project, and clear cut roles and responsibilities fixed. Mitigation measures should include proper siting of the project, gradual upramping & Downramping of releases in a clearly defined way and where planning is mandatory, safe operation of discharges through dams, etc.

Entire clearance mechanism for cascade hydropower projects in the Himalayas and elsewhere needs to be revisited to include the operational safety measures considering the cumulative operation of the projects. Projects where operational safety measures alone will not be sufficient due to massive fluctuations/location/upstream projects, etc., should be urgently dropped.

Peaking power projects should be restricted to certain locations like deep mountain gorges, after proper studies. Such projects should not be permitted as rivers enter into floodplains, due to their significant impact on the downstream and also in biodiversity rich river stretches.

SAFETY MEASURES BEFORE AND DURING WATER RELEASES: 

Primary safety measures like informing the administration well in advance before release, sirens, hoots, alarms, lights, buoys should be strictly enforced and a clear responsibility of these measures should be adopted, for the entire zone in risk, sign boards at every 50 mts interval in such zones in languages and manner that local people and outsiders can understand, and which also show the specific risk zone. Where sudden unseasonal releases are likely, include police surveillance of the risk zone during danger period.

WHEN THERE IS DEATH AND DESTRUCTION IN THE DOWNSTREAM AREA:

Exemplary punishments should be fixed not only for dam operators,but also engineers and dam companies in case of negligence. Independent inquiry will be required since departmental or inquiries by District administration or government officials are not likely to be credible.

Since the designed safety measures in case of Larji were clearly inadequate, not just the operational staff but all those responsible for such shoddy safety plan should be held accountable.

It is unacceptable that a life giving and beautiful entity like a river should be converted into a dangerous and deadly force for our energy needs, without even the most basic precautions in place.

-Parineeta Dandekar,  Himanshu Thakkar

 

END NOTES:

In 1999, 39 people and hundreds of animals and livestock in Cambodia was washed away and drowned by the release from Yali Falls Dam on Sesan in Vietnam. Mekong River Commission took a strong view on this. http://www.threegorgesprobe.org/pi/Mekong/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=8946

Just last month, two people were washed away and drowned in Belize due to releases from a dam owned by Canadian company Fortis. Here too early warning systems, alarms and accountability are being discussed:. http://journal.probeinternational.org/2014/05/07/did-a-dam-cause-water-surge-ending-in-multiple-deaths/

 

References:

[1] http://sikkimfirst.in/2014/04/20/11-year-old-girl-drowns-in-teesta-river/

[2] http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/article1519865.ece?service=print

[3] http://archives.deccanchronicle.com/130328/news-current-affairs/article/five-drown-bhavani

[4] http://www.ndtv.com/article/tamil-nadu/toll-of-those-drowned-in-cauvery-rises-to-nine-165935

[5] http://lite.epaper.timesofindia.com/getpage.aspx?articles=yes&pageid=6&max=true&articleid=Ar00600&sectid=2edid=&edlabel=TOICH&mydateHid=10-01-2012&pubname=Times+of+India+-+Chennai+-+Times+Region&title=A+siren+could+have+saved+seven+lives&edname=&publabel=TOI

[6] http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110524/region.htm

[7] https://sandrp.in/drp/July2006.pdf

[8] Matu Jan Sangathan, http://hindi.indiawaterportal.org/node/47403

[9] http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=124216, http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/1-dam-2-projects-many-fools

[10] https://sandrp.in/drp/June_July-2008.pdf

[11] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2006-tragedy-re-run-at-Datia-but-MP-govt-yet-to-release-probe-report/articleshow/24120250.cms,

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/judicial-probe-into-datia-drowning/13990/

[12] https://sandrp.in/drp/jul_aug05.pdf

[13] http://www.internationalrivers.org/files/attached-files/nhpc_people_don27t_matter.pdf

PS:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/7-Students-Get-Justice-16-Yrs-after-Meeting-Watery-Grave/2014/09/18/article2437008.ece

7 Students Get Justice 16 Yrs after Meeting Watery Grave

By Express News Service Published: 18th September 2014 06:03 AM

BHUBANESWAR: In a significant judgment, a civil court on Wednesday awarded a compensation of `25 lakh each to the families of seven students of University College of Engineering (UCE) of Burla __ now VSS University of Technology __ who were swept away by unannounced and untimely release of water from Hirakud dam 16 years ago.

Civil Judge (Senior Division), Bhubaneswar, Sangram Keshari Patnaik, who pronounced the verdict in his 31-page judgement, ordered that the compensation be paid with 6 per cent interest effective from 2001, the year when the case was filed before the court.

The tragic incident had occurred on January 30, 1998 when eight students of the UCE of Burla were taking pictures on a sand bar of Mahanadi as part of the Spring Festival activity. The water flow of the river rose menacingly and barring Soubhagya Barik, the rest seven second-year engineering students were swept away and met their watery grave.

The Hirakud Dam authorities had allegedly opened nine gates during the non-monsoon season which led to the tragic incident as no caution was sounded before the release of the water.

The State Government ordered a Revenue Divisional Commissioner-level inquiry into the incident and the then RDC Hrushikesh Panda submitted the report to the Government on March 29, 1998. The Government accepted it on May 19.

The RDC, in his report, had examined 77 witnesses and 31 affidavits were filed. Panda, in his report, had highlighted the irresponsibility of the engineers and stated that even the Sambalpur Collector and the Superintendent of Police were not intimated about the  release of water, let alone the public.

Basing on the report, the State Government had announced a compensation of `3 lakh each to the family of seven students. However, considering the compensation inadequate, a petition was filed before the Orissa High Court. In 2001, the HC directed that the case must be filed before a civil court since it pertained to compensation.

According to Madhumadhab Jena and Sidharth Das, counsels for the deceased’s families, the Civil Judge Court took into account various aspects, including the academic background of the students of UCE.

Disasters · Floods · Uttarakhand

Report of Expert Committee on Uttarakhand Flood Disaster & Role of HEPs: Welcome recommendations:


Drop 23 projects, do cumulative assessments & improve governance

In a significant development on role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013, the Expert Body (EB) headed by Dr Ravi Chopra has recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects should be dropped, that hydropower projects played significant role in the Uttarakhand disaster and that there is urgent need to improve the environment governance of hydropower projects. The Report “Assessment of Environmental Degradation and Impact of Hydroelectric Projects During The June 2013 Disaster in Uttarakhand” dated April 2014 has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on April 16, 2014 and was made public following hearing in the Supreme Court on April 28, 2014. The committee was appointed by a reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in October 2013, following the Supreme Court’s suo motto order of August 13 2013.

Source: MATU Jansangathan
Damaged Vishnuprayag Dam in Uttarakhand floods of June 2013: Source: MATU Jansangathan

Uttarakhand floods of June 2013[1],[2]: The committee report endorses the stand taken in a letter[3] that was written to MoEF on July 20, 2013, endorsed by over 20 individuals and groups including from Uttarakhand on the role of existing and under  construction hydropower projects in the Uttarakhand floods  of June 2013. MoEF did not take any action on this letter, but it was Supreme Court order next month that pushed MoEF to take necessary action.

SC order of Aug 13, 2013[4]: On Aug 13, 2013, while disposing off the petition on Srinagar HEP in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court, suo motto, made an order that asked, MoEF and Uttarakhand governments not to provide any further clearances to any more hydropower projects anywhere in Uttarakhand till further orders. Both MoEF and Uttarakhand governments have been violating this order. However, one of the fall outs of this order was formulation of Expert Body appointed by MoEF more than two months latter, through an order on Oct 15, 2013, whose report now is available in public domain.

Limited TOR[5]: The Supreme Court order of Aug 13, 2013 pertained to whole of Uttarakhand, as was the disaster of June 2013. However, the MoEF order and subsequently CWC tried to restrict the field of work of the committee to Alaknanda and Bhagirathi sub basins rather than whole of Uttarakhand.

Problematic constitution: The constitution of the Expert body was also problematic from a number of aspects. There was clear conflict of interest with respect to some of the members like Dr BP Das, former member and Vice Chair of the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, as explained below. The committee also included chairman of Central Water Commission and Central Electricity Authority, which unfortunately act like lobbies for hydropower projects. These persons were in the committee to bring in respective expertise, but in stead used their presence in the committee to discredit evidence which suggested clear role of hydropower projects, some members also advocated for more hydropower projects, in stead of adhering to the mandate given by the Supreme Court, thus raising the issue of contempt of court.

In what follows we have given some useful recommendations and conclusions of the EB, followed by some weak recommendations and conclusions of the EB report, based on a quick reading of the report (we got the over 200 page report only on April 29, 2014), following by some remarks on role of vice chair, CWC, CEA, MoEF and our conclusion.

Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2014 (Source: EB report)
Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2013 (Source: EB report)

On 24 projects recommended to be dropped by WII “After considerable discussions and analysis, the Expert Body concluded that of the 24 proposed Hydropower Projects (HEPs) that Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recommended for Review, 23 HEPs would have significant irreversible impacts on biodiversity values.”

“The EB recommends that for the 23 proposed HEPs out of the 24 identified by WII (other than the Kotli Bhel 1A project) that would have irreversible impacts on the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins, the HEPs that fall in any of the following conditions should not be approved for construction.

(a)               Proposed HEPs that fall inside wildlife Protected Areas such  National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

(b)               Proposed HEPs that fall within the Gangotri Eco-sensitive Zone

(c)               Proposed HEPs that fall above 2,500m that encompass critical wildlife habitats, high biological diversity, movement corridors, and fragile in nature due to unpredictable glacial and paraglacial activities.

(d)               Proposed HEPs that fall within 10 km from the boundary of Protected Areas and have not obtained clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.”

It would have been in fitness of things if EB had exclusively asked for stoppage of work on all these 23 projects with immediate effect.

On Kotli Bhel 1A The EB has, we believe, erroneously concluded, over ruling the conclusion of WII and expert review initiated by EB, “that the Kotli Bhel 1A project might not significantly worsen the condition of the river Bhagirathi between Koteshwar and Devprayag – already part of a highly fragmented zone”. However, EB has asked for  “due modifications to its design and operations so that an adequate stretch of the river downstream of the Koteshwar dam just above KB-IA can be maintained in a free flowing state”. This means the project work should stop and it should reapply for clearances after doing the suggested modifications in credible way.

Restoration: “The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.

All projects must undertake river restoration works after prior clearance from MoEF. It was noticed that project developers were engaged in projects’ restoration only. MoEF needs to conduct a formal review of the environmental damages at all the HEPs in Uttarakhand and prepare guidelines for restoration. Till then none of the projects should begin power production.”

HEPs above 2 MW need EC “All projects > 2 MW, shall require prior Environmental Clearances (EC) from MoEF”.

“A multidisciplinary expert body should be constituted with members of proven expertise and experience to review every year the progress/performance of each HEP and its compliance with the sanction conditions. This body will also review the technicalities of disaster preparedness before each monsoon season and examine the impact of monsoon storm and floods on the performance of all the project components. The environmental health of the river will be a critical area for comprehensive examination.”

No projects above winter snow line “Learning from the June 2013 event, the EB believes that the enhanced sediment availability from and in paraglacial zones could be a serious problem for the longevity of the existing, under construction and proposed HEPs in Uttarakhand. Therefore the EB recommends that the terrain above the MCT in general and above the winter snow line in particular (~2200-2500 m) should be kept free from hydropower interventions in Uttarakhand.”

SIA should be carried out for all river systems in Uttarakhand “The WII study has already identified 24 proposed HEPs in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins as likely to cause irreversible impacts. But comprehensive research studies of other basins in Uttarakhand are lacking at this stage… Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) be carried out in other major river basins of Uttarakhand such as the Yamuna and Kali basins.”

Distance between projects in a cascade “Scientific studies by subject experts should be conducted for establishing baseline data on river parameters, diversity and populations of floral and faunal species in different rivers of Uttarakhand at different elevation zones.  Such studies should be used for deciding upon the minimum distances between two consecutive HEPs. Until such scientific studies are completed, no new HEPs (in S&I stage) should be cleared on the rivers of Uttarakhand within a distance that may later be revoked. Minimum distances for projects in the clearance stage should be significantly revised upward from the current consideration of 1 km.”

SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand
SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand

National Himalayan Policy “Since the Himalaya are our vital source of growth and abundance, a National Himalayan Policy needs to be urgently created and implemented.”

“Therefore, the EB strongly recommends that a detailed study of the impacts of hydropower projects in terms of deforestation/tunneling/ blasting/reservoir formation on the hydrogeology of the area should be carried out.”

A study on the role of large artificial reservoirs on local climate change and precipitation patterns with special reference to the Tehri dam reservoir.”

