In an unprecedented first ever Audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which recently conducted Performance Audit on ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ has unambiguously stated that the existing processes for grant of Environmental Clearance are fraught with serious violations, noncompliance and deficiencies.[i] In fact River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects have been highlighted for poorest quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, maximum irregularities during Public Hearings, and non-compliance of Environmental Clearance conditions.
This is a resounding slap on the face of the functioning of the current and past Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EACs on Dams and vindicates and validates what SANDRP and other civil society groups have been saying for long. This is indeed much needed critical feedback when EAC is seeking to make its proceedings less and less transparent and providing false justifications for the same.Continue reading “CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams”→
While Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has been undergoing inquiry by Anti Corruption Bureau and facing a Public Interest Litigation for financial irregularities & cost escalations exposed during the irrigation scam of 2012, the State Government of Maharashtra continues to push new projects in the ecologically sensitive region of Vidarbha.
State Government of Maharashtra has decided to give yet another try to revive Human River Project, a major irrigation project proposed on the Human River near Sirkada Village of Sindewahi Taluka, Dist. Chandrapur. Human dam with storage capacity of about 247 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) plans to irrigate 46,117.00 ha. for which it will submerge 7651.11 ha of land. This disproportionately large submergence (nearly 16% of the proposed irrigation!) also includes 1925.55 Ha of rich full grown forest of Vidarbha. (which is nearly 4.2% of the proposed irrigation!) (Earlier figure for forest submergence in print media and few other documents was 1535.85 ha. But latest official documents mention 1925.55 Ha)
Human River is a tributary of the Andhari River that merges into the Wainganga. The reservoir that will be created after impoundment of the waters will be just 4.25 km from the boundaries of the Tadoba National Park and 3.2 km. from the Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary, both of which form the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), a vital area for tiger conservation in central India. The proposed dam falls in the Eco-Sensitive Zone of TATR and thus needs National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) clearance.
The project is being pushed by Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is currently a State Cabinet Minister of Finance, Planning, and Forest Departments in the Government of Maharashtra. State Government is seeking clearance from State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) before it could be sent to NBWL for approval. In September 2014 a four-member high-powered committee constituted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to visit Human dam site at Sirkada, 3.5km from TATR in Chandrapur district.[i] The meeting in which the decision was taken to revive the project was held due to Mungantiwar’s follow up with then Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar.[ii]
काल दि. २३ ऑगस्ट २०१६ रोजी महाराष्ट्र-तेलंगण आंतरराज्य मंडळाच्या आज झालेल्या पहिल्याच बैठकीत तुमडीहेटी, मेडिगट्टा आणि चनाखा-कोर्टा बॅरेज या तीन बॅरेजचे काम सुरू करण्यासाठी दोन्ही राज्यांदरम्यान करार करण्यात आले. कमालीची गोपनीयता पाळत केल्या गेलेल्या या कराराबद्दलची अत्यंत मोघम टिप्पणी प्रसार माध्यमांना पाठविण्यात आली. तुमडीहेटी, मेडिगट्टा आणि चनाखा-कोर्टा बॅरेजमुळे महाराष्ट्र राज्यातील यवतमाळ, चंद्रपूर आणि गडचिरोली जिल्ह्यातील 30 हजार हेक्टर जमीन सिंचनाखाली येणार असून उपसा सिंचन योजनांना बारमाही शाश्वत पाण्याचा स्त्रोत उपलब्ध होणार आहे असे या टिप्पणीत नमूद केले आहे. तसेच या प्रकल्पामुळे महाराष्ट्रातील एकही गाव, गावठाण बुडणार नाही, नदीकाठच्या गावांना पुराचा धोका नाही व हे प्रकल्प दोन्ही राज्यासाठी फायदेशीर ठरणारे असून उपसा सिंचन योजनांना बाराही महिने पाणी मिळणार आहे असा दावा करत या भागातील नागरीकांनी या प्रकल्पांना विरोध करु नये असे आवाहनही महाराष्ट्राच्या मुख्यमंत्र्यांनी त्यांनी केले. Continue reading “महाराष्ट्र-तेलंगण आंतरराज्यीय करार: जनतेच्या मुलभूत हक्कांचे व देशाच्या पर्यावरणीय कायद्यांचे उल्लंघन”→
Maharashtra & Telangana governments, it has been announced, will be signing a pact for three irrigation projects to be constructed on River Godavari. Under the agreement, the two states would take up Tummidihatti, Medigadda (Kaleswaram) and Chanaka–Korata projects. Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao has reportedly said that “this would herald a new era in the relations between the two states and would be a standing example of how the states can resolve inter-state disputes without the Centre’s intervention.”[i]
This pact which has been looked at as ‘historical victory’ for Telangana for convincing the neighbouring states is in fact one of the most blatant and outright violations of India’s environmental laws. Tummidihetti Project & Medigadda Project featured in the agreement have long history of gross irregularities and violations exposed by several apex agencies as well as media. SANDRP has visited these project sites multiple times, studied and written extensively about the projects and also repeatedly sent submissions to Chief Minister of Maharashtra pointing out the violations. The agreement is also being signed, keeping the affected people and also people in the Godavari river basin in two states completely in the dark. Some of the links for these articles are given at the end of this article. Continue reading “Proposed Maharashtra Telangana Inter-state Water sharing Agreement of Aug 23, 2016: In complete violation of people’s rights & environmental laws of India”→
Lower Penganga, an interstate Maharashtra-Telangana project, proposes to build a dam across River Penganga (a tributary of Godavari river) near Tadsaoli Village in Ghatanji Tehsil of Yavatmal District, Maharashtra to irrigate a massive 2,18,129 ha. It has failed to take off even after two decades of its inception. It is a Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) which has been in limelight for corruption and controversies due to over seven fold increase in project cost in just 10 years. In this project contractors with political backing were favored so much so that even the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project was carried out by one of the contractors! The project floated tenders for securing Forest Clearance! The construction was started illegally violating the environmental laws. It is set to submerge around 1000 ha of forest land and affect some 11,000 tribals dependent on it. There has been a decade long struggle of the affected people to protect their rights. Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) was asked to probe into massive corruption in the project. Continue reading “Lower Penganga Project: Two decades after inception, the struggle continues…”→
“We do not want dams; in fact we don’t need it. It is the industries for which they need water, and for which they want us to give up our fertile ancestral land and destroy the forests which we have protected since centuries and put our children in danger.”
An affected villager
Kanhar Dam is one of those projects which is an example of how so called developments worsen the situation for the people and environment. The project conceived 37 years ago has been in abeyance since last 25 years. With the latest inauguration of construction of the dam on 5th December, 2014 after a span of 25 years without a fresh proper cost benefit analysis (CBA), any environment impact assessment (EIA) or Social Impact Assessment (SIA) ever, the commencement of project activities is making way for a large social uprising in the heavily industrialized zone of Uttar Pradesh.
Kanhar Irrigation Project is located downstream of the confluence of River Pagan with Kanhar near village Sugawan in Tehsil Dudhi of District Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh. It was originally approved by the Central Water Commission in September, 1976 at an initial budget of Rs. 27.75 Crores. Initially, there was some foundation work undertaken but the project was soon stalled due to inter-state issues, lack of funds and volcanic protests from tribal communities of the region. As per a progress report of the project for 1998-99, the construction work is completely abandoned since 1989-90. Since then, there are numerous occasions when the project was inaugurated, notable among them is one on 15th January, 2011 when the then Chief Minister Mayawati laid foundation stone again. Another inauguration took place when on 12th November, 2012 when Mr. Shiv Pal Singh Yadav (uncle of present CM Akhilesh Yadav), the Irrigation Minister of Uttar Pradesh laid another foundation stone to start the work of spillway. However no work could be taken up.
The project proposes a 3.003 km long earthen dam having a maximum height of 39.90 m from deepest bed level which may be increased to 52.90 m if linked to Rihand reservoir. The project envisages submergence of 4131.5 Ha of land which includes parts of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand mostly dominated by tribal communities. The project is expected to provide irrigation to Dudhi and Robertsganj Tehsils via left and right canals emerging from both sides of the dam with capacity of 192 and 479 cusec respectively. The culturable command area of the project is 47,302 ha. The project imposes enormous threat not only on the environment and ecology but also to thousands of tribal families of Vindhyas living there since hundreds of years and has demanded for protection of their forests and proper implementation of R & R (Rehabilitation and Resettlements).
The controversy actually began when the Central Water Commission in its 106th meeting of Advisory Committee for the ‘techno-viability of irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project proposals’ approved the project at an estimated cost of Rs. 652.59 crores at 2008-09 price level. A bare perusal of the minutes shows that there is no consideration of the environment and social impacts of the project. The minutes also show that the approval was granted in the presence of representatives of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Local Voices Suppressed
The inauguration of the project held on 5th December 2014 was marked by the presence of heavy police force and paramilitary forces which were deployed to guard the construction site on the river bed. Few roads have been blocked by Police and it is reported that the entry to the project site is stopped 1.5 km ahead of the construction site. To speed up the work, regular increase of heavy equipments and machinery is in progress. CCTV cameras are also reported to be installed at the site to keep a regular check on the activities.
There is a constant effort by the administrative authorities to suppress the voices of aggrieved and affected raised against the project and those who have attempted to do so are being arrested under the Uttar Pradesh Gunda Niyantran Adhiniyam, 1970 or ‘Gunda Act’. There are repeated incidences of arrests and FIRs against the local people. Incidences of people-police clashes are now becoming a daily routine affairs. Recently the SDM, Dudhi along with the other policemen was also injured in a similar clash. In retaliation to it, there were series of arrests being made by the police and FIRs were filed against 500 unnamed locals. There is an atmosphere of fear already created among the villagers in the region.
