Dams · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Himalayas · Irrigation · Landslide · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Nepal · Public Hearing

Who exactly needs the Pancheshwar Dam?

Bolo Jai Jai Baba Bhole”, the Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi, while speaking at Kedarnath in Uttarakhand in Oct 2017[i], asked the people in audience to chant with him. Indian deity Mahadev, the presiding deity at Kedarnath on the banks of Mandakini river is possibly the closest to rivers and nature among all the deities, as is also clear from his attire. Baba Bhole is one of the many names of this deity. Incidentally, the massive, controversial Pancheshwar Dam a pet project of Mr Modi will also submerge the Pancheshwar Mahadev Temple, where too, the presiding deity is same Bhole Baba. But we will come back to Bhole Baba. Continue reading “Who exactly needs the Pancheshwar Dam?”

Expert Appraisal Committee · Interlinking of RIvers · NWDA

Thanks, Dr Sharad Jain: But Plz step down from EAC: Let us understand Conflict of Interest!

Above: Ken Yamuna Confluence at Chilla Ghat (Photo by Siddharth Agarwal)

We are thankful & glad that Dr Sharad Jain has responded to our open letter to MoEF, circulated through email and blog[i] that he holding the charge of NWDA Director General and Chairman of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower Projects (RVP) involves Conflict of Interest. We are also thankful that through the Indian Express report (on June 3, 2017), he has provided another set of answers.

Unfortunately, Dr Jain, all this only expose our lack of basic understanding as to WHAT CONSTITUTES CONFLICT OF INTEREST. You have failed in trying to defend the indefensible, and we would rather urge you to resign as we continue this debate. Continue reading “Thanks, Dr Sharad Jain: But Plz step down from EAC: Let us understand Conflict of Interest!”

Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests · River Valley Projects

Open Letter to MoEF: Remove Chairman of Expert Appraisal Committee on Dams for conflict of Interest: He is DG of NWDA

May 30, 2017

To:

Dr. Harsh Vardhan,

Union Minister of State of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (Independent Charge)

Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh, Delhi 110 003

dr.harshvardhan@sansad.nic.in, ps2mefcc@gov.in (PS to MoEF Minister)

 

Respected Sir,

We have just learnt that Prof Sharad Jain of NIH, Roorkee, and chairman of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower Projects (RVP), is also holding additional charge of DG of NWDA, see: http://www.nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/6419983647.pdf. His office just told one of us that he has been holding this charge since about three months already.

This is a clear case of conflict of interest. As you know, a number of NWDA projects come to EAC for approval at various stages. One such project that came before the EAC headed by Dr. Jain was the Ken Betwa project, which the committee headed by Dr. Jain promptly cleared in very first meeting of the reconstituted EAC in Dec 2016, weeks before Dr. Jain took over as Director General of NWDA, over ruling the issues that earlier four meetings of the EAC had raised about this project. How can one expect that the EAC chairman would be able to objectively, independently and scientifically appraise a project of the organisation (NWDA in this case) of which he is the Director General?

Under the circumstances, we believe there is no option, except that you must ask Dr. Jain to resign from his post as chairman of EAC, as his holding additional charge of NWDA DG, and already in conflict of interest. We also request you to ask the EAC to review their decision about Ken Betwa Project (and any other NWDA project) that the current EAC may have appraised, after appointing a new chairman of EAC.

We would like to bring to your attention that there is already a precedent in this context when in 2009, the then chairman of the EAC (RVP), Dr P Abraham was asked to resign since he was also director of hydropower companies whose projects came before EAC headed by him.

We hope you will act promptly on this issue. There is some urgency of this since the next meeting of EAC (RVP) is on May 31, 2017, that is tomorrow.

