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

Review of environment laws is necessary – But the TSR Subramanian HLC lacks credibility

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MEFCC) in the BJP led new government at the centre has, through Office Memorandum (OM no 22-15/2014-IA.III) dated Aug 29, 2014 constituted High Level Committee (HLC) under the chairpersonship of former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, “to review various acts administered by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change”. Let us try and look at this proposal on its merits.

Firstly, it should be noted that the HLC has a far-reaching mandate to review the core legislations that are supposed to protect India’s environment, including the Environment Protection Act (1986), the Forest Conservation Act (1980), the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1974) and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1981). Considering that these acts are the back bone of MEFCC’s environmental governance, the recommendations of this committee can have far reaching impact on India’s environmental governance.

Secondly, there are no doubts that India’s environmental laws and governance needs to be reviewed and strengthened. While the industry and vested interest lobbies have been claiming that MEFCC’s work is a hindrance to India’s development and growth, the reality is quite the opposite. MEFCC provides environment clearance (for projects covered under EIA notification of Sept 2006, which is the current notification and which excludes large number of projects from requirement of environment clearance), forest clearance, wildlife clearance, coastal zone clearance and also certifies if the projects applying for CDM (Clean Development Mechanism under the United National Frame Convention on Climate Change) are sustainable development projects.

The committee has been explicitly constituted for reviewing the five environmental laws. These laws need to be strengthened so that there is inclusive, democratic, bottom up process in which people have a decisive role. The governance related to the laws thus needs to be changed in this context so that there is greater transparency, accountability and participation and better compliance is achieved. This is what we mean when we say we need to improve the environmental governance.

MEFCC’s zero rejection rate With respect to giving any of these clearances, the MEFCC has almost zero rejection rate in most crucial sectors. For example a review[1] of the functioning of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley and Hydropower project shows that the committee has not rejected almost any of the proposals that came its way in last seven years. The MEFCC has not rejected any of the proposals that applied for CDM status. Even in other sectors, the MEFCC has rejection rate below 3%, if at all and projects for which clearances have already been given like coal mining, are far from being implemented.

States already have enormous powers Some people have been claiming that states do not have sufficient powers in environmental decision making and hence the powers need to be delegated to the states. The fact is that the states already have enormous powers in environmental governance, including in all clearances. The pollution control regime is completely under the states. The states are empowered to clear several categories of projects in the context of all the clearances. The state pollution boards are supposed to give consent to establish and operate, before which no project can operate, they are also supposed to conduct public consultations even for projects requiring central clearances. Before National Wildlife Board clears a project, State Wildlife Boards need to clear the projects. Consent of Forest Officials from the states is mandatory before Forest Clearance application is processed to higher levels. Which state in India has shown exemplary conduct to inspire confidence that they are in a position to achieve necessary environmental governance? We do not know of any. Unless the capacity of states in this regard is increased, we cannot improve environmental governance in India only in the name of entrusting it in the hands of the states.

Is MEFCC responsible for delays? This is another bogey raised against the MEFCC. The fact is that the EIA notification has clearly defined timelines that says that if MEFCC fails to respond within the timeline, the project can be deemed to have secured the clearance. The fact of the matter is that no project has claimed or gotten such deemed clearance, since most project developers are uninterested in fulfilling even the minimalist demands of MEFCC. On the other hand, most dams and hydropower projects get delayed beyond the promised time frame even after getting the clearances! For any objective person, the claim that MEFCC is responsible for delays and lengthy procedures is clearly a bogey.

Do projects need too many clearances? Another argument made by some is that MEFCC needs too many separate clearances for the same project, which leads to delays. This is again not borne out by facts and clearances that are required now are bare minimum. Except environmental clearance, rest of the clearances do not need public consultation process. Even in case of environment clearance, except the projects covered under EIA notification, rest of them do not need public consultations. The five clearances that MEF gives as listed above are required under each specific law and it is completely justified that separate appraisal process is required for each of them as the issues considered and sectors affected are specific in each case, which cannot be clubbed. We need to strengthen each one of these appraisals, rather than weakening them or clubbing them together.

EAC lacks credible independent members or chairpersons It is public knowledge that most of the people who are appointed on the various committees that appraise the projects for clearances are those who are ready to toe the official line without raising too many uncomfortable questions. There are known cases when the chairman of the EAC or  member of FAC were found to have direct conflict of interest with their involvement in companies whose projects they were to consider for clearance. Recently, NGT has ordered that the chairs of the EAC cannot be generalist administrators but must have domain knowledge and experience. The lack of credible independent members in these committees is a major reason why the Ministry manages to clear almost anything that comes its way.

Poor quality impact assessments It is also well documented how most of the environment & social impact assessments, environment management plans or the cumulative impact assessments are shoddy, inadequate, incomplete, cut paste or dishonest efforts. Even media has reported several cases, environment groups have  repeatedly sent detailed analysis and critiques of these assessments, but the ministry and its committees have the distinction of not rejecting any of such assessments or recommending punitive action against the agencies that are submitting such dishonest or problematic reports.

Public consultations in name sake Under the EIA notification of Sept 2006, the projects are supposed to have public consultations which include public hearing at each of the affected project districts. Here again there have been several documented cases how the public hearings are hijacked by the project developers, they are conducted by partisan government officers and there is no application of mind from the MEFCC to ensure that the issues raised at the consultations are addressed. Several observers, including a former environment minister has accepted that these consultations are largely for namesake only, a box to be ticked. Even when all the people present at the public hearings have said that they do not want the project, it has no impact on the decision of giving clearance to the project.

Non-existent compliance All the clearances given are conditional, and the project developer is supposed to follow these conditions and implement environment management plan. However, how is compliance to these conditions and management plans, a very crucial aspect, to be achieved? The project developer is supposed to submit six monthly compliance reports, but there are no consequences if they do not do that for years! The officials at MEFCC or their regional offices do not have the time to go through these reports and check if these indicate adherence to the required measures and norms prescribed. Neither do these agencies take steps when the compliance reports do not follow the norms. They are never known to have taken any steps in this regard. The monitoring visits from regional offices of the MEFCC are always preplanned and the project developers get away with window dressing at best. There are no surprise visits. Even after monitoring visits, the MEFCC has never taken any steps when MEFCC finds lack of compliance.

We have narrated this list of known problems to show how lax is our environmental governance and how necessary it is to strengthen it rather weakening it. If the review is being done with a view to strengthen the environment governance, it would be welcome.

Review of functioning of institutional set up in environmental governance The review of functioning of institutional set up responsible for environmental governance also becomes imperative after such a long period since these institutions were set up. For example, state and central pollution control boards were set up under the Water Act of 1974, but we do not have experience of a single river or even a tributary of a river having been cleaned up because of the efforts of the pollution control institutions. This failure is a major reason for the state of our rivers today, including the Ganga.

New Issues In addition to the need for strengthening the environmental governance, the review of environmental laws and institutional architecture connecting with their implementation is also necessary in view of the emerging new issues. For example issues like climate change, need for cumulative impact assessments, need for environmental flows in the river, need to protect, preserve and rejuvenate rivers (a proclaimed priority of the current government) or assessment of impact of projects on disaster potential of the area were not as important and urgent as they were when these laws were formulated.

CURRENT REVIEW What I have written above provides sufficient ground for need for review of laws and institutional set up for environmental governance in India. For this we need a credible independent team with clearly defined terms of reference and transparent, participatory and confidence inspiring process. Let us see if the review set up under the HLC qualifies to achieve such a review.

Sinisterly ambiguous TOR Firstly, if we read the four Terms of Reference (TOR) given to this committee under the above mentioned OM, the first TOR says the review will assess status of implementation of the act vis a vis “the objectives”. But the TOR does not define what is meant by “the objectives”. The second TOR is not problematic as it says the review will “examine and take into account the various court orders and judicial pronouncements relating to these acts”. The Third TOR is the most sinister. It says the HLC will recommend specific amendments in the acts, “so as to bring them in line with current requirements and to meet objectives”. The trouble is, neither “current requirements” nor “objectives” have been defined. Without defining them, these are open to any interpretation that is suitable to the committee! Such ambiguous TORs which are open to manipulation are completely unacceptable and do not inspire any confidence in this exercise.

Constitution of HLC The committee chaired by former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramanian has four members (including the chair) and two secretaries (both government officials). The constitution of the committee and criteria for selection of the members has remained completely non transparent, which itself raises many questions.

Among the four members, two are former bureaucrats and two are with legal backgrounds. None of the members are either expert in environmental issues or environmental governance. None of the members (including the chair and the secretaries) are known to have fought for or campaigned for or worked for improving environmental governance in India. There are no credible, independent non-governmental members or independent experts here.

Viswanath Anand, one of the two former bureaucrat members of the HLC and former environment secretary, does not inspire confidence due to his track record either as environment secretary (1997-2000) or as Vice Chair of National Environment Appellate Authority (2002-2005). His tenure at NEAA was described by the Delhi High Court as “a one-man show” in the absence of a chairman and three technical members of the authority.[2] Media further reports: “Very few appeals were admitted by Anand during his three-and-a-half-year stint at NEAA. In the Loharinag Pala case, he drew sharp criticism from the Delhi High Court for “adopting a very hyper-technical approach in rejecting the petitions” and overlooking “that these petitioners deserve to be heard on merits”. The court quashed Anand’s order and reinstated the appeal.” That says a lot. There are several other narrations about the role played by Mr Anand at NEAA[3]. Mr Anand is also on Coca Cola India’s Advisory Council on Environment and Sustainability[4], which seems to be in conflict with his role in HLC.

Appointment of Mr Hardik Shah (one of the two secretaries) as the Member Secretary of Gujarat Pollution Control Board was challenged in Gujarat High Court by RTI activist Amit Jethwa before he was killed, as per Indian Express report, see link in End Note 2 bleow.

Considering the non-transparency in its appointment and known background of some of the members, the constitution of the committee too does not inspire any confidence that it will help improve environmental governance in India.

Process of participation The MEFCC has said that within a month, that is by Sept 27, 2014, people can send submission to the committee in less than 1000 characters (or an email)! This is completely ridiculous and shows how non-serious the government and the HLC is about the submissions. This article, with already more than 13000 characters would clearly disqualify for submission to the HLC! Besides the issue of length, there is not even a clearly defined process that tells the people what will happen to their submissions and how are they sure to know that their submissions will be even acknowledged and responded to or even read. The process of participation is completely unacceptable. The whole process limits the participation to only English speaking and writing people who have access to internet, leaving out vast majority of the people out of the review process.

Conclusion It is clear from all accounts that the HLC does not carry any credibility or inspire in any confidence for any objective person. The best course for the MEFCC is to dissolve the HLC and restart the process keeping in mind the comments from groups and individuals without vested interests. The government should in the first place institute a credible independent review of the experience with environment laws, institutions and governance in India. This has also been highlighted by organisations like ESG. The report of this exercise should then be made available to all the gram sabhas in local languages. It is only based on such a report that a review of the environmental laws, institutions and governance be taken up, in which then the people and groups on ground can participate. At least 50% members of the review process should be women, when today there are none.

We have looked at this process purely on its merit, without looking at what the new BJP led government at the centre has done over the last four months. The government has been very busy diluting and dismantling whatever little exists in terms of environmental governance in India. If we add that track record to this analysis, then the conclusion is loud and clear: The formulation of HLC is aimed at completely dismantling the laws and institutions related to environmental governance in India. This is not a good sign for the future of this country and her people.

Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

ht.sandrp@gmail.com

Another blog on this issue: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/strengthen-and-not-dilute-environment-laws-submission-to-the-mefs-hlc-to-review-environment-laws/

END NOTES:

[1] For details, see: https://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf

[2] http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/the-six-minds-that-will-look-afresh-at-environment-laws/#sthash.RMohoCW9.dpuf

[3] See for example: http://infochangeindia.org/environment/analysis/national-environment-appellate-authority-puppet-of-the-moef.html and http://www.deccanherald.com/content/22796/tribunal-coming-justice-can-wait.html and http://indiatogether.org/neaa-environment

[4] http://www.coca-colaindia.com/sustainability/final-bios.html and http://www.coca-colaindia.com/sustainability/viswanath.html, accessed at 3.37 pm (IST) on Sept 26, 2014

POST SCRIPT 1:
Those who agree may send this to hlc.moef2014@gmail.com, Sept 27,  2014 is the last date for sending submissions, but we need to keep sending submissions on these lines even after that deadline.

Post Script 2: Press Release from Environment Support Group, Bangalore after the meeting with HLC in Bangalore on Sept 27, 2014:

Press Release : Bangalore : 27th September 2014
(Attached PDF with pictures)

High Level Committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change walks out of Public Consultation in Bangalore

The High Level Committee headed by Mr. T. S. R. Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change to review environment, pollution control and forest conservation laws, invited the public at large for a consultation between 12 and 1.30 pm today (27th September) at Vikas Soudha, the high security office complex of the Government of Karnataka. Advertisements to this effect had been issued by the Karnataka Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment in various newspapers on 21st September 2014, followed up by various press releases inviting the public to interact with the Committee.

When various individuals and representatives of public interest environmental and social action groups turned up for the meeting, the police prevented their entry at the gates. It was only following a spot protest that the police consented to allow them to participate in the consultation. Despite this indignifying experience, all who gathered proceeded to the meeting hall with the intent of engaging with the High Level Committee.

The meeting commenced with introductory remarks by the Chairperson Mr. Subramanian. Broadly, he shared that the intent of the Committee was to hear views from across India on the type and nature of changes that were required in the environmental and forest protection laws. He stated that the Committee had the mandate of the Government to propose necessary changes that would help improve the quality of life and environment. But he said the need to ensure develop was primary, as the country was very poor (over 80% were poor he claimed) and thereby it is found essential to streamline environmental clearance processes that thwarted growth. Mr. Subramanian also shared that it was a matter of concern to the Government that several development projects were getting mired in litigation on environmental grounds, leading to needless delays. Concluding his introductory remarks he shared that the Committee is not in any manner guided by the Ministry and their recommendatory report would be submitted to the Union Government. The Committee’s proceeding, he clarified, were not open to the public, unless the committee decided to engage with the public. Responding to a question, Mr. Subramanian said that nothing that was submitted to the Committee would be shared with anybody, and that only the report would be submitted to the Government. Mr. Subramanian also said that the Ministry never proposed a public consultation exercise, but he had suggested this should take place.

Mr. K. N. Bhat, Senior Advocate and a member of the Committee, shared that there were a variety of submissions the Committee had received and each of this would be considered. He aired that environment and development should go side by side and the objectives of the laws if not found sufficient to address current needs, need for their review exists. The industry in particular, he said, had raised concerns over delays in environmental and forest clearances when the Committee met with them.

On these introductory notes Mr. Subramanian asked the members of the public to suggest changes to the existing environmental law framework. Officials assisting the Committee did not provide any rationale for the Ministry proposing changes to existing laws. The Committee also did not have any procedure, excepting online submissions of opinions on the Ministry’s website (limited to 1000 words).

When the turn of the public came, a submission was made by the Karnataka Planters Association about procedural difficulties in securing forest clearance and conforming with pollution control norms, and sought amendments for the benefit of plantations. Thereafter, Mr. A. C. F. Anand, an RTI Activist, suggested that all environmental laws must be translated so that it would be understood by all and thus the compliance rates improved.

Speaking next, Mr. Leo F. Saldanha of Environment Support Group requested the Committee to address the basis for its functioning, and whethere the TOR constituting the Committee was sufficient for such a massive and onerous task that involved fundamentally reviewing all environmental laws that were intricately linked to Right to Life, Clean Environment and Livelihoods. He sought to know what it meant, as is main TOR, ““(t)o recomment specific amendments needed in each of these Acts so as to bring them in line with current requirements to meet objectives”.

Mr. Subramanian responded that neither he nor any other members of the Committee were influenced by the TOR in any manner and that they worked per their own understanding of the mandate given to them by the Government. But when Saldanha pressed to know how a Committee consisting of high ranking former civil servants, a former Judge and a Senior Advocate could at all have agreed to such vague terms, Mr. Subramanian reacted dismissively. He claimed that this was a non-substantive issue and sought to move on to hear others. Saldanha argued that it is disturbing that Mr. Subramanian unilaterally rules a legitimate concern over vague and weak TORs as being of trivial concern, when, in fact, it would have been fit and proper for the Committee to have first explained in the interest of public accountability and transparency how they found the terms rationale and acceptable to them. And in case the terms were acceptable, then the High Level Committee, unshackled as it were by the bureaucratic norms of the Ministry, could have provided a clear note on the nature of the reforms being considered and also explicated on the procedure of consulting and receiving criticisms from various sectors, peoples, regions, geographies, etc.

Mr. Vinay Sreenivasa of Alternative Law Forum submitted that the process by which the Committee was conducting the consultation was rather opaque. The vague TOR and the fact that the Committee was constituted by a Government that sought to belittle the importance of the National Wildlife Board and rush pet projects through the clearance mechanism, seemed to suggest the entire exercise appeared to be merely ritualistic. Ms. Aruna Chandrasekhar of Amnesty International – India sought to know what specific amendments were being proposed or demanded by industry/corporate sectors, and requested the Committee put it all out. But Mr. Subramanian waved away this request too.

Prof. Puttuswamy wanted to know how a High Level Committee sought to improve environmental laws when notifications of Ministry were being issued to dilute the laws. To which Mr. Subramanian responded saying he is not a “Postman” for the Ministry. Ms. Priti Rao, meanwhile, asked for decentralised solid waste management. Mr. Vijayan Menon shared that even though he was not an official, he had walked into the Committee’s immediately preceding engagement with Government officials where a clear set of amendments were being proposed. He expressed surprise that this presentation was not being made for the benefit of the general public.

Ms. Bhargavi Rao of Environment Support Group wanted to know how law could be reformed when forest officials are unaware of biodiversity protection laws that had been passed over two decades ago and asserted that this rushed exercise in reviewing environmental laws had all the trappings of making light of people’s fundamental rights and concerns. Justice A. K. Srivatsav (Retd. Judge of the Delhi High Court) and a Member of the High Level Committee stated at this juncture that the public must have confidence in a Committee in which a senior retired Judge is a member. By which time Mr. Subramanian had remarked several times that the public was wasting the Committee’s time and there was no point continuing with this procedure. Several who had gathered protested such an assessment by the Chairman of the High Level Committee. Mr. Srinivas of Mavallipura sought to speak, saying he represents a community impacted by mal-development and waste dumping in his village, and he too was brushed aside.

At this point, Mr. Subramanian got up and said “We will end the joke here!” and walked out. He was followed by the rest of the Committee.

When Mr. Subramanian walked out, it was 1 pm. Members of the common public who had travelled great distances to engage with the Committee protested Mr. Subramanian taking them for granted and dismissing their views as of trivial concern. They demanded that the Committee return to hear the public and as advertised remained in the Hall till 1.30 pm. Neither did the High Level Committee return, nor did any official of the Ministry of Environment and Forests or Karnataka Environment Department come back to explain to the public why the High Level Committee had behaved in this manner. In fact, throughout the engagement with the public, not one Karnataka Government official was present in the Hall.

The undersigned are deeply disturbed by the manner in which the T. S. R. Subramanian headed High Level Committee has treated this public consultation process. The undersigned demand that the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change call off this exercise as it has all the markings of being a ritual exercise. In its place the undersigned demand that the Ministry must constitute a Committee that has a clear rationale for reform and Terms of Reference that are democratic, consultative and transparent. In particular, the following demands are made:

  1. Environment Ministry must first come out with a White Paper discussing the nature of the reforms that it proposes in environmental, forest conservation and pollution control laws.
  2. On the basis of such a Paper, an accessible Committee must be constituted that would hear peoples responses across the biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse country and also from various sectors equally.
  3. The membership of the Committee should be so constituted that it would reflect diverse concerns and sectos, and in particular ensure that members conversant with tribal and human rights, environmental management, conservation biologists, biodiversity, risk assessment, planning, etc., and not merely ex-bureaucrats or members of the legal fraternity were included Particularly important is the need to ensure there is adequate representation of women on the High Level Committee, which presently is constituted only of men.
  4. The process of the consultation to be followed has to be meaningful and conform with Principle of Prior and Informed Consent, even if this is not a consenting process.
  5. The timeline for the Consultation mechanism for such a critical review has to be reasonable as laws sought to amended, or tweaked, fundamentally affect theRight to Life and Livelihoods, and Right to Clean Environment.
  6. The entire process has to be transparent, all meetings must be recorded publicly, none of the deliberations must be in camera (as it appears to be the case now), and all proceedings, submissions, minutes and reports must be in the public domain.
  7. Adequate facilities must be made to ensure that anyone interested can participated with dignity and without being inhibited by language or geographical location. To ensure this, the process must be devolved by enlisting the support of State and Local Governments.