Sediment transportation studies “Recent studies have highlighted serious concern about the Indian deltas, which are shrinking due to changes in river courses. The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is also noted in this category. This seems to be a major issue in near future therefore we recommend that the studies should be carried out regarding the impacts on sediment transportation due to projects existing on Himalayan rivers.”

Cultural impacts of HEPs “Therefore EB recommends that the Ministry of Culture along with the local representatives and spiritual leaders should undertake a comprehensive study of the cultural impacts of HEPs in the spiritually rich state of Uttarakhand.”

“The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.”

“River Regulation Zone (R.R.Z.) guidelines should be issued immediately by the Ministry of Environment & Forests and should be executed accordingly.”

Muck Management: “The existing practices of muck management are inadequate to protect the terrain and the people from an eventuality like the June 2013 flood. Therefore, a serious revisit is required towards evolving technically better and ecologically sustainable methods for muck disposal and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand.”

Environmental Flows: “Till such time as a decision is taken on the EFlows recommendations of the IITs-consortium, the EB recommends EFlows of 50% during the lean season and 30% during the remaining non-monsoon months. Sustaining the integrity of Uttarakhand’s rivers and their eco-systems is not negotiable.”

Eco-Sensitive Zones: “It is recommended that legislation be enacted to (i) protect small but significant rivers (as done in Himachal Pradesh and also recommended by the IMG for Uttarakhand) as pristine rivers and (ii) designate Eco-Sensitive Zones for all rivers of Uttarakhand.”

Community based CA and CAT “Community-based CA and CAT plan execution must be done by the State Forest Department within the construction period of the project.” This is to be monitored by a committee that includes two representatives from local communities, a renowned environmentalist, among others.

Forests and Biodiversity Conservation: “Community based CAT programmes have to be systemically implemented for ensuring sustenance of the plantations. This requires training of forest officials to work with the communities through their Van Panchayats.”

“It was brought to the notice of the EB that clearances to start work had been granted recently to the Lakhwar (300 MW) and Vyasi (120 MW) projects. This is in violation of the spirit of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order of August 13, 2013. It is also noticed that these projects were approved more than 25 years ago. Consequently they do not have any EIA/EMP/DMP studies that are mandatory today. Without conducting cumulative impact assessments and disaster management studies of the Yamuna and Kali basins no such projects should be allowed at the risk of fragile ecology, biodiversity and lives of people living in and around the project sites.”[6]

SOME WEAK RECOMMENDATIONS OF EB

“The EB recommends that MoEF strengthens its personnel and procedures for post-sanction monitoring of environmental conditionalities. The MoEF should develop a programme for research studies by reputed organizations on the impacts of HEPs on river water quality (and flows). Pre-construction and post operation long term impacts monitoring studies are required.”

Geology & Social Issues: “Given the massive scale of construction of HEPs in Uttarakhand it may be worthwhile to set up a formal institution or mechanism for investigating and redressing complaints about damages to social infrastructure. The functioning of such an institution can be funded by a small cess imposed on the developers. It is also suggested that to minimize complaints of bias, investigations should be carried out by joint committees of subject experts and the community.”

Disaster Management: “Disaster preparedness is critical because all of Uttarakhand lies either in seismic Zone IV or V. These areas are most vulnerable to strong earthquakes. Disaster Management Plans (DMPs) are critical parts of EIA Reports. They need to be carefully reviewed and approved by local communities in the probable zone of influence.”

“It is necessary to establish an independent authority which may commission EIA Reports…”

CONCLUSIONS OF EB:

On Role of Dams in Uttarakhand disaster:

In Chapter 3 (p 10) chairman of EB notes, “Thus THDC’s inundation analysis results could

not be substantiated by the ground survey in Haridwar city.”

“In September 2010, to retain flood inflows in the face of water levels rising beyond the permitted FRL the (Tehri) dam authorities had to seek the permission of the Supreme Court. It led to inundation of the upstream town of Chinyalisaur and later after draw down fresh landslide zones were created around the reservoir rim.”

“Geo-chemical analysis of sediment samples taken from various locations along the river stretch in Srinagar, however, indicated a significant contribution — varying from 47% near the barrage to about 23% much further downstream (Fig. 3.19, pg 101, Main Report) — from muck eroded from muck disposal sites 6 and 9 located on the concave right bank and consequently experienced an intense current of the order of 7m/sec.

This raises a question that if there was heavy to very heavy rainfall from the glacial reaches of the Alaknanda valley, leading to numerous landslides along the banks, then why was massive damage observed only downstream of the Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs? A detailed investigation is warranted in order to arrive at a scientifically viable explanation.”

“Otters appear to be nearing extinction in the Ganga, Alaknanda sub-basins.”

It is good to see that the EB has effectively rejected the critique of the WII report presented by Dr. Sabyasachi Dasgupta, HNB Garhwal University and consultant to UJVNL, following an independent review of the WII report by Prof. Brij Gopal, an eminent ecological scientist who had worked extensively on river ecosystems. Prof Brij Gopal, while finding some limitations in WII methodology, concluded: “he agreed with WII’s findings that the 24 proposed hydropower projects would impact the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins significantly. Based on his own analysis, Prof Gopal recommended that several more projects be dropped.”

SOME WEAK CONCLUSIONS:

“A ground survey of the inundation analysis carried out by THDC on the basis of which it claimed to have saved Haridwar from drowning raised doubts about the accuracy of the computer generated inundation maps. It is therefore not clear how much of Haridwar would have been affected if the Tehri dam had not been there. The problem at Haridwar, as at other towns and habitations along river banks, is that there has been wide spread encroachment and construction inside the river’s regime. Therefore it is imperative to set up river regulation zones where encroachments are forbidden. (Unscientific sand mining on river beds adds to the problem.)”

“There is some doubt about whether the Vishnuprayag project authorities were able to properly manage the opening and closing of the gates.”

Role of Dr B P Das: Dr B P Das has for close to a decade been member or vice chair or officiating chair of the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF on River Valley project and has in the process been involved in appraising and deciding on clearances for a no of projects and their impacts in Uttarakhand. Hence he was not likely to be in a position to take an independent view on Uttarakhand hydropower projects as there was a conflict of interest involved with respect to his earlier decisions. His biased views were also known through his article in The Hindu earlier. This got reflected in the alternate view on page 27 of chapter 3 and page 16-17 of Chapter 4 of the report authored by Dr Das. In Chapter 3 box, Dr Das’s abiding faith in the project developer could be seen. In Chapter 4 box Dr Das himself mentions that EAC has yet to take a view on WII report, but the he himself is a responsible party for EAC not having taken a view on WII report.

Role of CWC, CEA chairpersons: CWC (Central Water Commission, India’s premier technical body on water resources development under Union Ministry of Water Resources) and CEA (Central Electricity Authority, India’s premier technical body on power sector are largely known to act as lobbies for hydropower projects, in stead of the independent technical and regulatory body that they are expected to work as. In view of that, inclusion of chairperson of CWC and CEA in this committee was wrong step on the part of MoEF. We learn from a letter written by two eminent members of the committee, namely Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani on March 27, 2014, that indeed the chairpersons of CWC and CEA did not really participate in the way they were required to, and rather functioned in violation of the Supreme Court order.

Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB
Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB

Role of MoEF: One had expected that the EB would take a critical view of the functioning of the MoEF around HEPs and contribution of MoEF’s failures in increasing the disaster proportions. Unfortunately we are disappointed in this. Possibly, with the committee having been appointed by MoEF and member secretary of the committee being MoEF official this was a difficult ask. However, not being able to take a critical stand on the role of MoEF (and other institutions like CWC, CEA, state environment department, state disaster management department etc) imposes a limitation on the EB report and provides a free reign to guilty party. The consequences of this became apparent when on April 28, 2014, during the Supreme Court hearing, we are told, the MoEF presented erroneous picture that there are two reports of the committee, one by 10 members(wrongly called activists) another by Vice Chair B P Das, with CWC and CEA chair persons, when at best the note from these three persons can be considered dissent note, that too in violation of SC orders. We hope the Supreme Court will take strong view of this misleading picture presented by MoEF and reprimand the responsible officials to ensure that this does not happen again.

View of the Committee working through its minutes 

Minutes of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th meeting are available on the MoEF, Lucknow regional office website. Perusal of the minutes shed light of the functioning of the committee, and the biases of some specific members. Some highlights from the minutes:

THDC, Tehri and Muck Disposal Sites: Site visit reports of various members, including Dr. Amit Gupta, Dy Director of MoEF presented that THDC is managing active and non active muck disposal sites ‘poorly’. The sites do not have proper retaining wall, slop or plantations.

THDC hid drift tunnel of Koteshwar dam: Member Hemant Dhyani exposed that THDC officials did not accept the presence of a huge drift tunnel of Koteshwar Project near Payal Gaon, which was suffering from severe subsidence. Only when the local people, including the tunnel construction workers insisted that there is a tunnel that the THDC officials accept this fact!

In the 3rd meeting, the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand told the committee that projects with EC or FC should not be closed or stopped. Note here that this suggestion is unacceptable when the SC itself has asked the committee to investigate the role of projects in the flood damages.

To top this, Additional Chief Secretary unilaterally asserted that HEP did not have any role in the mishap. He emphasised every Environmental CLearance needs an EIA. This indicates his poor knowledge about the quality of EIAs which has been accepted by most experts.

He further stressed that a umber of FC cases were peding before the MoEF. Moef official YK Singh Chauhan rebutted this claim.

In the 4th Meeting, Dr. B.P. Das, Co Chair of the committee categorized June event as a rare natural calamity and attributed the losses only to road construction ( Incidentally, many  roads are being built for hydel projects, and do not even allow access to local communities.)

Dr. Ravi Chopra, Chairperson highlighted the poor data management of THDC. He highlighted that THDC could not provide HFL data, rainfall data, inlet level from Maneri Bhali II and outlet level sought by the committee members.

Conclusion: In spite of certain weaknesses, most of the recommendations of the committee need to be immediately implemented and till they are implemented in letter and spirit, the Supreme Court should order a status quo on any further hydropower projects. The EB headed by Dr Ravi Chopra should be congratulated for this report in spite of difficult circumstances under which the committee operated.

Þ     We also hope the Supreme Court would ask MoEF to order stoppage of work on Lakhwar and Vyasi projects that has been started recently, violating the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit, and also as pointed out by the EB.

Þ     The work on 24 hydropower projects that was part of explicit TOR of the committee should be ordered to stop immediately. The EB should have made this explicit recommendation, but even if they have not done that, it is implicit in its recommendation.

Þ     The Supreme Court should ask MoEF to provide a time bound action plan on implementation of the various recommendations of the EB. The SC an also possibly appoint EB (minus Dr Das, CWC and CEA persons) to oversee the implementation of the action plan and continue to provide independent feedback on adequacy of such implementation.

Þ     The Lessons from Uttarakhand are relevant for all Himalayan states of India from Kashmir to all the North East states and we hope Supreme Court to ask the follow up committee to ensure that these lessons are taken note of and necessary steps flowing there from are implemented in these Himalayan states. These will also provide guidance to our Himalayan neighbouring countries.

Þ     The failure of environmental governance is one of the clearest stark message from this episode and we hope MoEF will put its house in order in this respect, revamping its entire environmental governance.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/?s=Uttarakhand

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/uttarakhand-flood-ravage-and-the-dams-short-film-english/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/uttarakhand-disaster-moef-should-suspect-clearances-to-hydropower-projects-and-institute-enquiry-in-the-role-of-heps/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-supreme-courts-directions-on-uttarakhand-hydropower-projects/

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

[6] By Dr. Hemant Dhyani, Member, EB

[7] Reuters report on this issue: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/04/29/india-flood-idINL6N0NL0VC20140429

[8] The section “View of the Committee working through its minutes” has been put together by SANDRP colleague Parineeta Dandekar. I am also thankful to her for  other useful suggestions from her.

Disasters · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand: Existing, under construction and proposed Hydropower Projects: How do they add to the state’s disaster potential?

 

As Uttarakhand faced unprecedented flood disaster and as the issue of contribution of hydropower projects in this disaster was debated, questions for which there have been no clear answers were, how many hydropower projects are there in various river basins of Uttarakhand? How many of them are operating hydropower projects, how many are under construction and how many more are planned? How many projects are large (over 25 MW installed capacity), small (1-25 MW) and mini-micro (less than 1 MW installed capacity) in various basins at various stages?

This document tries to give a picture of the status of various hydropower projects in various sub basins in Uttarakhand, giving a break up of projects at various stages.