The question arises is, whether due procedure has been adopted by the state government as prescribed under law? And if yes then what is the reason for suppressing the voices and why is so such chaos being generated by the government? The project is in controversy due to several questions which are still left unanswered and requires a detailed clarification from the State Government.
The rise of Kanhar Bachao Andolan
The Kanhar Bachao Andolan (KBA) is the first of its kind integrated protest which emerged in the form of an organization in the year 2002 under leadership of a Gandhian activist Bhai Maheshanandji of Gram Sawaraj Samiti based in Dudhi tehsil of Sonebhadra and Gram Pradhans of villages which would be submerged if the project is implemented. The KBA has been raising the issue of tribal rights and discrepancies in the R & R before the state govt. through representations, protests and petitions in High Court. There is a continuous peaceful campaign against the project by KBA since a decade including the unceasing protest which started from 5th December, 2014 on the other side of the River Kanhar opposite to the construction site. Fanishwar Jaiswal, who is a former-Gram Pradhan of Bhisur village and an active member of KBA said, “There was a public meeting organized by the MLA of Dudhi in June, 2014 to address the R & R issues. The Gram Pradhans of several villages presented their views against this project and also submitted written representations; however those views and protests were never registered by the government in any of their reports.”
Rich Forests and Tribal Culture at Stake
I got a chance to visit Sonebhadra district in July, 2014 where I came to know about this project and the ongoing protests. I visited the project area and interacted with the people of Sundari and Bhisur villages of Dudhi tehsil which are the affected villages among several others. Dense forests and agricultural fields were the most common landscape feature. One could have seen the abandoned machines, several of which were half-sunk to the soil, broken houses with ghostly appearances which were informed as the once constructed officer’s colonies of the project and old rusted sign boards stating ‘Kanhar Sinchai Pariyojna’. Those structure and abandoned equipments were clear evidences of the Kanhar project which was abandoned long back by the government.
Till 1984, a large number of trees were felled by the government in the midst of protests by the tribal communities. But, since then the work did not take place and there was no displacement of tribals. They have now planted more forests in their villages and have their own regulation bodies for protection of these Forests. “Cutting trees is seen as sin in our culture and we have strict fines and punishments if someone does that. Trees are our life and we are protecting them for our children”, said Pradhan of village Sundari which will be the first village to be submerged by the project.
We discussed about the status of biodiversity and came to know about their dependence on traditional medicines which they obtain directly from the forests. All the villagers I met were satisfied with their rural lifestyle and have developed their own way of sustaining agricultural production by choice of specific vegetable, pulses and crops depending on climate.
It was informed that every year elephants visit the Kanhar River from the Chhattisgarh side. Animals like Sloth Bear, Leopard, Blackbuck, Chinkara and several reptiles are abundantly noticed by people due to presence of hills and forests in the region.
‘We do not want dams; in fact we don’t need it. It is for the industries which need water, and for which they want us to give up our fertile ancestral land and destroy the forests which we have protected since centuries’, said a villager.
It is suspected that the Kanhar dam is being constructed to supplement the Rihand dam to provide water for the industries in Sonebhadra and adjoining region. It seems that the government has not learnt from the experience of Rihand dam which was constructed in 1960s in the same district in the name of irrigation, but gradually diverted the water for thermal power plants and industries. The water in Rihand dam is now severely contaminated with heavy metals which has entered the food chain through agriculture and fish. Like the Rihand dam, the new project will cause more destruction than good to the people of the region.
Vindhya Bachao’s Intervention
It is very clear that the project is going to destroy a huge area of dense forests and going to displace not only the tribal communities from their roots but also affect the rich flora and fauna of the Sonebhadra. To know about the actual status of the environment and forests clearance of the project, RTI (Right to Information) applications were filed with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in July, 2014. The belated reply was received only in Dec, 2014 on initiating a first appeal. The responses states that the ‘Environment Clearance’ was granted on 14.04.1980 which is more than 30 years old and therefore any further information with respect to the same cannot be granted since the same is exempted under the RTI Act 2005. Hence, two things are clear that the project requires a fresh ‘Environment Clearance’ under the EIA Notification, 2006 & a forests clearance prior to start of any construction activity.
In view of this fact, On 22nd December, 2014 an application was filed by Advocate Parul Gupta on behalf of applicants Debadityo Sinha (Vindhya Bachao) and O.D. Singh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) before the National Green Tribunal praying for taking action against the UP Government for carrying out construction activity of the project without statutory clearances under EIA Notification, 2006 and Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The application came up before the bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar on 24th December 2014 wherein stay orders were issued against the Government with clear indication that no construction activity shall be allowed to be undertaken if they do not have ‘Environment’ ‘ and ‘Forest’ Clearance’ as prescribed under law.
The major Environmental and Social issues which require to be carefully considered before the project is allowed to move ahead are as follows:
Large Social Implications: Nearly 10,000 tribal families are going to be affected directly who will lose their ancestral land permanently. Gram Sabhas of the project affected villages has already passed a consensus against the project and submitted the same to the State Govt.
Dense Forests will be lost: The Renukoot Forest Division is one of the dense forests of Sonebhadra with tree density of 652 per hectare as per data obtained from a forest clearance application involving the same forest division. The Kanhar project document shows 4439.294 Ha of land categorized as ‘Forest and others’. In such case, lakhs of trees will be affected by this project which would cause significant impact on environment, wildlife and livelihood of tribals.
Loss of Rich Biodiversity: Vindhyan mountain range is known for the wildlife and rich diversity of medicinal plants which are inherently linked with tribal culture. Scientific Publications shows there are at least 105 species of medicinal plants in the region which are extensively used as traditional treatment by tribal people. The project will endanger the remaining few patches of forests which are not only the last few remaining patches of rich biodiversity but refuge to several wild animals in this heavily disturbed landscape. Conversations with the villagers will reveal presence of mammals like Sloth Bear, Leopard, Blackbuck, Chinkara, Jackal etc and several reptiles including Bengal monitor and snake species in these forests. The submergence area falling in Chhattisgarh is reported to be an elephant corridor.
Immense loss to ecology of river Sone and Ganga: Kanhar is a major tributary of River Sone which forms an important catchment of Ganga River Basin. After construction of Rihand Dam and Bansagar dam and various other water abstraction structures owing to number of industries in the region because of availability of coal mines-River Sone is one of the most exploited system which has lost its riverine characteristics. Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute reported disappearance of 20 fish species from Sone in the time span between 1976 and 2011 which is attributed to increased abstraction of water from the Sone river system. The report clearly states that ‘damming of rivers or tributaries is the root cause of river obstructions causing severe modifications and perturbations to the river flow, velocity, depth, substratum, pools, ecology and fish habitat’. There is reporting of 14 exotic alien species in the river. The report claims that the river Sone is in critically modified (class F) condition with discharge of mere 5.16% of Mean Annual Runoff (MAR) and it will require at least 34.2% of MAR to bring it to slightly modified class (class B). In such a scenario, damming of 5200 km2 of the total catchment of 5,654 km2 of river Kanhar will be disastrous for the river Sone depriving it of the major share of the present water availability. As Sone river system forms an important catchment of River Ganga, the impact on ecology of River Ganga is undeniable.
Contribution to Climate Change: We will lose lakhs of trees which would act as carbon-absorption system. To double the problem, the carbon which is locked in the forests will be released to atmosphere when these trees will be felled. While Carbon Dioxide is released from aerobic decomposition of plants, the anaerobic decomposition of organic matters will release methane which is 24 times more potential GHG than Carbon Dioxide. There is global evidence which support production of GHGs in dams, the quantity of which varies on several parameters like climatic conditions, water depth, water fluctuation, area of submergence, dissolved oxygen etc. Emission of GHGs like Methane is known for a positive feedback trigger which would lead to more absorption of heat causing further rise in temperature, thus increasing the rate of anaerobic decay in the reservoirs and release of more Methane.
Lack of Proper Cost-Benefit Analysis: The cost benefit ratio of such projects are calculated on investment and direct benefits from the projects with consideration of impact of project on people & ecosystem, which are often underestimated and excluding socio-cultural costs and cost of a healthy environment and cost of services provided by the river, forest and other ecosystems. The monetary value of the impacts such as on forests, biodiversity, fishing, non-use values, public money spent on infrastructures, cultural loss and other negative impacts are not considered at all.
Lack of Options assessment There has been no options assessment as to establish that this proposed dam is the best option for water resources development in the Kanhar/ Sone basin.
There is no justification for the project. There has not even been an application of mind if the project is beneficial to the people and society. There is not even any impact assessment, nor any democratic decision making process. A huge amount of public money is already spent on development of schools, roads, hospitals, houses etc in the area, which will be lost permanently by this project. At the time, when this project was incepted in 1976 the environment and social scenario of the country and this region was very different from what it is today. River Sone was not in critically modified state, Forests of Sonebhadra and adjoining regions were still intact, human population was lesser, technology was not so advanced, science of climate change was not fully understood and the need of protection of environment was not felt or required as it is today. In 1976, protection of rivers was not a primary concern as the problems were not evident as it is today. In such scenario furthering such abandoned projects shows poor understanding of environment and insensitive attitude by the policy makers. It is thus important to undertake a proper cost-benefit analysis, a fresh Environment Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment, conduct proper options assessment to understand the implications of this project on the ecological balance and people keeping into account the present scenario. Such studies should undergo a detailed scrutiny and public consultation process.
POST SCRIPT UPDATE on March 16 2015 from the author:
Update from NGT hearing dated 12th March, 2015
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has filed its reply before the National Green Tribunal confirming that there exists a confusion with respect to grant of forest clearance diverting 2500 acres of forest land for construction of the Kanhar dam. The Ministry has defended itself claiming that the Forest Clearance dates back to the time when the Ministry was not in existence and therefore the files pertaining to the same cannot be traced. However, it has shifted the burden of proof on the State of U.P. indicating that a letter dated 28.8.1980 by the then ministry of agriculture implies the grant of fc and must be produced by the state.