Signatories:

Mr. Leo Saldanha; Environment Support Group, leo@esgindia.org. Cell: 9448377403

Mr. Vinay Sreenivasa; Alternative Law Forum. Cell: 9880595032

Ms. Bhargavi Rao; Environment Support Group; bhargavi@esgindia.org Cell: 9448377401

Ms. Aarthi Sridhar; Dakshin Foundation, aarthi77@gmail.com. Cell: 9900113216

Mr. Vijayan Menon; menonvij@gmail.com

Mr. Davis Thomas; Environment Support Group; davis@esgindia.org. Cell: 9036180914

Ms. Swapna; sapna.sb@gmail.com

Ms. Priti Rao; priti007@yahoo.com

Ms. Padma Ashok; Save Tiger, padmaashok@gmail.com

Mr. Ashok Hallur; ashokhallur@gmail.com

dinnil@gmail.com

Mr. Rajeev Mankotia; rmanikoth@gmail.com

Mr. Sandesh Udyawar; sandeshudyawar@gmail.com

Ms. Marianne Manuel; Dakshin Foundation, marianne.manuel88@gmail.com

Ms. Shivani Shah; Greenpeace; shivani.shah@greenpeace.org

Mr. Sohan Pavulari; sohan_pavuluri@yahoo.com

Ms. Sangeetha Kadur; sangeetha.kadur@gmail.com

Mr. Bhaskar Bhatt; muggymach3@basejumper.com

Mr. Rohan Kini; rohan.kini@gmail.com

Mr. K.N. Somashekar; cmd_vilinfra@rediffmail.com

Mr. A.C.F. Anand; acfanand@gmail.com

Ms. Shashikala Iyer; Environment Support Group; shashi@esgindia.org

Mr. Leon Louis; Environment Support Group; leon@esgindia.org

Mr. Mallesh K.R; Environment Support Group; mallesh@esgindia.org

Mr. Prashanth; Environment Support Group; prashanth@esgindia.org

Post Script 3

Ramaswmay Iyer, Former Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources wrote this email letter to Chairman of HLC Shri T S R Subramanian, we are publishing this here with his permission:

On Sun, Sep 28, 2014 at 8:23 PM, Ramaswamy R. Iyer <ramaswamy.iyer@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear TSR,
I hold you in high regard and was pleased when you were appointed Chairman of the High Level Committee to review the enviromental laws. I hoped that you would save the environmental laws from decimation. I am beginning to lose that hope.
It is amply clear why the HLC has been set up.  This government and in particular Minister Javadekar (who is Minister not for environment butagainst environment) are firmly convinced that environmental laws are playing havoc with ‘development’. What is needed in their view is quick clearance. Both those words are important. The clearance must be quick in all cases, and it must be a clearance in all cases, not a rejection in any instance. In other words, the whole exercise should be reduced to a formality or a ritual. Of course a simpler way of achieveing the objective would be to scrap the clearance procedure altogether, and repeal all the environmental laws. However, that is not easy, and such a move may have a political cost. The next best thing to do is to extract all the teeth from the laws and weaken and dilute them to the point of virtual repeal. It is for such an exercise in emasculation that the MoEF has set up the HLC. I thought that you would not be a party to such an exercise in disingenuousness. I believed that you shared the environmental and ecological concerns of many of us to some extent, if not wholly, and that the environmental laws of the country were safe in your hands. I am not so sure now, after reading reports of what happened at the ‘Public Hearing’ at Bengaluru. It appears that your views on ‘Environment vs Development’  are the same as those of Minister Javadekar. I deeply fear that the report of your HLC will do immense harm to the country. Are you prepared to live with that possibility?
I can only hope that I am wrong. If I have misjudged your position, I am ready to aplogise without reservation.
I am copying this to a few friends.
Best Wishes.
Ramaswamy R Iyer
A-10 Sarita Vihar
New Delhi 110076
Tel: 91 11 26940708
41402709
E-Mail: ramaswamy.iyer@gmail.com
POST SCRIPT 4:
Source: The Times of India, Sept 29, 2014
Forum demands reconstitution MoEF’s committee
Correspondent : Vinobha KT
MANGALORE: Activists in Dakshina Kannada urged that the review of environmental laws must never be done in haste.

Activists expressed their views before the High Level Committee of Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) headed by former Union Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian during its meet to receive suggestions and objections at deputy commissioner’s office here on Sunday.

The Acts to be reviewed by the centre include Environment Protection Act, 1986, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddi Vedike members said that they are deeply concerned about the haste with which the TSR Subramanian Committee has been set up by the Union Ministry to review five of India’s most important environmental laws.

In a memorandum, Vedike members urged the committee to undertake a study of the effectiveness of the existing laws and their proper implementation, not just from the perspective of obtaining speedy clearances for industrial projects, but from that of protecting the environment and the rights of the poor.

“As concerned citizens, we would like to assert that review of environmental laws must never be done in haste. Protection of the environment concerns is our very survival and must not be seen as an impediment in the drive for industrialisation. Any review must be done in a transparent manner, involving all the stakeholders. The MoEF has a duty to uphold the constitutional right of every individual to livelihood and a clean environment. Economic growth benefiting the rich at the cost of life-sustaining ecosystems must not be seen as development. In view of such concerns, we urge the Government to revamp the review process,” members stated in the memorandum.

Vedike coordinator Shreekumar said seeking to make changes in environmental laws, which are meant to protect important rights enshrined in the Constitution such as Right to Life, Clean Environment and Livelihoods in such haste under vague terms of reference is indeed disturbing. “Recent statements emanating from the Union Government as well as the MoEF have been displaying a dangerous haste with respect to granting environmental clearances for industrial projects with scant respect for environmental protection. Expediting clearances is serving only the interests of corporate powers. The haste and thoughtlessness with which the current review is being undertaken raises the apprehension that it is meant to facilitate such policies,” Shreekumar said urging reconstitution of the committee by including experts in the fields of environmental science, social sciences, natural sciences and environmental law, also giving adequate representation to various stakeholders such as farmers, fishers and tribals.

SOURCE : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mangalore/Forum-demands-reconstitution-MoEFs-committee/articleshow/43747853.cms
Chenab · Cumulative Impact Assessment · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropeaking · Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Sach Khas Hydro project in Chenab Basin: Another example of WAPCOS’s shoddy EIA

Even after multiple appeals by various experts, organizations and local people, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) set up by Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) has once again chosen to ignore alarms of changing climate such as disaster of Uttarakhand in 2013 and has continued to consider Hydro Power Projects on Chenab Basin for Environmental Clearance (EC) before the Cumulative Impact Assessment of Chenab Basin has been accepted by MoEF. While on one hand the State Government of Himachal Pradesh has promptly appointed a committee headed by Chief Secretary to supervise and monitor all the progress and to “sort out” problems of getting various clearances “without delay in single window system”[i], on the other hand overall transparency of the Environmental Clearance Process has been steadily decreasing.

Sach Khas HEP (260 + 7 MW) (located in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh) was considered by EAC in its 76th meeting held on August 11, 2014. Even though the project was considered for EC, no documents were uploaded on the website. Website does not even list the project under “Awaiting EC” category. This is in clear violation with MoEF norms, basic norms of transparency and Central Information Commission (CIC) orders. There are no fixed guidelines for documents to the uploaded, the time by when they should be uploaded and rules that project cannot be considered if the documents are not uploaded.

SANDRP recently sent a detailed submission to EAC pointing out several irregularities of the project. The comments were based on reading of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report available on the HP Pollution Control Board Website (which cannot be substitute for putting up the documents on EAC website). Environmental Management Plan (EMP) of the project is not accessible at all! Non availability of EMP on the HP Pollution Control Board website too is a violation of EIA notification 2006.

The EIA report which is prepared by WAPCOS is another example of a poorly conducted EIA with generic impact prediction and no detailed assessment or quantification of the impacts. Moreover since EMP is not available in the public domain, there is no way to assess how effectively the impacts have been translated into mitigation measures. Violations of Terms of Reference (TOR) issued by EAC at the time of scoping clearance is a serious concern.

Project Profile

Sach Khas HEP is a Dam-toe powerhouse scheme. The project has a Concrete Dam & Spillway with Gross storage of 25.24 MCM, Live Storage of 8.69 MCM and Reservoir Stretch at FRL of 8.2 km (approx.) Three intakes each leading to 5.8m diameter penstocks are planned to be located on three of the right bank non-overflow blocks. Three penstocks offtaking from the intakes are proposed to direct the flows to an underground powerhouse on the right bank of the Chenab river housing 3 units of 86.67 MW turbines with a total installed capacity of 260 MW. The project also proposes to construct 2 units of 7 MW each to be installed to utilize the mandatory environmental releases. The EIA mentions (p 2.19) that the HP government has allocated 3.5 MW Hydropower project on Chhou Nala in the project area to the project authority, so this is integral part of the project.

Sach Khas Dam Site

Sach Khas Hydro Electric Project was considered before completion of Cumulative Impact Assessment of Chenab Basin

Chenab basin may have one of the highest concentrations of hydropower projects among all basins in India[i]. The basin has over 60 HEPs under various stages of planning, construction and commissioning in states of Himachal Pradesh (HP) and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). 49 of these projects are planned or under construction in Chenab in HP and of which 28 projects of combined generation capacity of 5,800 MW are at an advanced stage of obtaining (Environment Ministry) clearances[ii]. MoEF sanctioned TORs for Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of the HEPs on Chenab in HP in February 2012 however the project specific ECs were delinked from the CIAs[iii].

MoEFs Office Memorandum dated May 28 2013 states, “While, first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative impact study, for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin, it should be incumbent on the developer of second/ other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impacts of the other project (s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.”

We had pointed out in our submission against Kiru & Kwar projects in Jammu & Kashmir that CIA of all the proposed, under construction and operational projects and carrying capacity assessment (CCA) of the Chenab River basin to see if it can support the massive number of HEPs in safe and sustainable way is one of the first steps before considering clearances to HEPs in this region. Looking at the fragility of the Himalayan ecosystem, considering any hydropower project in the basin without these studies will be an invitation to disaster[iv]. This fact has been repeatedly highlighted by multiple organizations and experts including SANDRP.

Sach Khas EIA Study: Gross violation of TOR

The EIA violates several stipulations of TOR issued on Feb 22, 2013, which also included the stipulations of EAC in Sept 2012 and Nov 2012 meetings where the project TOR was considered and also Annexure attached with the TOR. This has severely affected the overall quality of the EIA report.

About assessing the impacts of the project on wild life the TOR said: “Reaching conclusion about the absence of such (Rare, Endangered & Threatened) species in the study area, based on such (conventional sampling) methodology is misleading” as such “species are usually secretive in behavior”, “species specific methodologies should be adopted to ascertain their presence in the study area”, “If the need be, modern methods like camera trapping can be resorted to”. None of this is shown to be done in any credible way in EIA.

TOR also recommends intense study of available fish species in the river particularly during summer (lean) months with help of experimental fishing with the help of different types of cast and grill nets. There is no evidence in EIA of any such intensive efforts detailed here. In fact the field survey in summer moths was done in May June 2010, years before the EAC stipulation.

TOR (EAC minutes of Sept 2012) state “Chenab river in this stretch has good fish species diversity & their sustenance has to be studied by a reputed institute.” This is entirely missing. TOR (EAC minutes of Sept 2012) states “During the day, the adequacy of this discharge (12 cumecs) from aquatic biodiversity consideration needs to be substantiated”. This again is missing. TOR said 10 MW secondary station may be a more desirable option. This is not even assessed. TOR said Impacts of abrupt peaking need to be assessed. This is also not done. Site specific E-Flow studies and peaking studies stipulated by TOR are missing. TOR states that Public Hearing / consultations should be addressed & incorporated in the EIA-EMP. However there is no evidence of this in the report.

TOR also required following to be included in EIA, but many of them found to be missing: L section of ALL upstream, downstream projects; Project layout showing all components with A-3 scale of clarity and 1: 50000 scale; drainage pattern map of river upto project; critically degraded areas delineated; Demarcation of snowfed/ rainfed areas; different riverine habitats like rapids, pools, side pools, variations, etc;

Contradictions in basic project parameters

The EIA report provides contradictions in even in basic parameters of the project components: So section 2.1 on page 2.1 says, “The envisaged tail water level upstream of the Saichu Nala confluence is 2150 m.” This i s when the TWL is supposed to 2149 m as per diagram on next page from the EIA. Section 2.3 says: “River bed elevation at the proposed dam axis is 2145m.” At the same time, the tail water level is 2149 m. How can Tail water level of hydropower project be higher than the river bed level at the dam site? This means that the project is occupying the river elevation beyond what HPPCL has allocated to it. Page 23 of EIA says: “…the centerline of the machines in the powerhouse is proposed at 2138.00m…” So the Centre line o the power house is full 11 m BELOW the tail water level of 2149 m? How will the water from power house CLIMB 11 m to reach TWL level?

EIA report unacceptable on many fronts

Dam ht of 70 m was stated in TOR, however the report states it to be 74 from river bed. The submergence area, consequently has gone up from 70 ha at TOR stage to 82.16 ha, as mentioned in Table 2.2 of EIA. Total land requirement which was 102.48 ha as per TOR ha has now increased to 125.62 ha, with forest land requirement going up to 118.22 ha. This is a significant departure from TOR that should be requiring fresh scoping clearance. Part of the field study has been done for the project more than four years ago and rest too more than three years ago. There are not details as to exactly what was done in field study. EAC had noted in their meeting in Sept 2012, while considering fresh scoping clearance for the project, “EIA and EMP should be carried out afresh keeping in view the drastic changes in the features due to increase in installed capacity of the power house.” (Emphasis added.) The EIA report is thus unacceptable on multiple fronts.

No cognizance of Cumulative Impacts

CIA of the entire Chenab basin including HP and J&K is not being considered, which itself is violating MoEFs Office Memorandum dated May 28 2013. The OM states that all states were to initiate carrying capacity studies within three months from the date of the OM No. J-11013/I/2013-IA-I. Since this has not happened in case of Chanab basin in J&K, considering any more projects in the basin for Environmental clearance will be in violation of the MoEF OM.

On Cumulative Impact Assessment, the OM said, “While, first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative impact study, for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin, it should be incumbent on the developer of second/ other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impacts of the other project (s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.” The EIA of both the projects does not include the cumulative impacts.

The project is located between Purthi HEP upstream and Duggar HEP downstream. Elevation difference between TWL of Purthi (2220m) and FRL of Sach Khas (2219m) is barely 1 m. The horizontal distance between them is as less as 117m. This is clearly unacceptable and in violation of the minimalist EAC-MoEF norms.

Elevation difference between TWL of Sach Khas (2149m) and the FRL of Duggar (2105 m) is 44 m and the horizontal distance is 6 km. This is thus a cascade of three among many other projects in the basin.

Cascade of three projects

Purthi HEP Site

Dugar HEP Site

Even so the report does not even mention the other two projects. EIA study is project specific and no cumulative impacts are assessed along with the other two projects. The EIA does not provide a list of all the HEP projects taken up in the Chenab basin in HP state[i]. The MoEF sanctioned TORs for conducting Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of Chenab In February 2012. EAC considering any further project in Chenab basin before completion of the CIA study of the basin by a credible agency (not WAPCOS) and finalised in a participatory way will be in violation of the MoEF order of May 2013.

EIA report completely misses out on the detailed analysis of cumulative impacts in terms of disaster potential of the area and how the project will increase that; impacts on flora, fauna, carrying capacity, livelihoods; cumulative downstream impact, cumulative impact of hydro peaking. impacts on springs and drainage pattern; impacts of forest diversion on environment, hydrology and society and implementation of the Forest Rights Act; changing silt flow pattern in different phases, impacts of mining, tunneling, blasting etc. Impact of reduction in adaptive capacity of the people and area to disasters in normal circumstance AND with climate change has not been assessed. Project makes no assessment of impact of climate change on the project even when over 60% of the catchment area of the project is snow-fed and glacier fed. Options assessment in terms of non dam options as required under EIA manual and National Water Policy are missing.

Generic impact prediction

Impact prediction is too generic with no detailed assessment, which is what EIA is supposed to do. Impacts have not been quantified at all. The EIA report merely states the likely impacts in 2 or 3 sentences. Several important impacts have gone missing. None of the serious impacts have been quantified. For an informed decision making and effective mitigation and EMP quantification of impacts is essentially a pre requisite. Following are some such incidences:

Impacts of blasting & tunneling: TOR for the impacts on “Socio-economic aspects” says, “Impacts of Blasting activity during project construction which generally destabilize the land mass and leads to landslides, damage to properties and drying up of natural springs and cause noise pollution will be studied.”(p.196 of EIA Report). The total area required for Underground Works is 2.44 Ha. The project proposes underground power house with an installed capacity of (260+7). There are three TRTs proposed of length 99.75m, 113.13m, and 132.35m. Even so the impacts of blasting for such huge construction are simply disregarded in the EIA report by stating that “The overall impact due to blasting operations will be restricted well below the surface and no major impacts are envisaged at the ground level.” (p.165). While assessing the impacts of blasting on wild life the report states that direct sighting of the animals has not been found in the study area and the possible reason could be habitation of few villages. No attempt has been made to assess impacts of blasting like damage to properties, drying up of springs etc. This is a clear violation of TOR.

Impacts of Peaking & diurnal flow fluctuation: In the lean season during peaking power generation the reservoir will be filled up to FRL. As stated in report, this will result in drying of river stretch downstream of dam site of Sach Khas hydroelectric project for a stretch of 6.0 km, i.e. upto tail end of reservoir of Dugar hydroelectric project. The drying of river stretch to fill the reservoir upto FRL for peaking power will last even upto 23.5 hours, after which there will continuous flow equivalent to rated discharge of 428.1 cumec for 0.5 to 2 hours. Such significant diurnal fluctuation with no free flowing river stretch will have serious impacts on river eco system. There is no assessment of these impacts. Instead the report projects this as a positive impact stating “In such a scenario, significant re-aeration from natural atmosphere takes place, which maintains Dissolved Oxygen in the water body.” This is absurd, not substantiated and unscientific.

International experts have clearly concluded that: “If it is peaking it is not ROR”[ii]. In this case the EIA says the project will be peaking and yet ROR project, which is clear contradiction in terms.

Impacts on wild life: EIA report lists 18 faunal species found in the study area. Out of them 8 species are Schedule I species and 8 Schedule II species. Even so while assessing the impacts of increased accessibility, Chapter 9.6.2 b(I) of the report mentions “Since significant wildlife population is not found in the region, adverse impacts of such interferences are likely to be marginal.” If the project has so many schedule I and II species, the impact of the project on them must be assessed in the EIA. Moreover, massive construction activities, the impacts of long reservoir with fluctuating levels on daily basis, high diurnal fluctuation and dry river stretch of 6km on wild life could be serious. But the report fails to attempt any assessment of the same.

Impacts on geophysical environment are missing: The project involves Underground Works of 2.44 Ha. This involves construction of underground powerhouse, three headrace tunnels and several other structures. This will have serious impacts on the geophysical environment of the region and may activate old and new landslides in the vicinity of the project. The report makes no detailed assessment of this. Generic comments like “Removal of trees on slopes and re-working of the slopes in the immediate vicinity of roads can encourage landslides, erosion gullies, etc.” (p.176) have been made throughout the report. Such generic statements can be found in every WAPCOS report. Such statements render the whole EIA exercise as a farce. Project specific, site specific impact assessment has to be done by the EIA. Considering that the project is situated between Purthi HEP upstream and Duggar HEP downstream, a detailed assessment of the geophysical environment and impact of all the project activities is necessary. Further since the EMP is not at all available in public domain, it is difficult to assess what measures are suggested and how effective measures to arrest possible landslides have been suggested.

Downstream view of Sach Khas

Right Bank Drift at Sach Khas

No assessment for Environmental Flow Releases

TOR states that the minimum environmental flow shall be 20% of the flow of four consecutive lean months of 90% dependable year, 30% of the average monsoon flow. The flow for remaining months shall be in between 20-30%, depending on the site specific requirements (p.192). Further the TOR specifically states that a site specific study shall be carried out by an expert organization (p.193).

The TOR also mandated, “A site specific study shall be carried out by an expert organisation.” However completely violating the TOR, the EIA report makes no attempt for the site specific study to establish environmental flows. Instead it proposes to construct 2 units of 7 MW each to be installed to utilize the mandatory environmental releases. This completely defeats the basic purpose of the environmental flow releases. Such flows will help neither the riverine biodiversity, nor fish migration nor provide upstream downstream connectivity.

Socio-economic profile of the study area and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Plan are missing

TOR specifies a detailed assessment of socio-economic profile within 10 km of the study area including demographic profile, economic structure, developmental profile, agricultural practices, ethnographic structure etc. It also specifies documentation sensitive habitats (in terms of historical, cultural, religious and economic importance) of dependence of the local people on minor forest produce and their cattle grazing rights in the forest land. As per the TOR the EIA report is required to list details of all the project affected families.

Report however excludes assessment of socio economic impact of the study area. The total land required for the project is 125.62 ha, of which about 118.22 ha is forest land and the balance land 7.4 ha is private land. There are cursory mentions of habitations in the study area. Chapter 8.7 ‘Economically Important plant species’ states that in study area the local people are dependent on the forest produce such as fruits, timber, fuel wood, dyes and fodder for their livelihood. However the EIA report does not even estimate the population displaced due to land acquisition and impact of the various components of the project on livelihood of the people. Further detailed study is then out of question. This is again gross violation of TOR.

Indus Water Treaty

Chenab basin is international basin as per the Indus Water Treaty. A recent order of the international court has debarred India from operating any projects below MDDL and has disallowed provision for facility to achieve drawdown below MDDL in any future project[i] (for details, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/international-court-asks-india-to-release-more-water-and-rejects-plea-to-re-interpret-february-verdict-on-kishanganga/). The EIA described gate opening in this project for silt removal, which stands debarred by international court. The EIA thus is in violation of the verdict of international Court.

