It’s a strange situation in Gujarat. While everyone is talking about unprecedented drought and the drought hit are suffering due to lack of water for irrigation and even water supply, the Sardar Sarovar Dam today (April 16) is at 119.14 m, and has 1095 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) in Live storage, in addition to about 3700 MCM of water in what is called dead storage. The Dam has received much more water this year compared to last year. SSP Water level on April 16, 2019 is up from 115.55 m, the lowest level it reached this water year[i] on March 3, 2019, since 2018 monsoon.
Above: Broken, Silted Canals of under construction Pawai Project on Ken River in MP (SANDRP photo)
The Ken Yatra while going through the Panna district were told by Project Affected People that the Pawai Medium Irrigation Project (PMP) under construction is displacing the people without just compensation or rehabilitation.
The Ken Yatra observed that the construction work of the PMP is happening in full swing in Madhya Pradesh. The dam is being built at ‘Tendu Ghat’ on Ken River in Panna district to supply irrigation water to 9952 hectares (the board at the project site erroneously says it will irrigate 30 000 ha) of agricultural land falling in Pawai and Gunnor tehsils. The construction work also involves creation of a massive canal, including a few aqua-ducts on Ken river and its tributaries. Continue reading “Pawai Dam Project displacing people without Rehabilitation, allege PAFs”→
No claim of equity for work done during pendency of application
The Principle Bench of National Green Tribunal on Oct 27, 2017 admitted a comprehensive Appeal (No 33 of 2017) challenging the Environment Clearance to Phase I of Ken Betwa River Linking Project. The order of the Bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Swatanter Kumar (Chairperson of NGT), Hon’ble Justice Jawad Rahim (Judicial Member) and Hon’ble Bikram Singh Sajwan (Expert Member) on Oct 27, 2017 (available on Oct 28, 2017) noted: “Learned Counsel for the respective respondents accepts notice and prays for time to file reply. Copy of the application be furnished during the course of the date. Let the reply to be filed within two weeks from today and rejoinder within two weeks thereafter. List the mater on 27th November, 2017.” Ritwick Dutta, Rahul Choudhary and Meera Gopal are the lawyers representing the petition. Continue reading “NGT Admits Appeal Challenging Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa Project”→
“Oh my god! I wont have believed that such an amazingly beautiful river canyon exists in India had I not seen this!” These were my first words, believe or not, on seeing Raneh Falls earlier this year. It was such mesmerizingly beautiful scene that I could not believe no one has even mentioned that this whole site is likely to be destroyed by the proposed Ken Betwa Project (KWP).
On June 17, 2017, a PIB Press Release from Union Ministry of Water Resources announced, “Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared the final raising of Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in Gujarat by lowering of gates and impounding of water in the reservoir upto its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of EL 138.68 mts. The NCA which met here yesterday under the Chairmanship of Dr. Amarjit Singh, Secretary (WR, RD & GR) considered all aspects of environmental and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues.”
Above: A rainfed Tur (Arhar/Pigeon Pea) field in Amravati in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, October 2015
Pulse prices are raging in Indian markets, leading to outrage from urban customers. Newspapers are full of coverage, cartoons and puns on pulse prices. The fate of rural population facing successive droughts which has to buy pulses is better left to imagination. If some benefits of this price hike were to reach actual pulse farmers, it would have been some consolation. But for now, as Pulse farmer Ashok Pawar from Osmanabad tells me, the Tur (Arhar/Pigeon Pea) that is in the market is last year’s. It was sold to the middle men (Adatya in Marathi) and market committee at a low rate as the production was dismal due to late rains and drought followed by unseasonal rainfall. This happened in 2013 too. Tur from 2014 is now being sold at a record price, the farmer watches this helplessly. Continue reading “Pulse Farmers: Custodians of Fertility, Water and Climate-friendly Agriculture”→
Sushri Uma Bharati
The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Government of India
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
1. Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
2. Shri Alok Rawat, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and ex-officio Chairman of the Narmada Control Authority
3. Shri A. Mahendran, Executive Member (Additional Charge), Narmada Control Authority
We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the recent decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 16.76 metres taking the height to the designed final height of 138.68 metres.