The state in defence has filed a bunch of letters which according to them refers to the grant of forest clearance. However, the state has failed to produce thee letter dated 28.8.1980 which is claimed to be the FC granted to the project.
The court observed that :
Learned counsel appearing for MoEF submits that the original letter of 1980 granting Forest Clearance to the Project Proponent is not available in the records of the MoEF. Similar stand is taken by the Project Proponent. However, both of them submit that the preceding and subsequent transactions establish that clearance was granted. ….. Since it is a matter of fact and has to be determined on the basis of record and evidence produced by the parties, we grant liberty to the Applicant to file Replies to this Affidavit, if any, within three days from today. We also make it clear that one of the contentions raised before the Tribunal is whether it is an ongoing project for number of years or it’s a project which still has to take off and which law will be subsequently applicable today. Let the Learned counsel appearing for the parties also address to the Tribunal on this issue on the next date of hearing.
Ms. Parul Gupta appeared for the applicants while Mr. Pinaki Mishra and Mr. Vivek Chhib appeared as counsel for State of U.P. and MOEFCC respectively. The matter is now listed for two days- 24th March, 2015 and 25th March, 2015 for arguments. For the order click here , for Press Release click here
POST SCRIPT ON April 14, 2015:
Firing in Sonbhadra, UP
Police firing in Kanhar anti dam proterstors early morning today
against illegal land acquisition by UP Govt
Firing done on the day of Ambedkar Jyanti
Police firing on anti land acquisition protesters at Kanhar dam early morning today. One tribal leader Akku kharwar from Sundari village have been hit by bullet in chest, Around 8 people have been grievously injured in the firing and lathi charge by the police. Thousands of men and women are assembled at the site to intensify the protest against on Ambedkar jyanti. The protesters were carrying the photo of Baba Saheb to mark the day as ” Save the Constitution Day”. Akhilesh Govt fired arbitrarily on the protesters among whom women are in the forefront. Most of the women have injured. The firing is being done by the Inspector of Amwar police station Duddhi Tehsil, Sonbhdara, UP.
Condemn this criminal Act and join in the struggle of the people who are fighting against the illegal land acquistion and constructing illegal Dam on kanhar river.
Roma Dy Gen Sec All India Union of Forest Working People
POST SCRIPT on April 20, 2015: Update from Roma:
Kanhar Dam – Legitimate demands of dalit farmers in UP being crushed ruthlessly, Chhattisgarh adivasi peasants being kept in the dark – says a fact finding team of
Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan
A fact finding team of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan consisting of Alok Shukla, Sudha Bharadwaj, Jangsay Poya, Degree Prasad Chouhan and Bijay Gupta visited the dam affected villages of the Kanhar Dam in UP and Chhattisgarh on 19th April 2015. The team first visited Village Bheesur which is closest to the dam site and interacted with the affected families who are mostly of the Dalit community who were still deeply affected by the repression of the 14th April and 18th April. The affected men and women were very articulate about their grievances and extremely legitimate demands. They explained that they were first told about the Kanhar Dam in the year 1976 when the then Chief Minister ND Tiwari promised 5 acres of land, one job in each family and a house measuring 40’x60’, apart from full facilities of education, health, electricity and water to the 11 affected villages of Uttar Pradesh namely Sundari, Korchi, Nachantad, Bheesur, Sugwaman, Kasivakhar, Khudri, Bairkhad, Lambi, Kohda and Amwaar. In 1983 it is correct that compensation payments were made at the rate of Rs. 1800 per bigha (approximately Rs. 2700 per acre) to the then heads of households. After this the villagers have got no notice whatsoever. On 07-11-2012 the Irrigation Minister laid the foundation stone of the dam. It was claimed that now a consolidated sum of Rs7,11,000 would be given to the heads of households as identified in 1983 and houses of 45’x10’ dimensions would be constructed for them. The farmers are rightly arguing that they have been in physical possession of the lands all these years and therefore they should be compensated as per the 2013 Act. The government must be sensitive to the fact that the earlier households have multiplied and the compensation must be provided to all adult families who will lose their livelihood. It is also very pertinent that in the meanwhile the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has come into existence and we found that many of the farmers have been granted Pattas under the Act; however the government is refusing to compensate them for the loss of such lands, which is absolutely against the spirit of the Act. The work of the dam was started on 04.12.2014 and from 23.12.2014 the villagers were sitting in continuous dharna. On that very day, efforts were made to intimidate them. While the SDM and District Magistrate did not intervene till about 6pm, at about 7pm the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of which about 150 jawans were deployed at the dam site interfered. After the Tehsildar assaulted a young man Atiq Ahmed, people rushed in from the weekly market and a fracas ensued. Right from that day cases were foisted on 16 named and 500 unnamed persons. Despite this, the villagers continued with their peaceful protest, however since the government was not carrying on any negotiations and at the same time the dam work was progressing, on 14th April they decided to shift the venue of the dharna closer to the site. The PAC opened fire and a bullet passed through Akklu Chero (Cherwa) – an adivasi of Sundari village. 39 persons were injured, 12 of them seriously. The deployment of the PAC was increased to about 500-1000 jawans. On 18th April early in the morning the administration was determined to remove the protestors. The district force and PAC surrounded the dharna site, uprooted the pandal and mercilessly beat and chased the villagers right up to their villagers. They entered Village Bheesur and not only beat up men and women, but vandalized a motor and motorcycle of Ram Lochan. Colesia showed us her injured arm and fingers and was in tears because she did not know where her husband Mata Prasad was. People were not certain where missing family members were since the injured have been taken to the Dudhi Health Centre and if any person tries to contact them they face the threat of arrest since between the cases made out against them for the events of 23rd December, 14th April and 18th April cover about 956 persons. But the team found out that the following had been injured mostly with fractures and were possibly hospitalized. The number of women injured is significant:- Village Bheesur – Rajkalia, Kismatiya Mata Prasad, Uday Kumar and Phoujdar (all ST) Village Korchi – Phoolmatiya, Butan. Village Sundari – Ram Bichar, Shanichar, Zahoor, Azimuddin, Jogi. Village Pathori Chattan – Bhagmani, Ram Prasad, Dharmjeet. Similarly the PAC people chased the protestors of Village Sundari too right up to the houses on the outskirts of the village. They damaged motorbikes and cycles even setting fire to them. We observed that the work at the dam site seemed to be progressing fairly fast. The height of the dam which was earlier stated to be about 39.90 m appears to have been increased subsequently to 52.90 m increasing the apprehensions of the people. The Police had cordoned off the area and there were still a large number of PAC trucks and personnel in their makeshift camp of sheets. When the team reached Village Sundari, there was an extremely tense atmosphere. Some dominant caste-class persons were holding a meeting in which others seemed to be quite subdued. Some very vocal local leaders told us that they do not want any interference from any outside NGO or organization. Most of them were quoting the DM Sanjay Kumar belligerently saying that he had said that all protest and movements should stop. Otherwise he would foist so many cases that they would rot in jail for the rest of their lives and use up all the compensation in paying lawyers. Some persons who seemed to have been sent by the administration were clicking our photos when we introduced ourselves. The leaders told us that they had decided to accept the compensation and would be going to the DM to inform him so as that was the only way the cases would be lifted. While it was clear that not all the persons in the meeting were in agreement with this “decision”, they were clearly cowed down by the cases and the pressure being brought by the administration. However our most tragic experience was in the affected villages of Chhattisgarh in block Ramchandrapur of district Balrampur. They fall in the “Sanawal” constituency of erstwhile Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam who had assured the villages that there would be no submergence whatsoever in Chhattisgarh. Even when the current MLA Brihaspati Singh of Congress tried to hold a meeting at Sanawal in which he invited the protestors of UP, lumpen supporters of Ram Vichar Netam made it difficult for him to educate the villagers about this. We were shocked to find that the Water Resources Department of Chhattisgarh admits that the following 19 villages are to be submerged – Jhara, Kushpher, Semarva, Dhouli, Pachaval, Libra, Kameshwarnagar, Sanawal, Tendua, Dugru, Kundru, Talkeshwarpur, Chuna Pathar, Indravatipur, Barvahi, Sundarpur, Minuvakhar and Trishuli; and 8 to be partially submerged – Chera, Salvahi, Mahadevpur, Kurludih, Tatiather, Peeparpan, Ananpur, and Silaju. Yet the villages are in blissful ignorance. Only after the incident on the UP side of the dam occurred, on 18th April an Engineer came to Jhara village and stated that 250 acres of land would be submerged out of which 100 acres was private land. But even this is not the truth since it is clear that the entire village is to be submerged. As we were leaving Jhara village we saw a whole convoy of 6 Government Scorpios rushing through the village. Clearly, the state at some point has to begin some legal acquisition proceedings and seem to be at a loss as to how to do so. Strangely enough, keeping up the pretence of no submergence Shri Netam has had many constructions sanctioned in Sanawal and surrounding villages whereas ordinarily, once there is an intention to acquire, government expenditure is kept to a minimum. As we returned to Ambikapur, we heard that another fact finding team from Delhi who were to meet with the injured in hospital and the Collector Sonebhadra, had been detained for questioning. The rapidity and the ruthlessness with which the dam is being built, at any cost, indicates that is unlikely to be for the stated purpose of irrigation. With large industrial projects coming up in Sonebhadra UP and even in neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, on the cusp of which this dam channelizes the waters of Kanhar and Pang rivers, it appears to be that providing water to these projects and also hydel power are likely to be the real causes. The Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan comes to the following tentative conclusions on the basis of its fact finding – 1. The demands of the project affected farmers, particularly dalits and adivasis, are eminently reasonable and the administration should enter into sympathetic discussion with them to redress their very legitimate and legal grievances. Work on the dam should be stopped during such negotiations so as to create an atmosphere of good will. 2. The PAC used excessive and unnecessary force on the protestors on both 14th April and 18th April. The complaints of the protestors should be registered as FIRs and action should be taken against the errant police jawans. 3. Using the threat of false cases against the protestors to arm-twist them to accept unjust compensation and rehabilitation is a form of state terror. The cases must be reviewed particularly the practice of filing cases against “unknown” persons, and malicious cases must be withdrawn. 4. In the State of Chhattisgarh, there has been absolutely no transparency, information or following of legal procedure with regard to affected 27 villages. The provisions of the 2013 Act beginning with the pre-acquisition procedure of Social Impact Assessment, Gram Sabha Consultation (all these areas are Scheduled areas), determination of Forest Rights, Public Hearing on Rehabilitation and Resettlement packages etc must be strictly followed. 5. Finally, the attitude of the Uttar Pradesh Government and the district administration of Sonabhadra in restraining activists from entering the area or making an enquiry into the facts on the ground is undemocratic and reprehensible.