The EIA says (p. 21 bottom), “Five low level sluices with crest at 2167m of size 7.5m width and 12.3m height are proposed for flood passage. Drawdown flushing of the reservoir shall be carried out through these sluices for flushing out of the sediment entrapped in the reservoir. Detailed studies on sedimentation and reservoir flushing can be taken up at detailed planning stage.” The MDDL of the project is 2209.3 m as mentioned in the same para. This means the project envisages sediment flushing by drawdown to 2167 m (sluice crest level, the sluice bottom level wll be 12.3 m below that), about 42.3 m below the MDDL. This is clearly not allowed under PCA order cited above on Indus Treaty.

Impact of 3.5 MW Chhou Nala HEP to be constructed for the project not assessed

The EIA mentions (p 2.19) that the HP government has allocated 3.5 MW Hydropower project on Chhou Nala in the project area to the project authority, so this is integral part of the project. But the EIA does not contain any impacts of the SHP. The stream on which this is planned is extremely important for the people as drinking water schemes, irrigation Kuhls and gharats of Rai, Chhou and Thandal villages are located on this stream in the proposed project area. Thus the project will have huge impacts, but there is no assessment of these impacts. This is another glaring omission of EIA. It was shocking to read that the resident commissioner said at the public hearing that this question is not part of Environmental Public hearing, when it is very much part of it.

Public hearing report

At several places either no information is given or misleading information has been presented. For example the project representatives mis-informed the people at PH that 15-20% water will be released, when minimum water they need to release is above 20%. DFO said that soil will be spread over the muck disposal site for tree planting over it, but there is no provision of this in EIA-EMP. Many questions were provided with vague answers or no answers at all. No clear answer was given when asked if the muck dumping sites have been decided in consultation with the local people, implied answer is clearly that local people have NOT be consulted. When asked about agreements to ensure that the company implements EMP and Social Management Plan as required, there was no promise that such an agreement will be signed with the village gram sabhas. The affected people raised the issue of erosion impact of diversion tunnel, but no specific response was provided in response to this issue. When a resident of Chhou village raised the issue of vulnerability of the village to the landslides, no clear answer was given by the project developer. When the same person asked that our cremation ground is going under submergence, what is the company planning about it, the project developer replied that IF the cremation ground goes under submergence, we will think about this. This only shows that the project developer and EIA consultant have not even done an assessment of such basic aspects. The PH report accepts that close to 100 workers are already working without even basic sanitation facilities, this is clear violation of EIA notification further the EIA Agency fails to mention this.

EIA is full of cut and paste, generic statements, no actual assessments

Out of nine chapters of EIA, only the last chapter is about impacts assessments! So out of 170 pages of nine chapters, only 31 pages of chapter 9 is supposedly about impact assessment and there too mostly there is no real impact assessment, mostly only generic statements that can be included in any EIA. There are several unnecessary sections in the EIA like chapter 3 on “Construction Methodology” which is unnecessary in EIA. In most other sections too, the information is just cut and paste from DPR. By way of impact prediction, the EIA report is only listing them doing absolutely NO ASSESSMENT and no quantification of impacts is attempted. Further since the EMP is not available in the public domain, it is impossible to assess if the measures provided in the EMP are effective. Such EIA is definitely not acceptable.

No proper referencing The EIA does not provide references to the specific information, without this it is difficult to cross check which information is from which secondary sources and how credible it is and which information is from primary survey.

Conclusion

This is another most shoddy piece of EIA by WAPCOS.

Moreover, as we can see the EIA has not done several impact assessments, has violated large no of TORs on several counts, the EIA-EMP are not available on EAC website, the project parameters have undergone changes necessitating fresh scoping clearance as mentioned in TOR but that has not happened, baseline study is 3-4 years old, EAC stipulation of fresh EIA-EMP has been violated, Project is using larger riverine stretch than given by HP govt, there is no proper referencing, hydrology is weak, EMP is not available on HPPCB website in violation of EIA notification, among several other issues listed above. Every conceivable serious problem can be found in this EIA of WAPCOS.

It is full of generic statements that can be pasted in any EIA without any attempt at project specific impact assessment. SANDRP has been pointing to EAC and MoEF about such unacceptable EIA by WAPCOS for several years, but neither EAC, nor MoEF has taken any action in this regard. SANDRP has once again urged to EAC and MoEF to reject this EIA and recommend blacklisting of WAPCOS and to issue fresh scoping clearance for the project as mentioned in the TOR since the project parameters (dam height, submergence area, land requirement, etc) have gone through significant changes.

We sincerely hope the EAC will not only take serious cognition of these and not recommend clearance to the project, but also direct the project proponent and EIA consultant to implement other recommendations made above.

 Amruta Pradhan (amrutapradhan@gmail.com), Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

[i] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/international-court-asks-india-to-release-more-water-and-rejects-plea-to-re-interpret-february-verdict-on-kishanganga/

[ii] See for example https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydro_%20Electric_Projects_in_Chenab_River_Basin.pdf

[iii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/if-its-peaking-its-not-an-ror-interview-with-dr-thomas-hardy-iahr-and-texas-state-university/

[iv] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[v] https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

[vii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[viii] Refer to SANDRP studies on Chenab

– https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

– https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

– https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/massive-hydropower-capacity-being-developed-by-india-himalayas-cannot-take-this-onslought/

[ix] http://northgazette.com/news/2013/04/25/special-committee-to-monitor-hydro-projects-in-hp-cm/

Expert Appraisal Committee · Karnataka

Tragedy of Errors : Environmental governance and the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme

That small-time EIA agents and private project proponents put up sham EIAs and project justifications is not really news. People, from erstwhile Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to Prof. Madhav Gadgil, have spoken famous lines about this issue.

But what if respected government agencies and departments too join this band wagon of fraud?

In the 69th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF[i], officials of Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited and WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy, under the Ministry of Water Resources) earnestly discussed the ‘proposed’ Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme, which ‘envisages’ a non-submersible barrage ( dam) across the Bhima River in Gulbarga, Karnataka. The barrage and project would submerge over 1400 hectares of land and affect nearly 3000 people.

As per EIA Notification 2006, the project had applied for first stage environmental clearance (Terms of reference clearance) in which the EAC is supposed to appraise the viability of the proposal holistically, assess the pre-feasibility report (PFR) and Form I submitted by the project proponent and, if all these are found satisfactory, recommend specific Terms of Reference for carrying out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Public Hearing of the project. On completing these, the project comes back to the EAC for Environmental clearance. Based on the EIA and public hearing, EAC decides on recommends Environmental clearance (EC). EC is issued by the MoEF and only after this can the actual project work start.

This forms the backbone of the Environmental clearance process of the country, upheld by the EIA Notification 2006 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Now comes the intriguing and sad part.

The Pre-feasibility report of the project, presumably done by WAPCOS, talked about Sonthi Lift Irrigation scheme, which ‘envisages construction of Sonthi barrage, its ‘proposed’ submergence and people who ‘may be affected’. Form I by the proponent talked about “967 structures which will have to be cleared in submergence village for the project”. Note here that WAPCOS is no small time EIA Agency, it is a part of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.[ii]

The reality is that the Sonthi barrage with vertical gates, which the Executive Engineers and WAPCOS were ‘proposing’, already stands across the Bhima River near Sonthi village. While work on the barrage is complete, work on canals is also complete in some stretches and progressing in some. Contracts for this Lift Irrigation scheme, which was discussed for TORs in 2013, were issued by the Karnataka Government as early as 2005!

Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima
Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima

And the status of the Sonthi LIS is not a secret either.

In fact, the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited website itself sports a picture of this barrage and states that: “Sonthi Barrage, with a capacity of 4 TMC is already completed!” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Ongo-CZ1-Sonthi-LIS)

The website states:

Location:

Across River Bhima near Sonthi Village of Shahapur Taluk.
Utilisation 4.00 TMC
Components Bridge cum Barrage across River Bhima.
Head Work – 1 No.
Main Canal – 23 Km, Branch Canal – 16 Km
Yargol Minor Canal – 10 Km & Distry. Network.
Command Area 16,000 Ha.
Status of work

Sonthi Bridge cum Barrage completed.
Head work in progress

The barrage completed with all 37 gates of the barrage fixed, work on the canals of the Lift Irrigation scheme is also progressing water is stored and work on feeder canal is completed, branch canals on going fast and completed in some stretches. According to KBJNL, Civil work of barrage & Erection of all 37 vertical gates completed and water stored at Barrage. Construction of Feeder Canal work is completed. Works of Sonthi LIS Main Canal Km 0.00 to 5.00 including Aqueduct, Sonthi Branch canal Km 0.00 to 7.00, Distry. No.1 Km 0.00 to 15 & Yargol Minor Canal works are in progress.” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Progress-Report)

CAG’s report

Ironically, not only is the scheme complete, but CAG had punched holes in the contracting of this LIS back in 2011.( http://agkar.cag.gov.in/docs/ARPSU%202013-Eng.pdf ) According to CAG Report, No. 4, Commercial of 2011, Karnataka, modifications of converting a submersible bridge into a lift irrigation scheme have happened on the barrage and Sonthi barrage has already been modified into a Lift Irrigation Scheme. CAG has recorded irregularities in awarding contracts for this extended work also to the same contractor, without proper tendering process. CAG proves that contracts for converting the submersible barrage into a non-submersible barrage and Lift Irrigation Scheme were given as early as 2005, nearly a decade before the project came for first stage environmental clearance!

According to teh CAG report: After award of the work (June 2003) the Company (Karnataka Bhagya Jal nigam Limited) decided (December 2003) to construct a non-submersible bridge on a request from the Minister for Minor Irrigation (October 2003). This resulted in increase in quantity by more than 125 per cent of tendered quantities. The same contractor was entrusted (Nov 2004) with the additional works necessitated due to change over to non-submersible bridge at the cost of Rs  7.85 crore.”

“On the directions of the Government (Dec 2005) Sonthi bridge- cum-barrage was modified to include lift irrigation scheme also. Construction of steel embedment works for vertical gates and the associated additional civil works at the cost of Rs 30.15 crore were also entrusted to the same contractor.”

Media reports also support this change into a Lift Irrigation scheme way back in 2005 ““The Government has increased the scope of the Sannati barrage ( which is the same as Sonthi barrage, as the place is called Sonthi as well as Sannati) and converted it into a lift irrigation scheme to utilise 4 tmcft of water to irrigate more than 17,000 hectares. Mr. Singh laid the foundation stone for the redesigned Sannati lift irrigation project on June 16 2005”

Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigram Limited or WAPCOS however, did not share this advanced status of the work with the MoEF and went on talking of the ‘proposed’ barrage in the EAC meeting.

69th EAC Meeting: SANDRP sent a submission to the EAC ahead of the 69th meeting in which the project was considered, exposing this state of affairs. Following this, the 69th minutes of the EAC note: “It was informed to the project proponent  that a complaint/representation against the project from SANDRP has been received. As per the complaint, construction work for the project has already been started.  In that case, this is a violation of Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The project proponent was given a copy of the complaint and was asked to give a detailed response. The EAC also advised MoEF to write to State Government on the violation and take necessary action/ settle in accordance with provisions of prevalent office memorandum on such violation.  The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved.”(Emphasis added)

Public Hearing of an existing Project?!

Despite these clear instructions by the EAC we are shocked to see that Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has announced on its website that Environmental Public hearing of the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme will be held in Sonthi village on the 23rd March 2014! (http://kspcb.kar.nic.in/pubhear.html)

The announcement is also accompanied by Executive Summary of EIA report and a complete EIA report. This EIA will not stand legal scrutiny as this is done without TORs from the MoEF. The Kannada version of the EIA report also bears the name of WAPCOS.

Shockingly, both the Executive Summary and the EIA paint a fraudulent picture that the project has received TOR clearance in the 69th EAC meeting, when we saw above that this is categorically incorrect.

The EIA report states: “The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA study were approved by MoEF. A copy of the approved Terms of Reference for the CEIA study is enclosed as Annexure-I.”

The EIA Executive Summary states: “Annexure III: TOR Clearance, 69th Meeting Minutes.”Annexure III consists of the 69th Minutes and has shockingly removed the parts of the minutes which unequivocally state that TORs have been rejected.

(It has removed: “The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved”)

These consciously misleading statements are completely unexpected and unacceptable from the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited as well as WAPCOS.

COPY PASTE EIA!

The travesty does not end here. The EIA report by WAPCOS is a confusing document. Though it is meant for Sonthi LIS, Karnataka,large parts of the report mention Kundalia major multipurpose project from Madhya Pradesh!

For a lift Irrigation Scheme, without any drinking water supply angle, the reader is told: “The proposed Kundalia Major Multipurpose project will provide 20 Mm3 Improvement in agriculture production of water every year to meet drinking water requirements. This will serve a population of 1.35 million, who will be served with low fluoride levels. Thus, Rajgarh district, which is categorized as fluoride affected, will be immensely benefitted due to the project.” (Page 10.6)

This repeats with unerring regularity at various places like 10-4, 10-6, 10-8, Table 2.2 (Cost required for Kundalia Project), 9.1 (Prediction of impacts!), many places at 9.7, etc.

The EIA further extolls the benefits of Kundalia Multipurpose Project in an EIA document of Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme!

In fact the EIA of Kundalia was also done by WAPCOS.

SANDRP and a number of organisations have pointed out the severe issues with WAPCOS’s EIAs, basin studies, cumulative impact assessments tudies, etc. Even Forest Advisory Committee of the MoEF has passed strictures on WAPCOS. But it seems that WAPCOS is insulated against these errors, which severely affect communities and ecosystems.

Complete reading of the EIA report highlights:

  • Wrong figures of affected population: EIA Report (10-2) states that 2861 people will lose their lands and 1760 people would lose homesteads. Same page states that 2004 people would lose lands. Topping this, section 13.3 states that in total only 942 people would be affected! (From 852 families, so this is assuming 1.1 persons per family!!). Its interesting to see that the agency could not get the numbers right even for a project which is already existing.
  • Wrong impoundment figures: Chapter 5 of Hydrology states: The Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a barrage across Bhima River near Sonthi village in Chittapur taluka, Gulbarga district, in Karnataka to impound 4 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC. Chapter 2 Project Description states: Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a Barrage across Bhima River to impound 2.89 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC!
  • Cost: Page2-13 gives cost at 502 crores. Page 2-14 gives it at 600 crores.
  • Gross irrigated area and Culturable command are the same at 16800 hectares. Irrigation intensity should thus be 100%, its shown as 105%!
  • Rehabilitation: Although the barrage is built and is storing water, rehabilitation of the affected population still not done.

This is only indicative list of the cut and paste instances, inconsistencies and contradictions in the EIA.

 All in all, it is clear that Public hearing for Sonthi Project should not be held on the grounds of:

1. Absence of TOR from MoEF due to violations

2. Violation of Laws

3. Cut Paste EIA Report

4. Serious issues with the quality of the EIA Report

We urge KSPCB to cancel this public hearing immediately and take action against KBJNL and WAPCOS for making wrong statements of TOR clearance given by EAC when, EAC has not given any such clearance. Not doing so will implicate KSPCB in these illegal activities.

The case of Sonthi LIS is critical as it negates nearly all aspects of the environmental governance surrounding dams in this country. It has violated EIA Notification 2006, EPA 1986, it has conducted a sham EIA study without TORs, the EIA is a copy paste document and we do not even know the status of the displaced population. The question here is not about 16000 hectares of irrigation. If the project had undergone honest and transparent environmental appraisal, it would not have affected the irrigated area. The question is how serious are we in implementing, upholding and respecting laws protecting people and environmental and our entire environmental governance system.

SANDRP has sent submissions to the EAC, MoEF as well as the KSPCB to cancel this sham of a public hearing for an existing project. Our eyes are now at the KSPCB and MoEF to see what action do they take against a project which undermines rules laid down by the MoEF and the laws of the land.

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

 

Arunachal Pradesh · Expert Appraisal Committee

Hydromania in Arunachal Pradesh: Massive 1850 MW Dam Planned Without Any Basic Data, Not even Water Flow Data…

‘MoU Virus’ was the term used by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in May 2008 to describe the speed at which the Memorandum of Understanding or MoUs for hydropower projects were signed by Arunachal Pradesh government. Five years after that virus attack, the ill-effects are clearly visible. The construction of Lower Subansiri hydropower project has been stopped for 26 months now. Environment and Forest clearances are yet to be accorded to 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose dam, even though the foundation stone for this dam was laid by none other than the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 31st January 2008. Lower Siang hydropower project public hearing was vehemently opposed by people. But learning no lesson from these, the government of Arunachal Pradesh and the center is going ahead with its gigantic plan to make Arunachal Pradesh the ‘future powerhouse’ of the country. In doing so scientific studies and ground realities have been blatantly neglected.

Oju hydropower project in the Subansiri river basin with a proposed installed capacity of 1850 MW is the latest example of the hydromania, which has gripped the government of Arunachal Pradesh and the center. Oju HEP is the upper most project proposed on the Subansiri river in the Upper Subansiri district with a catchment area of 9827 sq. km. up to the dam site. The project was considered for Terms of Reference (TOR) or first stage of environmental clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley and Hydroelectric projects (EAC) in its 72nd meeting held on 20th and 21st February this year. But there is little information available about the actual situation of the project area.  Before going any further, consider the following situations –

Any scientific study is yet to be done at the dam site. Water flow data which is a prerequisite for construction of a hydropower dam is not available for the proposed dam site. No gauge and discharge measurement site at the project site or anywhere in the catchment of the dam.

The project area is totally under forest cover. It holds rich biodiversity which is yet to be explored.

* There is no road to reach the project area. The distance between the dam site of Oju hydropower project and Limeking town, the last point of motarable road is 60 km. From Daporijo, the headquarters of Upper Subansiri district, the dam site is 210 km away. 

Tentative Road Network to Project Site Source: Oju PFR
Tentative Road Network to Project Site
Source: Oju PFR

A small hydropower project is proposed to be constructed in a nearby stream in order to fulfill the electricity requirement during the construction of the project.  

SNC-Lavalin, the consultants hired for preparation of detailed project report, is known to be one of most corrupt engineering firms in the world.

All the situations mentioned above are drawn from the project documents submitted to MoEF. It was shocking to find that without any environmental baseline assessment, the Pre Feasibility Report and Form I made all kinds of sweeping assertions. This hydromania is leading to nothing but ignorant, unscientific and corrupt decision making. 

SANDRP after reviewing the project documents, made a detailed submission to EAC on February 13th pointing out the critical issues related with Oju HEP. We asked the EAC not to consider the project for TOR clearance. We also demanded that the project proponent should  be  asked  to  get  at  least  five  years’  daily  water  flow, gauge, rainfall and sediment data at the project site before applying for TOR clearance. The critical issues mentioned in SANDRP’s submission on Oju HEP to EAC are listed below.

Critical Issues of Oju HEP

No More Projects Should be Cleared in Subansiri basin before Completion of Basin Study From 20007 to 2013, four projects in Subansiri basin has been considered by EAC along with one sub-basin study. All the four projects have been given TOR clearance. Subansiri Upper HEP has been given TOR extension on 6th June 2013. The total installed capacity of these projects are 4960 MW. It is also important to note that 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project is in under construction phase. This implies that nearly 6960 MW of capacity has already been given clearance by EAC without any cumulative impacts assessment study of Subansiri basin being completed through a participatory process. This capacity is in addition to the small hydropower projects in the basin.

The Subansiri sub-basin study was discussed for the first time in 68th EAC meeting in 2013. In that meeting the EAC had stated that “optimal number and locations of HEPs and similar projects to be planned in the basin conforming strictly to ecological and environmental sustainability is to be clearly delineated.” This can only be known once the basin study is completed.

In this situation, no more projects in Subansiri basin should be given any clearance till the cumulative study is being completed. Besides, the EAC must take into account the fact that cumulative impact assessment study of the basin is major demand of the organizations whose agitation has stopped the construction work of Lower Subansiri with the support of the people of Assam. Therefore it is very essential that a through and detailed cumulative impact assessment study is done for Subansiri in participation with all the people of the basin. Without this, clearances given to projects would face the same fate as the Lower Subansiri project is now facing: Work stopped for 26 months till now.

A list of projects cleared by EAC in Subansiri basin is given below.

Sl. No Project State Sub-Basin Ins Cap Status Meeting date Total Area Req. ha Forest Land, ha
1. Subansiri Lower AP Subansiri 2000 Under construction EC on 16-07-03 4111 4039.9
2. Subansiri Middle AP Kamla 1600 TOR Approved 25-09-10 3180 1333
3. Nalo HEP AP Subansiri 360 TOR Approved 11-12-11 662.94
4. Naba AP Subansiri 1000 TOR Approved 03-05-13 658
5. Subansiri Upper AP Subansiri 2000 TOR Ext Granted 06-06-13 3155 2170

Premature application Reading the PFR and Form I on the EAC website shows that project has come rather prematurely for TOR clearance. There is no gauge and discharge measurement site at the project site or anywhere in the catchment, the nearest site is at Upper Subansiri dam site with catchment area about 50% higher than that of Oju HEP. Even for this site, the flow measurement observations are available only for 6 years. How can optimum parameters of a massive project with 1850 MW capacity be formulated without any flow measurements, which is the most important parameter for hydropower project. Even now the flow measurements do not seem to have begun. There are no roads to the project area. It should be remembered that this is a virgin site, and there have been no environmental baseline assessments and yet the PFR and Form I are making all kind of sweeping assertions. The PP should be asked to get back with such an application only after they have at least five years of observation data of water flow and other parameters. That the application is premature is also apparent from the drastic changes the project capacity has gone through so far, as described in PFR. 