River Basins in Uttarakhand Entire Uttarakhand is part of the larger Ganga basin. The Ganga River is a trans-boundary river, shared between India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 kms long river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga begins at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers and forms what we have called Ganga sub basin till it exits Uttarakhand. Besides Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Ganga sub basin, other river basins of Uttarakhand include: Yamuna, Ramganga (Western Ramganga is taken as Ramganga basin in this document, eastern Ramganga is considered part of Sharda basin) and Sharda. Sharda sub basin includes eastern Ramganga, Goriganga, Dhauliganga, Kaliganga and part of Mahakali basin.

Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan
Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

Existing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have given the sub basin-wise list of existing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand along with their capacities. The list has been prepared based on various sources including Central Electricity Authority, Uttarakhand Jal Vidhyut Nigam (UJVNL), Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Authority (UREDA) and Report of Inter Ministerial Group on Ganga basin.

Existing Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand

 

Projects

Installed Capacity  (MW)

Projects in Alaknanda River Basin

1. Vishnu Prayag (P)

400

2. Tilwara

0.2

3. Soneprayag

0.5

4. Urgam

3

5. Badrinath II

1.25

6. Rajwakti (P)

3.6

7. Tapowan

1

8. Jummagad

1.2

9. Birahi Ganga (P)

7.2

10. Deval (P Chamoli Hydro P Ltd on Pinder)

5

11. Rishiganga (P)

13.5

12. Vanala (P Hima Urja P Ltd Banala stream)

15

13. Kaliganga I (ADB)

4

Alaknanda Total

455.45

Projects in Bhagirathi River Basin

14. Maneri Bhali-1 (Tiloth)

90

15. Maneri Bahli-2

304

16. Tehri St-I

1000

17. Koteshwar

400

18. Harsil

0.2

19. Pilangad

2.25

20. Agunda Thati (P Gunsola hydro Balganga river)

3

21. Bhilangana (P – Swasti)

22.5

22. Bhilangana III (P – Polyplex)

24

23. Hanuman Ganga (P – Regency Aqua)

4.95

Bhagirathi Total

1850.9

Projects in Ganga River sub basin downstream of confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda

24. Chilla

144

25. Pathri

20.4

26. Mohamadpur

9.3

Ganga sub basin Total

173.7

Projects in Ramganga basin

27. Ramganga

198

28. Surag

7

29. Loharkhet (P Parvatiya Power P Ltd Bageshwar)

4.8

30. Kotabagh

0.2

31. Sapteshwar

0.3

32. Gauri

0.2

Ramganga Total

210.5

Projects in Sharda River Basin

33. Dhauliganga

280

34. Tanakpur

94.2

35. Khatima

41.4

36. Chirkilla

1.5

37. Taleshwar

0.6

38. Suringad

0.8

39. Relagad

3

40. Garaon

0.3

41 Charandev

0.4

42. Barar

0.75

43. Kulagad

1.2

44. Kanchauti

2

Sharda Total

426.15

Projects in Yamuna River Basin

45. Chibro

240

46. Dhakrani

33.75

47. Dhalipur

51

48. Kulhal

30

49. Khodri

120

50. Galogi

3

51. Tharali

0.4

Yamuna Total

478.15

Grand Total

3594.85

Note: (P) in the bracket suggests the project is in private sector, throughout this document. The eastern Ramganga river, which is part of Sharda basin, is included in Sharda basin. Where-ever Ramganga river is mentioned in this document, it refers to Western Ramganga, which is a tributary of Ganga.

Alaknanda flowing beyond the destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag Project Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan
Alaknanda flowing beyond the destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag Project Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

In the next table we have given available list of existing mini and micro hydropower projects in Uttarakhand, based on UREDA information.

List of projects up to 1 MW under operation:

 

SN Project

Ins Cap (MW)

Dist Basin
1 Milkhet

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
2 Bamiyal

*

Chamoli Alaknanda
3 Bursol

0.2

Chamoli Alaknanda
4 Choting

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
5 Ghagaria

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
6 Ghagaria Extension

*

Chamoli Alaknanda
7 Ghes

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
8 Gulari

0.2

Chamoli Alaknanda
9 Niti

0.025

Chamoli Alaknanda
10 Sarma

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda Nandakini/ Maini Gad
11 Wan

0.05

Chamoli Alaknanda
12 Bank

0.10

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
13 Gamsali Bampa

0.05

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga/Ganesh Ganga
14 Kedarnath II

0.2

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
15 Badiyakot

0.1

Bageshwar Alaknanda
16 Kunwari

0.05

Bageshwar Alaknanda
17 Borbalada

0.025

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar/ Chhiyaldi Gad
18 Dokti

0.02

Bageshwar Alaknanda
19 Dior IInd Phase

*

Pauri Alaknanda/ Ganga
20 Chandrabhaga Gad

*

Tehri Bhagirathi
21 Jakhana

0.1

Tehri Bhagirathi Bhilangana/Balganga
22 Gangotri-I

0.1

 UttarKashi Bhagirathi Kedar Ganga
23 Kanwashram

0.1

Pauri Ganga
24 Bilkot

0.05

Pauri Ramganga
25 Dior Ist Phase

0.1

Pauri Ramganga
26 Gogina II

0.05

Bageshwar Ramganga
27 Sattshwar

0.05

Bageshwar Ramganga
28 Toli

*

Bageshwar Ramganga
29 Ramgarh

0.1

Nainital Ramganga
30 Lathi

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
31 Liti

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
32 Liti-II

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
33 Ratmoli

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
34 Baghar

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
35 Baicham

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
36 Jugthana

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
37 Kanol gad

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
38 Karmi

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
39 Karmi -III

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
40 Karmi-II

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
41 Bhikuriya Gad

0.5

Pithoragarh Sharda
42 Kanchauti

*

Pithoragarh Sharda
43 Lamabager

0.20

Bageshwar Sharda Saryu
44 Lamchula

0.05

Bageshwar Sharda Saryu
45 Tarula

0.10

Almora Sharda Saryu/Jataya Ganga
46 Taluka

0.025

Uttarkashi Yamuna Tons/ Gattu Gad
47 Bhadri Gad

0.02

Tehri Yamuna

From http://ahec.org.in/, capacity of some of the projects is as per the UJVNL website. The capacity comes to 3.815 MW for the 41 projects for which capacity is available.

 

5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti
5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti

Based on above two tables, in the following table we have provided an overview of operating hydropower projects and their capacity, with basin wise and size wise break up.

Uttarakhand has total of 86 existing hydropower projects, with total installed capacity of close to 3600 MW. At least eleven of these projects are in private sector with total capacity of over 503 MW. An additional about 1800 MW capacity is in central sector. It means that majority of the power generation capacity in the state is not owned by the state and there is no guarantee how much of that power would be available to the state.

 

Basin wise number of operating hydro projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro Hydro projects (below 1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

1

400

10

54.75

21

2.22

32

456.97

Bhagirathi

4

1794

5

56.7

4

0.4

13

1851.1

Ganga Sub basin

1

144

2

29.7

1

0.1

4

173.8

Ramganga

1

198

2

11.8

9

1.05

12

210.85

Sharda

3

415.6

4

7.7

21

4.45

28

427.75

Yamuna

5

474.75

1

3

3

0.445

9

478.195

TOTAL

15

3426.35

24

163.65

59

8.665

98

3598.665

 

Here we should note that as per the Union Ministry of New  and Renewable  Energy sources, in Uttarakhand, by March 2013, 98 small hydro schemes has been installed with total capacity of 170.82 MW. If we add the small and mini-micro projects in above table, we have 83 operating schemes with installed capacity of 172.315 MW. This mis-match is not possible to resolve since MNRE does not provide full list of operating SHPs in Uttarakhand.

 

Under Construction Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have given available list of under construction hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. Actual list of under construction projects is likely to be larger than this, since clear and upto-date information is not available on official website. Please note that this does not include the list of mini and micro hydropower projects that are under construction. Even in case of small hydro projects (1-25 MW capacity), the list is not complete. According to this list, 25 projects with 2376.3 MW capacity are under construction in Uttarakhand. 6 of them are large hydropower projects and rest 19 are small hydro projects. Of the 6 large hydropower projects, three are in private sector and three are in central sector, none in state sector.

 

Mountains of Muck generated by under construction 330 MW Shrinagar Hydel Project
Mountains of Muck generated by under construction 330 MW Shrinagar Hydel Project

List of under construction projects:

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin
1 Srinagar

330

Pauri Alaknanda
2 Phata- Byung

76

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
3 Singoli-Bhatwari

99

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
4 Lata Tapovan

171

Chamoli Alaknanda
5 Tapovan Vishnugad

520

Chamoli Alaknanda
6 Madhmaheshwar (ADB)

10

Rudrprayag Alaknanda
7 Kaliganga-II (ADB)

6

Rudrprayag Alaknanda
8 Bgyunderganga (P)

24.3

Chamoli Alaknanda
9 Birahi Ganga-I (P)

24

Chamoli Alaknanda
10 Devali (P)

13

Chamoli Alaknanda
11 Kail ganga

5

Chamoli Pinder Alaknanda
12 Khiraoganga (P)

4

Uttarkashi Alaknanda
13 Sobla I

8

Pithoragarh Alaknanda
14 Hafla

0.2

Chamoli  Alaknanda Hafla Gad
15 Nigol Gad

0.1

Chamoli  Alaknanda Nigal Gad
16 Wachham

0.50

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar/SunderDhunga Gad
17 Tehri stage-II

1000

Tehri Bhagirathi
18 Asiganga-I

4.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
19 Asiganga-II

4.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
20 Suwarigad

2

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
21 Limchagad

3.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
22 Kaldigad (ADB)

9

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
23 Balganga-II

7

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi
24 Jalandhari Gad (P)

24

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
25 Kakora Gad (P)

12.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
26 Kot-Buda Kedar (P)

6

Tehri Bhagirathi
27 Siyangad (P)

11.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
28 KotiJhala

0.2

 Tehri Bhagirathi Bal Ganga
29 Pinsward

0.05

 Tehri Bhagirathi Bal Ganga
30 Dunao

1.5

Pauri Ganga sub basin
31 Gaudi Chida

0.25

Pauri Ganga sub basin E Nayar
32 Rotan

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda E Ramganga/Rotan
33 Duktu

0.025

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Nati Yanki
34 Nagling

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Nagling Yanki
35 Sela

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Seal Gad
36 Kutty

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali
37 Napalchu

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Piear Yanki
38 Bundi

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Pulung Gad
39 Rongkong

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Dangiang Yanki
40 Chiludgad

0.10

Uttarakashi Yamuna Supin/Chilude Gad
41 Khapu Gad

0.04

Uttarakashi Yamuna Supin/Khapu Gad

Total Under Construction               2378.115 MW

Note: Projects like Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri, Bhairoghati and other projects along Bhagirathi upstream of Uttarkashi along the Eco Sensitive zone have been dropped from this list. Rest of the list is from the IMG report or from UJVNL website. P in the bracket indicates the project is in the private sector. ADB in the bracket indicates that the project is funded by the Asian Development Bank.

 

Proposed hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In following tables we have provided available list of proposed hydropower projects in the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Sharda and Ramganga basins in Uttarakhand. The list is likely to be longer than the list in these tables since full and upto-date information is not available. Also there are different agencies  involved in proposing, sanctioning and executing these projects and there is no single agency which can provide comprehensive picture of what is happening in the basin. However, even this available list is frightening.

