(The figure above is screen shot of CWC Flood forecasting site showing no warning signs even at 5 pm on 230718)
Almost all the big dams in Cauvery Basin are full on the earlier ever monsoon date this year. This includes Krishnaraj Sagar, Mettur, Kabini, Harangi, Hemavathi and Bhavanisagar. They are almost full and have started releasing large flows to the downstream areas. This is when we are past just about six weeks of South West Monsoon, the North East monsoon would come after that. It means that the basin is facing major risk of floods in next 2-5 months. And yet Central Water Commission, India’s flood forecasting agency, seems to be in deep slumber. It has not even bothered to update the flood readings on its designated sites from the 2017 figures. Continue reading “Cauvery is facing very serious flood risk, but CWC is in slumber”→
Supreme Court of India passed the much awaited 465-page Judgment on Cauvery Water Dispute on Feb 16, 2018[i]. After the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal declared its award on Feb 5, 2007, a number of Appeals were filed in the SC, challenging the Tribunal Award, including those by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. By this Judgment, the SC has partially allowed the Karnataka Appeal (Civil Appeal 2453 of 2007) and disposed off all the appeals. The Award was published in gazette only in 2013, following an earlier SC order. The SC Judgment provides additional 14.75 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) of water to Karnataka and thus reduces Tamil Nadu’s share to that extent.
When I was documenting a tiny, free-flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats named Shastri, the common thread from headwaters to estuary was Fishing! It was everywhere, in all forms, including dozens of fish species and fishing practices, including everyone: men, women, children, otters, crocs, storks. Across the country, buzzing, diversified fisheries with old, complex narratives indicate a rich river. And the palette just gets more vivid, nuanced and colorful with the size of the river.
More than 10 million Indians from some of the most vulnerable groups depend on rivers for their livelihood and nutritional needs. This staggering number can be an underestimate as several riverine fisherfolk do not bring their produce to the market and our livelihood census hardly captures the intricacies of riverine fisheries sector. Despite the huge dependence and critical importance of riverine fisheries, the sector continues being ignored and abused. The reasons behind the exploitation are at the heart of a deeper, more troubling discourse: ownership and appropriation of the river as a natural resource. Continue reading “Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today”→
Karnataka is still reeling from the protests, rasta roko, bandhs, burning effigies, etc., resulting from the anger over the Interim Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal[i] (MWDT) of the 27.07.16 which did not allow Karnataka’s Appeal to temporarily lift 7 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Mahadayi Basin into Malaprabha Basin (a sub basin of Krishna basin). Twin cities of Hubali and Dharwad, likely beneficiaries from the diversion, are centers of agitation. Schools and colleges were closed, government offices and buses were burnt, major roads were blocked by protesters. Pro-Karnataka Organizations and even Film stars have joined this protest. Karnataka Home Minister has called on the Prime Minister to look into the decision. Goa, on the other hand, is quietly celebrating this one positive step[ii]. I was reminded of Rajendra Singh’s uncritical support to the project and also what Dr. T V Ramchandra from IISC, Bangalore said about this, “Do the film stars know the details of the issue or even where their water comes from? The day we push Pudharis away, solutions to our water woes will be easy and closer to home.”
Karnataka is witnessing drought for the third successive year; rainfall has been deficient since 2012-13. Because of the rainfall deficit, reservoirs did not fill up completely. Coupled with the hot summer temperatures in March and April 2016, the stored water has now almost depleted. Groundwater, the saviour in times of failure of rainfall, has dipped severely because of years of reckless exploitation for irrigating water guzzling crops in semi arid soils. With even drinking water becoming scarce, agricultural activity has come to a standstill in the region. The drought in 2015 was preceded by unseasonal rainsdamaging the previous harvest. The monsoon deficit led to a dip in kharif output throughout the State in 2015. The drought spread even to the normally lush Cauvery basin prompting digging and deepening of borewells. While southern Karnataka received some heavy rains in November, districts in Northern Karnataka again saw failure of rains with some districts such as Kalaburagi, Koppal and Yadgir registering over 70% deficiency in rainfall. There has been a near complete failure of crops in Northern Karnataka, with both rabi and kharif crops being wiped out, even as area under sugarcane has gone up! The northern region, which also lags in development indices, is in the clutches of rural distress – over a thousand farmers have committed suicide. Mass migration to cities is being witnessed.
Above: The modest Yettinahole Stream, close to location of proposed weir. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Debate over Yettinahole Diversion Project has been raging in Karnataka for more than two years now. While Dakshin Kannada has been rightly raising issues of unassessed social and ecological impacts of the project on this region, fresh information now available, including a study by scientists of the Indian Institute of Science – Bangalore, and other experts proves that Yettinahole Diversion Project just does not have the water that the project developers claim it does, taking out the very hydrological foundation of the project.Continue reading “Yettinahole diversion Project (literally) holds no water”→
What ails irrigation in India is probably a frequently asked question. It was asked in an illustrative article in Economic and Political Weekly in mid 1960s. We are told many times that two aspects often make the planned benefits of irrigation go haywire, namely time over runs and (hence) costs escalation. However, their repeated use to explain missed irrigation targets could be misplaced. The correct diagnosis of what ails India’s irrigation might be found in questioning the norms and decision making process of such projects, if these projects are indeed the best options and who pays when they do not deliver. Continue reading “What ails Irrigation in Karnataka – Recent CAG reports”→
The Maharashtra and Karnataka governments have accepted on affidavit that they have violated the Environment Protection Act 1986 and EIA Notification. The violations have happened in taking up the work even before seeking environmental clearance and both governments have promised on affidavit that this will not be repeated. This has come to light following SANDRP writing to the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects about the violations.