Delhi Contact : c/o NTUI, B – 137, Dayanand Colony, Lajpat Nr. Ph IV, NewDelhi – 110024, Ph -9868217276, 9868857723,011-26214538
Sub: Work on Kanhar dam should stop untill court decisions are pronounced.
Dear Akhilesh ji,
We want to ask you why your government is trying to forcibly acquire land for Kanhar Dam in Dist. Sonebhadra violating the law of the land whereas your party is opposing the amendments proposed by the Narendra Modi government in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. In light of the recent incidents of use of force by the District administration on 14th and 18th April, 2015, we wish to say the following.
(1) The SC judgement in the case of Niyamgiri hills, empowering the tribals to take a final decision on whether to allow multinational company to undertake bauxite mining there, should be now a precedent in all projects proposed in tribals areas. In addition the 73rd amendment to Constitution empowering Gram Sabhas to take decisions on economic planning for development should be honoured. Case no. 67043/2011 is pending in Allahabad HC relating to this right of GS and we expect that the district administration of Sonebhadra and Government of UP will wait for a decision on this.
(2) The project is 37 years old and was abandoned in 1984. The forest clearance dates back to 14/4/1980. It is a joke if the administration claims that it has the necessary environment and forest clearances on the basis of a clearance obtained 35 years back. Why is the Sonebhadra administration and UP government not prepared to wait for the National Green Tribunal judgement on this matter?
(3) It is another joke that the district administration wants to proceed on the process of acquisition done around 35 years back whereas the people have not given up their possession till date. The District Magistrate of Sonebhadra claims that he’ll rehabilitate the people displaced due to dam construction in the most ideal manner. But all he has are plans for their housing. What about their livelihood? We believe that land for land is the only proper compensation for a person whose livelihood depends on agriculture.
(4) Force should not be used against people who agitate peacefully. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia severed relationship with his own government in Kerala because there was police firing over people in an incident in 1954. It is people’s democratic right to protest peacefully and government’s must find peaceful resolution to problems.
We commit to stand by the people in this struggle against the government which is for namesake socialist but is actually serving the interests of capitalists. We condemn all the repressive actions of the government and attempts by the district administration to terrorize people into submission so that they accept the displacement and rehabilitation package.
We hope that the Government of UP would act in a democratic spirit and respect the rights of people. It should immediately halt the construction work at Kanhar dam site and withdraw all the cases foisted on people so that people in jail may be released.
Ajay Shekhar, Vice President, U.P. and Sandeep Pandey, National Vice President, Socialist Party (India) after a visit to the dam site, Sundari and Bhisur villages on 20 April, 2015.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Ken Betwa Riverlink project used for the public hearing to be held on Dec 23 (Silon village in Chhatarpur district) and Dec 27 (Hinouta village in Panna district), 2014 in Madhya Pradesh is, as can be seen from the details below, unscientific, incomplete, inadequate, biased, inconsistent (self contradictory), callous, making unwarranted conclusions/ assumptions, it accepts government claims uncritically and is generally a shoddy piece of work.
Background Agriculture Finance Corporation of India (now AFC Ltd) was commissioned in 2007 itself to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Ken Betwa Riverlink proposal. This was even before National Water Development Agency (NWDA, a society of Government of India created in 1981-82 exclusively for studies on River Linking proposals) applied for the Terms of Reference Clearance for the EIA for this project in December 2010.
This review of the EIA of Ken Betwa project is based on the Executive Summary (English) of the EIA made available on the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) website in Dec 2014 before the statutory public hearing slated for Dec 23, 2014 at Silon village in Chhatarpur district and Dec 27, 2014 at Hinouta village in Panna district, both in Madhya Pradesh.
Since this executive summary is largely the same as the EIA made available to the Expert Committee set up on Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) by the then Union Ministry of Water Resources (now Union Ministry of River Development, Ganga Rejuvenation and Water Resources – MRDGR&WR) for which I was a member, I have also provided the critique of that earlier EIA(in red font) in Annexure 1 to this Article.
The comments given below under each heading are only indicative to establish what is contended about the EIA here and not exhaustive.
Biased EIA In the very second paragraph of the EIA Executive summary, it is stated, referring to NWDA studies, “These studies established that Betwa is a water short basin”. But an EIA is not supposed to uncritically accept such assertions or assumption of the developer. In fact the EIA accepts this as gospel truth without critically examining it.
Incomplete EIA The EIA executive summary does not even have a project layout map, sections like biodiversity impact assessment, impact of destruction of substantial part of Panna Tiger Reserve, surrounding forests and livelihoods of the people dependent there on, options assessment, hydrological viability assessment, disaster potential assessment, how the project will be impacted by destruction of forests and climate change, additional green house gas emissions due to the project and downstream impacts, to name just a few issues..
EIA makes wrong claims The EIA claims in very second paragraph: “The scope of EIA studies inter-alia does not include water balance studies.” This is a wrong claim since water balance study of the Ken Betwa links establishes the hydrological viability of the project and by not going into the water balance study, the EIA has failed to establish hydrological viability of the project. SANDRP analysis in 2005 of the NWDA feasibility study of Ken Betwa Proposal had established that the hydrological balance study of the Link Project is flawed and an exercise in manipulation to show that Ken has surplus water and Betwa is deficit.
As the collector of Panna district noted in 2005 itself, if the 19633 sq km catchment of the Ken river upstream of the proposed Daudhan dam (comprising areas of eight districts: Panna, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Satna, Narsinghpur, Katni, and Raisen) were to use the local water options optimally, then there will not be any surplus seen in Ken river at the Daudhan dam site and by going ahead with the Ken Betwa Link without exhausting the water use potential of Ken catchment, which is predominantly a tribal area, the government is planning to keep this area permanently backward. But the EIA of Ken Betwa link does not even go into this issue, making the whole exercise incomplete.
Ken Betwa project destroys Panna Tiger Reserve but EIA claims project may benefit PTR! The Ken Betwa Project, as per the EIA, will submerge 4141 ha of Panna Tiger Park reserve, but the EIA Ex Summary says (para 58), “the reservoir may prevent encroachments of the park and invasion by livestock so that a relatively more secure and compact habitat is formed on Right flank of Daudhan dam which may be beneficial.”
In Para 63, the EIA executive summary goes on to claim that the project will not decrease tourists flow (due to destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve or drying of waterfalls in the downstream), but in fact increase tourist inflow because of the creation of reservoir! No word about the destruction of river!!
Absence of credible submergence figures The EIA has hugely reduced the area to be affected in Panna Tiger Reserve and in the surrounding forests compared to the figures given in the Feasibility report of the project, without any explanation. Well known conservation expert Kishore Rithe, in his article in December 2014 issue of Sanctuary Asia Magazine has raised doubts about these figures and has suggested that much larger area will be destroyed by the project than what is stated in the EIA. He has also said that the EIA does not take into account the biodiversity that will be destroyed in the forest because of the project. Using strong (& justified) words, he has said this is assassination of wildlife, to help the contractors.
EIA LIES on Biodiversity: Endangered and vulnerable species in Ken Basin find no mention in EIA Para 59 of the Ex Summary of EIA is about Aquatic Environment and it says: None of the species of aquatic plants come either under rare or endangered or endemic or threatened categories (REET). This is a shocking lie, since the following paper by Dr.K.D Joshi and B.K. Biswas of CIFRI (Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute) says that the Ken has at least 4 endangered and 9 vulnerable species. The EIA is also keeps mum about the existence of Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary in the downstream area, which will be destroyed due to the project.
CIFRI paper of 2010 said there are 4 endangered and 9 vulnerable fish species in Ken River According to a paper by Dr. K. D. Joshi and B. K. Biswas published in Journal of Inland Fisheries Society of India (42(2): 25-31, 2010) titled Piscine Diversity and Fisheries in the River Ken, proposed for the Inter-River Linking, “53 fish species classified under 40 genera, 19 families and 7 orders. Out of these, 51 species are native and 2 exotic. The river comprises some highly important threatened species including 4 endangered and 9 vulnerable species… The fish species available in the river have immense economic importance”.
Endangered species include: Tor tor (Mahseer), Chitala chitala, Eutropiichthys vacha, Ompok pabda.
The paper concludes that the proposed Ken Betwa link project will have “Deleterious impacts on piscine diversity and fishery may occur downstream to the Daudhan dam site in the river Ken, as a result of the depletion in breeding and feeding grounds and hiding sites of the fishes. This could be due to reduction in flow as a result of diversion of the water to the Ken-Betwa link.” The EIA has no word on this.