 

List of proposed projects in Alaknanda Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Vishnugad Pipalkoti (WB)

444

Chamoli Alaknanda Construction to be started
2 Kotli Bhel (IB)

320

Pauri Alaknanda EAC ok/FAC u/consideration
3 Alaknanda (P Badrinath)

300

Chamoli Alaknanda EC & FC ok IA not signed
4 Devsari Dam

252

Chamoli Alaknanda EC & FC ok CEA concrnce?
5 Kotli Bhel II

530

Pauri Ganga sub basin EAC ok/FAC u/consideration
6 Bowla Nandprayag

300

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC TOR Approved
7 Tamak Lata

280

Chamoli Alaknanda EC ok, DPR under revision
8 Nand Prayag

100

Alaknanda DPR returned
9 Jelam Tamak

108

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC ok in June 2013
10 Maleri Jelam

55

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
11 Rishiganga I

70

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
12 Rishiganga II

35

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
13 Gohana Tal

60

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
14 Rambara

24

Rudraprayag Alaknanda IMG report
15 Birahi Ganga-II (P)

24

Chamoli Alaknanda DPR under revision
16 Melkhet (P)

56

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder Proposed
17 Urgam-II

3.8

Chamoli Alaknanda Under S&I
18 Bhyunder Ganga

243

Chamoli Alaknanda FC under consideration
19 Nand Pyayag Langasu

141

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC TOR Approved
20 Rambara

76

Rudraprayag Alaknanda EAC TOR u/consideration
21 Bagoli

90

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
22 Bangri

44

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
23 Madhya Maheshwar

350

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
24 Ming Nalgaon

114

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
25 Padli

66

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
26 Thapli

44

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
27 Utyasu-I

70

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
28 Utyasu-II

205

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
29 Utyasu-III

195

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
30 Utyasu-IV

125

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
31 Utyasu-V

80

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
32 Utyasu-VI

70

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
33 Rampur Tilwari

25

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
34 Chunni semi

24

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed Mandakini
35 Kosa

24

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
36 Vijay nagar- Rampur

20

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
37 Nandakini-III

19.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
38 Nayar

17

Pauri Ganga sub basin Nayar
39 Alaknanda I

15

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
40 Buara

14

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar
41 Duna Giri

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
42 Alaknanda II

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
43 Balkhila-II

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
44 Mandani Ganga

10

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini Mandani ganga
45 Rishiganga

8.25

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
46 Subhain

8

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
47 Son

7

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini son gad
48 Kalp ganga

6.25

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed kalpganga
49 Lustar

6

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini Lustar
50 Madhya maheshwar -II

6

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini madmaheshwar
51 Hom 6

6

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
52 Amrit ganga

6

Chamoli Alaknanda Amrit ganga balsuti gadera
53 Gaddi

5.25

Chamoli Alaknanda dhauliganga Gaddi Gadera
54 Deval

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
55 Ghrit Ganga

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
56 Jumma

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
57 Ringi

5.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
58 Tamak

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
59 Balkhila-I

5.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed Balkhila
60 Basti -I

4

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
61 Basti -II

4

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
62 Laxmanganga

4

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
63 Nil ganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
64 Santodhar – I

2

Pauri Ganga sub basin W Nayar
65 Santodhar – II

2

Pauri Ganga sub basin W Nayar
66 Birahiganga

4.8

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
67 Byaligaon

2.25

Pauri Ganga sub basin E Nayar
68 Ghirit Ganga

1.3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
69 Jummagad

1.2

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
70 Kailganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
71 Kakra

1

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
72 Kali Ganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
73 Garud Ganga

0.6

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
74 Gansali Bampa

0.05

Chamoli  Alaknanda Dhauliganga/Ganesh Ganga
Alaknanda Total

5199.25

     

 

List of proposed projects in Bhagirathi Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Kotli Bhel (IA)

195

Pauri Bhagirathi EC/FAC stage 1
2 Jhalakoti (P)

12.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed dharamganga
3 Bhilangana II A

24

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
4 Karmali

140

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi IMG, on Eco-sensitive zone?
5 Jadhganga

50

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi IMG: PFR prepared
6 Bhilangana IIB

24

Tehri Bhagirathi Under S&I
7 Bhilangana IIC

24

Tehri Bhagirathi Under S&I
8 Pilangad-II

4

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
9 Bhela Tipri

100

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
10 Nelong

190

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
11 Asiganga-III

9

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
12 Gangani (P)

8

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
13 Balganga-I

5

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed
14 Khirao ganga

4

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
15 Lagrasu (P)

3

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed
16 Songad

3

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
17 Jalandhari Gad

3

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
18 Jalkurgad I

2

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed jalkur gad
19 Rataldhara

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkur Gad
20 Lamb Gaon

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkur gad
21 Dhatirmouli

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkurgad
22 Gangi-Richa

0.2

Tehri Tehri Bhagirathi Bhilangana/ Re Gad
Bhagirathi Total

801.9

     

 

List of proposed projects in W Ramganga Basin

 

Golden Mahseer in Ramganga
Golden Mahseer in Ramganga
SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Babas Dam

88

Almora Ramganga Proposed
2 Khati

63

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
3 Lumi

54

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
4 Kuwargarh

45

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
5 Bawas Gaon

34

Nainital Ramganga Proposed
6 Jamrani Dam

30

  Ramganga Proposed
7 Khutani

18

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
8 Sarju Stage-II (P)

15

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
9 Sarju Stage-III (P)

10.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
10 Sheraghat

10

Almora Ramganga Kho
11 Baura

14

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
12 Sarju Stage-I (P)

7.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
13 Balighat

5.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
14 MehalChaura-I

4

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
15 MehalChaura-II

3

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
16 Agarchatti

2

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
17 Kho I

2

Pauri Ramganga Kho
18 Kho II

2

Pauri Ramganga Proposed
19 Harsila

0.7

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed harsila gad
20 Kalsa

0.3

Nainital Ramganga Proposed
Ramganga Total

408.5

     

 

List of proposed projects in Sharda Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Mapang Bogudhiyar (P)

200

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
2 Bogudhiyar Sarkaribhyol (P)

170

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
3 Sarkaribhyol Rupsiabagar

210

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
4 Rupsiabagar Khasiabara

260

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC Ok / FAC Rejected
5 Bokang Baling

330

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed THDC
6 Chungar Chal

240

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
7 East Ram Ganga Dam

30

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
8 Khartoli Lumti Talli

55

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
9 Budhi

192

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
10 Garba Tawaghat

610

Pithoragarh Sharda-Mahakali Proposed NHPC
11 Garbyang

131

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
12 Lakhanpur

160

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
13 Malipa

138

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
14 Pancheshwar

6000

Pithoragarh Sharda Indo Nepal Project
15 Purnagiri Dam

1000

Champawat Sharda Indo Nepal Project
16 Tawaghat – Tapovan

105

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
17 Taopvan Kalika

160

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
18 Tapovan Chunar

485

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
19 Sela Urthing

230

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
20 Urthing Sobla (P)

340

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
21 Sobla Jhimjingao

145

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
22 Kalika – Baluwakot

120

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
23 Kalika Dantu

230

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
24 Dhauliganga Intermediate

200

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
25 Gauriganga III A & B

140

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
26 Madkini (P)

39

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
27 Burthing – Purdam

5

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed Jakula
28 Jimbagad

7.7

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
29 Suringad-II

5

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
30 Tanga (P)

5

Pithoraharh Sharda Proposed
31 Tankul

12

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
32 Motighat (P)

5

Pithoraharh Sharda Proposed
33 Painagad

9

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
34 PhuliBagar- Kwiti

4

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed Jakula
35 Kumeria- Garjia (Bawas)

12.5

Nainital Sharda Kosi
36 Balgad

8

Pithoragarh Sharda E Ramganga
37 Kuti SHP

6

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Kuti yangti
38 Palang SHP

6.5

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Plang gad
39 Najyang SHP

5.5

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Najyang gad
40 Simkhola SHP

8.75

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Simkhola gad
41 Birthi

1

Pithoragarh Sharda Balchinn
42 Baram

1

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Baram Gad
43 Unchiya

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Khari Gad
44 Murtoli

0.02

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Martoligad
45 Burphu

0.03

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Martoligad
46 Ralam

0.03

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Ralangad
47 Ram Gad-II

0.1

Nainital Sharda Kosi/ Ramgad
48 Watcm

0.1

Pithoragarh Sharda Ramgad E/ Watchraila

Total Sharda Basin

12022.28

     

 

List of proposed projects in Yamuna Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Lakhwar

300

Dehradun Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
2 Vyasi

120

Dehradun Yamuna EAC Recommended
3 Arakot Tuni

81

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
4 Tuni Plasu

66

Dehradun Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
5 Mori-Hanol (P)

63

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
6 Naitwar Mori (Dewari Mori)

60

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC Recommended
7 Hanol Tuni (P)

60

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC Recommended
8 Jakhol Sankri

45

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
9 Kishau

600

Dehradun Yamuna Proposed
10 Chammi Naingaon

540

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
11 Chatra Dam

300

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
12 Taluka Sankri

140

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
13 Taluka Dam

112

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
14 Sankri Mori

78

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
15 Barkot Kuwa

42

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
16 Hanuman Chatti Sianachatti

33

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
17 Barnigad Naingaon

30

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
18 Rupin Stage V (P)

24

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
19 Damta – Naingaon

20

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
20 Tons

14.4

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
21 Supin

11.2

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
22 Rupin Stage IV (P)

10

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
23 Rupin Stage III (P)

8

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
24 Barnigad

6.5

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
25 Pabar

5.2

Dehradun Yamuna Proposed
26 Badyar (P)

3

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
27 Lagrasu

3

Tehri Yamuna Proposed
28 Rayat (P)

3

Tehri Yamuna Proposed
29 Ringali

1

Tehri Garhwal Yamuna Proposed Aglar Ringaligad
30 Purkul

1

 Dehradun Yamuna Tons
31 Paligad

0.3

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed Paligad
32 Rikhani Gad

0.05

Uttarkashi Yamuna Rikhanigad
33 Bijapur

0.2

 Dehradun Yamuna Tons
Yamuna Total 2780.85 MW
Grand Total 21212.78 MW

Note: EAC: Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF; FAC: Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF; EC: Environment Clearance: FC: Forest Clearance; TOR: Terms of Reference (of EIA); for Alaknanda, the first 17 projects are listed as given in IMG report and for Bhagirathi first 8 projects are as listed in IMG report. However, many of these projects have been recommended to be dropped by the WII (Wildlife Institute of India) report. Also, IMG and other have said that no further projects should be taken up in Bhagirathi and Alaknanda basins. The projects listed above in the Bhagirathi basin beyond serial number 8 and those in Alaknanda basin beyond 17 would, in any case, not be taken up.

In the table below we have provided and overview of proposed hydropower projects in Uttarakhand based on the information from above five tables.

Overview of Proposed Hydropower Projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro Hydro projects (below 1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

29

4823

43

375.6

2

0.65

74

5199.25

Bhagirathi

5

675

13

125.5

4

1.4

22

801.9

Ramganga

6

314

12

93.5

2

1

20

408.5

Sharda

26

11920

16

101.95

6

0.33

48

12022.28

Yamuna

17

2670

13

110.3

3

0.55

33

2780.85

TOTAL

83

20402

97

806.85

17

3.93

197

21212.78

 

Overview of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have put together the number and capacities of existing, under construction and proposed hydropower projects in various basins of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand government has plans to have total of 337 hydropower projects with total capacity of 27191.89 MW. Largest number (124) of such projects are in Alaknanda basin, the largest capacity is proposed to be in Sharda basin at 12450.905 MW.

In the table below we have given basin wise figures of total large, small and mini-micro hydropower proejcts (including existing, under construction and proposed) projects in Uttarakhand. According to Union Ministry of New and  Renewable energy, total potential of small hydro  in Uttarakhand is 1707.87 MW from 448 small hydro projects. If we take that into account the figures in the following tabes would change (go up) accordingly.

Basin wise total capacities for large, small and mini HEPs in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro hydro projects (<1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

35

6419

61

524.65

26

3.67

122

6947.32

Bhagirathi

10

3469

28

266.7

10

2.05

48

3737.75

Ganga Sub basin

1

144

3

31.2

2

0.35

6

175.55

Ramganga

7

512

14

105.3

11

2.05

32

619.35

Sharda

29

12335.6

20

109.65

35

5.155

84

12450.405

Yamuna

22

3144.75

14

113.3

8

1.135

44

3259.185

TOTAL

104

26024.35

140

1150.8

92

14.41

336

27189.56

In the table below we have given basin wise figures of existing, under construction and proposed hydropower projects of all sizes in Uttarakhand.

Overview of all Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Existing Hydro projects Under construction projects Proposed hydropower projects Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

32

456.97

16

1291.1

74

5199.25

122

6947.32

Bhagirathi

13

1851.5

13

1084.75

22

801.9

48

3737.75

Ganga Sub basin

4

173.8

2

1.75

6

175.55

Ramganga

12

210.8

20

408.5

32

619.35

Sharda

28

427.75

8

0.375

48

12022.28

84

12450.405

Yamuna

9

478.195

2

0.14

33

2780.85

44

3259.185

TOTAL

98

3598.665

41

2378.115

197

21212.78

336

27189.56

Basin Maps Maps of Hydroelectric Projects in various sub basins of Uttarakhand are available at the following links. Please note that the maps are based on information available when the maps were created in 2011:

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects_in_Ganga_Basin.pdf

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Bhagirathi%20150411.jpg

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Alaknanda%20150411.jpg

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Mandakini150411.jpg

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Goriganga150411.jpg

https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Major_Hydro_Projects_in_Yamuna_Basin.pdf

 

How do the hydropower projects increase the scale of disaster?