We think this decision of the NCA is unjustified and unwise. 1) It will cause huge additional displacement, when rehabilitation of the people affected even at the current height is incomplete. 2) As everybody agrees and experience has shown, even at current height, Gujarat is in a position to take the water stored to virtually any part of the designed command area, and can draw its share of water as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award. Moreover, it has been able to utilise only a small portion of the water available at current height. So there are no compelling reasons for raising the height on this count.
Under these circumstances, the decision taken by the newly formed government at the centre and the NCA to raise the height of the dam within two weeks of oath by the new government is a hasty, unwise and disastrous decision. We earnestly appeal to you and the government to immediately withdraw the decision to raise the height of the dam.
More importantly, the issues related to the dam have festered over more than 30 years of its troubled history because governments have tended to take a legalistic stand rather than initiate an inclusive dialogue on the substantive issues about the project amongst all concerned, particularly those adversely affected. We appeal to you to start such an inclusive process of reflection and dialogue to arrive at a broad social consensus on four critical issues about the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) as outlined below.
1. Height of the dam: What is the height of dam needed for Gujarat to utilise its share of Narmada waters and take water to all its designated command? As already mentioned above, Gujarat is in a position to take water anywhere in the designated command area. There are studies and alternatives which indicate that Gujarat may be able to utilise its share of Narmada waters at current height and no further height increase may be required on this count. Doing away with the installation of the 16.8 meter high gates does not have any structural implications for the dam. So far as power generation is concerned, major power benefit is transitional, falling off as the states utilise their share of water and final residual power benefit is small. Moreover, even today, as per Central Electricity Authority (CEA) figures, at current height SSP generated 5,882 Million Units of Power in 2013-14, which is more than what SSP was envisaged to generate. The biggest beneficiary of power generated at SSP is Madhya Pradesh, but it forms a small percentage of its present power capacity and generation while virtually the entire brunt of massive displacement has to be borne by it. So, it may be optimal for Madhya Pradesh to trade off much of its transitional power benefit with the greatly reduced submergence and displacement with a dam at the current height. Thus there is a distinct possibility that optimal solutions exist at current height and they need to be explored.
2. Equitable distribution, sustainable use and participatory and efficient management of stored water: Given the ability to carry water to all parts of Gujarat at current height, it is more important to concentrate on issues of how water is used now. Criticism on these counts comes from some of the strongest proponents of the project. The project has been criticised, among other things, on account of gross underutilisation of the stored water, irrigation water not reaching the drought prone areas of Kachch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat, diversion of water for unplanned uses (for example, river front development, urban and industrial use south of Sabarmati), non existence of water users’ associations (WUAs) for most part of the command, lack of proper drainage in the command area, and inefficient and inequitable use.
3. Status of displacement and rehabilitation: There is a large gap in the perceptions and articulations of state and various groups and individuals including those from the adversely affected, both about the exact numbers involved as well as about the quality of rehabilitation. While the authorities have generally been claiming satisfactory rehabilitation, there is every indication that the rehabilitation even at current height falls quite short of what is legally required or what basic human justice demands. Since the submergence and displacement that would take place between 121.92 metres and 138.68 metres would be massive, there is every indication that effective rehabilitation would be intractable and virtually impossible. It becomes much more urgent to bridge this gap and come to a consensus on the actual extent and quality of rehabilitation already carried out before causing further massive displacement.