GEM of the EIA: Project canals help fish migration and will provide a ‘short cut’ for fish! This is indeed a GEM from the EIA executive summary. In para 59 the EIA executive summary says: “Interlinking of these basins through link canal will facilitate rapid migration of the fish easier… The fish has a tendency to migrate upstream. The inter linking of rivers provide another route for fish migration from Yamuna to Betwa and ultimately from Betwa to Ken. Further, the distance from Duadhan dam to the place of confluence of Ken with Yamuna is longer as compared to the distance from the place of confluence of Betwa with Yamuna and Daudhan dam through link canal. Thus, this route will facilitate rapid migration of fish.” This shows shocking ecological illiteracy of the EIA consultants. This para not only shows how poor is their understanding of fish, rivers and ecosystems, it also shows by AFCL should be blacklisted from doing any EIAs.
ANOTHER GEM FROM EIA: RESERVOIRS HELP REDUCE POLLUTION! In para 61 the EIA Ex Summary says: “Stagnated body can get rid of their pollutants by sedimentation while lotic body carries its load of pollutants downwards.” This narration of advantages of stored water as against flowing river clearly seems like a prescription that it is better to dam the river to reduce pollution! Another example ecological illiteracy of the EIA consultants.
Incomplete EMP The Environment Management Plan (EMP) in the EIA ex summary starting from para 66 is incomplete: It does not include environment flow assessment, muck disposal plan, compensatory afforestation plan, Compensatory land allocation for destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, habitat improvement plan for the balance part of PTR, REET species plan mentioned in para 70(c) at cost of Rs 10 crores, upstream (of Daudhan Dam) water development impacts/ management plan, downstream impacts management, to mention only a few.
Outdated R&R Plan norms As stated in Paras 76 onwards, R&R (Resettlement and Rehabilitation) plan has been prepared based on norms of National R&R Policy of 2007 and MP R&R policy of 2002, but both are outdated in Dec 2014 where the applicable norms are based on The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Thus the whole R&R plan is completely outdated and will need fresh assessment starting from Social Impact Assessment. The whole EIA has no mention of settlement of rights under Forest Rights Act. Thus the whole social impact and R&R section is outdated, incomplete and under estimated and hence unacceptable.
Fundamental contradictions in R&R figures Para 80 of EIA ex Summary says that 1585 families will be affected by the Daudhan Reservoir. In next para, this becomes population of 1585! Two paras latter, in para 83, the population affected by the reservoir becomes 7224! In para 92 the EIA executive summary says: “Therefore it is only 806 project affected families and there are no other affected families in the project affected villages.” This not only shows contradictions but absolute callousness of the EIA agency.
EIA says minimum agriculture wage is Rs 64/-! In para 94 the EIA executive summary says all the entitlement has been assessed based on agriculture wage rate or Rs 64/- of 2006-07! This is when the minimum agricultural wage rates for unskilled labourers w.e.f. 01.04.2014 is Rs 193, more than three times the rate assumed by EIA agency!
Joke of Land for Land by providing 5% of acquired land Para 96 of EIA Ex summary says that total of 6423 ha of revenue land is acquired and it is proposed to provide land for land to ST and SC families. Than it says for this purpose, a total of 358 ha of land will be required! This comes to 5.57% of acquired land and the EIA consultant says this is sufficient for providing land for land! This is clearly a cruel joke on the ST and SC families and shows how great an impoverishment programme this project is.
Social & Environmental impacts of backwater effect not assessed Para 67(c) says that 956 ha of land will be affected due to back water impact, but there is no social and environmental impact assessment of the back water impacts.
Contradictions in EMP
Para 59 says there are no REET species, and para 70(c) provides Rs 10 crores for REET species plan!
Para 70(a) says fisheries production from reservoir will be 470 MT / year and para 70(e) says the same will be 60 tons!
In para 70(a) the EMP says the reservoir fisheries will provide livelihood for 500 families and also that there will be sport licensing.
Questions over choice of AFCL for Ken Betwa EIA The Ken Betwa EIA work has been given to Agriculture Finance Corporation Ltd. (now AFC Ltd – http://afcindia.org.in/). Firstly, the basic mandate of this corporation is Agriculture Finance, and as we all know agriculture finance is in bad shape in India, one of the major reason for the agrarian crisis. In stead of focusing on its core area, this corporation has been majorly working on preparation of Environment Impact Assessment related work. Why should the government encourage such non core work by AFCL, [AFCL is itself is a quasi government body, it being owned by NABARD and EXIM bank]? Secondly, the track record of AFCL in EIA related work is quite bad. Some of the recent EIAs of AFCL that has invited adverse remarks include the EIA of Polavaram Multipurpose project (also one of the ILR links), Tipaimukh project in Manipur, Kameng Hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh and Thoubal irrigation project in Manipur. In case of Tipaimukh and Polavaram EIAs, even some of the official agencies have found their EIAs to be wanting.
For example, the minutes of the minutes of the meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF&CC for River Valley Projects, held on Oct 15, 2007 said that the EIA report for the Tipaimukh (even after several revisions spread over several years) “The revised EIA report incorporating the above mentioned information was considered by the committee in its meeting held on 15th October 2007. After careful examination of the report, the committee was of the opinion that the report has been prepared haphazardly… As such the data reported (flora and fauna) is of little value… No fresh study (on water quality) has been undertaken… No mention has been made about as to how many water bodies (ponds, lakes, Jheels, springs, etc.) are going to be submerged by the dam and what type of flora and fauna available there… The Biodiversity Management Plan as well as Fishery Management Plan are not up to the mark. Separate plan for rehabilitating the riverine species should be done. Fishery Management Plan does not say anything as to how measures will be taken for the conservation of the fish fauna occurring in the region. Instead, it talks about cultivation of economically important fish… Plan for the Biodiversity Management also needs significant improvement. IVI should be calculated for dominant species. Nothing has been said about the rehabilitation of mahseer (and similar other species), in spite of its endangered nature. The Financial outlay for both the plans has been prepared just as an eye wash and need thorough revision and enhancement of at least ten to fifteen times. The Biodiversity Management Plan is also having very small financial outlay. This also needs significant enhancement.” (Emphasis added.)
CONCLUSION This analysis clearly shows that the EIA consultant does not have basic understanding of ecological issues related to rivers or river valley projects, ground situation in project area or laws of India. This EIA is clearly unacceptable and should be rejected. The EIA should be re-commissioned to a credible EIA agency. Appropriate steps should be taken against the current EIA consultants. The public hearing planned on Dec 23 and 27, 2014 should be cancelled as there is no basis for conducting an informed public consultation. This EIA and also the public hearing conducted based on this EIA will not stand public, scientific, social or legal scrutiny.
Ken Betwa River Link EIA from NWDA received in November 2009
WHY THIS EIA IS NOT ACCEPTABLE
This is in response to NWDA letter No.: NWDA(SCILR)/Tech-1/200/3/2006 (Vol.X)/67-86 Dated 23.3.10, requesting expert committee members to submit comments on the DRAFT Ken Betwa EIA, a soft copy of which was sent to the committee members in Nov 2009.
EIA AGENCY IS BIASED
In the very second para of the executive summary, EIA says Betwa is “Water short”. EIA agency is supposed to be unbiased and cannot parrot the assumptions of the developing agency, NWDA.
In para 1.02 (chaper 1, volume 1), it says, “It is noted that dams with reservoirs are among measures mostly resorted to as long term solution to mitigate flood losses as well as to prevent drought situations.” This is completely wrong statement, with no basis in reality, and in any case shows the bias of the agency at the outset.
In para 1.16 it says, “The anticipated benefits of the project include the following. The transfer of water to deficient areas from surplus areas;…” This clearly shows that the EIA agency has uncritically accepted the conclusion of the project developer, without so much as even an attempt to assess its correctness. How can such an agency be accepted as an objective EIA agency?
In Para17 it says, “There is no other alternative for irrigating the proposed CCA of about 3.436 lakh hectares, providing drinking water facilities to 16.98 lakh population and generating 78 MW power. This project is inevitable for removal of the backwardness and poverty of this Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. The no project option will adversely affect the development of this backward region of Bundelkhand and thereby increase the regional disparities. Such disparities contribute for large scale migrations from and unrest in the region. Therefore, no project option is an alternative to be considered.” Here again we can see the clear and repeated bias of the EIA agency. Firstly, the EIA agency does not even say what is the no project alternative. Secondly, it assumes that the project would remove the backwardness and poverty of the Bundelkhand region of MP, without any substantiation. Lastly, it says, no project option is to be considered!!! What does it mean??
EIA AGENCY IS INCOMPETENT
In para 14 of the Exe Sum, it says, “Out of the above, forest land accounts for to 5258 ha, rest of the area being agricultural lands, settlements, scrubs and water bodies. Ten villages are likely to be submerged. Area of Panna national park or Tiger reserve accounts for about 65.13 percent of total forest area under submergence with 4163 ha.” Simple calculation shows that 4163 is 79.2% of 5258, and not 65.13% as stated by the EIA. The EIA also does not explain why the forest land has reduced from 6400 ha in Feasibility report to 5258 ha and area of Panna tiger resevee has come down from 4586 ha in FR to 4163 ha now.
In Para 56 the EIA says, “The area (Daudhan project) under irreversible impacts is neither a home nor an important habit for the wildlife including birds”. To say this when the project is going to submerge over 4600 ha of Panna Tiger Reserve is shocking.
In para 58 EIA says, “Interlinking of these basins through link canal will facilitate rapid migration of the fish easier.” How can this become possible?
In Para 60 EIA says, “Stagnated body can get rid of their pollutants by sedimentation”. This is clearly wrong.
In Para 73 EIA says, “The budget for different management activities required to be carried out for mitigation and prevention of dam break is 60 lakh.”, However, none of the measures listed there can prevent dam break.