This is a question that a lot of journalists and TV anchors have been asking me since the Uttarakhand disaster. Here is a quick response:

Þ     Almost all hydropower projects of Uttarakhand involve deforestation. Deforestation directly increases the potential of erosion, landslides and floods since water now just runs off to the rivers. Moreover the compensatory afforestation and catchment area treatment, even when done, usually involves planting of commercially important variety of trees like pine and teak and not broad leaf tress like oaks which not only adds humus in the soil, but also allows rich under growth. Pine does not allow this to happen. This change in character of forests is something Gandhiji’s disciple Mira Behen has been warning since independence, but there is little impact of this on the forest department.

Þ     In fact largest proportion of deforestation in Uttarakhand has happened basically for hydropower projects.

Þ     All run of the river projects involve building of a dam, diversion structure, desilting mechanism, tunnels which could have length of 5 to 30 km and width sufficient to carry three trains side by side, as also roads, townships, mining, among other components. All of these components increase the disaster potential of the area in one or the other way. Cumulative impacts of all the components of any one project and all projects together  in a given basin is likely to be larger than the addition of the impacts of individual projects in many cases.

Þ     Massive blasting of massive proportions is involved in construction of all these components, which adds to landslide risks. In fact Uttarakhand’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in their report of Oct 2012 after the Okhimath disaster of Sept 2012 recommended that no blasting should be allowed for any development activity anywhere in Uttarakhand, but Uttarakhand government did nothing about this recommendation.

Þ     The massive tunneling by itself weakens the young and fragile Himalayan mountains, increasing the disaster potential.

Þ     Each of the hydropower project generates immense amount of muck in tunneling, blasting and other activities. A large hydropower project could typically generate millions of cubic meters of muck. The large projects are supposed to have muck disposal plan, with land acquired for muck disposal, transportation of muck to the designated sites above the High Flood levels, creation of safety walls and stabilization process. But all this involves costs. The project developers and their contractors find it easier to dump this muck straight into the nearby rivers. In the current floods, this illegally dumped muck created massive disaster in downstream areas in case of 330 MW Srinagar HEP, the 76 MW Phata Byung HEP and the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP. When the flooded rivers carry this muck, boulders and other debris, has much greater erosion capacity and also leaves behind massive heaps of this muck in the flooded area. In Srinagar town about 100 houses are buried in 10-30 feet depth of muck. Such debris laden rivers also create massive landslides along the banks.

Muck Disposal directly into the Alaknanda river by Srinagar Project Photo: Matu janSangathan
Muck Disposal directly into the Alaknanda river by Srinagar Project Photo: Matu janSangathan

Þ     Wrong operation of hydropower projects can also create greater disasters in the downstream areas. For example the operators of 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda river did not open the gates when the river was flooded on June 16-17, possibly to maximize power generation. However, this lead to accumulation of massive quantities of boulders (for photos of dam filled with such boulders see: http://matuganga.blogspot.in/) behind the dam, so much so that that there was no space for water to flow. The river then bypassed the dam and started flowing by the side of the dam, creating a new path for its flow. This created a sudden flashflood in the downstream area, creating a new disaster there.

Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan
Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan

Þ     The incomplete, broken and ill designed protection wall of the Maneri Bhali projects in Uttarkashi lead to erosion and landslides in the downstream areas.

 

DAMAGED HYDRO PROJECTS A large number of hydropower projects are likely to have suffered damage due to the flood disaster in Uttarakhand. Some of the projects that have suffered damage include:

  • According to the update from http://www.energylineindia.com/on June 27, 2013, the 520 MW under construction Tapovan Vishnugad HEP has suffered damaged by rains on June 16, 2013: “While construction of diversion tunnel was completed in April this year, the same was washed away due to heavy rains on June 16. Diversion dyke has washed away and damages have been observed in chormi adit approach road. In August last year, the flash floods had caused serious damages in the coffer dam of the project.”
  • 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP of JP Associates has suffered serious, but as yet unassessed damage(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/jaiprakash-power-tanks-15–as-plant-shuts-down-in-uttarakhand/1133083/). As per MATU PR (http://matuganga.blogspot.in/), the project has also been cause of damage in Lambagad village, which was also flahsed on front page of TOI on June 25, 2013, though without mentioning the project. The blog also provides the before and after pictures of the upstream and downstream of the project.
  • 76 MW Phata Byung HEP of Lanco in Mandakini Valley in Uttarakhand
  • 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP of L&T in Mandakini Valley in Uttarakhand NDTV India reported that the water level of the river has gone up due to the silt dumped by dams. This is likely to be due to the Phata Byung and Singholi Bhatwari HEPs.
  • Kali Ganga I, Kali Ganga II and Madhyamaheshwar HEP, all in Mandakini Valley, all of UJVNL, all hit by mudslides (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/uttarakhands-r500-crore-request-to-prevent-landslides-pending-since-2009/1132351/)
  • Assiganga projects on Assiganga river in Bhagirathi basin in Uttarakhand
  • 5 MW Motighat I HEP in Goriganga basin in Pithoragarh (Himalprakriti report)
  • 280 Dhauliganga Project of NHPC in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand (reports said the power house was submerged, but is now working, part of the township was submerged.)
  • The Himalaya Hydro (HH) Tanga Phase I for 5 MW, located along the Paina gad in Goriganga basin, is badly damaged. The dam has got smashed by a deluge of huge boulders. One sluice gate is torn through. The metal filter-gates are all choked with boulder debris, and the remnant concrete and gate pulleys of the dam are now stranded mid-river, with both banks eroded and the river now running along the true-left bank. (Himalprakriti report)
  • The UREDA 500 KW Motigad microhydel on Moti gadh (a tributary of Paina gadh) at Bindi (Dani Bagad) is also badly damaged. The water has broken through the wall, cut under the foundation, inundated the turbines with water and debris, and smashed the housing for the electrical distribution system. (Himalprakriti report)
  • The 5.5′ diameter head race waterpipes taking water to the HH Phase II, located on the Gori opposite Seraghat, has also been damaged. The generator and housing for the HH Ph II has collapsed into the river. All this damage is said to have happened on the evening of 17th June. People working as non-skilled labour have been sent home for a few months, but welding work on the new pipes feeding the powerhouse is still underway! (Himalprakriti report)

It has been now reported in Business Standard (http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/gvk-l-t-hydel-projects-hit-by-floods-113062300394_1.html) that the 330 MW Srinagar project, a cause for downstream destruction, has itself suffered massive damages on June 17, 2013, with breach of its protective embankment. The report also mentions the damage to the L&T’s Singoli Bhatwari HEP on Mandakini river.

Down to Earth (http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/hydropower-projects-suffer-severe-damage) has given some details of damage to some of the hydropower projects, quoting UJVNL sources. It says: 19 small hydropower projects have been completely destroyed, while others have been damaged by the raging waters (see table below)

Project Location Capacity Estimated Loss
Dhauli Ganga Pithoragarh  280 MW Rs 30 crore (project completely submerged)
Kaliganga I Rudraprayag 4 MW Rs 18-19 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Kaliganga II Rudraprayag 6 MW Rs 16 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Sobla Pithoragarh 8 MW Rs 14 crore (completely washed away)
Kanchauti Pithoragarh 2 MW Rs 12 crore (totally washed away)
Chirkila Pithoragarh 1.5 MW Rs 20 crore (part of the project washed away)
Maneri Bhali I&II Uttarkashi 304+90 MW Rs 2 crore + Rs 5 crore (walls collapsed, silt in barrages)

In addition, a large  number of projects had to stop generation temporarily due to high silt content, including Maneri Bhali I and II, Tanakpur, Dhauli Ganga, Kali Ganga I, some of the Yamuna basin projects among others.

 

Conclusion This article was intended to give an overview of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. However, we should add that there are many glaring issues related to these hydropower projects, some of the key issues include:

  • Most of these projects are out of the environmental governance. Projects below 25 MW do not require EIA, Social Impact Assessment, public consultation, environmental clearance, environmental management plan or monitoring. This is clearly wrong as all projects have environmental impacts, and they are particularly serious in Himalayan region with multiple vulnerabilities. We have for years demanding that all projects above 1 MW should need environment clearance, EIA and so on.
  • Even for projects above 25 MW we do not have any credible environmental or social impact assessment. Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is on record having accepted that most EIAs are dishonest cut and paste jobs. We do not have any credible process in place to ensure that EIAs are proper and those that are not are rejected and consultants are black listed. Jairam Ramesh did put in place a process of registration of EIA consultants under the Quality Council of India, but that is completely non transparent, unaccountable and ineffective process. It is amazing that reputed NGOs like the Centre for Science and Environment are on board of this process, but they have completely failed to achieve any change and have chosen to remain quiet.
  • The Environment clearances of the River Valley Projects (which includes hydro projects and dams) is considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects appointed by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. However, the ministry chooses members of the EAC such that they rarely object to any project. As per SANDRP analysis in six years ending in Dec 2012, the EAC had not said NO to any project for environment clearance. Its appraisal of projects, EIAs, public consultation process and its own minutes were found to be inconsistent, unscientific and loaded in favour of the project developers.
  • Our environment compliance system is non-existing. The projects are supposed to implement the environment management plan pari passu with the project work, they are supposed to follow the conditions of environment clearance, follow the environmental norms, but who is there to ensure this actually happens? The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests which is supposed to ensure this compliance has no capacity the officials tell us. The officials do not have time to even check if six monthly compliance reports are being submitted or make any surprise visits. However they do not even seem to have will, since we have seen no change in this situation for decades. Nor do they seem to have willingness, since even when NGOs present photographic and video and other evidence of violations they refuse to take action.
  • One way to achieve compliance is to have a project monitoring committee for each project where over 50% of the members are from local communities and other independent persons and such committees ok must be required each stage for the project to go ahead. We have been suggesting this for long, but the MoEF has shown no willingness to follow this.
  • More pertinently, none of the assessment reports look at the impact on the disaster potential of the area. Each of these projects have significant impact on the disaster potential of the area, particularly in the context of a vulnerable state like Uttarakhand. This should be a must for all such projects.
  • Similarly the projects must also be assessed in the context of climate change, again in vulnerable area like the Himalayas. How the project will impact the local climate, how it will have impact on adoption capacity of the local communities and also how the project itself will be impacted in changing climate. This again we have been writing to the MoEF numerous times, but without any success so far.
  • Most significantly, the only impact assessments that we have is for specific projects of over 25 MW capacity. However, we have no credible cumulative impact assessment for any of the river basins of Uttarakhand, which also takes into account carrying capacity of the river basins and all the interventions that are happening in the basins. As our critique of so called cumulative impact assessment of Bhagirathi-Alaknanda basins done by AHEC of IIT Roorkee shows (see:  http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf), it was not much of a cumulative impact assessment. WII (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun) report was somewhat better within the mandate given to it (assessment of hydro projects on aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity), but the most important recommendation of the WII report that at least 24 projects should be dropped has not been accepted by the MoEF, so what is the use of the cumulative impact assessment in such a situation?

Unless we address all of the above issues in a credible way, there is little wisdom in going ahead with more hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. They will invite greater disasters. Uttarakhand has many other options for development.

  • Firstly people of  Uttarakhand should get first right over all the power that is getting generated within Uttarakhand.
  • Secondly, this is not a plea for no projects, but to address the crucial issues without addressing which we are in no situation to even know the impacts or address the issues.
  • Thirdly, Uttarakhand needs to take up power generation options that do not accentuate the disaster potential of the area. Such options include micro hydro, hydro kinetics, and solar and biomass based power in addition to better utilization of existing infrastructure.

Going ahead with more hydropower projects in current situation would be invitation to greater disasters. In fact, the Uttarakhand government should not allow even the damaged and under construction hydropower projects until al the conditions mentioned above are satisfied.

Some of the hydropower projects that have surely seem to have added to the disaster proportions of current Uttarakhand flood disaster include the 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP, the 280 MW Dhauliganga HEP, the 330 MW Shrinagar HEP, the 304 and 90 MW Maneribhali II and I HEPs, the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP and the 76 MW Phata Byung HEP, the last two on Mandakini river.

In response to my question on a programme on Headlinestoday channel anchored by Rahul Kanwal on July 8, 2013 (in presence of panel that also included Dr Vandana Shiva and Vimlendu Jha), the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Shri Vijay Bahuguna agreed that he will institute an enquiry into the damage due to these hydropower projects and hold them accountable for such damage.

Let us see how soon and how independent and credible enquiry he institutes.

Himanshu Thakkar

 South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)                                                        July 2013

References:

1. http://envfor.nic.in

2. http://www.uttarakhandjalvidyut.com/eoi/list_of_projects_self.pdf and many other UJVNL documents.

