The New Indian Express published a most remarkable report on Aug 24, 2019[i]. It said, among other things: “The district administration of Uttara Kannada will seek an inquiry report from the managing director of Karnataka Power Corporation Limited on untimely release of water from Kadra dam to Kali River, which caused flood in Kadra, Mallapur, Kaiga township, Hanakon, Kharge Jooga island, Kinnar, Siddar, Vailawada and many villages in Karwar taluk in the first week of August. 5,000 people from these villages were shifted to rehabilitation centres in Karwar and other villages. Half of the Kaiga township was inundated and employees of Kaiga Atomic Power Station had to use boats to reach the nuclear power plants… The district administration was not informed about the increasing inflow into Kadra dam and outflow into the river. Finally, DC Harish Kumar K, ZP CEO M Roshan and then SP Vinayak Patil camped in Kadra and took over the control of the dam due to the failure of dam officials. They managed the outflow of the dam for a couple of days. Deputy Commissioner Harish Kumar K said the district administration will write to KPCL MD seeking an inquiry on water released from dams to Kali river.” Continue reading “Unprecedented Dam flood situation in Uttara Kannada in Aug 2019”
(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”
Release water from Koyna & Tata dams to drought hit Karnataka, Telangana & Andhra Pradesh
Large parts of South India, including parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are facing unprecedented drought and water scarcity. However, Maharashtra is sending OUT billions of liters of water FROM drought hit Krishna basin to High Rainfall Konkan region to flow to the sea. Continue reading “STOP DIVERSION OF WATER FROM DROUGHT HIT KRISHNA BASIN”
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.”
I have returned from Mhadei/Mandovi Basin recently, tracing her footsteps near her origin to the sea and it is difficult to conceive that this veritable treasure trove of serenity and beauty is today a bone of contention, leading to unrest and violence. Continue reading “Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal: Trouble brewing in Paradise”
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 rains damaging 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”
Guest Blog by Himanshu Upadhyaya (email@example.com)
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.
Parineeta Dandekar (firstname.lastname@example.org, 09860030742)
 76th EAC meeting will be held on 11th August in MoEF, Delhi