In para 1.04 it says, “In the nineteenth century British colonialism introduced technical and hydraulic principle by introducing perennial irrigation in the sub-continent… A third wave in hydraulic manipulation emerged in 1930s with new technologies put into operation to effect the virtual industrialization of river control. Now the entire river basin had become the focus for water planners and engineers. This facilitated to train the river through interconnected dams, reservoirs and diversions all the way to its estuary by harnessing its waters simultaneously for navigation, irrigation, flood control and power generation.” These statements make no sense and in any case are irrelevant and also show the ecological illiteracy of the agency and also its bias for such systems.
In para 1.10 it says, “The Gangau weir was constructed to augment supplies from Bariapur PUW for transferring the water from Ken basin to Betwa basin, as the construction of a reservoir is proposed at Daudhan village in Chhatarpur district. Before selecting the Daudhan site for construction of a reservoir, an assessment of two other alternative sites were considered.” Makes no sense. There are many other such paras and statements, but these samples should be good enough for any objective reader.
In Para 1.18 it says, “National Water Development Agency, New Delhi taken up feasibility studies of Ken-Betwa Link Project in Madhya Pradesh to cater to the needs of irrigation besides providing drinking water, power generation and diversion of waters to Betwa basin. Though there are large benefits that may accrue after assuring irrigation they are out weighed by social, environmental and economic costs.” (Emphasis supplied.) If the benefits are out weighed by the costs, than the project is non viable is it not? Why that conclusion is then not reflected in the rest of the report?
In para 66 (under Reservoir Rim Treatment) the EIA says, “The periphery line beyond the MWL will be in submerged condition for a few days only during flood period and will be vacant during other period.” No details are given as to how much area of which specific villages/ districts will be affected over how much period and what will be the impacts thereof.
EIA DRAWS UNWARRANTED CONCLUSIONS/ ASSUMPTIONS
Para 26 of Exec Sum says, “Due to drying up of leaves of trees, monkeys were found moving from one tree to another for their shelter in Panna Park near proposed Daudhan dam.”
In Para 40 it says, “Hence impact due to change in the hydrological cycle are not anticipated.” This is completely wrong, the hydrological cycle will change with the building of the dam and there will be impacts there of.
In Para 57 it says, “The Daudhan reservoir is capable of effecting the distribution of Tigers since the Tiger reserve of 4163 ha (National Park) will be submerged. But at the same time, the reservoir may prevent encroachments of the park and invasion by livestock so that a relatively more secure and compact habitat is formed on Right flank of Daudhan dam which may be beneficial.” There is no obvious logic to what the EIA says here.
In Para (on growth of aquatic weeds in reservoir) 59 it says, “The problems are manageable through bio-manipulation of reservoirs.” How can that be achieved and what will be consequences?
In Para 62 it says, “There are no places of tourist interest going to be affected due to the submergence.” This when the Daudhan dam will submerge over 4500 ha of Panna Tiger reserve, which is obviously a place of tourist interest.
In Para 66 (under compensatory afforestation) it says, “Assuming that non forest land is not available…” when the EIA is not supposed to make such assumptions.
In Para 69 the EIA talks about development of fisheries in Daudhan reservoir, without understanding that the most of the reservoir will remain under the forest dept and tiger reserve and such activities are not allowed in reserve area.
EIA MAKES CONTRADICORY STATEMENTS
In Para 69 the EIA says, “Funds to a tune of 1000 lakh are required for conservation of REET species in the submergence area.” However, earlier in para 57 it says, “…impact of the projects on REET species may not be too severe to prevent any recovery.” And in para 58 it says, “None of the species of aquatic plants comes either under rare or endangered or endemic or threatened categories (REET).”
In Para 69(a) the EIA says, “There is a proposal to develop carp based fisheries in Daudhan reservoir with an anticipated production of 470 MT/ year” and in para 69(e) it says, “Fish production from the reservoir will be increased steadily on a sustainable basis to attain a yield of 60 tones on full development by adopting the measures suggested.”
EIA AGENCY IS CARELESS
The EIA in para 34 says, “The Daudhan dam and reservoir area comprises of very hard, compact and dense quartz – arsenate”, but does not give any implications of the presence of dangerous Arsenate compound. According to Wikipedia, “An arsenate(compound) is any compound that contains this (AsO43−) ion.”
The EIA says (para 4) that the Full reservoir Level is 288 m. When the FRL in FR was 287 m, the EIA should explain this change. It also claims that the MWL will be same as FRL, which is also a change from FR, no explanation is given.
EIA AGENCY USES WRONG TERMS
In para 39 it says, “No change in the regime of Ken River due to Daudhan dam or Betwa river due to Makodia dam is anticipated.” The line or the para does not explain what is meant by regime of river. If it means flood regime, since the para is talking about floods, its conclusion that there will be no change is completely WRONG. Such big reservoirs would completely change the flood regime downstream from the dams.
EIA Provisions are inadequate
In Para 91 the EIA provides for “Provision of land to land to the extent of land acquired, to the ST and SC PAFs.”. However this is completely inadequate. If the displaced population of Sardar Sarovar Dam from the same state of MP are entitled for minimum of 5 acres of irrigated land, why should the displaced population of Ken Betwa get anything less? All displaced families must get at least this.
The EIA does not indicate the R&R plan for the canal and other categories of displaced. This is also not acceptable. All categories of displaced must be treated the same way.
The R&R plan does not ensure improved and permanent livelihood for the displacement population. It also does not take into account the total resource base of the affected population, without which one cannot even assess if the affected people are better off or not.
THE EIA PROVIDES NO REFERENCES OR NAMES OF THE SOURCES OR EXPERTS IT USES IN THE REPORT. THIS MAKES SUCH FIGURES AND STATEMENTS UNVERIFIABLE AND HENCE UNRELIABLE.
The EIA also does not address many of the issues I raised following the earlier version of the EIA shared with the expert committee, this is pretty shocking too.
This brief note is sufficient to show why the current EIA for the Ken Betwa link proposal is unacceptable and the best course of action would be to go for a fresh EIA with a more credible agency. Pl include this note in the agenda of the 9th meeting of expert committee on ILR. This is not an exhaustive comment, but provides sufficient reason to reject this EIA and commission a fresh EIA from a credible agency, in consultation with the Expert Committee.
March 31, 2010, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)
The Report of the High Level Committee to review various Acts administered by MoEF & CC (the report hereafter) has been submitted on Nov 18, 2014, though it has been made public only in early Dec 2014. The High Level Committee (HLC) headed by former cabinet secretary T. S. R. Subramanian faced a lot of well deserved criticism from its inception. While a comprehensive critique of the 106 page HLC report will take time, some critiques have already been published.
At the outset it should be mentioned that the HLC report is replete with recommendations for expediting environmental clearance, fast tracking projects and they show anti environment bias, as reflected in its use of “Single Window clearance”, “Fast track clearances”, “making business easier”, “utmost good faith” to name only a few phrases frequently used by HLC. However, this article is limited to commenting on the direct and indirect implications of the HLC report on climate change concerns.
While the mandate of the HLC report was “to review various Acts administered by MoEF & CC”, as the title page of the report says, the report rightly acknowledges that such a review would entail analysis of functioning of the environmental governance in India. And any review of environmental governance would be considered grossly inadequate in 21st century, when climate change is the biggest over arching environmental concern of our times that is also dictating the developmental priorities and options. As the world moves from deeply disappointing negotiations at Lima (Peru), symbolizing the continued let down of recent COPs (Conference of Parties) under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to the next (21st) COP at Paris in 2015, it would be useful to see the HLC report through the climate change lenses.
HLC is climate blind Scanning through the report for the phrase “climate change”, one finds that it appears just once in the report outside the name of the commissioning ministry (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change), in para 1.3 in preamble chapter, where it says: “We need to take heed of the very recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) call from Copenhagen that the earth is flirting with danger – the alarm flag has been hoisted.” That reference, one would have thought would lead HLC to give more importance to Climate Change, but that hope is belied when we read through the report. Even the word climate appears just one other time in the report (para 7.10.4 (e)) but that has nothing to do with climate change.
The other phrase generally used synonymously with climate change is global warming. This phrase appears in the report just once in preamble chapter, in para 1.7, which generates some hope: “Global warming, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and potential for conflict growing out of competition over dwindling natural resources are the current focus of humanity and should occupy the centre stage in policy formulation.” Indeed, Climate Change is “current focus of humanity and should occupy the centre stage in policy formulation”. But the HLC has nothing to do with that concern as the report does even care to mention that in any of its analysis or recommendations!
That shows that as far as direct reference to climate change is concerned, HLC has shown not referred to it in its analysis or recommendations. It would seem from this that may be HLC report is blind to climate change concerns.
But how can it be blamed for inviting a climate disaster? Let us see how.
Indian government is proud of its National Action Plan on Climate Change which is supposed to drive our developmental plans and priorities during the ongoing 12th Five year plan and beyond. There are several national missions, including National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Solar Mission, National Water Mission, National Sustainable Agriculture, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency and National Mission for Sustainable Habitat, all of which have far reaching implications for environment governance and climate change. The prime minister himself chairs the PM Council on Climate Change, which is a policy making and national monitoring body.
The 12th Five Year Plan specifically gives importance to climate change when it says (para 1.42): “It is known that India will be one of the countries most severely affected if global warming proceeds unchecked and as such appropriate domestic action is necessary. A National Action Plan for climate change has been evolved with eight component Missions. Implementation of these missions must be an integral part of the Twelfth Plan.”
But HLC takes no cognizance of any of these. Nor does it see the ecology, forests, rivers, biodiversity from climate change perspective and how vulnerable groups from climate change point of view would be affected by projects that would adversely impact the ecology, forests, rivers, biodiversity & other natural resources. In fact HLC completely ignores the fact that millions of Indians directly depend on these natural resources. HLC seems to have no clue about this.