4. Environment and Climate Change: Environment and climate change issues that are important in the long run have not been given due attention. Downstream impacts of SSP on environment and livelihoods have not been properly assessed, environment-flows and requirements have not been studied and management plans have not been formulated or implemented. Climate change experts emphasise the importance to reevaluating the costs, benefits, impacts and optimality of projects and it is high time we initiated studies and discussion on these with respect to the SSP. If rejuvenation of rivers is to receive a central place in water resources development and the Narmada is to remain alive these issues need to be brought into discussion and resolved as soon as possible.
Good governance entails making socially and environmentally just decisions within a deliberative democratic framework and it is the lack of this that has resulted in three decades history of conflict and polarisation around SSP. We sincerely hope you will put us on a path of better governance, the professed aim of the new government, by revoking the decision to increase the height of the SSP from the current 121.92 m to 138.68 m and initiating a comprehensive dialogue on the substantive issues surrounding it.
A. C. Bhagabati,
K. J. Joy,
M K Prasad,
N. C. Narayanan,
Rajeswari Sarala Raina,
Ramaswamy R. Iyer,
Names added subsequently:
V N Sharma
For any further details and follow up please contact:
Ashish Kothari (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Himanshu Thakkar, (email@example.com);
Himanshu Upadhyaya (firstname.lastname@example.org);
K. J. Joy (email@example.com);
Shripad Dharmadhkari (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Suhas Paranjape (email@example.com)
Why this hurry to submerge tribals and farmers under
In a shocking decision on June 12, 2014, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), headed by the secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), & which includes secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) and senior officials of four states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan, have sanctioned, in what The Hindu called “emergency meeting” (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/narmada-dam-to-be-higher-by-17-m/article6108571.ece) installation of 17 m high gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River in Gujarat, taking the effective current height of the dam from 121.92 m to 138.68 m. This has been done after the Rehabilitation sub group (RSG) of the Narmada Control Authority, chaired by secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) has also cleared this decision. This decision implies submergence of thousands of ha of land and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when their rehabilitation, as legally required, has not been done.
Strangely, the government that talks about transparency, had nothing to report on its website (either PIB website or MWR website till 12 noon on June 6, 2014) about this decision, who will be affected, reason for such emergency decision or basis for the decision.
More importantly, Gujarat & Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada river without this height increase and are not able to use even 20% of the water already available to them at the current height. This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even legal sanction. Only additional benefit that increase in height can provide is additional water storage, which will imply about 10-20% additional power generation, in which Gujarat’s share is only 16%: 57% share goes to MP and 27% share goes to Maharashtra.
There is some misinformation that this height increase is required to take the water to Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. This is completely wrong. The Full Supply Level of Narmada Main Canal is 110 m and once water enters this level in the dam, water can be taken to the canals. Once water enters the main canal, it can be taken to the Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat. Based on information we have obtained from SSNNL under RTI, we have seen that Gujarat can get its full share of 9 Million Acre Feet of water at current height and no height increase is necessary. Had Gujarat built the necessary canal distribution system with branch canals, distributary canals, minors, sub minors and field canals to fields in Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat, it could have taken Narmada water to these regions even eight years ago. To suggest that height increase will achieve this is clearly spreading misinformation. Similarly, as far as providing drinking water to the drought prone areas is concerned, height increase is not required to complete that.
Gujarat, in the meantime have increased the share of drinking water (1 MAF) and industrial Water (0.22 MAF) from 0.87 MAF for these combined sectors, at the cost of irrigation, without any participatory or transparent process. (see new share in this report in The Hindu on June 12, 2014: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/a-long-wait-ends-for-gujarat/article6109547.ece).
It is shocking that all the officials of the central and state governments and all the concerned ministers (including Water Resources Minister Ms Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Mr Prakash Javdekar, Social Justice Minister Mr Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in addition to Gujarat and MP Chief Ministers) have towed the line dictated by Prime Minister Mr Modi and Gujarat Government in this regard, within two weeks of new government taking over. No additional rehabilitation could have been accomplished in these two weeks, which seems to indicate that a political decision has been taken, without considering the ground realities, merits or justification of the decision or necessity of the decision. This does not bode good for the functioning of the new government.