Thanking you,

Yours Sincerely,

1. Prof Brij Gopal (Retired Prof from JNU, Delhi), Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia, Jaipur, brij44@gmail.com

2. Dr E A S Sarma, former Secretary, Govt of India, Vishakhapatnam, eassarma@gmail.com

3. Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala (Formerly with IIM Bangalore), Uttarakhand, bharatjj@gmail.com

4. Vimal Bhai, MATU jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand, bhaivimal@gmail.com

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

6. Dr Raghu Chundawat & Joanna Van Gruisen, Baavan, Bagh Aap Aur Van Trust, Panna, Bundelkhand, joannavg@gmail.com

7. Pushp Jain, Director, ERC Resource Centre, Delhi, pushp@ercindia.org

8. Gunjan Mishra, Banda,  Bundelkhand, mishra.gunjan22@gmail.com

9. Dipani Sutaria, (James Cook University, Australia), Ahmedabad, dipani.sutaria@gmail.com

10. Dr. A.J.T Johnsingh, Bengaluru, ajt.johnsingh@gmail.com

11. Suman Jumani, Senior Research Fellow, Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning, Bengaluru, sumanjumani@gmail.com

12. Manu Bhatnagar, Delhi, manucentaur@hotmail.com

13. Cara Tejpal, Sanctuary Nature Foundation, Mumbai, cara@sanctuaryasia.com

14. Siddharth Agarwal, Veditum India Foundation, Kolkata, siddharthagarwal.iitkgp@gmail.com

15. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi.

ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798

16. Dr Bhartendu Prakash, Kisan Vigyan Kendra & Grameen Vigyan Vikas Trust, Bundelkhand, UP, brsc2008@gmail.com

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

18. Theophilus, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, etheophilus@gmail.com

19. K Ramnarayan, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, ramnarayan.k@gmail.com

20. Malika Virdi, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, malika.virdi@gmail.com

21. Prof Sunil Kumar Choudhary,Prof. & Head, University Dept. of Botany, T. M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur, sunil_vikramshila@yahoo.co.in, 09431875861

Copy to: 1. EAC (River Valley Projects) members

2. Prime Minister’s office

MEDIA COVERAGE:

  1. June 1, 2017: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/chief-of-eac-on-rivers-faces-conflict-of-interest-charge/articleshow/58937121.cms
  2. June 1, 2017: https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/environment/2017/05/31/ken-betwa-river-linking-project-a-clear-case-of-conflict-of-interest
A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out,AJT Johnsingh
CAG Report · Environment Impact Assessment · Environmental Flow · Expert Appraisal Committee · Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests · River Valley Projects

CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams

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”

Expert Appraisal Committee · Interlinking of RIvers

Ken Betwa Link: Letter to Water Resources Minister and EAC in Dec 2016

December 27, 2016

To
Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation,
Govt of India,
New Delhi
 
Copy to Ministers of State (MoWR), Secretary (MOWR), OSD (MoWR), PS to MoWR
 
Respected Uma Bharati ji, 
 
We have seen reports in today’s news papers (e.g. http://www.uniindia.com/last-hurdle-for-ken-betwa-link-over-uma-bharti/india/news/730656.htmlhttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ken-betwa-river-linking-project-gets-wildlife-board-clearance/articleshow/56186886.cms andhttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/developmental-issues/ken-betwa-river-linking-project-gets-wildlife-board-clearance/articleshow/56186901.cms) which were basically giving an old news, several times published already, that Ken Betwa link has been recommended NBWL clearance. When enquired, we were told that this was based on MOWR’s official press release, published through PIB y’day evening, that is at 18.29 hours on Dec 26, 2016, see: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=155857

Continue reading “Ken Betwa Link: Letter to Water Resources Minister and EAC in Dec 2016”

CAG Report · Cumulative Impact Assessment · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Maharashtra · Ministry of Water Resources

महाराष्ट्र-तेलंगण आंतरराज्यीय करार: जनतेच्या मुलभूत हक्कांचे व देशाच्या पर्यावरणीय कायद्यांचे उल्लंघन

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”