3. http://www.ahec.org.in/shp%20sites/uttarakhand/Hydropower%20stations%20in%20operation%20and%20under%20construction%20in%20uttarakhand.pdf

4. http://cleanhydropower.blogspot.in/2009/07/brief-description-of-small-hydro-power.html

5. http://ureda.uk.gov.in/pages/show/130-micro-hydro-programme and other sites of UREDA.

6. https://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf

7. https://sandrp.in/IMG_report_on_Ganga_has_Pro_Hydro_Bias_June2013.pdf

8. http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf

9. 2012-13 Annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy: http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/annual-report/2012-2013/EN/chapter3.html

SANDRP blogs on Uttarakhand disaster :

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

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/uttarakhand-and-climate-change-how-long-can-we-ignore-this-in-himalayas/

4. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/central-water-commissions-flood-forecasting-pathetic-performance-in-uttarkhand-disaster/

5. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/uttarakhand-floods-truth-about-thdc-and-central-water-commissions-claims-about-tehri/

6. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/lessons-from-uttarakhand-disaster-for-selection-of-river-valley-projects-expert-committee/

7. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/climate-justice-statement-on-the-uttarakhand-catastrophe/

Disasters

Central Water Commission’s Flood Forecasting – Pathetic performance in Uttarkhand disaster

Central Water Commission, India’s premier technical body under Union Ministry of Water Resources, has once again failed in the Uttarakhand flood disaster. Even as the Uttarakhand state faced the worst floods in its history, CWC, which has been given the task of forecasting floods across flood prone areas all over India, completely failed in making any forecasts that could have helped the people and administration in Uttarakhand.

First principle of disaster management is prior warning. With prior warning, significant proportion of possible damages and destruction can be avoided. In that respect, one expected that CWC would play a key role in forecasting the floods. SANDRP has been monitoring CWC flood forecasts throughout the monsoon for some years. During June 15-17, when Uttarakhand was receiving the most intense rains, CWC did not make any forecasts regarding Uttarakhand. As far as the most severely disaster affected areas of Ganga basin upstream of Devprayag are concerned (these include  the worst affected Kedarnath and Mandakini valley, the Gangotri and Bhagirathi valley and Badrinath in Alaknanda valley), CWC has made no flood forecasts at all this year. Same is the case regarding other affected regions of Uttarakhand including Yamuna basin including Yamunotri and Pithoragarh including Goriganga basin. What is than the role of this premier technical body tasked with flood forecasting?

The only forecast that CWC made for Uttarakhand this June 2013 were for Rishikesh and Haridwar on June 18, 2013. Even in these instances, CWC’s callousness is reflected. For example, by the fact that normally when flood forecasts are made for any site in the first place, the forecasts would be low flood forecast (where water level is between warning and danger level for the site), and only in next stage, would medium flood forecast would be made (water level above danger level). However, in case of both Rishikesh and Haridwar, CWC straightaway made medium flood forecasts, clearly missing the low flood forecasts.

In fact looking at the CWC flood forecasting site (http://www.india-water.com/ffs/index.htm), we notice that in entire Uttarakhand state, CWC has only three flood forecasting sites: Srinagar, Rishikesh and Hridwar, which means CWC would not be doing any forecasts for the most vulnerable regions of Uttarakhand in any case! Even in case of Srinagar (which actually suffered the worst floods with hundreds of damaged houses), CWC site says the Highest flood level is 536.85 m, amazingly, below the warning level of 539 m! This means that CWC has never forecast flood at that site and even if water level goes above HFL, it won’t forecast any floods since level could still be well below the warning level?  Can one imagine a more callous technical body?

The callous performance of CWC does not end there. During June 2-7 this year, CWC flood forecasting site as also the flood forecasting site of NDMA which also depends on CWC, stopped functioning. After numerous emails and phone calls from SANDRP, the website started functioning on June 7, 2013 and Shri V D Roy, Director (Flood Forecasting Management) of CWC wrote to us, “Due to technical reasons, the CWC FF site was not working since 2nd June. With consistent effort, the website was made functional w e f 7th June”.

Pointing out a major blunder of CWC, we had written to CWC on June 12, 2013, “CWC forecast site reported that water level of Brahmaputra river at Neamatighat site in Jorhat district in Assam had reached 94.21 m at 0900 hrs (on June 11, 2013), which was 6.84 m above the highest flood level of the site at 87.37 m. The FF site also forecast that the level will be 94.15 m at 0900 am on June 12, 2013, that is today. Both the recording and forecast were clearly wrong, rather way off the mark. The site or the area in question or upstream and down stream levels do not match with what the CWC site said y’day.” Needless to add there was no floods in Brahmaputra in spite of such forecast by India’s highest technical body! CWC is yet to respond to our emails on this issue.

It is strange that CWC, in stead of putting its house in order, is acting as a lobby for big dams by making baseless claims about Tehri dam having saved downstream area of floods, as reported by Indian Express[i] on June 25, 2013. This is like adding salt to the wounds of the people of Uttarakhand who are suffering from the ill effects of lopsided developments including dams and hydropower projects. It would be better if CWC tries to improve its flood forecasts rather than indulging in such lobbying efforts at such times of crisis.

CWC needs to seriously consider including key sites of Uttarakhand into its flood forecasting sites, even if the the duration available for such forecasting is smaller. In times of crisis even a few hours notice can save many lives and also help save other losses.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People  (https://sandrp.in/)

For SANDRP blogs on Uttarakhand flood disaster, see:

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

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/uttarakhand-and-climate-change-how-long-can-we-ignore-this-in-himalayas/

A news report following this PR:

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1853208/report-cwc-failed-to-forecast-alert-about-floods

Disasters

CLIMATE JUSTICE STATEMENT ON THE UTTARAKHAND CATASTROPHE

We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!

 25 June 2013

The India Climate Justice collective notes with deep anguish the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes in Uttarakhand and beyond. The death toll is likely in the thousands, way beyond current official figures. We extend our deep condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and our support to those still fighting for survival, and to local populations whose livelihoods will take years to rebuild.

This tragedy was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains in North India, 2-3 weeks in advance of what is normal for this region. The Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Dehradun, said that 340 mm fell in a single day at Doon, a record not seen for five decades. Such extreme and unseasonal rainfall seems to us to indicate a global warming induced climate change phenomenon. Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall in a particular region. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past. Thus, contrary to statements by senior politicians, the Uttarakhand disaster is not natural: it is no less man-made than the other contributors to the tragedy. And if it is indeed induced by global warming, similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.

In Uttarakhand, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain. Extensive deforestation of mountain tracts, by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-off, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods. Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in the huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to this mountainous terrain, and the construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers.

Most of all, the construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand alone! These dams have a direct connection with the extent of the damage that can be caused in such flooding events, in that the tunnelling and excavation in the so-called run-of-the-river projects cause huge and unregulated dumping of excavated debris into river basins, leading to increased siltation, and in turn aggravating the flood situation. The electrical power generated by these dams will be consumed by urban elites elsewhere. It is ironic that these dam projects, while adversely impacting people’s access to their river commons, claim to be climate change solutions in the guise of renewable and green energy, and have already made huge profits by fraudulently claiming CDM (clean development mechanism) status. In 2009, the CAG had warned the government of Uttarakhand that the “potential cumulative effect of multiple run-of-the-river projects can turn out to be environmentally damaging”. Like many other warnings by environmentalists and local community groups in the past, this was also ignored. And now we are facing one of the biggest disasters that the country has seen in decades.

The central government of India and various state governments, including the govt of Uttarakhand, have prepared action plans for combating climate change. Any such plan ought to include the establishment of a disaster-prediction and warning mechanism. The Uttarakhand government has taken no measures to prepare for this kind of eventuality, though it has paid lip service to climate action plans over the last three years.  In the present case, the IMD issued inadequate warning, which was disregarded by the state government. An urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims don’t move forward and retreat to relative safety, that locals reduce their exposure to risk to the extent possible. Thousands of pilgrims from different states, locals, workers in hotels and dharamshalas, and transport animals have been killed. Cars with people inside them were washed away. Those who have survived had to go without food for several days. Thousands are still stranded at different points, or in forests, and we are still counting the dead.

There has also been extensive devastation of local lives and the regional economy. Serious devastation has been reported from over 200 villages, so far. Innumerable locals, including agricultural workers, drowned in the raging waters or were submerged under mud and debris. Houses have collapsed or been washed away. Tourism and the local employment it generates have been hit indefinitely at the peak of the tourist season. Floods, landslides and debris have devastated agriculture along the rivers. Irrespective of whether these extreme rains are due to climate change or not, this is what a climate change world in the Himalayas looks like. This devastation is a glimpse into a climate uncertain future.

We see this tragedy as a result of cumulative and widespread injustice and wrongdoing: not only against the Himalayan environment, but also against mountain communities whose survival depends on that environment. This tragedy is also a crime, because our policy makers and administrators are also part of the larger climate injustice at a global scale that threatens, displaces and kills the marginal and the poor everywhere. On another plane, they simply let it happen. We believe that adaptation to disasters does not just mean desperate rescue work during and after the event, but also reducing vulnerability and risk before. Effective adaptation involves a series of measures that need to be adopted on a war footing. The sustainable development of a hill economy, and equity – not profit for a few – should be at its core.

India Climate Justice demands:

·        That the governments at the central and state level retreat to a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.

·        That the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out.

·        That the use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works is completely stopped.

·        That, given the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and other climate extremes in the future, extensive and sub-regional warning systems are put in place urgently across all the Himalayan states, the coastal areas and beyond.

·        That a proper assessment of the carrying capacity of specific ecosystems is carried out.

·        That the stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi be declared an eco-sensitive zone without further delay.

·        That a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.

·        That the residents and their organizations are thoroughly consulted in a democratic plan on climate change, in the revival of the local hill economy, and the generation of decent employment.

·        That local people are compensated for the loss of life and livelihood, and that urgent plans are put in place for the revival of local livelihoods and agriculture.

·        That the central government learn from the Uttarakhand catastrophe to put in place prior adaptation measures not just for the mountainous regions but beyond, for coastal and the drought-prone interiors as well.

(INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE)

Endorsing Organizations All India Forum of Forest Movements; Pairvi; Beyond Copenhagen; South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; New Trade Union Initiative; All-India Union of Forest Working People; Chintan; Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Toxics Watch Alliance; Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh; Rural Volunteers Centre, Assam; Vettiver Collective, Chennai; Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand; Maati, Uttarakhand; Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti; River Basin Friends (NE); India Youth Climate Network; Intercultural Resources; Kabani, Kerala; Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; National Cyclists Union, India; Equations; Posco Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi; Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives; Science for Society, Bihar; Nagarik Mancha; SADED; JJBA, Jharkhand; BIRSA; Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; National Adivasi Alliance; Bank Information Centre; Focus on the Global South; Jatiyo Sramik Jote, Dhaka; Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; All India Students’ Association; All India Progressive Women Association; People’s Union for Democratic Rights

Individuals Badri Raina, Kamal Mahendroo, Benny Kuruvilla, Subrat Sahu, Arun Bidani, Saurav Shome, Amitava Guha

India Climate Justice is a collective comprising social movements, trade unions, other organizations and individuals. It was formed in 2009 to respond to the growing climate crisis, from a perspective of justice and equity.

Emailindiaclimatejustice@gmail.com

Tel:  09434761915, 09717771255, 09910476553

Climate Change · Disasters · Floods · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand and Climate Change: How long can we ignore this in the Himalayas?

The current disaster in Uttarakhand has exposed our unpreparedness in many spheres: be it disaster management, weather forecasting, early warning system, tourism management or transparent and participatory environmental governance of a fragile region.

However, we cannot ignore Climate Change and its associated challenges when dealing with these issues.

Himalayas are experiencing Climate Change at an unprecedented rate, this is increasing the incidents of flash floods, GLOFs, landslides and related disasters. India has a huge National Action Plan for Climate Change in place since 2009, under it is a special National Mission for ‘Sustaining Himalayan Ecology’, National Mission on Water, among six others. But what has happened down these years? Are we even considering climate change and its impacts while clearing hundreds of projects on hydel power, river bed mining , urban development, roads and related infrastructure in this region? We are not even assessing the impact of such projects on disaster potential in already vulnerable areas. 

In our earlier blog, we have said that there are a number of reasons behind the sudden deluge in Kedarnath and surrounding areas including Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) (https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/). In the absence of precise weather monitoring or documentation, detailed analysis on this difficult.