Oju HEP's nearest gauge is located in Menga, also the site for Subansiri Upper HEP. But there are four hydropower projects planned between Oju and Subansiri Upper.  Source: Form I of Oju HEP
Oju HEP’s nearest gauge station is located at Menga which the site for Subansiri Upper HEP. But there are four hydropower projects planned between Oju and Subansiri Upper. Source: Form I of Oju HEP

This premature-ness of the proposal is further confirmed when we see contradictory figures in the submitted documents about basic project parameters. For example dam height is given as 110 m (sec 8) at one place and 115 m at another place. Live Storage capacity is given as 2.065 MCM at some place, 3.3 MCM elsewhere (e.g. sec 4.4 of PFR). Power intake design discharge is given as 327.4 cumecs at some places and 333.39 cumecs elsewhere (e.g. sec 2.2 of Form 1).

Proposal in contradiction with Cumulative Impact Assessment This proposal before EAC for a 1850 MW Oju project is in contradiction with what is given in the Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) commissioned by the CWC and which was discussed in the 68th meeting of  EAC. The CIA says (see para 3 of Ex Summary) that there are two Oju projects: “Oju – I (1925 MW), Oju – II (2580 MW)”. However, the proposal now before the EAC is one project with capacity lower than any single project! However, Table on page 15 of CIA says Oju I has 700 MW and Oju II has 1000 MW capacity! The CIA says the submergence area of Oju I is 72.3 ha, though the proposal now before EAC for the same dam says the dam has submergence area of 42.3 ha! CIA says design flood is 10500 cumecs for Oju I (same dam as Oju now before EAC), but the proposal before EAC says PMF is much lower at 5983. This shocking series of numbers show that both the reports of Oju project before EAC and the CIA are misleading and do not seem to know what they are talking about. This is not an exhaustive list of contradictions, there are many more, this is only for illustration. 

Map of Subansiri RIver Basin  Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf
Map of Subansiri RIver Basin
Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf

Proposal different than allotment The PP was allotted two separate projects Oju I and II by Arunachal Pradesh government, but they have decided to club the two, but there is no agreement between Arunachal Pradesh and PP for the new parameters in the project proposed before EAC. Without such an agreement, EAC consideration of the project would be vacuous.

Huge Land Requirement The Form I of Oju project states that the area which will come under submergence due to the formation of the reservoir excluding the river bed is 34.3 ha. Including the river bed the total submergence is 43.2 ha. But the total land requirement is 760 ha implying that the required for dam, water conductor system, power house and other project appurtenances is about 727 ha. It is not clear why 760 ha of land is required for the project when reservoir submergence is 43.2 ha.

Contradictory figures about Land Requirement The Form I in the table providing basin information about the project states that “The total land to be acquired for the project is 760 ha.” But the PFR in section 12.2 in page 15 states “It is estimated that about 790 Ha of land would be required for development of the Project.” This shows that the project proponent is not clear about the land requirement for the project. 

Threat to Huge Forest area The construction of Oju HEP will be a threat to a huge forest area. Page 17 the Form I states “…760 ha of land with forest cover is to be acquired for the project. Forest cover is also observed within the project as well as area within 15 km from the project site.” But the PFR does not specify how much forest area will be actually diverted. 

River Subansiri flowing through its lush green valley
River Subansiri flowing through its lush green valley

Installed Capacity is more than 1850 MW The installed capacity of Oju project is more than 1850 MW since a dam toe power house of 28 MW is also planned. This makes the total installed capacity in 1878 MW. The documents in most of the places mentioned installed capacity of the project as 1850 MW. The EAC therefore should ask the project proponent to apply for fresh TOR clearance with renewed installed capacity.

Oju Project Proponent aims to Construct Three Projects in the Name of One: Small Hydro project to Power the Construction Work The EAC should take a note that project proponent of Oju, is aiming to construct three hydro power projects in the name of one. We have already mentioned about the first two. Now in section 10.7 of page 10-7, the PFR documents states “The power requirement for construction activities is estimated to about 25.0 MVA taking into consideration the capacity of electric driven equipments which are to work during the construction period and lighting. The possibility of constructing small hydro power plants on streams in the vicinity of the project would also be explored at DPR stage.”

The Form I also mentioned about small HEP in page 10 -“The estimated peak requirement of power is about 25MW required for construction activity of major works such as tunnels, adits, barrage area and power house complex. Construction power requirement is proposed to be met by DG Sets/Small HEP.” Full details including impact assessment of this small HEP should be included in the TOR.

Stretch of Free Flowing River between Two Projects on Subansiri It is not clear how much flowing river stretch is available between Oju and downstream Nare HEP. According to the minimalist norms followed by EAC the free flowing stretch between two projects should be minimum one kilometer. But the PFR of Oju HEP have not clearly mentioned this distance anywhere. The Cascade development figure given in the PFR says that the elevation difference between TWL of Oju (1300 m) and FRL of Nare (1280 m) is just 20 m. If we look at the average slop at the site, this translates to about half a km. The PP should be asked to change the parameters to increase this to more than a km at least.

It is also important to specify this distance between two projects because of the cumulative impacts of the project. The Siang basin study in its recent version, which will be discussed in the same 72nd EAC meeting has asked to change the FRL and TWL of some of the projects because they have not kept minimum distance of one kilometer between projects. The basin study report in section 12.1.3 stated “…..it is recommended that FRL of three projects viz. Tato II, Naying and Siyom Middle should be slightly reduced so that free flowing river stretches of 1 Km can be maintained between FRL and TWL of these four projects in cascade.”

Therefore Oju HEP PFR should clearly mention the distance between its TWL and FRL of the downstream project. EAC also should make this compulsory for all the projects in other river basins.

Form I and PFR contradictory about the Generating Units The Form I of Oju HEP in page 20 states that the installed capacity of 1850 MW will be generated through eight units of 231.25 MW each. But PFR on the other hand, in section 9 of page 8 states “The underground powerhouse, housing eight units of 225 MW each, is proposed on the right bank of the river Subansiri.” It is surprising to find such contradictions in the Form I and PFR of Oju project.

The PFR in page 13 again states “As mentioned earlier, project’s installed capacity has been fixed at 1850 MW and correspondingly, eight generating units of 231.25 MW, each, are proposed in the powerhouse.”

Huge Diversion of the River The Oju HEP will divert a huge length of the river. Page 1 of the PFR states, “The dam site is located at about 60 km upstream of Limeking and powerhouse site is located at about 40 km upstream of Limeking on the right bank of Subansiri river.” This implies that the river has been diverted for 20 km between the dam site and the power house (The head race length is 14.82 km). . This is a huge diversion of the river Subansiri which will have disastrous impacts on the health and ecosystem of the river. But neither the Form I nor the PFR provide what is the length of the river to be diverted for the project.

Subansiri carries significant amount of sediment The PFR report of Oju project in section 7.5.2 states “Since Subansiri River is expected to carry some amount of sediment during monsoons, effective management of sediment removal from the reservoir should be ensured.” Stating that the river carries some sediment is not correct since this river system is known for high sedimentation due to its location in the young Himalayan mountain range.

Reference to this can be found in the January-March, 2003 issue Ecologist Asia (page 12) which was focused on dams in northeast “The catchments of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries show significantly high rates of basin denudation especially after the great earthquake of 1950. The catchments of the Subansiri, Jia Bharali and the Manas along with the Dihang (Siang) are estimated to have experienced an average denudation of 73-157 cm./1000 years over just 24 years (1955-79). The increasing amounts of sediment and water yields downstream indicate an increase in sediment yield by a whopping 240% accompanied by an equally significant rise of nearly 120% in water yield during the period 1971-1979 between Tsela D’Zong (China) and Ranaghat (India).

Therefore first the sediment flow should be properly assessed.

Detailed and Thorough Options Assessment A detailed and through options assessment should be done for Oju project. There can be several other cost effective options for power generation in this area and options assessment should look into all such options. The options assessment should also look at whether the local people or the state needs such a huge capacity hydropower project.

It is important here to note that successful sub-megawatt capacity hydropower projects (Less than 1 MW) are currently under operation in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh. (see – Anjaw shines in hydro power sector).

The TOR for the project does not include the following key aspects:

1. Issues related to cumulative impact assessment due to various components of the project and various projects in the basin.

2. The disaster vulnerability of the area on various aspects like landslides, earthquakes, floods, etc and how these will change with changing climate and how the project will change the disaster vulnerability of the area. There should be a separate chapter in EIA on this.

3. The project should do actual environment flow assessment and not just take the EAC norms as given. There should be separate chapter in EIA on this. The statement in Form 1 section 1.24 “Environmental Flows as per MOEF norms shall be released” is thus clearly premature and unwarranted. Eflows should be on daily changing basis and not seasonal averages.

4. Full Downstream social and environmental Impact Assessment

5. Impacts Peaking Power Operations

6. Assessment of impact of reservoir operation and mechanism to achieve transparent, accountable reservoir operation.

7. Impacts of Silt Management operations at various points of time and space.

8. Impacts of Tunneling and Blasting

9. Impacts of Mining of materials for the project.

10. Impacts of Backwater Effects of the reservoir in flood season

11. Impacts of Climate Change on dam

12. Impacts of the project on the adaptation capacity of the people in view of changing climate

13. Impact of peaking operation of the project on downstream areas and communities

No de-sanding chambers proposed in Silt Laden River The PFR in section 7.5.2 in page 7-5 states that “In this regard, it may be noted that no de-sanding chambers are proposed in the project in view of a relatively high dam with reservoir extending to almost 3.13 km.” Keeping no provision of de-sanding or de-silting chamber in the dam could have serious impacts on reservoir operations.

Form 1 undertaking not signed Page 2 of Form 1 is supposed to be an undertaking about the accuracy of information in Form 1, but there is no name, place or date for the signatory, all places are blank.

Poor reputation of consultants The PP has hired SNC Lavalin as consultant for DPR. However, SNC Lavalin has poor reputation in their country of origin (Canada[1]), globally[2] and even in Indian state of Kerala[3]. How dependable would the work of such an agency be is a big question mark.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar)


[1] Out of  over 250 companies on World Bank’s current black listed from bidding on its global projects under its fraud and corruption policy, 115 are from SNC Lavalin and its affiliates, see: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/09/18/canada-now-dominates-world-bank-corruption-list-thanks-to-snc-lavalin/

[2] See: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/daniel-tencer/snc-lavalin_b_4110591.html, the company has been banned by the World Bank due to corruption issues: “SNC-Lavalin, the engineering giant based out of Montreal that has now pretty much become a national (and international) embarrassment.” Its CEO has been arrested more than once for corruption charges.

[3] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNC_Lavalin_scandal, there was a CBI inquiry in relation to hydropower projects related work and several politicians have been charge sheeted.

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

Poor Quality EIA of WAPCOS Tries to Justify Ten Times Bigger Mohanpura Dam in Madhya Pradesh

title cover

The Mohanpura Project The proposed Mohanpura dam is to be constructed by the Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Deparment near the village Banskhedi of District Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh on river Newaj in ChambalRiver Basin. The earthen dam project envisages irrigation of 97,750 ha, including the irrigable area of 62250 ha in Rabi and 35500 ha in Kharif in Rajgarh and Khilchipur Tehsils of Rajgarh district. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) dated May 2013 has been done by WAPCOS, an agency under Union Water Resources Ministry.

Site of the proposed Mohanpura Dam (Source: EIA)
Site of the proposed Mohanpura Dam (Source: EIA)

The EIA and the EAC We have provided below some critical comments on the EIA, these are only indicative in nature and not comprehensive. These comments were sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects for its meeting in June 2013 and further comments for Sept 2013 and Nov 2013 EAC meetings. We were glad that EAC asked the project proponent to reply to our submission in detail. But we did not get any reply directly either from the project proponent or MoEF. We several times checked the relevant section of MoEF website before the Nov 11-12, 2013 EAC meeting and did not find any additional submission from the project proponent or EIA consultant except the EIA and earlier submissions. We also wrote to the EAC and MoEF officials about this absence of any response from the proponent  or the EIA consultant and they did not respond to our emails.

However, while looking for something else, on Nov 13, 2013, on clicking the EIA (which we assumed was the old EIA), what we got was the Oct 2013 response from the project proponent that supposedly included the response from WAPCOS to our submission. This seems like an attempt on the part of MoEF officials to camouflage/ hide the reply so that the reply is put up, but we do no get a chance to review and respond to it. This is clearly wrong and we have written on Nov 13, 2013 to that effect to the MoEF director Mr B B Barman who is also member secretary of the EAC.

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

In any case, the WAPCOS reply of Oct 2013 does not really provide adequate response to any of the points we raised as we have discussed in the following sections. If the EAC had applied its mind, EAC too would have come to the same conclusion. However, if EAC decides to recommend clearance to the project based on this reply by WAPCOS, it will not only show lack of application of mind and bias on the part of the EAC, the project clearance would also be open to legal challenge.

In what follows we have provided main critiques of the EIA and the project.

EIA does not mention that the project is part of Inter-Linking of Rivers The Mohanpura dam is part of the Government of India’s Interlinking of Rivers scheme, specifically part of the Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal (PKC) scheme, see for example the mention of Mohanpura dam on Newaj river in salient features of the PKC scheme at: http://nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/7740745524.PDF, the full feasibility report of the PKC scheme can be seen at: http://nwda.gov.in/index4.asp?ssslid=36&subsubsublinkid=24&langid=1. This hiding of this crucial information by the Project Proponent is tantamount to misleading the EAC and MoEF and should invite action under EIA notification. The claim by WAPCOS (through their response in Oct 2013) that this was mentioned in DPR is clearly not tenable since this should have been mentioned in the EIA.

Much bigger Mohanpura Reservoir proposed compared to the PKC proposal It is clear from the perusal of the Feasibility of the PKC link given on the NWDA link that the project now proposed by the Govt of Madhya Pradesh is much bigger and actually an unviable scheme. The Gross and live storage of the NWDA scheme is 140 MCM and 52.5 MCM, where as the proposal now before the EAC has gross storage of 616.27 MCM and live storage of 539.42 MCM (page 1-328 mentions Live storage as 616 MCM, showing another instance of shoddy work of WAPCOS), which means the live storage proposed now is more than ten times the live storage proposed in NWDA scheme. It may be noted that there is less than 4% difference in catchment area of the two schemes, the NWDA site was slightly upstream with the catchment area of 3594 sq km, compared to catchment area of now proposed scheme being 3726 sq km, the difference between the two is only 132 sq km.

This does not warrant or justify more than ten time higher live storage. In fact the NWDA scheme had the proposal to transfer 464 MCM from the Patanpur Dam to the Mohanpura dam and yet, under the Mohanpura live storage capacity proposed under NWDA scheme was much smaller. It is clear that the proposal before NWDA is completely unviable proposal and should be rejected.

No justification for increasing the live storage capacity OVER TEN TIMES This is a very serious issue and unless this is satisfactorily resolved, EAC should not consider the proposal.

Here it should be point out that the following discussion in the 67th EAC meeting regarding the SANDRP letter is misleading: “The developers were asked to clarify doubts raised in the above letters relating to the project features that contradict with the assumptions made in the NWDA study of Parbati – Kalisindh – Chambal Scheme, a major issue is that the NWDA scheme envisaged a gross and live storage provision of 140 and 52.5 MCM respectively against the present proposal 616.27 and 539.42 MCM respectively because the NWDA proposed transferring 464 MCM from Patanpur dam to Mohanpura Reservoir to reduce the large submergence of Mohanpura Reservoir. The developers clarified that the NWDA scheme has not been accepted by the M.P. Government and is not likely to be implemented in the near future. The M. P. Government wants immediate implementation of Mohanpura Project for poverty alleviation of the backward Rajgarh District.”

The issue is not only about how NWDA plans differed from the current proposal in terms of transferring 464 MCM water to Mohanpura dam from Patanpur dam and transferring 403 MCM from Mohanpura dam to Kundaliya dam. Net effect of these two transfers is addition of less than about 61 MCM water to Mohanpura dam in NWDA proposal from outside the Newaj basin. In spite of this addition, the storage capacity of the Mohanpura dam in NWDA proposal is HUGELY LOWER than in the current GOMP proposal. There is clearly no justification for such huge storage capacity from any angle. Even the water use plan has exaggerated figures and does not change even with changed cropping pattern. The issue is the viability, desirability, need and optimality of the ten times larger reservoir than was NWDA proposed earlier.

Unfounded assumption about water availability The project assumes huge yield of 745.2 MCM, much higher than that assessed by the Chambal Master Plan, without assigning any reason. This seems to be a ploy to push for unjustifiably huge reservoir. This is clearly wrong and the proposal should be rejected. The reply by WAPCOS that “The calculated yield of dam is approved by Bureau of Design of Hydel & Irrigation Project (BODHI), M.P.” is not convincing since BODHI is government of Madhya Pradesh organisation and in any case, their approval letter and methodology details have not been attached. In any case, Newaj being in interstate Chambal river basin, it will need vetting by the interstate Chambal River Board or credible independent body.

Inadequate assessment of upstream water requirement The EIA does not do proper or adequate assessment of current and future water requirements of upstream areas and allocates almost all available water in the catchment to the project in a bid to justify unjustifiable project. The figures given in table 10.9 are not even substantiated with any basis and hence are far from adequate in the context. The PP has also not responded to the EAC query about the upstream water demand.

Unjustifiable submergence The proposal entails submergence of 7051 Ha, almost three times the submergence as per NWDA scheme of 2510 ha. The project proponent has hugely underestimated the number of affected families to 1800 against private land acquisition of 5163 ha. They have amazingly, allotted just 132 ha of land for R&R, when land for land provisions under the MP R&R policy will require much more than 5000 ha just for R&R. The social impact assessment has not been done at all. In fact the phrase Social Impact Assessment or Social Impact does not figure in the entire EIA, when the National Green Tribunal has been laying such a stress on SIA.

The whole social impact assessment of the proposal now submitted is shoddy. It is clear the huge displacement is unjustified, and the project proponent has no interest in even doing any just rehabilitation. The PP has not explained the justification for three times increasing the submergence area compared to the NWDA proposal.

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

Underestimation of Land required for Canal The project has command area of 97750 ha and claims that it will require just 152 ha of land for canals (table 2.6 of EIA), which is clearly a huge under estimate and is not based on any real assessment. The project will require several times more land for the canals and will have related social and environmental impacts which have not even been assessed. The response from WAPCOS that this is because most of the water conveyance system is underground is far from adequate since an assessment of land requirement should still have been done and a lot of land would still be required at the end of water conveyance system.

No Command Area Development Plan The EIA report (May 2013) mentions CAD in two sections: Section 2.8 and 10.9. However, perusal of both sections show that neither have full description of Command Area Development Plan or adverse Impacts of  the project in the Command Area including drainage, health, biodiversity and other issues.

Shocking statements in Command Area Development Plan The CAD now annexed in the Additional information (dated Aug 2013) makes some shocking statements. e.g. It says: “GCA of the project is 928680 ha…” with an extra “0”. This seems to suggest that the EIA consultant is callous.

The CAD further says: “Maximum height of the spillway above the ground will be 47.90 m (measured from river bed level to top of the spillway bridge). Maximum height of spillway from expected foundation level will be 47.90 m.” So the height of the spillway above the riverbed and above the foundation is same! This means that there is no foundation of the dam below the riverbed level! This again shows the callousness and lack of understanding of basic concepts by WAPCOS.

Section 2.9 of CAD says: “The groundwater development is of the order of 6.9% to 8.7% in the command area blocks.” In reality, as the table 2-3 just below this statement shows, the groundwater draft is 69 to 89%.

Section 3.1 of CAD says: “…the catchment area intercepted upto Mohanpura dam site is 3825 sq.km.” The last sentence in the same para says: “The catchment area intercepted at the dam site is 3726 sq.km.” Such figures for the catchment area upto Mohanpura dam keeps appearing in the documents.

The CAD should start with clear statement of HOW MUCH OF THE PROPOSED COMMAND AREA IS ALREADY IRRIGATED. This is not even mentioned.

No Downstream Impact Assessment The EIA report has not done any downstream impact assessment, including the impact on biodiversity, livelihoods, draw down agriculture, water security, groundwater recharge, geo-morphological impacts, among others. The response of WAPCOS in Oct 2013 that Newaj is a monsoon fed river and hence there are no downstream impacts is completely inadequate and shows the lack of understanding of functions of the river on the part of WAPCOS.

Impact of project on National Chambal Sanctuary It may be noted that the project is to be constructed on Newaj river, a tributary of the Chambal river. The project will have significant impact of water, silt and nutrient flow pattern into the ChambalRiver, the approximate 600 km of which has been declared as National Chambal Sanctuary between 1979-1983 across three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. However, the EIA does not even mention that the National Chambal Sanctuary exists down stream of the proposed project and will be impacted by the project. According to section 29 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, any project that affects flow of water into or out of the protected area should be assessed for its impact on such sanctuary and necessary clearances be taken from the designated authorities including Chief Wildlife Wardens and National Wild Life Board. However, WAPCOS does not even seem aware of the existence of the sanctuary.

Another point to note is that the entire water availability in the NCS is dependent on the KaliSindh and Parbati since there is no discharge below the Kota Barrage. The response from WAPCOS (Oct 2013) that the Mohanpura catchment is about 200 km from the river and that it is just 2.5% of the Chambal catchment and hence will not have any impact is clearly untenable. Firstly, the EIA does not even mention the existence of National Chambal Sanctuary. Secondly, it is not the distance of % catchment, but the impact of the abstraction that is important and the EIA has clearly not done that.

