Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 April 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin project being pushed?

In the ongoing debate on forest clearance for the controversial Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh between the Forest Advisory Committee, The Hindustan Times’s consistent reporting and Sanctuary magazine launching a campaign along with others, one (of the many) key question that remains unanswered is: for whom this economically (in addition to socially, environmentally and from climate change perspective) unviable, massively expensive project being pushed in a power surplus country?

Electricity from hydropower projects is no longer economically viable, since cheaper options are available. Some misguided people are claiming virtue in hydropower project claiming it provides peaking power. The fact is India is today not only power surplus, the peak power deficit has been just around 1% or less for long time. This when there is no attempt to either monitor as to how much of the electricity produced from existing hydropower projects provides peaking power, nor is there any attempt to achieve optimisation of operation of existing hydro projects to produce maximum possible hydropower. Nor is there any attempt to even manage the peaks either through pricing or other policy measures. In such a situation there is clearly no justification for more hydro for peaking. Moreover, the storage option is becoming increasingly cost effective, reducing the peaking power needs. So then for whom this project whose cost won’t be less than Rs 30000 crores at most conservative estimates, being pushed? The contractors, the equipment suppliers, the hydro lobby, the consultants, the timber lobby, the dam lobby, or the kickbacks?

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 April 2020: Solutions to Covid 19 & Climate change are same?

This proposition clearly sounds simplistic and seems devoid of science or logic. But the case studies of the epidemics since 1980 and loss of forests, biodiversity and sustainability shows that this is not to be dismissed that easily. In fact the following interview with Dr Aaron Bernstein makes a powerful case to show why this indeed has a lot of science and logic behind it. It also hence makes a case that yesterday (our “normal”), is no longer a good model for better tomorrow.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 April 2020: Check dams revival in Dakshina Kannada

Zilla man, students revive check dams For the first time in decades this February, Sundara Gowda, a 55-year-old farmer in the Dakshina Kannada district, doesn’t have to spend Rs 6,000 to mine water. In the past he has had to hire an earthmover to do the digging because the rivulet that runs by his farm would dry up. This year, to his surprise, the rivulet, a tributary of the Phalguni river, didn’t dry up. Miraculously, it had plenty of water. A check dam had been built upstream at Paldyaru.

The check dam was one of many such structures built by Paljal Dharanendra Kumar, a zilla parishad member from Venoor village, with the help of student volunteers. The check dams have resulted in water in the river rising six feet for a distance of 2.5 km. The river now has 90 million litres of water and rivulets which used to run dry have come back to life. Dharanendra and his student volunteers have been zealously building check dams, called kattas, from December to February. The dams have been built at absolutely no cost to the exchequer.  https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/environment/zilla-man-students-revive-check-dams/  (24 March 2020)

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 April 2020: Ganga-Yamuna-Cauvery flow cleaner in lockdown: What can we learn?

A number of reports have appeared that show that the state of a number of rivers of India, including Hindon, Yamuna, Ganga and Cauvery has improved during the current lockdown due to Covid 19 crisis. That is indeed great news. At Kanpur and Varanasi there are reports that suggest the dissolved oxygen level has gone above 8 ppm and BOD level has gone down below 3 ppm at a number of places. While lack of industrial effluents entering the rivers due to closure of industrial units is a major reason, there are other reasons that has led to this situation, including above average winter rainfall, high snowfall now melting with onset of summer, reduction of irrigation water demand and also stoppage of sand mining along the rivers. The reduction of cultural activities including puja, bathing and cremations have also contributed to this situation.

The biggest lesson we can learn from this cleaner rivers after so many decades is that if our pollution control boards at the state and central level were doing their duty to ensure that no untreated effluents from the industries and also urban sewage enter the rivers, it is not that difficult to achieve cleaner rivers. But unfortunately there is no political will to achieve this simple and legally enforceable objective.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 30 March 2020: Chilika has fishing cat & otters, but why we know so little about aquatic biodiversity?

There is some good news this week. A survey has found existence of fishing cat and two otter species in Chilika lake – this was not known so far. However, this also underlines how little we know about India’s aquatic biodiversity in our rivers, lakes and deltas. Its high time we have authentic baseline survey across India, hopefully in participation with the local communities who would already know so much about this. And may be rather urgently, once we are through with the current Covid-19 Crisis.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 23 March 2020: Welcome SC order asks for fresh EIA: Will Judiciary be equally strong against all fraudulent EIAs?

The Supreme Court order asking for fresh environment clearance and fresh Environment Impact Assessment for the Peripheral Ring Road project in Bengaluru is remarkable and most welcome, even though it is not directly related to water issues. The order is relevant since we have yet to find what can be called an honest Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for River Valley Projects and yet the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects happily clears ALL the projects that come their way, even with most fraudulent EIAs. We are hoping against hope that this apex Court judgement will be a precursor to many such orders and judgements and general warning against fraudulent EIAs and EACs. We hope it is not too much to ask that the EIA be an honest effort and the EAC that does not reject fraudulent EIAs should also be dumped and members black listed. We hope we have such orders from the judiciary soon.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 16 March 2020: Invitation to another Kedarnath floods tragedy?

