In an unprecedented first ever Audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which recently conducted Performance Audit on ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ has unambiguously stated that the existing processes for grant of Environmental Clearance are fraught with serious violations, noncompliance and deficiencies.[i] In fact River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects have been highlighted for poorest quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, maximum irregularities during Public Hearings, and non-compliance of Environmental Clearance conditions.
This is a resounding slap on the face of the functioning of the current and past Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EACs on Dams and vindicates and validates what SANDRP and other civil society groups have been saying for long. This is indeed much needed critical feedback when EAC is seeking to make its proceedings less and less transparent and providing false justifications for the same.Continue reading “CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams”→
When I talk with Manshi, a friend and co-traveler from Himdhara Collective about Bhagirathh Prayas Samman that the collective received during the India Rivers Week 2016, she is modest, even slightly hesitant. She simply says, “We love the mountains, we want to protect them and help mountain communities fight the unequal battle against unplanned hydropower. That is one motivation of our work. But the other is recognition of the fact that we are privileged… privileged to be able to speak English, to work on a computer, to understand the bureaucratic procedures that alienate a tribal or forest dweller from her land. That understanding also drives us.”
Citation of Bhagirath Prayas Samman given to Himdhara Collective states: “Himdhara’s strength is its engagement with communities, movements and organisations. It has created an effective discourse around issues of resource distribution and their ownership and the resultant impacts on ecological spaces of mountain communities, especially vulnerable groups like indigenous people, dalits and women. It is an honor to recognize and celebrate Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in maintaining the integrity of rivers in Himachal Pradesh.”
In their own words, “Himdhara is an autnomous and informal non registered environment research and action collective, extending solidarity and support, in research and action, to people and organisations asserting their rights over their natural resources and agitating against corporatisation of these resources for destructive development in the state.”
What separated Maheshwar Ghats on the mighty Narmada from most other rivers I have seen was the sheer gaiety and joy which people were experiencing, jumping in the Narmada. The beautiful, jutting steps of the ghats were designed (and used) like diving boards by men, boys and women. For someone who had just seen a dry Godavari and drier rivers of Marathwada, this mirth was therapeutic. Ferry Boats and laidback ferrymen were relaxing on the river, bobbing up and down rhythmically. In the distance was a tiny sailboat, held together by white fluttering sails, zipping through the waters at a startling speed without the din of a diesel engine. A fisherman and his daughter were returning to their village, taking stock of their catch.. Occasional fish rose above the waters and glistened in the evening sun.Continue reading “नदी के बदले नदी दे सकते है? ..on Maheshwar, Narmada and fishing communities of India”→
India’s hydropower generation dropped by upto close to 20% compared to previous year in some of the months this year even as installed capacity of hydropower projects keeps climbing relentlessly. According to monthly generation figures from Central Electricity Authority, even as installed capacity of hydropower projects went up by 1516 MW in last one year, the power generation from hydropower projects dropped by 10.82%, 19.19%, 17.7% and 15.92% during February, March, April and May 2016 respectively at all India level, compared to the figures in the same months in 2015. Continue reading “Drought hits hydropower: Shows how unreliable is hydro in changing climate”→
In a welcome move, Hon. Bombay High Court vacation bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, while hearing multiple clubbed petitions about drought and the state’s response, has passed a strong order recommending release of water stored in PRIVATE DAMS and sources for drinking water purposes of drought hit region.
Above:Red arrows indicate diversion of water from Tata Dams into surplus basin. Source: Google earth images and SANDRP
Since past three years, SANDRP has been raising the issue of West-ward water transfer during drought years by hydropower dams. Maharashtra annually diverts 3324 Million Cubic Meters of water from its water deficit Bhima and Krishna basins into the water surplus Konkan basin for hydropower generation. This happens though 6 dams on Bhima Basin privately owned by Tata Power and the Koyana Hydropower Project. Although drinking water is the first priority for any society and this is enshrined in the National and State Water Policies, there is no system in place to allocate the waters of these dams to the downstream, when there is dire need. During this drought, which is possibly Independent India’s worst droughts, Tata Dams have released nearly no water to the Bhima Basin and Maharashtra Government on its part has taken no stand on this issue.
What does it mean when landscapes, riverscapes, ways of life are altered forever? When a mighty, flowing river is plugged and made to stop, flow in tunnel and released as per our whims? For most of us, life and environment are so fundamentally modified that we would hardly question it. But as our worldview and our politics is set to dam some of the last free flowing rivers in the North East India into Hydro-Electricity Banks, what is at stake? Continue reading “India’s Free Flowing Frontier Part I: Dibang at Nizamghat”→
Hydro fast loosing sheen in renewable energy basketand the share of hydro is likely to decline further as through the past three years, the installed capacity of hydropower projects has remained around 40,000 Mw. While the report superficially may appear as a sigh of relief nevertheless on ground Indian Govt. is still in a hurry to push many big hydro power projects particularly in North-Eastern States. Last month only Piyush Goyal Power Minister cleared the Teesta-III and spoke of clearing Subansiri too. In Siang basin Pauk, Heo, Tato-I are recently approved by MoEF Panel. Protest against 780 Nyamjang Chhu HEP is going on. Similarly several projects in Ganga, Barhamputra and Satluj basin are being cleared and constructed in plain violation of stipulated green norms. Public and private developers are repeatedly ignoring environmental concerns and not addressing the issues raised by local people.
Water has become a closely guarded resource in Latur city which receives municipal supply only once every 15 days. The Dhanegaon dam which supplies water here has been at “dead storage level” for the last four years because of the meagre rains. But this year the water crisis is much worse: the arid Marathwada belt where Latur is located has reported the highest rain deficit in the entire country.
JAMMU & KASHMIR:Eco concerns over Baglihar hydel project worry experts, localsThe 900-MW Baglihar hydroelectric project continues to increase the worries of experts and inhabitants in the erstwhile Doda district comprising Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban districts as the region faces a major threat of severe climate change, courtesy successive regimes which have ignored all environmental concerns attached to the project. Torrential rain, cloudbursts and massive landslides are said to be new dangers confronting the people of the erstwhile Doda district which are mostly due to creation of the reservoir of between 30 km and 35 km in length. The region falls in Seismic Zone IV. In another interesting development referring to the All India Power Survey findings, theJ&K government’s report—State Action Plan on Climate Change—states that climate change would have drastic impact on hydropower generation capacity in J&K in three possible ways.Firstly, the available discharge of a river may change since hydrology is usually related to local weather conditions, such as temperature and precipitation in the catchment area. Secondly, an unexpected increase in climate variability may trigger extreme climate events, i.e. floods and droughts, and thirdly, changing hydrology and possible extreme events may increase sediment risks. It further reveals that more sediment, along with other factors such as changed composition of water, raises the probability that a hydropower project suffers greater exposure to turbine erosion. Moreover, an unexpected amount of sediment will also lower turbine and generator efficiency, resulting in a decline in energy generated. Since the majority of power is generated from hydropower sources, there are high chances that Jammu and Kashmir may face power crisis if the projected impact of climate change happens. Higher demand of energy due to climatic variability and lower generation due to projected impact of climate change would widen the power supply-demand deficit in Jammu and Kashmir.