Impact of mining of materials for the project not mentioned The EIA has some assessment of material required to be mined for the project at Table 2.7, but where will these materials come from and what will be the impacts of this is not even mentioned.

No proper Options Assessment The EIA does not do proper options assessment to arrive at the conclusion that the proposed project is the most optimum proposal. It may be noted that the area has rainfall of 972 mm (see Chapter 2 in Command Area Dev Plan in Additional Information dated Aug 2013) and there are a lot of options for local water systems. As is clear from the public hearing report, several farmers suggested that in stead of one big dam a series of smaller dams should be built and that farmers will have to commit suicide if the dam is built. The response in the EIA is most callous that this is not technically feasible is not even backed by any evidence, which again shows the shoddy nature of the EIA.

The response of WAPCOS (Oct 2013) that the project is justified for fluoride affected area is completely misleading since if that was the concern than much smaller dam and large number of rain water harvesting structures would better serve the purpose. This again shows that WAPCOS has not done any options assessment.

Public hearing in the office of the DM? Chapter 17 of the EIA says, “Public Hearing for Mohanpura Multipurpose Major Project was conducted by Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) on 11th March 2013 in the premises of the office of the District Magistrate, Rajgarh”. This is most shocking state of affairs. The Public hearing as per the EIA notification is supposed to be conducted at the project site and cannot be conducted in the office of the District Magistrate. The MoEF should have applied its mind on just this aspect and rejected the proposal and asked them to get the public hearing done in legal way. The public hearing report is also incomplete with several sentences not being complete. This again shows lack of application of mind on the part of the MoEF and WAPCOS. The response from WAPCOS in Oct 2013 that the DM office is just 9 km from the dam site and is convenient to all concerned is clearly wrong, the public hearing should have been conducted in the affected area and public hearing report should be full and cannot be accepted with half sentences. This public hearing will also not pass the legal scrutiny.

CUMULATIVE IMPACT ASSESSMENT FOR CHAMBAL BASIN A very large number of dams and other water use projects have been constructed, are under construction and under sanction in the ChambalRiver Basin. It is high time that a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) and carrying capacity study for the ChambalBasin be done before any more projects are considered in the basin. This is also required as per the MoEF Office Memorandum (J-11013/1/2013-IA-1 dated May 28, 2013) that required states to initiate CIA in all basins within three months, that is by Aug 28, 2013.

Unacceptable EIA The whole EIA is done in most shoddy way and should be rejected for this reason and EAC should make recommendation for black listing of WAPCOS as EIA agency. Just to illustrate, the EIA says MDDL stands for Maximum Draw Down level (page 1-14), has not even mentioned the project impact on the National Chambal Sanctuary (one of the only two river sanctuaries of India also proposed as Ramsar site), for hugely inadequate R&R land and canal land requirements, for not doing impact of mining of materials for the project, for not assessing the hydrological viability of the project, for making unfounded assumptions, among other reasons mentioned above.

Issue of Conflict of Interest for WAPCOS It may be noted that WAPCOS is a Ministry of Water Resources organization, and has been in the business of doing pre-feasibility, feasibility reports and Detailed Project Reports, which are necessary for the justification of the projects. This is part of the business of the organization. Such an organization has clear conflict of interest in doing an honest EIA since an honest EIA can lead to a possible answer that the project is not viable. Hence EAC should recommend that the WAPCOS should be debarred from doing any EIAs or CIAs (Cumulative Impact Assessments).

Other Issues Besides the above, a large number of issues raised by EAC in 67th meeting remain unresolved.

Þ     For example, the area to be inundated by dam break needs to be listed and shown on map, which has not been done.

Þ     EAC had asked: “Details of drainage network planning be included in the report.” In response, PP has attached Annex III which is just a map!

Þ     EAC had asked: “75%flow series gives a total yield of catchment as 25.77 cumec-10 days in 75% dependable year. Whereas in table-5.2 the 75% dependable yield is given as 749.71 Mcm. The same needs to be corrected. Corresponding corrections at relevant sections in Volume-II, EMP report also be done”. This has not been done except an amended table

Þ     Annex XIV in Additional Info on “INCOME – EXPENDITURE DETAILS OF PAFs” leaves a lot to be desired. Here, what does the figures represent in Table 1 is also not clear.

Þ     Annex XV in Additional Info volume is basically a reproduction of 10.11.6 from the EIA. Incidentally, it ends by saying: “Project planner need to understand the negative impacts with sensitivity, and formulate mitigation measures appropriately; such mitigations measures that would be acceptable to the concerned population groups and that are sustainable.” The proposed project or the R&R plan are neither acceptable to the concerned population groups, nor sustainable, in any case, there is no process to achieve this.

Þ     EAC had asked for more no of villages in the sample compared to 9, but the EIA consultant has refused to do this (Annex XVI and XVII in additional Info) without any convincing reason.

CONCLUSION In view of the above, we urge EAC to:

1. Reject the proposal for environmental clearance. It will be most shocking if the project gets cleared with this kind of EIA.

2. Reject the EIA, as explained above this is most shoddy EIA.

3. Reject the Public hearing; as explained above, the public hearing has not been conducted as legally required. The public hearing also need to be conducted again since the EIA is found to be so seriously inadequate and needs to be redone. In any case, with so many additions and changes to the EIA, the public hearing clearly needs to be redone.

4. Suggest black listing of WAPCOS as EIA and CIA agency. It is high time for EAC to send a signal that such shoddy EIA would not be accepted and is in violation of law.

SANDRP

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/, https://sandrp.in/

 

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Annexure 1

Submission showing how the WAPCOS EIA of Mohanpura Project is Inadequate and Plagiarised

Sep 23, 2013

To,

Chairman and members,

Expert Appraisal Committee on RiverValley Projects,

Ministry of Environment and Forests,

New Delhi
Subject: Serious concerns on the Mohanpura Irrigation Project on agenda for the 68th meeting of EAC of RVP
Dear Chairman and Members of the EAC-RVP,
With reference to the Mohanpura Irrigation Project on agenda for the 68th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, and WAPCOS response to EAC comments (August 2013), I believe that the concerns raised by the New Delhi based SANDRP has not been addressed. The Project Proponent has also not responded satisfactorily to the queries raised by the EAC, and I outline a few of their (WAPCOS) responses below –
EAC Comment No. 16: The source of data for faunal population is to be provided. The source of secondary information may be provided if used.
EAC Comment No. 17: The avifaunal list is good but requires a lot of typographical corrections. Also some of the species such as Golden Plover and Redshank have been shown as resident although they are migratory.
EAC Comment No. 18: The list of reptiles appears deficient for this hot and dry area of central India. This needs to be updated.
The information provided by WAPCOS under-represents the faunal richness of the region and is an attempt to deceive the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects. The sources used in the EIA are old and I would like to draw you attention to more recent work from the region (attached below). 

Nair, T. & Krishna, Y. C. (2013). Vertebrate fauna of the ChambalRiver Basin, with emphasis on the National Chambal Sanctuary. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 5(2): 3620–3641; doi:10.11609/JoTT.o3238.3620-41
EAC Comment No. 19: The methodology for faunal surveys has not been provided properly. The faunal part in section 4.2.2 is too brief and fails to provide any idea about the primary effort. The source of secondary information may be provided if used.
The methodology outlined in Annexure-XII by WAPCOS has simply been copied from other survey reports / studies without actually conducting them. This amounts to professional dishonesty and fraud, and is another attempt to deceive the EAC-RVP. 

Eg: “Direct Count: Both terrestrial and arboreal (small and large) mammals were counted during monitoring of line transect (Burnham et al. 1980) that were walked in the early and late hours of the day, and during the night using spotlight or headlights (Duckworth 1992).” is plagiarised from http://fes.org.in/studies/sitamata-report-final-july.pdf?file=ZG93bmxvYWQvd3AxOS5wZGY=

“Indirect Count: Presence and relative abundance of most of the small and large mammals was evaluated using methods that rely on indirect evidence such as animal burrows/holes, dung, pellets, scats, feeding signs, tracks, nests, digging and antler thrashing.” is also plagiarised from http://fes.org.in/studies/sitamata-report-final-july.pdf?file=ZG93bmxvYWQvd3AxOS5wZGY=

“Line Transect useful in determining variation in herpetofaunal populations across continuously changing environmental gradients (Jaeger, 1994). Thus, systematic searches can be used to provide data for distribution, inventory, relative abundance, density estimates, population trends, site occupancy and territory mapping.” is plagiarised from http://www.outdooralabama.com/research-mgmt/State%20Wildlife%20Grants/AL_AM_Final_Report.pdf

“Species with tags (e.g. coloured beads on tuatara crests) or that have easily identifiable individual marks (e.g. paint spots, and scale & band patterns among snakes) attached that can be identified from a distance.” is plagiarised from http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/inventory-monitoring/im-toolbox-herpetofauna-sytematic-searches.pdf

EAC Comment No. 20: The presence/absence of Blackbuck, a Schedule-I species, may be commented upon since it is expected in the area.
WAPCOS response that ‘Blackbuck is not reported in the area’ is again not true. Please refer to the press report and scientific study which show the presence of black buck from the area. 
Press reporthttp://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-05/flora-fauna/36162066_1_blackbuck-population-stray-dogs-habitat
Scientific publication: Karanth, K. K., Nichols, J. D., Hines, J. E., Karanth, K. U. and Christensen, N. L. (2009), Patterns and determinants of mammal species occurrence in India. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 1189–1200. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01710.x
I believe that such a manner of plagiarism and false claims of having used scientific methods during the Environmental Impact Assessment is reason enough to reject the project and to blacklist WAPCOS. Further, the Government must initiate civil and criminal proceedings against WAPCOS for fraud, suppressing facts and providing misleading  information on an issue that has serious and negative ecological and social consequences. 

Yours’ sincerely, 

Tarun Nair (tarunnair1982@gmail.com)

……………………………………………………………..
GHARIAL  CONSERVATION  ALLIANCE,

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Post bag No.4,

Mamallapuram – 603104, Tamil Nadu, India.

http://www.gharialconservationalliance.org/

Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee

Shoddy EIA by WAPCOS Tries to Push Unjustifiable Bansujara Irrigation Project in Madhya Pradesh

The EIA of the Bansujara Multipurpose Project (BMP) dated May 2013 by WAPCOS has been submitted for Environment Clearance of the project before the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, in Nov 2013. WAPCOS is known to do very shoddy job of Environment Impact Assessments, this one is no different. In what follows I have given a few instances of wrong facts, contradictory facts, wrong calculations or assumptions, incomplete assessments, instances that shows it is cut and paste job and lack of options assessment by the 564 page EIA document. The conclusion is inescapable that the EAC and MoEF must reject this EIA and recommend black listing and other measures against WAPCOS. The project should be asked to get a fresh EIA done by a credible agency. 

Location Map of Bansujara Irrigation Project
Location Map of Bansujara Irrigation Project

WRONG FACTS The EIA provides several completely wrong facts, here are a few instances:

1. River description On p 1-1 the EIA says: “The Bansujara Dam Project lies in Dhasan sub-basin of Betwa basin, River Betwa is a tributary of Yamuna river, rises in district Bhopal district at an elevation of 472 m. After traversing a length of 365 km, it joins Yamuna river in Uttar Pradesh. The river runs for nearly 240 km in Madhya Pradesh, 54 km along common border of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and 71 Km in Uttar Pradesh state before its confluence with Yamuna river near Hamirpur town in Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh.” This is actually the description of River Dhasan and not Betwa! It is exactly same as the description of river Dhasan given on the next page and several other places subsequently.

2. Land required for Canals In Table 2.3 it is stated that canals will require 44 ha land, this is clearly gross under-estimate considering even 49.9 km of main canal.

3. Private land under required for project The SIA says on page 1-2, “About 935.11 ha of culturable area, 57.49 ha of forest land and 4209.118 ha of other land including road, nallah, river, etc. will be affected.” This is blatantly wrong figure. On page 1-3/4 of SIA it is stated: “About 2935.11 ha of revenue/government land and 2894.37 ha of private land is to be acquired.” This again is wrong.

As the MoEF factsheet for the Forest clearance for the project says, “Apart from the 57.495 hectares of forest land proposed to be diverted, the project involves submergence of 287.951 hectares of government land and 4,856.276 hectares of private land.” Thus the suggestion by the SIA that only 935.11 ha of culturable land is going under submergence is clearly wrong since most of the private land is under cultivation in these villages.

4. How many families will be affected The MoEF Factsheet for the project says: “The project involves submergence of 21 villages. 2628 houses, 773 wells, 5082 trees, and 2628 families with population of 13,142 are getting affected due to submergence.” These figures are at variance with the figures mentioned in the EIA. For example, the SIA (p 1-4, repeated on page 4-1) says: “Over all 748 families of 9 Abadi Villages will be affected”. This when the project will be taking away 2628 houses as per the Fact sheet, is clearly gross wrong reporting of figures. Because of use of wrong figures, their R&R plan and R&R costs are also all wrong and gross under estimates. Moreover, now the R&R plan and costs should be as per the new Land Acquisition Act Passed by the Parliament, which has not been done in the EIA-SIA. As per the new Act, land has to be provided to each losing farmer, and this must be followed.

5. Completely impossible figures of crop yields A look at table 4.3 of SIA (repeated in table 7.1 of CADP) shows that the consultants have given crop yields before project (e.g. paddy 7 t/ha, wheat 18 t/ha, groundnut 10 t/ha and gram 10 t/ha) which are much higher than the average of even Punjab crop yields and they are expecting to double that post project! These are clearly impossible figures. This shows that the consultants are plain bluffing and seem to have no clue about possible crop yields and in any case do not seem to have done any surveys, but are only cooking up data. Amazingly, they are claiming that with 211% increase in crop yield, the profits from crops will go up by 318%! All this simply shows the manipulations they are indulging in to show the project is economically viable.

CONTRADICTORY FACTS
1. Main canal length Page 2-2 says main canal length is 90 km, the salient features on next page says Main canal length is 49.9 km.

2. Command area Tehsils and villages Section 10.2 of EIA (and again section 2.7 of the CADP) says: “The Command area of the proposed Bansujara Major Irrigation project lies within the district Tikamgarh in jatur and Baldeogarh tehsil” and than goes on to give details of these tehsils, but the rest of the document (e.g. section 6.1) says: “A total of 124 villages are likely to be benefitted by the project. 80 villages are located in Tehsil Khargapur of district Tikamgarh. About 13 villages are located in tehsil Jatara of district Tikamgarh. The remaining (31) villages are located in tehsil Palera of Chattarpur district.” Chapter 6 in fact provides full list of 124 villages in the command area. The subsequent details of the command area given in chapter 10 thus does not match with what is given say in chapter 6.

Contradicting this, page 1-4 of SIA says: “The Bansujara Multipurpose Project will benefit almost 132 villages in districts Tikamgarh and Chattarpur.” Amazingly, the SIA says Palera tehsil is in Tikamgarh district and not in Chattarpur district and that additional ten villages of Badamalhera tehsil of Chattarpur district will also be in command area!

Number of beneficiary villages in Palera tehsil are given as 31 in page 44 (chapter 6) and 30 on page 141 (chapter 11), with even names differing, e.g. Banne Khurd and Bastaguwan mentioned in chapter 6 are missing in chapter 11, village Bargram mentioned in chapter 11 is missing from the list in chapter 6.

All this is most callous and shocking. This fact alone should be sufficient to REJECT this callous EIA and recommend blacklisting and other punitive measures for WAPCOS as consultant.

3. Command area population Section 10.2.1 of EIA says: “As per 2001 Census the total population of the command area is about 38,000. The male and female population is 20,181 and 17,828”. However a look at the 10.2 that follows this sentence shows that these figures are for Jatara tehsil and not command area. Another sign of callousness.

4. Submergence villages Table 11.3 of EIA gives list of Project affected families, which is at variance with the list given in tables 10.8-10.14. Firstly, chapter 10 tables say that 14 villages of Tikamgarh Tehsil are affected, but table 11.3 lists only 13 villages. More shockingly, tables in chapter 10 say 6 villages of Bada Malhera tehsil of Chhatarpur district are affected, whereas the name of this tehsil given in chapter 11 is Bijawar. All this shows shocking callousness of WAPCOS.

5. Storage Capacity Page 11-10 says: “The storage capacity of Bansujara Reservoir is 539.42 Mm3.” This is clearly wrong, the figures for gross and live storage capacity given in salient features and elsewhere are: 313.1 MCM and 272.789 MCM respectively.

6. Water Availability As per Table 5.8, water availability at the project site from MP catchment (2788 sq km) alone is 843 MCM. Strangely, this reduces to 588.68 MCM in table 11.6 for whole of catchment (3331.776 sq km) at dam site. No explanation is given for these figures.

7. Submergence area While most of the document gives submergence area as 5201.71 ha. However, in section 2.7 of EMP, it says, “The submergence area of Bansujara Irrigation Project is 7476 ha.” This is amazing kind of contradiction.

WRONG CALCULATIONS/ ASSUMPTIONS
1. Field channel length grossly underestimated The p 6-6 of EIA says: “The Bansujara Dam Project envisages irrigation over a CCA of 54000 ha. In the areas where irrigation is proposed no field drainage, land shaping of field channels exist and used to be constructed. From general experience and existing practice, it is assessed that a length of 1600 m of field channels will be required to serve a chak of 40 ha of CCA. On this basis, an approximate network of total length of 180 km of field channels will be required for 50% of CCA proposed for irrigation.” Simple calculation suggests that the field channel length for 50% of CCA would be 1080 km (54000 ha / 40 ha per 1.6 km divided by 2 for 50% CCA).

2. Drainage requirement under estimated Section 6.9 (p 6-7) of EIA says, “The command area is being traversed by a large number of nallahs and drains, therefore field drainage should not pose any problem.” This is clearly wrong assumption since additional irrigation will certainly require additional drainage and cost calculations based on such flawed assumptions are bound to be wrong.

3.  Baseless assumption about waterlogging Similarly about the assumption in section 6.13 (p 6-8): “Even after construction of Bansujara Dam Project the area will not face any waterlogging problem.”

4. Wrong claims about no floods The conclusion about flood and back water impacts is completely unfounded in section 6.14 (p 6-8): “As per information gathered from the Collectorate Tikamgarh there is no village affected due to back-water of Dhasan and Ur rivers. The existing drainage system in the command is adequate. The statistics gathered from collectorate Tikamgarh show that there is no flood affected area. The command has fairly good flood disposal capacity and not special measures are called for.” This when the Maximum water level of the dam is full 1.4 m above the FRL, the back water level is found to be high. This is also particularly relevant in flood prone basin like Betwa-Dhasan.

5. Drainage characteristics of clayey soils ignored The assumption in section 7.1 (p 7-1) shows complete lack of understanding on the part of EIA consultants: “The area is sloping gently and near its outfall into Betwa river, the slope is of the order of 0% to 3%. It is traversed by small drainage channels at short distances and they help in draining excess water efficiently. Hence, no provision for drainage has been made. The soil is generally clayey.” It is well known that clayey soils are inefficiently draining soils and to make such assumption for clayey soils is clearly wrong.

6. Unrealistic assumption of irrigation efficiency System irrigation efficiency of 54% assumed in Table 11.10 is clearly wrong, no project in India has achieved such high efficiency. The water loss will surely be much higher than the assumption of 105 MCM on page 11-14. The conclusion on that page that: “The quantum of water not being utilized is quite small and is not expected to cause any significant problem of waterlogging” is clearly wrong and baseless, since water logging also depends on many other factors including drainage, soil structure, underground geology, among other factors.

7. No industries, but 19.4 MCM for industries! The CADP (page 5-7) clearly states: “At present there is no industrial requirement in the area.” And yet the project allocates 19.4 MCM water for industries. This again shows that the project is being pushed even though there is no need for it.

INCOMPLETE ASSESSMENT
1. Dependence on fisheries incomplete It is not clear what is the area from which fisheries assessment done as reported in section 9.11.6. How many people depend on fish, what is the production market and economy of the same is also not reported.

2. Hydrology figures without basis Chapter 11 (Table 11.6) assumes that “For use on u/s of Bansujara dam for environmental and ecological balance and Misc. uses by surface water” is 10 MCM and “Quantity of water reserve for d/s release for environmental and ecological balance” is 15.18 MCM and that groundwater available upstream of dam site will be 58.86 MCM (10% of surface water). No basis is given for any of these and all these (and many other) figures given in the water balance are clearly ad hoc, unfounded assumptions. The groundwater availability is typically 40% of total water availability, so around 67% of surface water availability. Why should it be 10% in case of the Dhasan basin is not explained and in any case does not seem plausible.

However, in Table 2.2 of EMP, the environment flow suggested in monsoon months is 12.8 cumecs. This would mean that the project would need to release 132 MCM of water in four monsoon months as environment flows, when they have assumed in hydrology that only 15.18 MCM water is required for this!

3. Incomplete SIA SIA says (SIA page 1-7) that it has selected certain of the 21 villages facing submergence due to the project. Actually the SIA should have done full survey of all the villages not a sample of villages.

4. Impact of loss of river not assessed It is expected that the SIA will assess the impact of loss of river for the people in submergence and downstream zone, but no such assessment has been done. Even in section 4.4 of SIA on “Impacts of Socio-Cultural Environment”, there is no mention of impact of river (or forest or other natural resources) on the people.