Uttarakhand disaster linked to Climate Change However, a number of officials have accepted the climate change link with the current disaster. Secretary of Government of India Ministry of Earth Sciences Shailesh Nayak has now said that  the cloudburst that triggered flash floods in Uttarakhand read like a weather phenomenon brought about by warming. He also narrated how the high intensity rainfall is increasing while low and medium intensity events are decreasing. (See: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Earth-sciences-secretary-blames-Uttarakhand-rains-on-climate-change/articleshow/20709643.cms)

Shri M Shashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority, (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Need-to-assess-climate-change-Shashidhar-Reddy-says/articleshow/20749744.cms) speaking at the inauguration of South Asia Regional Consultation on Climate Change Adaptation, said: “Nothing more serious could have been witnessed. It is an example of extreme weather events we all are concerned about.” He also acknowledged the role of ecological imbalance: “There is no doubt that ecological imbalance has been created in the Himalayas… it made the impact higher.” Reddy also said precious lives could have been saved in Uttarakhand had the weather office made precise forecasts: “They [India Meteorological Department] need to develop a more precise observational and forecasting capability”. (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/only-precise-forecast-of-rain-would-have-helped-says-ndma-chief/article4847316.ece?homepage=true)

However, it is an undisputed fact that climate change is impacting the Himalayas at much faster pace than what the global averages tells us. We take a look at our responses to adapt to and mitigate CC Challenges.

1. Unprecedented Climate Change in Himalayas

(This section is largely based on ICIMODs report: The changing Himalayas – Impact ofclimate change on water resources and livelihoods in the Greater Himalayas)

Warming in Himalayas is happening at an unprecedented rate, higher than the global average of 0.74 ˚C over the last 100 years (IPCC, 2007a; Du et al., 2004), at least 2-3 times higher than global averages.  Progressively higher warming with higher altitude is a phenomenon prevalent over the whole greater Himalayan region (New et al., 2002).

1.1          Impact on Precipitation: In many areas, a greater proportion of total precipitation appears to be falling as rain than before. As a result, snowmelt begins earlier and winter is shorter; this affects river regimes, natural hazards, water supplies, and people’s livelihoods and infrastructure. The extent and health of high altitude wetlands, green water flows from terrestrial ecosystems, reservoirs, and water flow and sediment transport along rivers and in lakes are also affected.

Throughout the himalayas, there is increasing perception and documentation that precipitation is changing, becoming more erratic and intense. “Flooding may arise as a major development issue. It is projected that more variable, and increasingly direct, rainfall runoff will also lead to more downstream flooding.”(http://lib.icimod.org/record/27016/files/c_attachment_782_6044.pdf, Changing With The Seasons: How Himalayan communities cope with climate change, Chicu Lokgariwar, People’s Science Institute)

 1.2       Retreating glaciers: As compared to global averages, Himalyan glaciers are receding at a rapid rate. Retreat in glaciers can destabilize surrounding slopes and may give rise to catastrophic landslides (Ballantyne and Benn, 1994; Dadson and Church, 2005), which can dam streams and sometimes lead to outbreak floods.

Excessive melt waters, often in combination with liquid precipitation, may trigger flash floods or debris flows. Available studies suggest changes in climatic patterns and an increase in extreme events. An increase in the frequency of high intensity rainfall often leading to flash floods and land slides has been reported (Chalise and Khanal, 2001; ICIMOD, 2007a).

CC1
Rapid retreat of Himalayan Glaciers as compared to global averages Courtesy: ICIMOD

1.3       Higher frequency of flash floods and GLOF events: In the eastern and central Himalayas, glacial melt associated with climate change, has led to the formation of glacial lakes behind terminal moraines. Many of these high-altitude lakes are potentially dangerous. The moraine dams are comparatively weak and can breach suddenly, leading to the discharge of huge volumes of water and debris. The resulting glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) can cause catastrophic flooding downstream.

There is an indication that the frequency of GLOF events has increased in recent decades. In the Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region two hundred and four glacial lakes have been identified as potentially dangerous lakes, which can burst at any time (ICIMOD, 2007b)

CC2
Cumulative Frequency of Flash FLoods and GLOFs in Hindukush Himalayan region Courtesy: ICIMOD

(From: The changing Himalayas – Impact of climate change on water resources and livelihoods in the Greater Himalayas Perspectives on water and climate change adaptation. ICIMOD http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/fileadmin/world_water_council/documents_old/Library/Publications_and_reports/Climate_Change/PersPap_01._The_Changing_Himalayas.pdf)

2.            Our Response so far

2.1       National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem under the NAPCC:

The ambitious National Action Plan for Climate Change  has a separate National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco System (NMSHE) under the Ministry of Science of Technology, Government of India.

(There are several issues with this Action Plan itself. For a detailed Critique: http://www.sandrp.in/CRTITUQE_ON_INDIAs_CLIMATE_PLAN-There_is_Little_Hope_Here_Feb_2009.pdf, the link is not working, pl contact us for the file)

The NMSHE Mission document prepared in 2010 states:

“The mission would attempt to evolve management measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan glaciers and mountain ecosystem by:

• Enhancing monitoring of Himalayan ecosystem with a focus on recession of Himalayan glaciers and its impact on river system and other downstream socio-ecological processes.

• Establishing observational and monitoring network to assess ecosystem health including freshwater systems.

• Deploying technologies – for hazard mitigation & disaster management, development of ideal human habitats, and agriculture and forest sector innovations

2.1.1    Some Proposed Actions to address Objectives and Goals of the Mission:

  • Continuous Monitoring of the Eco-system and Data Generation
  • Enhanced implementation of guidelines for Priority Action in the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
  • Sustainable Urbanization in Mountain Habitats:This includes:
  • Town Planning and Adoption and Enforcement of Architectural Norms:

Given the ecological fragility of mountainous areas, it was agreed that rather than permit the unplanned growth of new settlements, there should be consolidation of existing urban settlements, which are governed through land-use planning incorporated in a municipal master plan.

Further action points may include:

(a) Municipal bye-laws will be amended, wherever required, to prohibit construction activity in areas falling in hazard zones or across alignments of natural springs, water sources and watersheds near urban settlements. There will be strict enforcement of these bye-laws, including through imposition of heavy penalties and compulsory demolition of illegal structures.

(e) Construction activity will be prohibited in source-catchment areas of cities, including along mountain lakes and other water bodies. Their feeder channels will also be kept free of building activity.

In order to enable these decisions to be implemented urgently, it is necessary to draw up, as soon as possible, a comprehensive State-wide inventory of such water resources and their channels, which could then be declared fully protected zones.

Promotion of Sustainable Pilgrimage:

Measures for promoting the healthy and sustainable development of religious pilgrimage to the many sacred and holy sites scattered all over the Himalayas, are also necessary. Some of these actions are:

(a) A comprehensive inventory of key pilgrimage sites in each State would be drawn up, which would include analyses of the ecological capacity of each site, based on its location and fragility.

(b) In advance of the results of the above exercise, develop a plan to harmonise the inflow of pilgrims with the capacity of the local environment to cater to the needs of pilgrims. These include the source of several Himalayan rivers, sacred lakes and forest groves.

(c) The construction of roads should be prohibited beyond at least10 kilometres from protected pilgrim sites, thereby creating a much-needed ecological and spiritual buffer zone around these sites. These areas, like national parks and sanctuaries, will be maintained as special areas, where there would be minimal human interference, respecting the pristine nature of thesesites.

(d) Each designated pilgrimage site should have a declared buffer zone where development activity will be carefully regulated.

“Green Road Construction”The construction of roads must fully take into account the environmental fragility of the region. To this end, the concerned State Governments will consider promulgating, as soon as possible, the following guidelines for road construction in hill areas.

(a) Environmental Impact Assessment to be made mandatory for the construction of all state & national roads and expressways of more than 5 km length, including in the extension and widening of existing roads. This will not apply to inter-village roads.

(b) Road construction will provide for the treatment of hill slope instabilities resulting from road-cutting, cross drainage works and culverts, using bio-engineering and other appropriate technologies. Cost estimates for road construction in these areas will henceforth include estimates on this account.

(c) Plans for road construction must provide for disposal of debris from construction sites at suitable and identified locations, so as to avoid ecological damage and scarring of the landscape. Proposals for road construction must henceforth include cost estimates in this regard.

(e) All hill roads must provide adequate roadside drains and, wherever possible, be connected to the natural drainage system of the area.

(f) Alignment of proposed roads should avoid fault zones and historically landslide prone zones.Where this may not be possible, adequate measures will be taken to minimize associated risks, in consultation with experts.

Water security:

The importance of the Himalayas as a natural storehouse and source of water must be acknowledged fully. The region is already under water-stress, with the drying up or blockage of many water sources and natural springs. The following immediate actions, appear to be necessary:

The Himalayan eco system is vulnerable and susceptible to the impacts and consequences of a) changes on account of natural causes, b) climate change resulting from anthropogenic emissions and c) developmental paradigms of the modern society.

Recognizing the importance of scientific and technological inputs required for sustaining the fragile Himalayan Ecosystem, the Ministry of Science and Technology has been charged with the nodal responsibility of coordinating this mission.”

Unfortunately, we saw that NONE of the above is currently happening in the Uttarkhand Himalayas, or for that matter any of the Himalayan States. There are no clear action plans, timelines and budget breakups of this program available and at best, this seems like a vague wish list, rather than an urgent program.

2.2          Uttarakhand State Action Plan for Climate Change:

Uttarakhand has submitted a State Action Plan for Climate change in June 2012, with the help of UNDP. (http://www.uttarakhandforest.org/Data/SC_Revised_UAPCC_27june12.pdf)

Relevant sections of this Plan:

“Extreme precipitation events have geomorphological significance in the Himalayas where they may cause widespread landslides.  Increase in rainfall is likely to causes fresh floods land slides and damages to the landmass. Winter precipitation has become extremely erratic and unpredictable. Increase in the flooding varying between 10 to over 30 percent of the existing magnitudes is expected in all the regions. This has a very severe  implication for the existing infrastructure such as dams, bridges, roads, etc., for the areas  and shall require appropriate adaptation measures to be taken up.

Strategies:

“The UAPCC recognises that scientific knowledge and evidence base on impacts of climate change to the water sector is limited. As such, a comprehensive water data base in public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on water resource through the various agencies responsible for different aspects of water resources management in the State will be developed, and updated and analysed on an on-going basis.

Strategies towards this will include:

  • Review of network of hydrological observation stations
  • Review of the network of automatic weather stations and automated rain gauge stations
  • Collection of necessary additional hydro-meteorological and hydrological data for proper assessment of impact of climate change in Himalayan region including other improvements required in hydrometric networks to appropriately address the issues related to the climate change.

Such data will include:

o Hydrological and hydro-meteorological data in low rainfall areas

o Hydrological and hydro-meteorological data above permanent snowline, glaciated areas, seasonal snow areas in Himalayan region

  • · Improved network for collection of evaporation and rain gauge data using automated sensors
  • · Establishment/strengthening of ground water monitoring and geohydrologynetworks
  • · Collection of data about river morphology for monitoring erosion and carrying capacity, and
  • · Surface and ground water quality data collection, etc.

Other initiatives will include adoption/development of modern technology for measurement of flow in hilly areas, development of water resources information system, and reassessment of basin wise water situation, apart from projection of water resources availability as a result of impact of climate change which would inter-alia include the likely changes in the characteristics of water availability in time and space.

Other necessary studies to improve understanding of climate impacts to the sector will also be carried out from time to time, and robust data mechanisms will be established. Currently, Uttarakhand does not have a State Water Policy. As such, it will be a priority agenda for the State to develop an appropriate policy framework, with explicit cognisance of climate concerns.”

Unfortunately, here too we did not find evidence that ANY of the strategies were put in practice. As we have said earlier, we still do not have a picture of how much rainfall occurred where and when. Rudraprayag district seems to have a single raingauge station, and high density tourist spots like Kedarnath, which are already vulnerable do not even have a raingauge. There exists no early warning system and as clarified by CAG report on Disaster Management, 2013, the State Disaster Management Authority has not met even once since its constituion in 2007.

3.    Hydropower and Climate Change: Time to bust the myths

 Hydropower projects are being aggressively pushed for their supposedly benign role in global warming and climate change. However, world over, there is increasing consensus that Hydropower dams are not only extremely vulnerable to climate change but (http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1007423&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel5%2F2195%2F21734%2F01007423), but actually contribute to global warming and climate change, depending on their size and nature. They are being increasingly recognized as being ‘False Solutions to Climate change.’