Here it will be illuminating to quote what the HLC chairman said recently: “Villages in Gujarat could have got the water five years earlier had there been no andolan. Though some people lost their land in Madhya Pradesh (MP), the result is that half of MP and three-quarters of Gujarat today has access to water. So, there is some cost attached to everything. Some larger force will have to look at it. Ultimately, it is all about striking a balance. We are suggesting that the government should not go after development blindly but also not let people of one village blackmail it by shouting “my right, my right”. Mr Subramanian here is clearly referring to Narmada Bachao Andolan agitation against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River. This is not only grossly ill informed opinion, it shows his shocking anti people and anti people’s movement bias.
The HLC was expected to consider populations that are vulnerable due to climate change and also affected by destruction of environment. In fact the entire HLC report has nothing to do with people or populations, leave aside identifying the vulnerable populations and giving affected people any effective say in environmental decision making process. Absence of such role for people is one of the key reasons for current environmental problems in India, as is apparent in any of the environmental and natural resources conflict. But HLC analysis not only ignores this lacuna, HLC recommendations are for further reducing say for the people by suggesting that public consultations can be done away with in most projects.
Let us see some further direct implications of HLC recommendations with respect to climate change. HLC is essentially dealing with forests (chapter 5), wildlife (chapter 6), biodiversity (chapters 5, 6 & 7), environmental governance (chapter 7). It makes a large number of recommendations on these issues and all of these have implications for climate change and how the populations vulnerable to climate change would become further vulnerable when these resources are taken away from them. But here again HLC sees no need to mention climate change. For example, forests are a major storehouse of carbon and HLC recommendations are going to lead to massive deforestations, thus increasing the release of stored carbon and reducing the carbon absorption, besides taking away the adaptation capacity of the forest dependent communities, but HLC finds no merit or reason to mention that. Even in section 7.9.2 where HLC mentions the kind of expertise NEMA (National Environmental Management Authority), there is no mention of climate change.
It is in this context that we need to view the HLC recommendations for faster and single window clearances with advocacy for utmost faith in the project developers, for relaxing the environmental governance on several counts, for fast track clearances for mining, power, line projects and large number of other projects, for recommending relaxation of public consultation process in most of the projects, for insulating the officials and the ministers (the executive) from environmental governance, for delaying the legal challenge process to clearances and also for debarring the legal challenge on merit. These HLC recommendations are all going to help relax the environmental governance and hence invite greater environmental disaster and by implication, climate disaster for India.
The claim of HLC chairman that HLC had tried “to optimize the efforts to balance developmental imperatives causing least possible damage to environment” is clearly unfounded. The remarks of the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar, while accepting the report from HLC, that “the Report was a historic achievement that would strengthen processes to balance developmental commitments and environment protection. The recommendations of the Report would enhance Ministry’s efforts to avoid undue delays and ensure transparency in clearances and implementation of projects” is deeply disappointing and seems to begin an era where environmental conflicts will only increase and deepen.
It is thus clear that HLC report will invite greater climate disaster for India, particularly for those who are poor and already vulnerable to climate change implications. The HLC report should be rejected for this reason alone, besides its other acts of omissions and commissions.
Guest Blog by: : Karthik Teegalapalli(firstname.lastname@example.org) a researcher with the Nature Conservation Foundation
In April 2014, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) decided to deny clearance to the 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydro-electric Project, the largest capacity hydro project in the country proposed to be developed by the National Hydropower Power Corporation (NHPC) in the biodiversity-rich Arunachal Pradesh State (Saikia 2014). The project was also denied clearance in July 2013. More recently though, the project has been recommended forest clearance by the FAC and Environment Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee. Therefore it is pertinent to look at the impacts the project may have in some detail.
Ecological impacts The project, in its earlier version involved diversion of more than 5000 hectares of relatively undisturbed grassland and tropical forest habitat. These and the adjoining forests harbour endangered species such as tiger, leopard, serow as well as the critically endangered takin, all of which are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (these species are also listed as present in the area in the Environmental Impact Assessment report of the project, undertaken by National Productivity Council, Guwahati). The grasslands in the area harbour the critically endangered Bengal Florican, a grassland habitat specialist (Sinha et al. 2014). Other species recorded from the area include the critically endangered white-rumped vulture, the slender-billed vulture and the white-winged wood duck. The project site lies in an area identified by the Bombay Natural History Society as a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area (Islam & Rahmani 2004). The habitat of six endangered plants (Aconitumferox, Coelogynemossiae, Dendrobiumaurantiacum, Paphiopedilumfairieanum, Paphiopedilumvenustum and Vandacoerulea) will be submerged by the reservoir (Chernaik 2007).
The project will also affect aquatic species; the dam will block the breeding migration of four species of fish: the Vulnerable snow trout Schizothoraxrichardsonii, Endangered golden mahseer Torputitora, Near-Threatened mahseer Tortor, and chaguni Chaguniuschagunio. The recommendation of the Environmental Management Plan of the Project to establish fish hatcheries for these species is impractical and can have further damaging effects on the species due to collection of eggs and spawn from the wild population.
The project will have other collateral damages such as through Compensatory Afforestation (CA) that often involves converting an area with diverse native species into monocultures, as has been shown for other dams such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river (Bhatnagar 2004). The project involves CA of a relatively large area of over 100 sq. km (double the area of forest being affected by the project). The ill-effects of this conversion particularly for the project can be expected to be higher if tree-less natural grassland habitats in Dibang Forest Division, Namsai Forest Division and Anini Social Forestry that harbour grassland habitat specialists are planted with undesired native or non-native tree species. Perhaps the irreversible loss of biodiversity in the forests and grasslands that will be diverted for the project could never be ‘compensated’.
During the construction phase of the project, an estimated 32 lakh truckloads of boulders and 16 lakh truckloads of sand is to be extracted from the Dibang river basin. Unsustainable extraction of sand and boulders has significant negative effects on geomorphology, bank stability, flood character of the river, water quality, river flow, and the biodiversity in the river basin (Padmalal et al. 2008). The project during the construction is to generate 198 lakh cubic meters of muck which will be disposed in the river bank which will cause further loss of 120 ha of river habitat. Construction of new roads (64 km) and widening of existing roads (19.5 km) will also lead to removal of trees and increase the vulnerability of the region to landslides and erosion (Chernaik 2007).
Social impacts The Lower Dibang valley is currently a region of relatively low human population density (~14/km2); the entire population of the Idu-Mishmi tribe is about 12,000. The influx of approximately 6,000 project staff (which is very likely an underestimate) for a period of 8 years or more will affect their way of life, their culture and their tradition as well as open up access to relatively moderately disturbed habitat and biodiversity in the region.
Downstream effects include those on fisheries, agricultural lands and wetlands (beels) and the dam will also increase the vulnerability of the region to flash floods. For instance, in the year 2007, flash floods caused due to sudden release of water from the relatively smaller 405 MW Ranganadi project in the Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh swamped 83 villages and caused huge loss of lives and property in the Assam State. The project will have a considerable impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam which has not been studied in detail in the EIA.
On shaky grounds A critical issue with the project is that the site lies close to an active Fault Line in the Mishmi Thrust of the Mayudia Group in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh with a history of several seismic activities including the Great Assam earthquake of 8.6 magnitude in 1950 (Figure 1, Misra 2009). In the event of an earthquake, the project poses a risk of catastrophic submergence of several villages and vast areas of forests downstream. The recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project are cursory and suggest further research on the natural seismicity of the region as well as reservoir-induced seismicity, which should be the basis for the decision about the project.
Notwithstanding these, in Oct 2014 the project was cleared by the FAC constituted by the new Government, although the committee still had four of the six members who had earlier twice recommended rejection of clearance. Is this decision driven by changes made by NHPC in their project plan? Clearly not. Diversion of forests has now been reduced by a mere 9% to about 4600 hectares; instead of 3.55 lakh trees, the felling has been reduced to 3.24 lakh trees, the power generation capacity has been reduced by 2.3% and the height of the proposed dam reduced by 10 m. In fact, the FAC rejection of April 2014 was for this 10 m rejection proposal!
NHPC misleadingly and baselessly claimed that they ‘were not in a position to reduce the height of the dam any further, as it would significantly affect the power generation’. The decision to provide clearance to the project seems like a hasty one driven by the blinders of development and the consequences of such projects is evident from the fate of the Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project in the same State, also by NHPC. After 12 years since the LSHP was initiated and after an expenditure of over Rs. 5000 crores, the work has been on a standstill for the last 35 months as a result of India’s biggest anti-dam people’s movement (Dandekar & Thakkar 2014). Considering the economic, ecological, environmental and social costs of the project as well as the geophysical risk it poses, it would be prudent to withdraw the project till a credible, detailed cumulative study covering these aspects is undertaken in a transparent and participatory way. While the rest of the world is recognising the ill-effects of dams, with the largest dam removal project on the Elwha river in the United States completed just three months back, it is paradoxical that we are heading in the other direction; of building the highest dam in the country and largest capacity reservoir of the North East India without even basic studies, credible impact assessment and democratic decision making process.
Bhatnagar, D. (2004) Uprooting Forests, Planting Trees: Success of Compensatory Afforestation Measures Mitigating the Deforestation for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, India. University of California at Berkeley.
Islam, M. Z. & Rahmani, A. R. (2004) Important bird areas in India: priority sites for conservation. Indian Bird Conservation Network, Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife International (UK).
Misra, D. K. (2009) Litho-tectonic sequence and their regional correlation along the Lohit and Dibang Valleys, Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Journal of the Geological Society of India, 73: 213-219.
Padmalal, D., Maya, K., Sreebha, S. & Sreeja, R. (2008) Environmental effects of river sand mining: a case from the river catchments of Vembanad lake, Southwest coast of India. Environmental Geology, 54(4): 879-889.