It should be noted here that the installation of gates will take three years, and in any case, for closing the gates, the project will need clearance from Environment Sub Group, RSG and NCA again. Secondly, the gates have been lying in the yard of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) for many years and a question mark was raised about the safety of the gates in a recent meeting of the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee. Now, as The Times of India reported on June 13, 2014 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Use-of-30-year-old-gates-worries-experts/articleshow/36453333.cms), even former Gujarat Government officials are raising the issue of old technology of 30 year old gates when new technology gates would be also be safer. In view of all this, it may have been better, as Narmada Bachao Andolan has suggested, for the government to first take proper stock of the situation rather than rush into this “emergency” decision on the eve of the monsoon, when no work is in any case possible in monsoon.
It is also shocking that even before the RSG and NCA were to take the decision; Gujarat Government was already busy preparing for celebratory meeting at the Dam site. This shows that the functioning of the statutory bodies has been taken for granted and their decision was pre-determined, as directed by higher authorities.
Gujarat can get its water share without increase in height The new government wants to take the SSP Dam from its current height of 121.92 m to its final design height of 138.68 m. Firstly, there are serious doubts if this height increase is required since it can be shown that Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada without this increase in height. Secondly, Gujarat is not even in a position to use more than 20% of the water it already gets from the river at current height of the dam for the purposes for which the project was designed: providing water for the drought affected regions in Kutch, Saurashtra & North Gujarat. On the other hand, urban centres, industrials areas, SEZs, cosmetic river beautification schemes have appropriated a large chunk of SSP waters without legal, democratic sanction or justification. Gujarat really does not have a case for increasing the height of SSP Dam.
Moreover, this will also entail such massive additional submergence, displacement and disruption of lives of tribals and farmers that it is sure to create huge opposition. Narmada Bachao Andolan estimates that an additional 2.5 lakh people will face unjust submergence in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The just rehabilitation of already affected people is far from complete, in fact, most of the affected population has not been given minimum 2 ha of land required under the Narmada Tribunal award and subsequent accepted policies.
Mr Modi during his tenure of 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat failed to complete the canal network of SSP in the drought prone areas in whose name the project has always been justified. It needs to be noted that the agitation against SSP did not stop Gujarat government from going ahead with construction of canal network. It was not for lack of finances that SSP could not complete the canal network. SSP has been getting largest quantum of money from the Government of India’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme ever since the AIBP scheme started in 1996. This support to SSP from AIBP was clearly wrong since SSP was never the last mile project for which AIBP was meant, but the big dam lobby in Union Water Resources ministry and Gujarat government were hand in glove in this misallocation of AIBP money for SSP. In fact, Mr Modi arm-twisted the Planning Commission in 2011-12 to sanction the escalated costs for SSP even when the issues raised by Planning Commission officers remained unanswered.
It is the ineptitude of Gujarat Government under Mr Modi that is on show as to why it could not complete the canal network on drought prone areas in Gujarat. Mr Modi would do well to remember the reasons for that failure before he considers the mega projects agenda as Prime Minister.
Moreover, on SSP, the issues of completing repairs of the damages the Sardar Sarovar dam structure suffered four years ago & related issue of safety of the dam are yet to be resolved and Gujarat has embarked on building another Garudeshwar Dam in immediate downstream without any impact assessments, participatory democratic process or required sanctions. The legality of the Garudeshwar Dam work stands challenged in the National Green Tribunal by the affected tribals.
Conclusion This unnecessary, unwarranted and unjust decision is not going to go down well with any right thinking person. The new government at the center is clearly treading a path that is bound to raise huge uproar and make the common person on street question: for whom and for what purpose is this government working. It would be in best interest of everyone if the government was so confident, to get this debated in the Parliament.
Imagine that a state government wants to build a Big Dam, with height of 31.75 m on a Big River. The River has already seen a large number of dams, agitations, controversies and legal disputes.