5. Full Canal details not given The EIA or CADP report does not provide the full lengths of main canals, distributaries, minors, field channels and field drains, including their width, land requirements, protection measures like canal like plantations etc. Without these basic details, the EIA or the CADP cannot be considered complete.

6. Command area coinciding with command area of Ken Betwa Link canal and other such projects? A perusal of the Command area of the Ken Betwa River Link Project (TOR approved by EAC in its 45th meeting in Dec 2010) shows that all the three Tehsils (namely Baldeogarh or Khargapur in Tikamgarh district, Jatara Tehsil in Tikamgarh district and Palera Tehsil in Chhattapur district) are also benefiting from Ken Betwa Link Canal. A look at the map of the command area of Ken Betwa link canal and that of the Bansujara shows that some area are certainly common. The EIA of Bansujara should have pointed this out and also if the proposed command area is to benefit from any other such projects, but it has not done that.

CUT AND PASTE JOB? Several parts of EIA raises the suspicion that they are cut and paste from other documents. This suspicion is proved correct when we see this sentence in Table 12.2 in Disaster Management Plan (Chapter 12 of EMP): “All staff from dam site, power house & TRC outlets alerted to move to safer places”, since the Bansujara project has no power house or TRC (Tail Race Channel). The consultants forgot to remove these irrelevant aspects while doing the cut and past job[1], it seems. This is just by way of illustration.

Similarly, the title of the section 2.6 of the Command Area Development Plan says it all: “2.6 FOREST TYPES IN THE MOHANPURA PROJECT AREA”. Here again it is clear that while doing cut and paste from another EIA, the consultants forgot to change the details! There is also the sentence “Tehsil Shajapur has maximum population density of 238 persons per sq.km. (2001 Census data)” on page 2-6 of CADP, but there is no mention of any such Tehsil in the area!

NO OPTIONS ASSESSMENT The EIA does not contain any options assessment. In fact section 10.2.4 shows that 19174 ha of the 48157 ha of cropped area in the command is already irrigated. This means a substantial 40% of the command area is already irrigated.

On page 3-5 of SIA it is mentioned that out of 318 land holding respondents in the SIA survey (in submergence villages), only 4 had unirrigated land. This shows that land of over 99% of respondents is already irrigated.

Very shockingly, the report does not mention what are the levels and trends of groundwater in the catchment and command of the project. When Groundwater is India’s mainstay for all water requirements, not give this full picture of groundwater makes the report fundamentally incomplete.

The area has average rainfall of around 1100 mm and thus more area can get irrigated with better use of this rainfall and such a huge dam with such huge submergence (5202 ha) and land requirement (5887 ha, gross underestimate considering that land for canals are not properly assessed), over 25000 people displacement (at least and that too only from submergence area) and other impacts is not the best option.

CONCLUSION What is listed above is not an exhaustive list. Nor are these some typographical errors, but these show serious incompetence, callousness and worse. The conclusion is inescapable that the EAC and MoEF must reject this EIA and recommend black listing and other measures against WAPCOS. The project should be asked to get a fresh EIA done by a credible agency. The EAC in the past have failed to apply its mind about such shoddy EIAs even when this was shown to EAC through such submissions. Most recent such case is that of the Mohanpura Irrigation Project in MP, in which case too the EIA was done by WAPCOS. It is hoped that EAC will apply its mind to this issue and make appropriate recommendations.

 

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)


[1] Seems like this has been cut and paste from the EMP for the Kangtangshri HEP in Arunchal Pradesh also done by WAPCOS, see: http://apspcb.org.in/pdf/23072013/EMP%20Report-Kangtangshiri.pdf

Arunachal Pradesh · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Hydropower

Subansiri Basin Study – Another Chapter of Environment Subversion in Northeast

The Study The study has been done by IRG Systems South Asia Private Limited (http://www.irgssa.com/, a subsidiary of US based IRG Systems) and http://www.eqmsindia.com/[i]. It is supposed to be a Cumulative Impact Assessment of 19 HEPs planned in the basin, out of which PFRs of 7 are available, DPR of two, and one of which, the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower HEP is under construction.

Subversion of Environment Governance in the Subansiri basin While looking at this basin study, the subversion of environment governance in Subansiri basin this very millennia should be kept in mind. A glimpse of it is provided in Annexure 1. In fact, one of the key conditions of environmental clearance to the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP was that no more projects will be taken up in the basin upstream of the Lower Subansiri HEP, which essentially would mean no more projects in the basin, since LSHEP is close to the confluence of the Subansiri River with Brahmaputra River. That condition was also part of the Supreme Court order in 2004. The need for a carrying capacity study was also stressed in the National Board of Wild Life discussions. We still do not have one. In a sense, the Subansiri basin is seeing the consequences of that subversion.

Map of Subansiri RIver Basin  Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf
Map of Subansiri RIver Basin
Source: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Subansiri_River_Basin.pdf

Information in public domain not known to consultants The report does not even state that Middle Subansiri dam have also been recommended TOR in 41st EAC meeting in Sept 2010. This project will require 3180 ha of land, including 1333 Ha forest land, and 2867 ha area under submergence. Even about Upper Subansiri, the consultants do not know the area of forest land required (2170 ha). So the consultants have not used even the information available in public domain in EAC meetings.

Study based on flawed and incomplete Lohit Basin Study The Study claims that it is based on Lohit Basin Study done by WAPCOS. Lohit Basin Study is an extremely flawed attempt and does not assess cumulative impacts of the cascade projects. Civil society has written about this to the EAC and the EAC itself has considered the study twice (53rd and 65th EAC Meetings), and has not accepted the study, but has raised several doubts. Any study based on a flawed model like Lohit Basin Study should not be acceptable.

A house in the upstream of Subansiri River  Source: http://cooperfreeman.blogspot.in/2012/12/the-wild-east-epic.html
A house in the upstream of Subansiri River
Source: http://cooperfreeman.blogspot.in/2012/12/the-wild-east-epic.html

No mention of Social impacts Major limitation of the study has been absolutely no discussion on the severe social impacts due to cumulative forest felling, flux of population, submergence, livelihoods like riparian farming and fishing, etc. Though this has been pointed out by the TAC in its meeting and field visit, the report does not reflect this.

Some key Impacts Some of the impacts highlighted by the study based on incomplete information about HEPs are:

Þ    The length of the river Subansiri is 375 km up to its outfall in the Brahamaputra River. Approximately 212.51 km total length of Subansiri will be affected due to only 8 of the proposed 19 HEPs in Subansiri River basin.

Þ    Total area brought under submergence for dam and other project requirements is approx. 10, 032 ha of eight proposed HEPs. The extent of loss of forest in rest of the 9 projects is not available.

Þ    62 species belonging to Mammals (out of 105 reported species), 50 Aves (out of 175 reported species) and 2 amphibians (out of 6 reported species) in Subansiri Basin are listed in Schedules of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (as amended till date).

Þ    99 species belonging to Mammals (out of 105 reported species), 57 species belonging to Aves (out of 175 reported species), 1 Reptilian (out of 19 reported species), 2 Amphibians (out of 6 reported species), 28 fishes (out of 32 reported species), 25 species belonging to Odonata of Insecta fauna group (out of 28 reported species) are reported to be assessed as per IUCN’s threatened categories.

Even this incomplete and partial list of impacts should give an idea of the massive impacts that are in store for the basin.

Cumulative impacts NOT ASSESSED Specifically, some of the cumulative impacts that the report has not assessed at all or not adequately include:

1. Cumulative impact of blasting of so many tunnels on various aspects as also blasting for other project components.

2. Cumulative impact of mining of various materials required for the projects (sand, boulders, coarse and fine granules, etc.)

3. Cumulative impact of muck dumping into rivers (the normal practice of project developers) and also of also muck dumping done properly, if at all.

Subansiri River in the Upper Reaches  Source: Lovely Arunachal
Subansiri River in the Upper Reaches
Source: Lovely Arunachal

4. Changes in sedimentation at various points within project, at various points within a day, season, year, over the years and cumulatively across the basin and impacts thereof.

5. Cumulative impact on aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna across the basin due to all the proposed projects.

6. Cumulative impact of the projects on disaster potential in the river basin, due to construction and also operation at various stages, say on landslides, flash floods, etc.

7. Cumulative dam safety issue due to cascade of projects.

8. Cumulative change in flood characteristics of the river due to so many projects.

9. Cumulative impacts due to peaking power generation due to so many projects.

10. Cumulative sociological impact of so many projects on local communities and society.

11. Cumulative impact on hydrological flows, at various points within project, at various points within a day, season, year, over the years and cumulatively across the basin and impacts thereof. This will include impacts on various hydrological elements including springs, tributaries, groundwater aquifers, etc. This will include accessing documents to see what the situation BEFORE project and would be after. The report has failed to do ALL THIS.

12. Impact of silt laden water into the river channel downstream from the dam, and how this gets accumulated across the non-monsoon months and what happens to it. This again needs to be assessed singly and cumulatively for all projects.

13. Impact of release of silt free water into the river downstream from the power house and impact thereof on the geo morphology, erosion, stability of structures etc, singly and cumulatively.

14. Impact on Green House Gas emissions, project wise and cumulatively. No attempt is made for this.

15. Impact of differential water flow downstream from power house in non-monsoon months, with sudden release of heavy flows during peaking/ power generation hours and no releases during other times.

16. Cumulative impact of all the project components (dam, tunnels, blasting, power house, muck dumping, mining, road building, township building, deforestation, transmission lines, etc.,) for a project and then adding for various projects. Same should also be done for the periods during construction, operation and decommissioning phases of the projects.

17. Cumulative impact of deforestation due to various projects.

18. Cumulative impact of non compliance of the environment norms, laws, Environment clearance and forest clearance conditions and environment management plans. Such an assessment should also have analysed the quality of EIA report done for the Subansiri Lower hydropower project.

Wrong, misleading statements in Report There are a very large number of wrong and misleading statements in the report. Below we have given some, along with comment on each of them, this list is only for illustrative purposes.

Sr No

Statement in CIA

Comment

1 “During the monsoon period there will be significant discharge in Brahmaputra River. The peaking discharge of these hydroelectric projects which are quite less in comparison to Brahmaputra discharge will hardly have any impact on Brahmaputra.” This is a misleading statement. It also needs to be assessed what will be the impact on specific stretches of Subansiri river. Secondly, the projects are not likely to operate in peaking mode in monsoon.
2 “However, some impact in form of flow regulation can be expected during the non-monsoon peaking from these projects.” This is not correct statement as the impact of non-monsoon peaking is likely to be of many different kinds, besides “flow regulation” as the document describes.
3 “Further, during the non-monsoon period the peaking discharge release of the projects in upper reaches of Subansiri basin will be utilized by the project at lower reaches of the basin and net peaking discharge from the lower most project of the basin in general will be the governing one for any impact study.” This is again wrong. What about the impact of such peaking on rivers between the projects?
4 “The construction of the proposed cascade development of HEPs in Subansiri basin will reduce water flow, especially during dry months, in the intervening stretch between the Head Race Tunnel (HRT) site and the discharge point of Tail Race Tunnel (TRT).” This statement seems to indicate that the consultants have poor knowledge or understanding of the functioning of the hydropower projects. HRT is not one location, it is a length. So it does not make sense to say “between HRT and the discharge point of TRT”.
5 “For mature fish, upstream migration would not be feasible. This is going to be the major adverse impact of the project. Therefore, provision of fish ladder can be made in the proposed dams.” This is simplistic statement without considering the height of the various dams (124 m high Nalo HEP dam, 237 m high Upper Subansiri HEP dam, 222 m high Middle Subansiri HEP dam), feasibility of fish ladders what can be optimum design, for which fish species, etc.
6 “…water release in lean season for fishes may be kept between 10-15% for migration and sustaining ecological functions except Hiya and Nyepin HEP. Therefore, it is suggested that the minimum 20% water flow in lean season may be maintained at Hiya and Nyepin HEP for fish migration.” This conclusion seems unfounded, the water release suggested is even lower than the minimum norms that EAC of MoEF follows.

Viability not assessed The report concludes: “The next steps include overall assessment of the impacts on account of hydropower development in the basin, which will be described in draft final report.”

One of the key objective of the Cumulative Impact assessment is to assess how many of the planned projects are viable considering the impacts, hydrology, geology, forests, biodiversity, carrying capacity and society. The consultants have not even applied their mind to key objective in this study. They seem to assume that all the proposed projects can and should come up and are all viable. It seems the consultant has not understood the basic objectives of CIA. The least the consultant could have said is that further projects should not be taken up for consideration till all the information is available and full and proper Cumulative impact assessment is done.

The consultants have also not looked at the need for free flowing stretches of rivers between the projects.

Section on Environmental Flows (Chapter 4 and 9): The section on Environmental flows is one of the weakest and most problematic sections of the report, despite the fact that the Executive summary talks about it as being one of the most crucial aspects.

The study does not use any globally accepted methodology for calculating eflows, but uses HEC RAS model, without any justification. The study has not been able to do even a literature review of methodologies of eflows used in India and concludes that “No information/criteria are available for India regarding requirement of minimum flow from various angles such as ecology, environment, human needs such as washing and bathing, fisheries etc.”

This is unacceptable as EAC itself has been recommending Building Block Methodology for calculating eflows which has been used (very faultily, but nonetheless) by basin studies even like Lohit, on which this study is supposedly based. EAC has also been following certain norms about E flow stipulations. CWC itself has said that minimum 20% flow is required in all seasons in all rivers. BK Chaturvedi committee has recently stipulated 50% e-flows in lean season and 30% in monsoon on daily changing basis.

The assumption of the study in its chapter on Environmental Flows that ‘most critical reach is till the time first tributary meets the river” is completely wrong. The study should concentrate at releasing optimum eflows from the barrage, without considering tributary contribution as an excuse.

First step of any robust eflows exercise is to set objectives. But the study does not even refer to this and generates huge tables for water depths, flow velocity, etc., for releases ranging from 10% lean season flow to 100% lean season flow.

After this extensive analysis without any objective setting, the study, without any justification (the justification for snow trout used is extremely flawed. Trouts migrate twice in a year and when they migrate in post monsoon months, the depth and velocity needed is much higher than the recommended 10% lean season flow) recommends “In view of the above-said modeling results, water release in lean season for fishes maybe kept between 10-15% for migration and sustaining ecological functions except Hiya and Nyepin HEP. Therefore, it is suggested that the minimum 20-25% water flow in lean season may be maintained at all HEP for fish migration and ecological balance.”

The study does not recommend any monsoon flows. Neither does it study impact of hydro peaking on downstream ecosystems.

Shockingly, the study does not even stick with this 20-25% lean season flow recommendation (20-25% of what? Average lean season flow? Three consecutive leanest months? The study does not explain this). In fact in Chapter 9 on Environmental Flows, the final recommendation is: “Therefore, it is suggested that the minimum 20-25% water flow in lean season may be maintained at Hiya and Nyepin  HEP or all other locations for fish migration.” (emphasis added)

So it is unclear if the study recommends 20-25% lean season flows or 10-15% lean season flows. This is a very flawed approach to a critical topic like eflows.

The study keeps mentioning ‘minimum flows’ nomenclature, which shows the flawed understanding of the consultants about e-flows.

The entire eflows section has to be reworked, objectives have to be set, methodology like Building Block Methodology has to be used with wide participation, including from Assam. Such exercises have been performed in the past and members of the current EAC like Dr. K.D. Joshi from CIFRI have been a part of this. In this case, EAC cannot accept flawed eflows studies like this. (DR. K D. Joshi has been a part of a study done by WWF to arrive at eflows through BBM methodology for Ganga in Allahabad during Kumbh: Environmental Flows for Kumbh 2013 at Triveni Sangam, Allahabad and has been a co author of this report)

Chocolate Mahseer in Subansiri  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8355947@N05/7501485268/
Chocolate Mahseer in Subansiri
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8355947@N05/7501485268/

Mockery of rich Subansiri Fisheries Subansiri has some of the richest riverine fisheries in India. The river has over 171 fish species, including some species new to science, and forms an important component of livelihood and nutritional security in the downstream stretches in Assam.

But the study makes a mockery of this saying that the livelihoods dependence on fisheries is negligible. The entire Chapter on Fisheries needs to be reworked to include impacts on fisheries in the downstream upto Majuli Islands in Assam at least.

No mention of National Aquatic Animal! Subansiri is one of the only tributaries of Brahmaputra with a resident population of the endangered Gangetic Dolphin, which is also the National aquatic animal of India (Baruah et al, 2012, Grave Danger for the Ganges Dolphin (Platanista ganegtica) in the Subansiri River due to large Hydroelectric Projecthttp://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10669-011-9375-0#).

Shockingly, the Basin Study does not even mention Gangetic Dolphin once in the entire study, let alone making recommendations to protect this specie!

Gangetic Dolphin is important not only from the ecological perspective, but also socio cultural perspective. Many fisher folk in Assam co-fish with the Gangetic River Dolphin. These intricate socio ecological links do not find any mention in the Basin study, which is unacceptable.

Agitation Against Lower Subansiri Dam in Assam Source: SANDRP
Agitation Against Lower Subansiri Dam in Assam
Source: SANDRP

Lessons from Lower Subansiri Project not learnt A massive agitation is ongoing in Assam against the under construction 2000 MW Subansiri Lower HEP. The people had to resort to this agitation since the Lower Subansiri HEP was going ahead without studying or resolving basic downstream, flood and safety issues. The work on the project has been stopped since December 2011, for 22 months now. In the meantime several committee have been set up, several changes in the project has been accepted. However, looking at this shoddy CIA, it seems no lessons have been learnt from this ongoing episode. This study does not even acknowledge the reality of this agitation and the issues that the agitation has thrown up. There is no reflection of the issues here in this study that is agitating the people who are stood up against the Lower Subansiri HEP. The same people will also face adverse impacts of the large number of additional projects planned in the Subansiri basin. If the issues raised by these agitating people are not resolved in credible way, the events now unfolding in Assam will continue to plague the other planned projects too.

Conclusion From the above it is clear that this is far from satisfactory report. The report has not done proper cumulative assessment on most aspects. It has not even used information available in public domain on a number of projects. It does not seem to the aware of the history of the environmental mis-governance in the SubansiriBasin as narrated in brief in Annexure 1. For most projects basic information is lacking. Considering the track record of Central Water Commission functioning as lobby FOR big dams, such a study should have never been given to CWC. One of the reasons the study was assigned by the EAC to the Central Water Commission was that the CWC is supposed to have expertise in hydrological issues, and also can take care of the interstate issues. However, the study has NOT been done by CWC, but by consultants hired by CWC, so CWC seems to have no role in this except hiring consultant. So the basic purpose of giving the study to CWC by EAC has not been served. Secondly the choice of consultants done by the CWC seems to be improper. Hence we have a shoddy piece of work. This study cannot be useful as CIA and it may be better for EAC to ask MoEF for a more appropriate body to do such a study. In any case, the current study is not of acceptable quality.

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

ANNEXURE 1

Set Conditions to be waived Later – The MoEF way of Environmental Governance

In 2002, the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border came for approval to the Standing Committee of the Indian Board for Wildlife (now called the National Board for Wildlife) as a part of the Tale Valley Sanctuary in AP was getting submerged in the project. The total area to be impacted was 3,739.9 ha which also included notified reserved forests in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.  The Standing Committee observed that important wildlife habitats and species well beyond the Tale Valley Sanctuary, both in the upstream and downstream areas, would be affected (e.g. a crucial elephant corridor, Gangetic river dolphins) and that the Environmental Impact Assessment studies were of a very poor quality. However, despite serious objections raised by non-official members including Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary, Valmik Thapar, M.K. Ranjitsinh and the BNHS, the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) bulldozed the clearance through in a May 2003 meeting of the IBWL Standing Committee. Thus a project, which did not deserve to receive clearance, was pushed through with certain stringent conditions imposed (Neeraj Vagholikar, Sanctuary Asia, April 2009).

Lower Subansiri HEP Source: The Hindu
Lower Subansiri Dam
Source: The Hindu

The EC given to the project was challenged in Supreme Court (SC) by Dr L.M Nath, a former member of the Indian Board for Wildlife. Nath pleaded, these pristine rich and dense forests classified as tropical moist evergreen forest, are among the finest in the country. Further the surveys conducted by the Botanical Survey of India and the Zoological Survey of India were found to be extremely poor quality. The Application mentions that the Additional DG of Forests (Wildlife) was of the view that the survey reports of the BSI and ZSI reports were not acceptable to him because these organisations had merely spent five days in the field and produced a report of no significance.

The SC gave its final verdict on 19-4-2004, in which the Court upheld the EC given by MoEF to NHPC but with direction to fulfill some important conditions. Out these conditions there were two conditions which were very significant – “The Reserve Forest area that forms part of the catchment of the Lower Subansri including the reservoir should be declared as a National Park/ Sanctuary. NHPC will provide funds for the survey and demarcation of the same.”, and “There would be no construction of dam upstream of the Subansri River in future.” These conditions were also mentioned in the original EC given to the project in 2003.

In May 2005, two years after the EC was given the Arunachal Pradesh govt and NHPC approached the SC to waive or modify the above two conditions. The state government calimed that following these conditions would imply loss of opportunity to develop 16 mega dams in the upstream of Lower Subansiri (this including 1,600 MW Middle Subansiri and 2,000 MW Upper Subansiri to be developed by NHPC). The SC sent it back to National Board for Wildlife to review the conditions.