 (Ref:

http://www.academia.edu/1207242/Why_hydropower_is_not_clean_energy

http://www.academia.edu/2525879/Climate_change_and_the_Amazon_Tropical_dams_emit_greenhouse_gases

http://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/wrong-climate-for-damming-rivers

Dirty Hydro: http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/dirty-hydro-dams-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2648

Many hydropower projects being planned, under construction or commissioned in Uttarakhand ( and across Indian Himalayas) are storage dams with reservoirs. Even the so called ‘run of the river’ projects involve reservoirs and big dams. These reservoirs emit methane (21 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and carbon dioxide.  It is now proved that methane is not only emitted from reservoirs, but that it is  boosted at each dam turbines and draw-down (Ref: http://news.wsu.edu/pages/publications.asp?Action=Detail&PublicationID=32301)

 4.            Environmental Clearances to Hydropower Dams do not consider Climate Change impacts or mitigation methods:

Despite the burgeoning literature, debates around the world, several submissions from civil society including SANDRP, there is not even as assessment of the impacts of hydel projects on climate change, leave alone mitigation measures. The Expert Appraisal Committee on River valley and Hydropower Projects constituted by the MoEF which recommends Terms and Reference and further Environmental Clearances to these projects has not included the impacts of climate change or the mitigation measures against impacts while recommending TORs or granting Environmental Clearances. It also does not include assessment of impact of the projects on disaster potential of the region or adaptation capacity of the people. The EAC in fact has zero rejection rate even when we know we do not have credible EIA, SIA or CIA for any projects or basins.

5. Carbon Credits: Incentivising destruction, pollution, discounting impacts

Many of the Hydropower projects in the Himalayas, including Uttarakhand have applied for carbon credits under the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism. Under this, clean energy projects in developing countries get millions of rupees as incentives from developed world, which in turn get carbon offset credits, which are a license to pollute further. The entire system, put in place after the Kyoto Protocol is inherently flawed due to absence of due attention impact of projects on adaptation of local people, to local voices and due to market based approach. Many destructive hydropower projects in Uttarakhand are being certified as clean projects, making a mockery of climate change adaptation and sustainable development. Notable among-st these include the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP , 76 MW Phata Byung HEP, both on Mandakini river (epicenter of current disaster), 300 MW Alaknanda (GMR) hydropower project, 330 MW Alaknanda Srinagar Hydropower project, 414 MW Rampur project in Himachal Pradesh, where the World Bank played an active role in getting it registered for Carbon credits.

Carbon credits to large hydropower projects in fact accelerate climate change and its impact on ecosystems and communities and is unacceptable.

6.            Dubious role of World Bank and Asian Development Bank

 World Bank is being reported to have come up with a report which says that “An extremely wet monsoon that at present has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of this century,” It also projected a rise in severe floods within the next 25 years.

The same organisation is pushing some of the biggest and most destructive hydropower projects in the Himalayan region like the 775 MW Luhri HEP, in addition to 2 large Hydel projects upstream on Luhri in the Sutlej Basin in Himachal Pradesh. Luhri HEP will have one of the longest tunnels in Asia and there is no impacts assessment of the impact of this blasting and tunnelling on the villages above, or geological stability.

World Bank is also pushing and financing the 440 MW Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydropower in Uttarakhand. Incidentally, Pipalkoti region experienced some severe impacts of the current deluge and also suffered damages as per MATU report. The World Bank is supporting these projects even when there are no credible project specific ESIA or cumulative impact assessment studies or carrying capacity studies or studies on the impacts of these cascade projects on disaster risks or climate change.

Asian Development Bank is also supporting a number of hydropower projects n Uttarakhand (they are reported to have suffered damages) and in Himachal Pradesh on similar lines.

Cascade projects along the rivers, with no distance between two projects effectively means that the entire landscape surrounding the rivers is blasted, submerged and tunneled.

There is a huge gap between what World Bank’s says and what it does as far as hydropower and climate change is concerned.

In Conclusion:

Current Uttarakhand disaster has seen government officials to the World Bank suggesting that impacts of climate change are severe, but ironically, when asked specifically if they would link current disaster with climate change, they say that cannot be established and hide behind ‘scientific uncertainity’.

As has been seen world over, the poor and most vulnerable sections of the society and the ecology are worst impacted by climate change. It is high time that we adopt no regret strategies to cope with impacts of climate change, through mitigation and adaptation.

(Uttarakhand Floods: Lessons for Himalayan States: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/)

National Action Plan of Climate Change needs to be audited for its efficacy and work from organisations like CAG. MoEF urgently needs to include impacts of climate change while it is busy sanctioning all the projects that come to it. Organizations like World Bank need to walk their talk on climate change and stop financing destructive hydro projects in this fragile region, in absence of any studies on their impact on Climate Change and lives and livelihoods of millions dependent on natural systems.

Climate change is knocking at some of our doors, while it has already arrived through other doors. We can choose to close our eyes and ears and say “this is normal and expected in this region”. But if we do not respond to challenges posed by Climate Change urgently, it wont be just politely knocking, but causing extreme damage, as it is being witnessed.

 Parineeta Dandekar

Disasters

Uttarakhand Floods disaster: Lessons for Himalayan states

Many in the media and outside are calling the current Uttarakhand floods disaster of huge but as yet unknown proportions as Himalayan Tsunami somewhat erroneously. By that very name, we connect the combined fate of all Himalayan states and lessons that are inherent that other Himalayan states need to learn from this tragedy.

Similarities between Uttarakhand and Himalayan state like Arunachal Pradesh In fact one article[i] has already been written that draws some parallels, predicting what Uttarkhand experiences today[ii], Sikkim may tomorrow and Arunachal day after. The article did not realize that Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir are ahead of North East in this queue. Indeed there are a lot of similarities between the situation in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh in particular and Himalayan states in general:

A view of the under-construction dam tunnels at the site of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation's 2000 megawatt Subansiri Lower hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh state, India, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009. It is the biggest hydroelectric power project in India, located on a disputed border between Arunachal Pradesh state and Assam state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A view of the under-construction dam tunnels at the site of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation’s 2000 megawatt Subansiri Lower hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh state, India, Friday, Aug. 21, 2009. It is the biggest hydroelectric power project in India, located on a disputed border between Arunachal Pradesh state and Assam state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
  • Both Himalayan hill states are fragile, part of new mountain that is prone to high intensity rainfall events, including cloud bursts. In fact the average rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh is much higher than that in Uttarakhand.
  • Both states are also prone to flash floods and landslides.
  • Both states are home to very large number of rapidly flowing silt laden rivers that can turn into ravaging, eroding, force of destruction if not handled carefully. Again Arunachal Pradesh has much large number of major rivers than Uttarakhand. Arunachal rivers are also known to carry more silt than Uttarakhand rivers.
  • Both states are in seismically active area in zone IV and V, with tectonic activities that can lead to impact on land, rivers, increasing the disaster potential.
  • Both states have very high proportion of area under forests, which is necessary for the sustained existence of the local environment, people and biodiversity. Livelihood and water security of people in both states majorly depends on these natural resources.
  • Both states are prone to climate change impacts in major way, Himalayas have already seen increase in temperature that are 2-3 times higher than the average global temperature rise of 0.9° C. These climate change impacts include greater frequency of high intensity rainfall, including cloud bursts that can also increase the potential of landslides and flashfloods.
Broken flood protection walls, Karcham Wangtoo a few km downstream of dam_10.11.2010
Broken flood protection walls, Karcham Wangtoo Hydel Project, Himachal Pradesh a few km downstream of dam. Photo: SANDRP Partners

Lessons from Uttarakhand tragedy Some of the lessons that Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states can draw from the current tragedy include:

  • Ensure credible environmental and social impact assessment of all activities including all dams and all hydropower projects of above 1 MW capacity, such assessments should also include how the projects can increase the disaster potential of the area, how they will affect the adaptation capacity of the local people in the context of climate change, how the projects themselves would be affected in changing climate, among other aspects. Currently, we do not have credible environmental and social impact assessment for any project.
  • Ensure credible environmental compliance mechanism in place for each project in which local people have a key role. Today we have NO credible environmental compliance in place.
  • No projects should be cleared until and unless there is credible cumulative impact assessment for all projects in any river basin and sub basin, which includes carrying capacity study. None of this was done in Uttarakhand and none is in place in any river basin of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • An urgent review of under construction and under planning projects should be taken up, stop projects awaiting such a review. The review should include various environment and river governance policies. Moratorium on dams and hydropower projects til above conditions are satisfied. 
  • Certain rivers and certain high risk zones should be declared as no project areas in each basin.
  • In any case, there should be at least 5 km of free flowing rivers between any two projects. At least 50% of river flows in lean season and at least 30% of river flows in monsoon should be released on daily changing as environmental flows as recommended by IMG recently, pending project and river specific studies. This should be applicable for all projects, including existing and under construction projects.
  • Put in place system of early warning, forecasting and dissemination for all kinds of disasters, particularly those related to rainfall and landslides. It is technologically feasible to predict even cloud bursts at least 3 hours in advance, a Doppler radar system was sanctioned for Uttarakhand since 2008 that would have enabled that, but due to lack of coordination between NDMA, IMD and Uttarakhand government, this was not in place.
  • Put in place a clearly defined monitoring system in place that will give prompt report of actual rainfall events even as the event starts so that the downstream area people and administration can be alerted. This again was absent in Uttarakhand.
  • Protection and conservation of rivers, riverbeds and flood plains, including aquatic biodiversity.
  • Do not allow encroachment of riverbeds and floodplains.
  • Prepare clearly defined space for rivers, have river regulation zone in place and remove all illegal encroachments in river beds and flood plains in a time bound manner urgently through legislative, followed by executive action.
  • Do not allow unsustainable mining of riverbeds.
  • Do not allow blasting for any development activity (Uttarakhand Disaster Management & Mitigation Centre made this specific recommendation after the Rudraprayag disaster of Sept 2012 that lead to death of 69 people) as such blasting leads to increase in landslides.
  • Protection of catchments including forests, wetlands and local water bodies that can play the role of cushion during high rainfall events.
  • All states, including those in North East must have an active state disaster management authority in place that will have key role in all development decisions.

While rainfall and cloud bursts are natural phenomena, the disaster potential of such events directly depends on what we have done on ground over the years. Uttarakhand, by, allowing indiscriminate building of roads, buildings and hundreds of hydropower projects without doing basic assessments and participatory decision making processes, have allowed the disaster potential of current high intensity rainfall in the state increase manifold. While some in the media are calling this as Himalayan Tsunami, many people of Uttarakhand are seeing it as a trailer of such Tsunami, if Uttarakhand does not wake up, much bigger tragedy may await the state.

Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir have gone rather too far down that road, but still can wake up and review its development plans and policies and possibly reduce the disaster potential in the respective states. Similarly Arunachal Pradesh has signed over 150 MOUs for big hydropower projects, each of them will entail big dam, long and huge tunnels, blasting, mining, roads, townships, influx of people, transmission lines and so on, without any credible assessment in place. These projects are being pushed under one pretext of another, including the China bogey.

Hydropower Dams in various stages in Arunchal Pradesh. Photo Courtesy: International Rivers
Hydropower Dams in various stages in Arunchal Pradesh. Photo Courtesy: International Rivers

Other Himalayan states like HP, J&K, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur and Mizoram are following the same footsteps. This is surely an invitation to major disaster that will engulf whole of Himalayan region. For Uttarakhand and all Himalayan states there is still time to learn all the lessons that the Uttarakhand experience offers. This is also applicable to neighboring Himalayan countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and China (Tibet).

Teesta_Dam_1
Notice the extensive deforestation and unstability of land at an under construction Teesta Hydel Project in Sikkim

If these are not learnt, what could visit Himalayas could actually make the Uttarakhand disaster like a trailer.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

Landslides in Sikkim in 2012, following earthquake in 2011. Locals blame these on extensive blasting, tunnelling and deforestation for Teesta Hydropower Projects. Photo: Live Mint
Landslides in Sikkim in 2012, following earthquake in 2011. Locals blame these on extensive blasting, tunnelling and deforestation for Teesta Hydropower Projects. Photo: Live Mint
Tunnel for Teesta VI HEP in Sikkim, blasted in the mountains. Photo: Smair Mehta, International Rivers
Tunnel for Teesta VI HEP in Sikkim, blasted in the mountains. Photo: Smair Mehta, International Rivers
Dams underconstruction and planning in Teesta Basin, Sikkim. Map by SANDRP
Dams underconstruction and planning in Teesta Basin, Sikkim. Map by SANDRP
Tunnelling at the 330 MW KishenGanga HEP, Gurez, Jammu and Kashmir Photo: Panoramia.com
Tunnelling at the 330 MW KishenGanga HEP, Gurez, Jammu and Kashmir Photo: Panoramia.com