This remarkable TOI report on March 14, 2020 (there was a Hindustan Times Report on March 9, 2020, we found out later: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/scientist-flags-kedarnath-project-worries/story-1DoLBHLeMOmYLI3OPFOq1M.html) says that rampant redevelopments termed as “unabated unscientific work in the valley” around Kedarnath is likely to create dangerous situation leading to 2013 like catastrophe. We could not find report about such an important development in any other media.

But this detailed report, not contradicted by any of the quoted sources, seems sufficient reason to be alarmed by all concerned.

Experts of the Wildlife Institute of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC) and even the Principle Science advisor to the Prime Minister K VIjay Raghavan and also the contractors, Woodstone Constructions along with other state and central govt officials were present where officials made some candid presentations. It seems there has been neither any impact assessment studies or clearances for the controversial interventions happening, including 9 km long approach road for Kedarnath on the left bank of Mandakini river, (left band has basically loose glacial sediments and hence is unstable and could get affected by avalanches and landslides) and a massive 50 ft deep and 100 m wide pit just 50 m behind Kedarnath for the Samadhi sthal. MPS Bisht, the Director of USAC in his presentation called the pit an extremely dangerous for future. He asked: “Why are we creating a situation for another disaster like the 2013 tragedy to take place again?” Scientists from the Wadia Institute are quoted saying: “The Road being built to Kedarnath is being made on the most vulnerable of Kedarnath Valley and may any day collapse under the pressure of so many glacier shoots which are directly opening on the road.” Raghavan called these revelations tipping points.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 March 2020: High Court Directions for Sukhna Lake

The March 2, 2020 directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court for the sustained conservation of Sukhna wetland are welcome, though the directions are likely to be appealed against in the Supreme Court, considering the far reaching implications of the lake. One hopes the Supreme Court takes a view that helps sustain the Sukhna lake and the wetlands in a confidence inspiring way.

Punjab & Haryana HC Issued Slew Of Directions For Protection Of Sukhna Lake. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/punjab-haryana-hc-issues-slew-of-directions-for-protection-of-sukhna-lake-in-chandigarh-read-judgment-153386  (2 March 2020)

This is a far reaching judgement on protection of watersheds, water bodies. Any government authority which ignores the environmental damage caused by unplanned development will have to face the music. The court also declared all commercial, residential and or other structures constructed in the catchment area falling in the areas of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh as delineated in the map prepared by the Survey of India on 21.9.2004 were declared illegal and unauthorised and ordered to be demolished within three months. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hc-declares-chandigarhs-sukhna-lake-living-entity-fines-punjab-haryana-100-cr-each-for-damaging-catchment-area/article30969711.ece  (03 March 2020)

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 March 2020: Will Mumbai rise up against unwanted, destructive Gargai Dam?

Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), with annual rainfall in access of 2000 mm, does not do much to harvest the rain. It does not protect its local water bodies. It does not recharge groundwater to the extent it can easily do. It does not reduce its transmission and distribution losses. It does not treat its sewage to recycle and thus reduce freshwater demand. It does no demand side management. And yet it keeps demanding more water, and for that building of more dams and thus pushing more destruction. Without any credible options assessment. It has no water policy or water vision for smart water management.

The proposed Gargain Dam that will lead to destruction of over four lakh trees in 720 ha forest mostly in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, is a good example of how Mumbai is fuelling such dam building and destruction. The Rs 3105 Cr project will have many other impacts, including displacement of tribals and destruction of livelihoods for thousands others. As SANDRP report showed six years ago, (https://sandrp.in/2013/12/20/dams-in-tribal-areas-of-western-ghats-for-water-supply-to-mumbai-why-are-they-unjustified/, https://sandrp.in/2013/12/18/multiple-dams-for-mumbai-region/) and as our letter to the then Maharashtra Chief Minister emphasised in 2015 (https://sandrp.in/2015/01/13/water-smart-mumbai-open-letter-to-cm-devendra-fadnavis/), MMR region does not need any of these dams.

It was good to see MID DAY news paper report and EDIT highlighting some of these issues. Will the people of Mumbai Rise up, to stop this destructive dam, being pushed in their names, the way they stood up to save the far fewer Aarey Milk Colony trees?

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Feb 2020: Urban Rivers Need Urgent attention: Hiding won’t help

There are large number of stories this week from all over India highlighting the crisis that Urban Rivers in India face. Urban rivers, like the Urban Water sector, exist in complete policy vacuum. There is no policy to guide the Urban water governance. Cosmetic efforts being done when President Donald Trump of USA visits India on Feb 24-25, 2020 at Yamuna (in view of his visit to Agra) or Sabarmati (visit to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad) won’t really help. The crisis not only affects the rivers, but the health, livelihoods and lives of millions and millions of city dwellers too, in addition to the downstream river users. Our Water Resources establishment has no clue, as is evident from their calling the Dravyawati river channelization in Jaipur as an example of river rejuvenation and suggesting such rivers should be given to corporates to rejuvenate in similar ways! It’s doubtful if the new National Water Policy now being formulated will help, unless it dares to suggest radical changes.

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