SANDRP monitors Environmental clearance (EC) process of hydropower, irrigation and river valley projects, and has come across several proposals from Government of Maharashtra and Government of Karnataka (& others) wherein the Water Resource Departments seek Environmental clearance from the MoEF, even as work on the said projects is well underway on ground, violating the Environment Protection Act (1986) and the EIA Notification.
There may be several such projects from other states too which are violating Environment Laws, but the MoEF does not seem to have the capacity to monitor such violations.
The next meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects will consider a proposal from Maharashtra worth nearly Rs. 5000 Crores for Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation scheme, which plans to divert 23.66 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Ujani Dam to irrigate over 100,000 hectares of land in Beed and Osmanabad districts. Ironically, work on Krishna Marathwada scheme is well-advanced, and the State has already spent nearly Rs 500 crores on it, without clearances. SANDRP had put these facts in front of the EAC on Dec 5, 2013, before the 70th meeting of EAC that was held on Dec 10-11, 2013. EAC had then asked the Godavari Marathwada Irrigation Development Corporation (GMIDC) to stop all on going work on the project and demanded an affidavit that no work will start without EC and that the EIA Notification and EPA will not be violated further. It also demanded a Board resolution to this effect.
In response, as per documents with SANDRP, in July 2014, the Governing Council of GMIDC, chaired by the State Water Resource Minister Shri Sunil Tatkare and Chairperson of GMIDC passed a resolution, that “There will not be any recurrence of violation”. The Superintending Engineer, Osmanabad Irrigation Circle has also signed an affidavit with an undertaking that all work on the project is stopped unless EC is secured.
Similarly, Sonthi Lift Irrigation Project from Karnataka was deliberated for clearance in the presence of officials from Karnataka, when the project was almost complete on ground. SANDRP brought this to the notice of the EAC which then issued notice to Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited. The EAC or MoEF did not take strong action against the proponent and in fact recommended Stage 1 Clearance for the project (April 2014) which is already nearing completion. This decision of EAC was without justification or legal mandate.
Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited’s (KKNL) Shiggaon Lift Irrigation Project too will be discussed during the upcoming 76th EAC meeting. The project was discussed in the EAC on September 2013, when as it was formally inaugurated by Karnataka CM in November 2012 itself! In case of Shiggaon too, SANDRP pointed out the violations to the EAC, MoEF, which them issued a notice to the KKNL to file an affidavit about the violation and an undertaking to stop work and not resume it unless EC is granted. The KKNL has filed an affidavit stating “there will be no recurrence of violations”, thus accepting preset violations.
Similar violations of EPA (1986) and EIA Notification (2006) have occurred in case of Singtalur Lift Irrigation scheme in Karnataka. The state has also willfully escaped Environment Appraisal for Yettinahole/ Netravathi diversion project under fraudulent claims.
In case of Maharashtra, the recent CAG report 2014 gave a list of 249 projects that do not have EC and more than 89 do not have Forest Clearance (FC), violating the Forest Conservation Act (1980), causing a loss of thousands of crores to the state. SANDRP has made submissions about many such projects undertaken by WRD, Maharashtra without requisite clearances. Some of these include Shirapur Lift Irrigation Scheme in Solapur, Lower Tapi Irrigation Project in Jalgaon and over 10 Lift Irrigation schemes based on Ujani Dam. MoEF has not taken any action for projects which do not approach the EAC for clearances, even when presented with evidence of violations, thus ignoring blatant violations.
Environmental Clearances are critical from environmental and social point of view and they are also important as a third-party expert appraisal of the project. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the MoEF is supposed to look not only at the environmental and social impacts of the project, but also assesses the overall optimality, feasibility and justification, hydrologic soundness of the project, and also the veracity of the supposed benefits of the project. This is also the only platform which includes a Public Hearing through which local communities have a chance to put forth their concerns, BEFORE the project comes up. Escaping Environmental Appraisal thus does not only mean flouting a legal requirement, but an absence of any third party appraisal of the project.
In a state like Maharashtra which has seen huge scams and corruption in irrigation projects, such a third party appraisal is critical from environment as well as larger public welfare point of view.
In this context it is pertinent to note that para 5 of the MOEF’s Office Memorandum dated 12.12.2012 dealing with violations states: “The State Government concerned will need to initiate credible action on the violation by invoking powers under Section 19 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for taking necessary legal action under Section 15 of the Act for the period for which the violation has taken place and evidence provided to MoEF of the credible action taken.” (Emphasis added)
We are glad that the EAC took cognition of our submissions and refused to clear some projects, asking for affidavits on violations from Maharashtra and Karnataka governments on Krishna Marathawada LIS and Shiggaon LIS respectively. However, in case of Krishna Marathawada LIS in Maharashtra and Shiggaon Lift Irrigation Scheme in Karnataka, no action has been taken under section 19 or section 15, and hence we hope EAC and MoEF will ask for action as legally mandated. In any case, they have no mandate to consider these projects till such action is taken.
We hope rule of law will be followed in letter and spirit.
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!
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)
Across River Bhima near Sonthi Village of Shahapur Taluk.
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.
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)
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)
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.