Cumulative Impact Assessment · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Proposed Maharashtra Telangana Inter-state Water sharing Agreement of Aug 23, 2016: In complete violation of people’s rights & environmental laws of India

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”

Expert Appraisal Committee · River Valley Projects

Why the Decisions and minutes of the 86th meeting of EAC on River Valley Projects need to be reviewed

September 22, 2015

To

Chairman and Members,

Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects,

Ministry of Environment and Forests,

New Delhi

Respected Chairman and Members,

We have just seen the minutes of the 86th meeting (uploaded on Sept 14, 2015, but clearance letters in some cases have already been issued even before the EAC minutes are made public or the minutes are finalised at the next EAC meeting) of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Committee, held on Aug 24-25, 2015.

The minutes make a disturbing reading. The EAC seems to be bending every ecological norm, facts and even legal stipulations to push ahead with every project that the government wants them to clear. There seems to be no application of mind from the EAC on the proposals. The minutes are not even internally consistent. It is putting forward facts in misleading fashion to give a wrong picture. Continue reading “Why the Decisions and minutes of the 86th meeting of EAC on River Valley Projects need to be reviewed”

Dams · Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests

NGT Quashes MoEF’s Office Memoranda on violating projects: Large number of irrigation projects of Maharashtra & Karnataka affected

Press Release                                                 08.07.2015

In a landmark judgement, the Hon. National Green Tribunal has quashed the Office Memoranda issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF for short) on the 12.12.2012 & 27.06.2013 for “Consideration of proposals for  TORs/Environment Clearance/ CRZ Clearance involving violation of the Environment (Protection) Act, 19861 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 / Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011”. Continue reading “NGT Quashes MoEF’s Office Memoranda on violating projects: Large number of irrigation projects of Maharashtra & Karnataka affected”

Arunachal Pradesh · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee

Submerged – what to expect if the Dibang river is dammed

Guest Blog by: : Karthik Teegalapalli (kartix@gmail.com) 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 (Aconitum ferox, Coelogyne mossiae, Dendrobium aurantiacum, Paphiopedilum fairieanum, Paphiopedilum venustum and Vanda coerulea) 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 Schizothorax richardsonii, Endangered golden mahseer Tor putitora, Near-Threatened mahseer Tor tor, and chaguni Chagunius chagunio. 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.

Figure 1 (reproduced from Misra, 2009) showing the location of the fault lines around the proposed project site. 1 is the location of the Fault line and 2 is the location of the proposed site.
Figure 1 (Modified from Misra, 2009) showing the location of the fault lines around the proposed project site. 1 is the location of the Fault line and 2 is the location of the proposed site.

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!

The beautiful Dibang valley, that faces the threat of submergence due to the Dibang Multipurpose Project (Photography by Soumya Dasgupta).
The beautiful Dibang valley, that faces the threat of submergence due to the Dibang Multipurpose Project (Photography by Soumya Dasgupta).

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.

References:

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.

Chernaik, M. (2007) Evaluation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report & Environmental Management Plan for the Dibang Multipurpose Project (3000 MW) https://www.elaw.org/system/files/Evaluation+of+the+EIA+report+for+the+proposed+Dibang+dam.doc

Dandekar, P. & Thakkar, H. (2014). Manipulating Environment & Forest Clearances for Dibang Project: Déjà vu: LSHP History repeated: Will it be tragedy or comedy https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/manipulating-environment-forest-clearances-for-dibang-project-deja-vu-lshp-history-repeated-will-it-be-tragedy-or-comedy/

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.

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/six-years-after-pm-laying-foundation-stone-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 Houbaropsis bengalensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Gruiformes: Otididae) in Lower Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4(14): 3375-3376.

Also see:
https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/insensitivity-analysis-of-dibang-multipurpose-project-fac-recommends-dibang-at-10-mt-height-reduction-will-destroy-4577-hectares-forest/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/dibang-project-rejected-forest-clearance-for-the-second-time/