The petition was done strategically. “The strategy of the dam proponents is simple. They raised no objection to the terms until the construction of the Lower Subansiri project had proceeded beyond a point when it could have been cancelled. Armed with this fait accompli, they asked for a review of the clauses on the very basis on which the original clearance – laid down by members who were subsequently dropped from the wildlife board – was granted.”[ii]

Then nonofficial members of NBWL expressed their dissent to the proposal. In a May 2008 communication to the Chairman of the NBWL Standing Committee, member Dr. Bibhab Talukdar observed: “If the Standing Committee agrees to waive the conditions, we would be setting a dangerous precedent and sending a wrong signal regarding the credibility of decision-making by us. This would mean that projects impacting rich wildlife habitats can receive clearances based on stringent conditions, only to be up for review later. Such an approach is undesirable both from a perspective of good governance as well as the long-term interest of wildlife in the country.”

Dr. Asad Rahmani of the BNHS, who was part of a sub-committee of the NBWL Standing Committee conducting a site visit to the project area, stated in his report: “Under no circumstances should new projects be allowed in the Subansiri river basin until an advance cumulative assessment of proposed projects and a carrying capacity study of the Subansiri river basin are completed.”

In the December 12 2008 meeting of NBWL Standing Committee, even after these dissenting opinions from nonofficial members MoEF managed to do a dilution of the above two conditions. Assam that time was witnessing a major protest concerning the downstream impacts of Lower Subansiri HEP but it was not even consulted. Shockingly the “no dam upstream” condition was removed and it was decided that “any proposal in the upstream of the SubansiriRiver would be considered independently on its merit by the Standing Committee as and when submitted by the proponents”.

Now the Arunachal Pradesh government needs to declare a smaller area of 168 sq. km. as a sanctuary and “make serious efforts” to bring an additional 332 sq. km. reserved forest under the category of Conservation Reserve (CR) in consultation with the MoEF. The latter part of the condition (declaration of CR) is non-enforceable because of the choice of words. Even the demand to at least conduct an advanced cumulative impact assessment of proposed projects and a carrying capacity study of the Subansiri river basin has been ignored[iii].

As Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia says, “The Lower Subansiri is one such, where the PMO has placed a very dubious role in forcing clearances, agreeing to clearance conditions and then starting the project, only to loosen the environmental conditions. In this whole scam the Zoological Survey of India and the Botanical Survey of India have been co-conspirators that have suppressed the ecological value of the forests to facilitate the building of the dam, which will drown pristine elephant, tiger and clouded leopard forests and cause havoc downstream as well.”

The above sequence of events are very pertinent to remember as we see the Subansiri basin study.

END NOTES:


[i] Website says: “More than 200 successful environmental Impact Assessment Clearance from Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India for Industry, Infrastructure & Construction projects” Sounds strange from an EIA consultant.

[iii] For more details please see – “Forest Case Update”, Issue 1, June 2004 and “The Subansiri Subversion” by Neeraj Vagholikar published in Sanctuary Asia, April 2009 issue

Assam · Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dams · Expert Appraisal Committee · Hydropower

Lower Kopili HEP: Oustanding issues that must be resolved before EAC can consider the project

The Lower Kopili Hydro Electric Project(HEP) will be considered for TOR clearance in the forthcoming Expert Appraisal Committee(EAC) meeting on September 23-24, 2013. This project was first discussed in the 63rd EAC meeting held on 12-13th October, 2012. It was again discussed in the 65th meeting of the EAC held on 26-27th December, 2012 for approval of Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). EAC had sent back the project proposal seeking additional information/clarification on several issues. There were several critical issues which were not raised by the EAC. We have made a submission to EAC pointing out issues which need urgent attention.

Background of Hydroelectricity Generation on Kopili River

The Kopili River: Kopili is a south bank tributary of Brahmaputra which originates in the Borail range mountains in Meghalaya at an altitude of about 1600 m and has a total length of 290 km up to its confluence with Brahmaputra. Its basin is bound by the Jaintia Hills in the west and the South Cachar and Mikir Hills in the east. Kharkor, Myntriang, Dinar, Longsom, Amring, Umrong, Longku and Langkri are its major tributaries in its upper reaches.

After entering Assam the Kopili separates the Karbi Anglong district from the Dima Hasao North Cachar Hills district up to its confluence with Diyung River on its right at 135 km. After the confluence with Diyung, Kopili flows into the Nagaon district in a north-westerly direction. The Jamuna River with a catchment of 3960 km2 flows to the Kopili at Jamunamukh. The river then flows in western direction, and further downstream, the Umkhen-Borapani River which rises in the Shillong plateau and drains an area of 2038 km2 joins Kopili at a distance of 254 km from the left. The Killing River, known as Umiam in its upper reaches draining an area of about 1445 km2, flows into Kopili from the left at about 280 km. The Kopili River finally flows to Kalang, a spill channel of Brahmaputra, near Hatimukh after traversing a distance of 290 km2. The total catchment of Kopili River is about 16,421km2.

Kopili HEP: The Kopili Hydro Electric Project (HEP) has two dams, one on the Kopili River and one on its tributary Umrang stream. This project was developed by NEEPCO (Northeast Electric Power Corporation Ltd.). The first dam with 66 m height on the Kopli River is known as Khndong dam and the second one with 30 m height is known as Kopili dam located at Umranso.  Water from the Khandong reservoir is utilised in the Khandong power station through a 2852 m long tunnel to generate 50 MW (2 X 25 MW) of power. The tail water from this powerhouse is led to the Umrong reservoir. The water from Umrong reservoir is taken through a 5473 m long tunnel to the Kopili power station to generate 200 MW (4 X 50 MW) of power. An additional 25MW was added to the Khandong dam in the Stage two of the Kopili HEP, making the total power generation 275 MW. Both Khandong and Kopili dams are concrete gravity dams. The first unit of this Kopili HEP was commissioned in March 1984. Additional unit under stage two was commissioned in July, 2004.

Proposed Lower Kopili HEP: The proposed Lower Kopili HEP is coming up in Boro Longku village in Dima Hasao district. The project is developed by Assam Power Generation Corporation Limited (APGCL). The Lower Kopili dam will be a concrete gravity dam with 70.13 m high dam wall. This project will also have two power houses and the first power house, or the main power house will have an installed capacity of 110 MW (2X55MW). An auxiliary Power House with an installed capacity of 10 MW (2×2.5 MW+1×5 MW) has been planned  at  the  toe  of  the  dam  for  utilizing  the  mandatory  releases  for  ecological purposes, making the total installed capacity 120 MW. The Head Race Tunnel(HRT) of the project will be 7.25 m in diameter and 3.6 km long. The total land required for this project will be 1577 ha out of which according to the revised PFR and Form-I 552 ha will fall under submergence. But the old PFR and Form-I had mentioned the size of the submergence area as 620ha. The  free flowing river  stretch  between  Full Reservoir Level  (FRL) of  Lower  Kopili  HEP  and  Tail Water Level (TWL) of upstream  Kopili  HEP  is  about  6  km.

The water available at Lower Kopili dam site will consists of the following components:

1.   Tailrace releases from Kopili Power Station (4 x 50 MW)

2.   Inflow from intermediate catchment between Khandong and Longku Dam site

3.   Spill from Khandong and Umrong Reservoir.

Projects in Cascade on Kopili River
Projects in Cascade on Kopili River

Some Key Issues Requiring Urgent Attention

After thoroughly going through Pre Feasibility Report (PFR) and Form-I of the proposed Lower Kopili HEP we have found that following issues have not been adequately dealt with by the project authorities. Infact some of them have not even been mentioned at all. EAC should not give TOR clearance to the project without satisfactory resolution of these issues.

Dam induced Flood: Experiences of the people living in downstream suggest that floods have become more recurrent after construction of the dam. The Kopili dam has changed the character of flood in the river downstream for the worse. Before the construction of Kopili dam, floods occurred mainly during monsoon season. Increase in water volume due to heavy rains used to be the reason for flood. These were normal floods which occurred not more than two or three times a year. But after the construction of the dam, number of artificial floods occurring in a year has gone upto 5- 6 times. These floods mainly occurred from the month of August to the first one or two weeks of November. Government of Assam never made an attempt to investigate the source of these floods (this information is from a field visit done to the area). 

In the catastrophic floods of 2004, out of 140 revenue villages of Kampur circle of Nagaon district 132 were affected by floods with area of 135.12 sq. miles. Due to these floods 1,92,000 people were temporarily displaced. These floods also took the lives of 4 people. Even government had confirmed that the main reason for the devastation in these Nagaon and Morigaon districts was the release of the water from the NEEPCO’s Kopili project. The team that was deputed by the government found that water level of the Khandong reservoir went up to 727.70 meters against the FRL of 719.30 meters on 18th July 2004, which rolled down and led to catastrophic disaster. Flood release from the dam happened without prior warning and affected the whole valley. Kampur is one of the towns located in the downstream of Kopili dam where people were give only 2 hours to evacuate the area and move to nearby relief camps.  July 18 is less than midway through the monsoon and questions arise why was the dam allowed to be filled up so soon which had led to such disaster. Had the dam operations were conducted properly the disaster could have possibly been avoided.

The issue of flash floods in Kopili River was raised in the Assam state assembly. On 8th November, 2010 former Chief Minister of Assam Mr. Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, an MLA from Nagaon district made a call attention motion in the Legislative assembly on the issue flash floods in Kopili. He stated the NEEPCO is responsible for the flash floods in the Kopili River.[1] Then Water Resource Minister Prithvi Majhi in his reply accepted this claim by saying that “the government would take up the matter of providing prior warning before release of excess water with the NEEPCO authorities.”  From the above experiences of flood in Kopili River, it is clear that after the construction of the Kopili HEP (Hydroelectric Project) flood ferocity had increased in the downstream. In such situation construction of another dam in the immediate downstream of previous dam can worsen the flood scenario.

Besides, The Kopili reservoir of the Khandong dam is located at 82.5 km downstream from the origin of Kopili River. A major tributary Myntang with 512 sq kmcatchment joins Kopili at 86 km from origin[2]. This is one of the tributaries in the upstream of proposed Longku dam site. In rainy season excess of rains in the catchment of these streams can also lead to spillovers in the proposed dam itself. The PFR does not look into the cumulative impact of the operation of the two dams on the downstream riverine area.

Spillway Capacity Inadequate at Lower Kopili HEP: As per the PFR, the design spillway capacity of the proposed Lower Kopili project with catchment of 2106 sq km is 16110 cumecs. Compare this with the spillway capacity of the upstream Khandong dam on the same Kopili river with catchment area of 1256 sq km being 15471.3 cumecs. It is clear that the design spillway capacity of the proposed Lower Kopili Project is inadequate.

Acid Contamination due to Opencast Mining threatens Viability of Lower Kopili: In the item 9.9 of the Form-I it has been mentioned that the acidic mine discharge in the upper reaches of the Kopili catchment is posing serious threats to the existing Kopili HEP. The PFR states “The identified acid mine discharge has been reported to cause constant erosion/ corrosion of critical hydropower equipments leading to frequent outages of the power plants under Kopili HEP.” The minutes of 9th TCC (Technical Coordination Committee) & 9th North East Region Power Committee Meetings held on 11-12th August, 2010, stated “The Kopili HE Plant has faced an extraordinary and unprecedented situation owing to acidic nature of the reservoir water. Prima facie, the acidification of the reservoir water is caused due to unscientific coal mining in the catchment area as revealed by study through GSI, NER, Shillong. The increased wear and tear on the underwater metal parts of the Plant due to corrosive action of the acidic water has led to the increase in the number of breakdowns.” The minutes also mentioned “It is pertinent to mention here that, although massive repairing work has been carried out by NEEPCO as temporary measures; an integrated, interdisciplinary approach for preventing / tackling acidification at source must be opted for survival of the Plant.” The acidic contamination due to open cast mining is such that no living organisms could be found in the downstream of Kopili river up to Kheroni.[3] The situation is quite alarming as the PH value of the water has come down from 5.5 to 3.2 due to acidic contamination which is unfit for human consumption. State Power Minster was very much aware of the situation and expressing concerns over this he had asked the center to take up this issue with Meghalaya.[4] The PFR should have given detailed account of implication of this on the proposed Lower Kopili HEP and further downstream, but has not done that.

PFR overlooks Kopili Fault Line: The PFR of the proposed Lower Kopili HEP does not mention about the Kopili fault line[5]. In recent studies done in the Kopili river basin it has been found that the Kopili fault extends  from  western  part  of  Manipur  up  to  the  tri-junction  of  Bhutan,  Arunachal Pradesh  and Assam, covers  a  distance  of about  400 km. During the last 140 years, the Kopili fault has experienced 2 earthquakes of magnitude greater than 7 in R.S., three of magnitude 6 to 7 in R.S. and several of magnitude 4.5 to 6 in R.S.[6]   The study concludes that the North East region, more specially the Kopili Fault area is a geologically unstable region, surrounded by faults and lineaments and seduction zones in the east.  But the PFR of Lower Kopili, overlooking this issue states that there are only two minor faults in this area and both of them are much beyond the project area. This clearly wrong and misleading on the part of Lower Kopili PFR.

Besides, some of the EAC statements are not complete and stand in contradiction to each other. The EAC said that as the site specific seismic study had been completed by IIT Roorkee and considered it appropriate for 120 MW project. But it also mentioned “The project specific geo-morphological and neo-tectonic mapping has not been done so far. As the project area falls under the active seismic zone where the Disang-Naga Thrust and Dhauki fault merge which triggers high seismic risk, the proponent is to monitor the MEQ studies by installing a 3-4 seismograph network for a period of one year.” When EAC is aware of these site specific details, allowing an additional big dam in the area will only to increase disaster potential in the area. EAC needs to keep this in mind while considering this new dam.

Issues Tribal Land Relations: In the item 2.1 of the Form 1 the project authorities have stated that the 620 ha that will be submerged due to this project consists of medium to high density vegetation, scrubs open and barren land etc. But Dima Hasao people have expressed their fears of not getting proper rehabilitation.[7] The project seems to ignore this fact in the form 1. There can another reason also for the stating the submerged land as government land because the land holdings may not same as the ‘patta’ lands.[8] Besides, the area which has been considered for the construction of the dam is inhabited by Dimasa people who mainly depended on the system of shifting cultivation.[9] It is to be noted that in shifting cultivation there a cultivator cannot exercise permanent ownership over the land.

Defining ‘Other Forests’: The project as stated in item 1.1 of form 1 will also submerge 65 ha cultivation land. In the same item it is mentioned that an area of 585 ha will be submerged and this area has been mentioned as ‘other forests’. But the Form 1 did not define what this ‘other forests’ are or what they consists.

Impact on the Local People: In a memorandum submitted jointly by the Karbi Students’ Association (KSA), Sominder Kabi Amei (SKA) and Karbi Nimso Chingthur Asong (KNCA), to the State Power Minster Mr. Praduyut Bordoloi, the association demanded first preference in terms of employment should be given to the locally affected people. But the track record of dam building companies is very poor in this regard. The local people did not get promised employment and other benefits the in the Kopili project which came up in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On 20th March 2012, the Dimasa Students’ Union, Dimasa Welfare Association, Karbi Students’ Association and Sengia Tularam Club called for a 48 hours Umrangso bandh seeking “60 per cent of technical and non-technical posts in the project should be reserved for the local tribal populace, 100 per cent reservation for local tribal youths for Grade III and Grade IV posts, free electricity for locals, free treatment facilities in NEEPCO-run hospitals and so on.”[10] This is very crucial issues but surprisingly it finds no place in the PFR document.

Why the size of forest area significantly reduced: In the revised Form I and PFR, submitted on 23 August 2013, Section 1.1 mentioned that out of 1577 ha which is the total land required for the project, 552 ha will fall under submergence and 340 ha forest land will  be submerged in the reservoir. But the previous Form I and PFR, submitted on 14th November 2012, stated in the same section that the land falling under submergence and land converted into reservoir area is same i.e. 620 ha. The revised document does not give any rationale for reducing size of submergence area and reservoir area. It is also surprising to note that in the revised document, under the section “Impacts due to damming of river” in page 55, the old figures of submergence has been reiterated – “The  damming  of  river  Kopili  due  to  the  proposed  hydroelectric  project  in  creation  of  620  ha  of submergence  area.” So the new documents submitted in Aug 2013 have serious contradictions.

Issues Need to be Included in EIA report

Since several critical issues were not included in the previously submitted document, we have listed out the following issue which should be included in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study of the proposed Lower Kopili HEP. Without detail analysis of all these issues EIA cannot be considered as complete.

Downstream Impact Assessment:  Downstream impact assessment is a burning problem in Assam. The state has already witnessed huge protests against dams due to lack of proper downstream impact assessment. In case of proposed Lower Kopili HEP, the EIA document should do a proper downstream impact assessment. In order to do a thorough downstream impact assessment, the EIA will have to go beyond the 10 km radius and assess the full downstream area. In case of Lower Kopili, going beyond 10 km downstream becomes all the more significant because major part of the Kopili river basin is in the downstream of the dam. The downstream impact assessment should specifically focus on the impacts of the dam on fisheries and livelihood of the people who are dependent on fisheries, change in character of flood and impacts thereof, change in sedimentation and impacts thereof, change in geomorphological issues, change in groundwater recharge, among others. The EIA should find which section of people will be affected the most by the dam and how to compensate those people.

It has been reported that bank erosion by the Kopili River has increased after the construction of the Kopili dam. The EIA report of Lower Kopili HEP, should do an analysis to find what will be impacts of the new project on river bank erosion.

Impacts Peaking Power Operations: The EIA should do a detail assessment of impacts of peaking power operation during non-monsoon months. Due to peaking power generation in non-monsoon months the river stretch downstream from power house will have very little water for most hours of a day with sudden flows in the river only for a few hours. This flow fluctuation leads to many severe impacts including on aquatic bio-diversity, on safety, on river bed cultivation, on erosion, among others. This has severe socio economic impacts along with issues of safety of the people and their livestock in this stretch of the river. Therefore the EIA should do a detail assessment of impacts of peaking power generation.

Assessment of Optimum Reservoir Operation: The EIA should do an assessment to prepare an optimum reservoir operations plan for the project in order to minimize the downstream impacts if a disaster occurs. It is also highly recommended that the local people should be made a part of the reservoir operations process. Then only the dam authorities can be expected to be more responsible to in reservoir operations.

Impacts of Silt Management operations: The EIA should include detail analysis impact of changing silt flows downstream from desilting chamber, from silt flushing in monsoon, on the downstream areas. The EIA study should give detailed account of how the silt from the dam will be flushed out annually and what will be the impact of this in the downstream. The EIA should also include how the desilting chamber will be operated and what will be its impacts.

Detailed and Thorough Options Assessment: The EIA should do a thorough options assessment for the project. There can be several other cost effective options for power generation in that area and options assessment should look into al those.

Here we can take the case of solar power. A recent example of proposed 1000 MW solar power generation in Rajastan[11] has showed that for 1 MW installed capacity only 2 Ha of land is required and the cost per megawatt installed capacity will be 7.5 crores and electricity will be provided at Rs 6.5 per unit. Another proposed 25 MW solar power project in Assam[12] has similar figures.

At this rate, for a 120 MW (the target capacity of the proposed Lower Kopili HEP) solar power plant, the land required will be 240 ha. But for Lower Kopili HEP the land required is 1557 ha of land out of which nearly 900 ha will be used for the project even if we subtract 680 ha projected to be used for compensatory afforestation. This implies that for 1 MW installed capacity for the proposed dam the land requirement will be about 7.5 ha, about 3.75 times the land required for solar project of same capacity. Besides, the total cost for the Lower Kopili project is expected to be Rs. 1489.64 crores implying cost per MW installed capacity will be Rs. 12.41 crores, compared to Rs 7.5 cr for solar plant. Even if we were to put up 240 MW installed capacity of solar project, it would require 480 ha land, will not have impacts on the river, on people’s livelihoods, on forests, on climate change, and so on.

Increased Costs: It is important to note here that EAC in its 65th meeting in March 2013 discussing this projects had noted “In  comparison  to  other  HEPs  being  examined  recently,  the  cost  per  unit  of installed capacity of this project is almost double!” and this was said when the cost per megawatt installed capacity was Rs. 9.79 crores. Now in the revised document, the cost has gone up further to Rs 12.41 cr, the project proponent need to explain this further escalation from the earlier already high cost.

Groundwater Depletion in Downstream areas: People in the downstream of Kopili dam have reported that there has been depletion of groundwater in the downstream areas of Kopili dam. From a field visit done in the downstream areas of Kopili dam, it was reported that the ground water level at certain areas had reduced to 140 feet. River like Borapani, Kopili and Nisari dry up in the winters affecting the winter cultivations. Besides, wetlands which are known as Beel or Duba locally have disappeared. The reduction in groundwater can also be due to reduced groundwater recharge due to the dam. Impact of the dam on groundwater recharge should be a part of the EIA study.

Impacts of Tunneling and Blasting: The EIA should analyze the impacts of tunneling and blasting as these activities can increase in risk of landslide and disaster in a hilly area. Blasting in hilly area also will have impacts on water and people. These impacts should be thoroughly assessed by the EIA of the proposed project.