Saikia, P. J. (2014). Six years after PM laying the foundation ston: No clearance, no work for 3000 MW Dibang Dam.
Sinha, A., Hoque, J., Pradhan, T., Bakshi, M. K., Pulu, J., Singh, A. K. & Ahmed, F. (2012) Sighting record of Bengal Florican Houbaropsisbengalensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Gruiformes: Otididae) in Lower Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4(14): 3375-3376.
Reaching exasperating lows of environment decision making, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC is a statutory body of the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) formed under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. FAC appraises Forest diversion proposals) has recommended Forest Clearance to the 3000 MW Dibang Project on Dibang river in Arunachal Pradesh.
This was the very same NHPC proposal which was rejected twice by the FAC in the past, despite this token 10 meter height reduction. In fact in April 2014, the FAC said that 10 mt reduction does not take care of any pertinent impacts for which the proposal was rejected in the first place in July 2013! A 10 m reduction would still mean destruction of 3.24 lakh trees and submergence of 4577.84 hectares, nearly 12000 acres, of rich bio-diverse forest.
The usually reticent MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, MoEF earlier) too had issued a strong-worded rejection to this scheme in August 2014, stating that 10 meters reduction is nothing in the face of what is being lost. The rejection letter stated: “Such a marginal reduction in requirement of the forest land (445 hectares reduction, reducing forest requirement from 5056 hectares to 4577 hectares) for the project may not be able to reduce the adverse impact of project on such a biodiversity-rich mature forest ecosystem to the extent which could make the project environmentally as well as socio-economically viable in forest dependent tribal society of Arunachal Pradesh”.
This letter from the same ministry certified that the 10 m reduction proposal still leaves the project environmentally, socio-economically unviable. So an environmentally and socio-economically unviable project has been recommended clearance by the statutory FAC (and also the separate recommendation a week earlier by the same MEFCC’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects)!
This shows that the decision of FAC is devoid of merits, will invite huge opposition from Arunachal Pradesh, Downstream Assam, North East India, and even beyond and will not pass legal scrutiny. The decision seems to have been taken under pressure from the political masters. Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal has been dreaming of clearance to this project, as is clear from his road map published on completion of 100 days of office for the new NDA government. He has also been pressurizing the MoEFCC to clear the project by hook or by crook. The FAC was reconstituted and the reconstituted FAC has obliged the minister in its very first meeting. In the process, the entire FAC has violated its mandate and should be held accountable for this.
Regrettably, MoEFCC seems to have become the willing punching bag of not only above-mentioned ministries, but even unrelated ministries like Ministry of Mines and Minerals, Ministry of Steel ,etc., whose ministers and Secretaries were present for the meeting: “to Expedite Clearances”. (Incidentally, when was the last time we heard MEFCC resisting such arm-twisting, or forthrightly suggesting any pro-environment measures to other ministries?)
Before the minutes of the September FAC meeting were out on Oct 22, 2014 (there was an inordinate delay this time, raising suspicion of negotiated minutes and again breaking all norms of conduct), there was discussion in media that Dibang was cleared, but even the hard-core skeptics believed that this recommendation must have come after a 20 meter or 40 meter height reduction, for obvious reasons.
But the FAC seems to have outdone itself. As stated above, the recommendation has come at 10 mts height decrease, for which the FAC had rejected the project and MoEF had issued a rejection letter in the past.
As we discussed in detail in our last blog on Dibang project, the twice-rejected project was up for discussions again in Sept 2014 only after considerable arm-twisting of the MEFCC by the Cabinet Committee of Investment, Ministry of Power, Project Developer NHPC and Arunachal State Government. This time it was for a supposed sensitivity analysis (done by the developer!)for studying the feasibility of reducing the height of the project upto 40 meters from its original height of 288 meters.
This sensitivity analysis was not shared with anyone, not even the FAC members till the day of the FAC meeting, breaking all codes of conduct of transparency, participation and informed decision making in governance. SANDRP wrote about this to the Minister and Secretary of MoEFCC as well as the Member of the FAC, but received no response.
Looking at the minutes, it is clear that the FAC members have lapped up the logic presented by the developer and the Ministry of Power which in a nutshell says that “10 meters reduction is sufficient as the ratio of forest land required per MW is lowest at 10 meters reduction.” This twisted logic reduces all decision making related to forests, even biodiversity-rich forests supporting endemic, unstudied species, local protests, downstream impacts etc., to mere number crunching of forest per MW. This criteria alone cannot be the basis for decision for forest appraisal committee.
As per the sensitivity analysis by NHPC, the ratio forest land required per MW for 40 meters reduction is 1.67 MW/ hectare, which is same as no height reduction and 1.78 MW/ hectare in case of 20 meter reduction. In terms of tariff, for 40 meters reduction, the power tariff will be 6.24 Rs./unit while it is 5.66 Rs/unit 10 meters reduction, 5.94 Rs./unit 20 meters reduction and 5.64 Rs. at zero reduction. The installed capacity will reduce by 120 MW (4%) MW for 10 meters reduction, 600 MW (20%) for 20 mt reduction and 780 MW (26%) for a 40 meter reduction.
Forest land required
MW capacity per ha Forest lost
First Year Tariff: Rs per unit
Reduction in installed capacity
Nil (288 m)
120 (2880 MW)
600 (2400 MW)
780 (2200 MW)
The proponent said: “Decrease in dam height and consequent sacrifice of power generation beyond 10 mt is not commensurate with saving forest land.”
How did NHPC reach this conclusion? What is the value of the mature, old growth forest land considered by NHPC? Without knowing this, how can this conclusion be acceptable to the FAC? It has to be remembered that Dibang is not an exclusive hydropower project, but a multipurpose project with a flood moderation component and costs have to be borne for this.
While the proponent and Ministry of Power did their best for pushing the project, the FAC did not do its duty of stating that the sensitivity analysis put forth by NHPC is a sham as it does not consider the worth of the forest being lost.
In this sabji-mandi haggling, when FAC had all the watertight justifications for rejecting the project, it did not bat for even a 40 meter reduction, which could have saved nearly 1355 hectares of forests and would have had a marginal impact on other factors. Its unclear why this happened.
Only one of the FAC members tried to battle the case saying that 10-40 meter reduction still does not address the upstream and downstream impacts, especially considering the biodiversity rich area. The minutes do not disclose the name of this member, but it seems the brute majority (majority of FAC members are govt officials) took the official line, alleging “subjectivity” and said that “To reduce subjectivity, it is important to analyse the issue objectively on objective parameters”. Forgetting that this is Forest Appraisal committee, not Power Developer Committee.
This is ironical. It was indeed the duty of the FAC to appraise the project “objectively” based on issues like destruction of 3.24 lakh trees, invaluable forests, unstudied biodiversity, rich wildlife and several Schedule I species, community dependence, traditional rights, downstream impacts, climate change impacts, options assessment, etc. But it did nothing of that and has in fact recommended the project “subjectively”, bowing to pressures outside their ambit.
Clearly, per MW forest land required and per Unit Tariff from a project are anything but objective criteria for FAC. FAC is supposed to apply its mind to a number of issues like the ones above. If FAC was not supposed to apply its mind to these aspects and its judgment, there was no need for an FAC, Power ministry and developer could have taken the decision independently.
The FAC decision does not address any pertinent issues raised by the same FAC while rejecting the project, it also does not address downstream impacts on Assam or assume any value for a rich forest. There is no discussion why 20 meters or 40 meters reduction is not seriously considered by FAC. Decision-making based on such biased, proponent-driven criteria is bound to be open to legal challenge and public protests.
Sham consideration of Downstream Impacts About Impact of the project on Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, the User Agency said that the issue was considered by EAC in its meeting on the 16th September (Please note this is just 6 days and 5 working days back from FAC meeting. There is no chance of minutes being firmed up by then. They were not in open domain in any case) and the EAC has recommended clearance based on the fact that there is less than 1 meter level fluctuation at DSNP.
This claim in any case is patently incorrect, again a case of project-friendly, anti-environment decision-making. The level fluctuation at DSNP can go way higher than a meter, anywhere from 7-8 feet every day in lean season, according to the studies considered by the EAC of the MEFCC itself. This has been pointed out by SANDRP to the EAC as well. There has been no study of the impacts of this project on downstream Arunachal Pradesh or Assam. The developer seems to assume that Dibru-Saikhowa is the only part of Assam worth considering.
There is no compliance under Forest Rights Act (2006) for such a massive project and despite this, FAC under some supposedly progressive members working on tribal issues, does not bat an eyelid before recommending clearance!
To conclude, pricing mature, biodiversity-rich forests in terms of per MW terms is an insult of those forests, the communities that depend on them and to the mandate of FAC. Downstream impacts of Dibang project are not studied, the impacts on Dibru-Saikhowa are based on compromised studies.
There is no merit in this decision from the newly appointed FAC which includes members also from reputed environment protection organizations in North East and from Tribal Welfare groups like Friends of Baripada. It is also sad to see that there is no dissenting note from a single member. The unnamed member who expressed dissent in the meeting has not written anything about this in public domain.
Decisions like Dibang lay further foundations for poor, pro-developer, anti-people, anti-environment decisions taken due to pressure from proponent and other ministries. Such decisions will not be legally tenable, nor acceptable to affected communities, nor good for sustainability and equity. In fact, by such reversals, FAC decisions are losing their sanctity. FAC has done this in the past too in case of Kalu Dam in Western Ghats which would submerge 18 villages and 1000 hectares forest.
Isn’t it ironical that the new government changed the name of the MoEF to MoEFCC but is sanctioning massive projects like Dibang which will have far reaching impacts on Climate Change as well as adaption and mitigation abilities of the affected communities? Without even considering these aspects or even mentioning them?