Impacts of Mining: The project will require large quantities of sand, coarse and fine granules and boulders. These are likely to be mined from the nearby areas. The EIA should include a study on the impacts of mining on the people as well on the local environment. Mining for the project will be done in the nearby areas and it will have severe impact on people as well as on the river, bio-diversity, hills, flora-fauna and aquatic bio-diversity etc. The study on the impacts of mining should include all these issues.

Impacts of Backwater Effects: The PFR of proposed Lower Kopili HEP states that Maximum Water Level (MWL) of the river is 229.60m where as the FRL of the reservoir is 226.0m. The MWL is thus 3.6m higher than FRL and this will have serious back water effects during the times of monsoon. The EIA must do an assessment of the submergence at MWL level and backwater effect measured at MWL and follow it up with an impacts analysis.

Detailed analysis about the existence of wetlands, watercourses and other water bodies: The revised PFR in page 17 under section ‘Environment Sensitivity’ states that there are no wetlands, watercourses and other waterbodies reported within the 15 km of the project. This statement seems incorrect. The EIA should do a detailed and thorough analysis regarding the existence wetlands, watercourses and other water bodies within 15 km of the project site.

 Impacts of Climate Change: The EIA of the proposed Lower Kopili dam should do a study of  possible impact of the climate change on the dam as well as on the Kopili river. Besides, it should also include the impacts of the dam on adaptation capacity of the local people.

Smaller Size Documents should be Uploaded for Public Dissemination: The EIA and other documents which would be uploaded on the internet should be about the size of 10 MB or less. The Revised Form I and PFR which uploaded on the MoEF website was 114 MB and it was difficult to download such a huge document even in a metropolis. These heavy documents will nearly be impossible to download from a small town or a village. The MoEF should insist from projects proponents that PP should be careful about this and should reduce the size (less than 10MB) documents for uploading from next time.

 

Parag Jyoti Saikia

with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar and Pooja Kotoky

Email – meandering1800@gmail.com

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


[2] Patowary, A., “The Kopili Hydroelectric Project, Downstream People Rise in Struggle” published in “Water Conflicts in Northeast India – A Compendium of Case Studies” edited by Das, Partha J. et. all, 2013

[5] Mahanta,  K. and et all (2012): “Structural Formation & Seismicity of Kopili Fault Region in North-East India and Estimation of Its Crustal Velocity” International Journal of Modern Engineering Research,Vol.2, Issue.6, Nov-Dec. 2012 pp-4699-4702

[6] ibid

[8] It is to be noted that in many of the tribal areas of Assam and India’s north eastern states, the tribal law of land is community of ownership of land and there are no government ‘patta’ system.

Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Western Ghats

Huge Impacts, but no assessment? Groups urge MoEF to correct its blunder on Yettinahole

Yettinahole Diversion Project is being planned in the Western Ghats and Eastern Plains of Karnataka, by the Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited (KNNL) purportedly as a drinking water supply scheme to supply 24 TMC water to Kolar and Chikkaballapur Districts. The scheme involves 8 dams in Western Ghat forests, 250 kms long canals, 80 and 50 kms long raising mains, a reservoir that will submerge 1200 hectares of land and 2 villages.  A closer look at the Project Report of the scheme indicates that of the 24 TMC to be diverted, assured drinking water to Kolar and Chikkabalapur is just 2.81 TMC! Rest is planned to be allocated for uses like river and tank rejuvenation, irrigation, industries, urban supply etc.

DSC03697
Gundia River, formed of headwaters of Yettinahole, Kerihole, Hongadhalla and Kadumanehole which will be diverted for the Yettinahole Diversion Project Photo: SANDRP

The Project has escaped appraisal by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF, claiming that it is a drinking water scheme ( as per the EIA Notification 2006, Drinking Water Supply Schemes are exempt from Appraisal and Environmental Clearance process.)

But analysis of the Project report indicates a different picture.

More than 14 individuals, mainly from Karnataka have written to the Union Environment Minister, Secretary, MoEF and Director, Impact Assessment, River Valley Projects Division to appraise the Yettinahole Diversion Scheme entirely. Signatories include Dr. Ullas Karanth, former non-official member of the Forest Advisory Committee, MoEF, Praveen Bhargava from Wildlife First, Dr. T.V. Ramchandra from Indian Institute of Sciences, noted rainwater harvesting expert Vishwanath Srikataiah, Niren Jain of Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, amongst others. While the signatories support long term and sustainable solutions to legitimate drinking water demands of drought affected regions in Karnataka, as the letter clarifies, Yettinahole Diversion Project does not seem to be an answer to that.

 

To,

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan,

Union Minister of State (IC) of Environment and Forests,

Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, jayanthi.n@sansad.nic.in

 

Dr V Rajagopalan,

Secretary,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, vrg.iyer@nic.in

 

Maninder Singh

Joint Secretary,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, jsicmoef@nic.in

Mr. B. B. Barman

Director (IA) River Valley Projects,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, bbbdx.dy@gmail.com

 

Subject: Appeal for fresh Appraisal of the Yettinahole Diversion Project in Karnataka and withdrawal of the Letter/NOC which has been issued by the MoEF on the basis on inaccurate/insufficient information.

Respected Madame and Sirs,

In the 63rd meeting of the EAC for River Valley and Hydropower projects, the committee considered Yettinahole Diversion Project by Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited, Government of Karnataka (Agenda Item: 2.11 (b) “Clarification on Drinking Water Supply Scheme to Tumkur, Bangalore (Rural), Kolar & Chikaballapur Districts by M/s. Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd, Government of Karnataka for applicability of EIA Notification, 2006.)

The EAC concluded (emphasis added): “In view of the above, the EAC expressed its inability to consider the project for the purpose of TOR/EIA/EMP etc as this does not fall within the preview and mandate of the  EAC although, there appear to be  some environmental and R&R issues involved which may be appropriately addressed. Outcome of the WGEEP report may also have to be factored. The drinking water schemes, in fact, do not attract the provisions of EIA Notification, 2006 and its subsequent amendment, 2009… The project neither proposes any hydro-electric power generation component nor comprises of any irrigation component and thus has no command area.”

The EAC also recommended: “The Ministry of Environment & Forests may write to Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd (KNNL), Government of Karnataka that the instant project does not attract the provisions of EIA Notification, 2006 and its subsequent amendment, 2009.” We understand the MoEF sent a letter to KNNL on these lines.

This recommendation of the EAC and MoEF decision are both incorrect. Looking at the facts mentioned below, the scheme is Category A project and needs to be appraised by the EAC not only because it falls under the purview of the EIA Notification 2006, but also due to   serious ecological and social impacts. This letter is based on a site visit to the region, discussions with local communities, perusal of the Project Report of the scheme as well as the minutes of 63rd EAC Meeting.

EAC considered the project only on the basis of the proponent’s statements, without studying the Project Report.

An analysis of the Project Report (Version June 2012, prior to EAC Meeting) it is clear that:

1. Irrigation Component: The project aims to supply water to 337 minor irrigation tanks and Zilla Parishad Tanks in Kolar and Chikkaballapur. The command areas of these 337 minor irrigation tanks, as mentioned in the Project Report (Voulme I, Annex 3) come to 29,182 hectares. This is higher than command area of 10,000 hectares; hence this is a Category A project which comes under the purview of EIA Notification 2006 and will have to be considered for Environmental Clearance by Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF.

2. Hydropower Generation: The Project Report claims that it can generate 125-150 MW of power through gravity canals. Location details are also made available in the Project erport (Page 59, Volume I). As this is higher than 25 MW, the project comes under the purview of EIA Notification 2006 and will have to be considered for Environmental Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF.

Thus, the Project comes under the purview of EIA Notification 2006 and should be considered by the EAC, urgently taking back any letter sent to Karnataka Government to the effect that the project does not require an EC as per EIA notification 2006.

In addition to technicalities about qualifying under the EIA Notification 2006, the project has severe socio ecological impact, which cannot be sidelined by the EAC and the MoEF.

  1. Majority of the project falls in Ecologically Sensitive Zone I as per the WGEEP, where any large infrastructure project is banned. In addition, WGEEP bans any inter-basin transfer of water. MoEF has as yet not decided on WGEEP recommendations. In the absence of this, the MoEF cannot provide any letter to the state about not requiring an Environmental Clearance. MoEF will need to consider the WGEEP Report while making its recommendations, as also directed by NGT, which MoEF has not done.
  2. The project plans to divert 24.01 TMC water from 4 streams in Western Ghats, without making any study of eflows for the downstream Eco Sensitive Zone.
  3. The project does not divulge forest land required. Only by estimating heads under ‘cutting thick forests’ in its estimates, it will require 107.27 hectares land with thick forest cover only for laying raising mains. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has formulated Guidelines in the Lafarge Judgment which mandate that projects that require both forest and environment clearance must first secure forest clearance. This has not been complied with.
  4. Gravity Canal from Harvanahalli (Sakaleshpur) to Tumkur will require a minmum of 400 hectares land
  5. Reservoir at Devarnyadurga will require 1200 hectares of land, including 50% forest land and will submerge at least 2 villages.

Though the project claims to be a scheme for drinking water of Kolar and Chikkaballapur Districts, actual dedicated drinking water allocation of these districts is only 2.81 TMC of the 24.01 TMC diverted which works out to less than 10%. Rest will go for irrigation, river rejuvenation, urban areas, industrial areas, etc. Signatories support long term and sustainable solutions to drinking water crisis. While provision of drinking water to the said districts is a legitimate necessity that we do not object to, what we are questioning is the justification of this ill conceived project whose cost-benefit analysis is extremely skewed and the ecological and social impacts are horrendous.

Alternative and feasible proposals that will provide the 2.81 TMC feet of water for the said districts have, in our considered view, not been explored. Furthermore, the feasibility of large-scale land acquisition required for the project must be considered in the context of the amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill that has just been passed by Parliament.

Considering all these serious issues, the EAC’s appraisal of this project has been incorrect technically as well as wrong on facts and law.

We urgently request the MoEF to:

1.  Withdraw any letter/NOC etc., that it may have sent to Karnataka Government in this regard as the current decision of the EAC and MoEF  may not stand the test of legal scrutiny and may lead to some wholly un-necessary litigation.

2. Direct the State of Karnataka to present a detailed project report that includes the plans for phase II and III that are sure to follow.

3. Ensure that the EAC considers the DPR and appraises  project for Environmental Clearance in its entirety.

Looking forward to your response and appropriate action to points raised above.

 

Thanking you,

 

Yours Sincerely,

Niren Jain, Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, Mangalore, Karnataka (kudremukh.wildlife@gmail.com)

Dr. Ullas Karanth, Director, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore

Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First, Bangalore

Kishore Kumar Hongadhalla, Malanada Janapara Horata Samiti, Sakaleshpura, Karnataka

Panduranga Hegde, Parisara Sanmrakshana Kendra, Appiko Movement, Sirisi, Karnataka

Dr. T.V. Ramachandra, Energy and Wetlands Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka

Vishwanath Srikantaiah, Water and Rainwater Harvesting Expert, Bangalore, Karnataka)

Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Eco-hydrologist, Bangalore, Karnataka

Dr. Shriniwas Badiger, Water and Irrigation Expert, Bangalore, Karnataka

Dr. Bhaskar Acharya, Bangalore, Karnataka

Dr. Sharad Lele, Atree, Bangalore, Karnataka

Nachiket Kelkar, Wildlife researcher, Bangalore, Karnataka

Vidyadhar Atkore, Fisheries Scientist, Bangalore Karnataka

Neeti Mahesh, Mahseer Trust, Karnataka

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com,09860030742), andHimanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798) South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi and Pune

 

 

Expert Appraisal Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects: MoEF has neither environment sense, nor guts: Unacceptable Committee

Press Statement                                                                                             September 7, 2013

Reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects:

MoEF has neither environment sense, nor guts: Unacceptable Committee

On Sept 5, 2013, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests came out with “Re-constitution of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley & Hydro Electric Project” (see: http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/EAC-Order-05092013.pdf). Mr Alok Perti, former Coal Secretary, has been made chairperson of the committee that appraises all major irrigation projects, dams, hydropower projects and river valley projects for Environment clearances at two stages (TOR and final). It is shocking to see that Mr Perti who has absolutely no environment credentials, who has been known to be anti environment, who has been accusing the environment ministry to be in road block of coal mining and who has shown his ignorance of environment issues on several occasions has been selected as chair person, putting aside basic environmental sense. This reconstituted EAC on RiverValley and Hydropower projects is completely unacceptable.

It is equally disturbing to see that the committee has no woman representation, no sociologist, no one from non-government organisations. All ten members are either from government, government organisations or government funded academic organisations. This means that none of them would be in a position to take a stand independent of the government stand. The committee also has no river expert, climate change-water expert or disaster management expert, all of which are crucially important issues for a committee like this that decides the fate of India’s rivers, even more so after the Uttarakhand disaster. P K Chaudhuri, one of the members of the new committee also has had nothing to do with rivers, water or environment. Hardip S Kingra, who was involved in Commonwealth games organisation and also chairman of National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation has had no work related to rivers or environment.

Specifically, Mr Alok Perti, who has been senior functionary, including secretary of currently controversial Coal Ministry from Oct 2009 to earlier this year and before Oct 2009 in ministries like defense and family welfare, clearly has had no background on environment or rivers. As coal secretary, he had accused MoEF for stalling the growth by not giving clearances to coal mining projects automatically. The Economic Times quoted Perti as saying in a report[1]: “India has to decide whether she wants electricity or tigers.” Such simplistic statements reflect he has absolutely no understanding of environment, biodiversity, leave aside rivers. Perti’s anti civil society stance was also exposed when he refused to discuss issues with activists and asked them to go and file RTIs[2]. These are only a couple of examples we are giving here, there are many others. By appointing such a person as chairman of the EAC on RVP, the MoEF has shown it has no guts or interest in protecting the environment or forests which is supposed to be its mandate. This committee is clearly unacceptable and will also not stand legal scrutiny.

Ritwick Dutta (ritwickdutta@gmail.com, 09810044660, ERC and LIEF, Delhi)

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, 09860030742, SANDRP, Pune)

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

Manoj Mishra (yamunajiye@gmail.com, 09910153601, YJA, Delhi)


[2] http://environmentaljusticetv.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/greenpeace-india-protest-at-the-coal-ministry/

FOLLOWING LETTER HAS BEEN SENT ON SEPT 9, 2013:

9 Sept 2013

To,

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan,

Union Minister of State (IC) of Environment and Forests,

Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, jayanthi.n@sansad.nic.in

 

Dr V Rajagopalan,

Secretary,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, vrg.iyer@nic.in

 

Maninder Singh

Joint Secretary,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, jsicmoef@nic.in

 

Mr. B. B. Barman

Director (IA) River Valley Projects,

Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi, bidhu-mef@nic.in

 

Subject: Urgent concerns about reconstituted Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Proejcts

 

Respected madam and sirs,

 

On Sept 5, 2013, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests came out with “Re-constitution of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley & Hydro Electric Project” (see: http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/EAC-Order-05092013.pdf). Mr Alok Perti, former Coal Secretary, has been made chairperson of the committee that appraises all major irrigation projects, dams, hydropower projects and river valley projects for Environment clearances at two stages (TOR and final). It is shocking to see that Mr Perti who has absolutely no environment credentials, who has been known to be anti environment, who has been accusing the environment ministry to be in road block of coal mining and who has shown his ignorance of environment issues on several occasions has been selected as chair person, putting aside basic environmental sense. This reconstituted EAC on River Valley and Hydropower projects is completely unacceptable.

 

It is equally disturbing to see that the committee has no woman representation, no sociologist, no one from non-government organisations. All ten members are either from government, or from government organisations or government funded academic organisations. This means that none of them would be in a position to take a stand independent of the government stand. The committee also has no river expert, climate change-water expert or disaster management expert, all of which are crucially important issues for a committee like this that decides the fate of India’s rivers, even more so after the Uttarakhand disaster. P K Chaudhuri, one of the members of the new committee also has done no work with rivers, water or environment, going by his CV. Hardip S Kingra, who was involved in Commonwealth games organisation and also chairman of National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation has had no work related to rivers or environment.

 

Specifically, Mr Alok Perti, who has been senior functionary, including secretary of currently controversial Coal Ministry from Oct 2009 to early 2013 and before Oct 2009 he has been in ministries like defense and family welfare, clearly has had no background on environment or rivers. As coal secretary, he had accused MoEF for stalling the growth by not giving clearances to coal mining projects automatically. The Economic Times quoted Perti as saying in a report[1]: “India has to decide whether she wants electricity or tigers.” Such simplistic statements reflect he has absolutely no understanding of environment, biodiversity, leave aside rivers. Perti’s anti civil society stance was also exposed when he refused to discuss issues with activists and asked them to go and file RTIs[2]. By appointing such a person as chairman of the EAC on RVP, the MoEF has shown it has no interest in protecting the environment or forests which is supposed to be its mandate. This committee is clearly unacceptable and will also not stand legal scrutiny.

 

Under the circumstances, we demand that:

1. The notification (No. J-12011/EAC /2010-IA-I dated Sept 5, 2013) of reconstitution of the EAC be cancelled;

2. A participatory process be initiated for reconstitution of the EAC with the norms some of suggested in our letter to you dated June 29, 2013, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/lessons-from-uttarakhand-disaster-for-selection-of-river-valley-projects-expert-committee/;

3. The EAC meeting slated for Sept 23-24, 2013 should be cancelled.

 

We will look forward to early reply from you.

 

Thanking you,

 

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

Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former secretary, Government of India, Delhi. ramaswamy.iyer@gmail.com

Madhu Bhaduri, former ambassador, Delhi. madhu.bhaduri@gmail.com

Ravi Chopra, People’s Science Institute and member NGBRA, Dehra Doon psiddoon@gmail.com

Ritwick Dutta, ERC and LIEF, Delhi.  ritwickdutta@gmail.com

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

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

Vimal Bhai, MATU jansangathan, Uttarakhand bhaivimal@gmail.com

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

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

Sujit Patwardhan, Parisar, Pune patwardhan.sujit@gmail.com

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

Souparna Lahiri, All India Forum of Forest Movements, Delhi. souparna.lahiri@gmail.com

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

Soumya Dutta, Climate & Energy Group, Beyond Copenhagen collective, Delhi soumyadutta_delhi@rediffmail.com

Joy KJ, Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management, Pune joykjjoy2@gmail.com

Anurag Modi, Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Betul, Madhya Pradesh sasbetul@yahoo.com

Dr Brij Gopal, Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia, Jaipur, brij44@gmail.com  

Rahul Banerjee, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra, Indore rahul.indauri@gmail.com

20. Subhadra Khaperde, Kansari Nu Vadavno, Indore subhadra.khaperde@gmail.com

Shankar Tadwal, Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Alirajpur shankarkmcs@rediffmail.com

Samantha Agarwal, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Raipur, Chhattisgarh. samsnomadicheart@gmail.com

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

Tarun Nair, Researchers for Wildlife Conservation, Bangalore. tarunnair1982@gmail.com

Shankar Sharma, Mysore shankar.sharma2005@gmail.com

C.G. Madhusoodhanan, Research Scholar,Indian Institute of Technology Bombay madhucg@gmail.com

Pushp Jain, EIA Resource and Response Centre, New Delhi ercdelhi@gmail.com

Gopakumar Menon, Wildlifer, Bangalore. gopakumar.rootcause@gmail.com

Gopal Krishna, Toxics Watch Alliance, Delhi. gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com

30. Jai Sen, CACIM, New Delhi, jai.sen@cacim.net

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

E Theophilus, Malika Virdi, K Ramnarayan, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari, Uttarakhand, etheophilus@gmail.com

Neeraj Vagholikar, Kalpavriksh, Pune, nvagho@gmail.com

PT George, Intercultural Resources, Delhi, ihpindia@gmail.com

Akhil Gogoi, President, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam, secretarykmss@gmail.com

Subir Bhaumik, Veteran Journalist and author of “Troubled Periphery: Crisis of India’s Northeast” (Sage, 2009), sbhaum@gmail.com

Ravindra Nath, Rural Volunteers Centre (RVC), Akajan, Dhemaji, Assam, rvcassam@gmail.com

Sanjib Baruah, Professor, Bard College, New York, baruah@bard.edu

Shashwati Goswami, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, shashwati.goswami@gmail.com

40. Mrinal Gohain, ActionAid, Guwahati, mrinalgohain@gmail.com

Keshav Krishna Chatradhara, Peoples Movement for Subansiri & Brahmaputra Valley (PMSBV), Assam, pmsv_subansiri@yahoo.com

Girin Chetia, North East Affected Area Development Society, Jorhat, Assam, neadsjorhat@gmail.com

Azing Pertin, Echo of Arunachal, Arunachal Pradesh, azingp@gmail.com

Parag Jyoti Saikia, SANDRP, Delhi.

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

Additional names in letter sent independently by CORE (namdithiu@coremanipur.org on 190913) :

46. Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE)

Reformed Education and Development Society (READS) Manipur

Forum for Indigenous Perspective and Action (FIPA)

Action Committee  Against Tipaimukh Project (ACTIP)

50. All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union Manipur (ALLAFUM)

All Manipur Thanga People’s Welfare Association (AMTPWA)

Rural Education and Action for Change Manipur (REACH-M)

All Tribal Women Organisation(ATWO)

Weaker Section Development Council(WSDC)

Rongmei Luh Phuam (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland)

REACHOUT North East

River Basin Friends North East

58. Anthony Deb Barma of Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation (BPHRO), Tripura

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