This dam is going to cost several hundred crores of rupees, just the initial civil works’ cost is Rs 299.43 Crores out of approved construction cost (alone) of Rs 438.18 Crores.
But this dam will not provide any irrigation. Not supply any water to anyone. Will not do any flood control. Will not be a net generator of power. In short it can claim none of the benefits that a standard dam project claims.
And yet it will have fairly serious impacts. Hundreds of hectares of fertile, useful land will be destroyed. River itself and biodiversity of the river will be destroyed. In the downstream too there will be huge adverse impacts. Hundreds of tribal families will be adversely affected. Almost all of them have been affected by an upstream dam project. The government has refused to answer any of their concerns. The people are already agitated and have declared their opposition, and have also legally challenged the project.
However, we do not know full social or environmental impacts of the dam, since such an impact assessment has never been done. The work on this project according to the government started in Feb 2013. Any such dam project would require impact assessment, management plan, public hearings, environmental appraisal, clearance, monitoring and compliance mechanism. But this one had none of it and does not want to do any of it! It does not have even a Rehabilitation Plan. Not even one on paper, as most such plans are.
Majority of the purported benefits of the project are supposed to legally go to another state, but that state has said it does not want the dam, nor does it want to share costs or benefits. And still the state government has started work on the dam.
We are used to telling a lot of bad dam stories. But this one seems to be a unique one.
Why does the state government want to build this dam? What are the benefits and for whom? Why is the Union Environment Ministry allowing such an illegal dam? Is this not dam fundamentalism?
Ok, enough of mystery. Let us understand what this project is about.
Garudeshwar Dam This story is about Garudeshwar dam on Narmada River in Bharuch district in Gujarat. With height of 31.75 m, it is a major dam, since any dam above 15 m height is considered big dam by national and international definitions. The Garudeshwar Dam will create a huge 12 km long reservoir.
It is proposed just downstream from the most controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam Project (SSP). The SSP is being constructed under the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. The Garudeshwar Dam is proposed as part of the power component of the SSP, to act as downstream storage when the 1200 MW River Bed Power House (RBPH) of SSP will act in a Pump Storage Supply (PSS) mode. This means that Garudeshwar Dam’s basic function is to store the water released from RBPH during peak hour power generation. This water stored in the Garudeshwar dam is then to be pumped back to the SSP reservoir during off peak hours. Pumping the water back to the reservoir typically takes about 20% more power. This is in comparison with the power generated when a unit of water was released from the upstream dam (SSP in this case) during generation mode. It means that Garudeshwar Dam will be net consumer of electricity. This kind of project could have economic viability when there is additional tariff for power available during peak hours, which is not the case today. In absence of such valuation, such projects are not even economically viable.
According to the NWDT award, Madhya Pradesh gets majority, or 57% share in the power benefits (and costs) from SSP, Maharashtra gets 27% and Gujarat 16%.
Another objective of the Garudeshwar Dam is to create a reservoir surrounding Statue of Unity, being propagated as the world’s highest statue on a small island 3 km downstream of the SSP Dam.
None of the required Statutory clearances obtained The minutes of the 80th meeting of SSCAC (Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee, the statutory interstate body to coordinate construction of SSP, it is chaired by Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources and includes senior officials of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, in addition to Narmada Control Authority) held in March 2013 notes on the issue of Garudeshwar Dam, “The work to be taken up by GOG in compliance of all statutory clearances. The committee accordingly directed GOG to take further follow up actions.” It was no secret to SSCAC that GOG had taken no clearances, how could then SSCAC wash its hands off with such a statement?
As per Supreme Court Order of Oct 2000 (Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Union of India and Others), as also earlier statutory orders under NWDT, the sanction of Rehabilitation Sub Group and Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority is to be obtained prior to every stage of work related to SSP. No such sanction has been obtained by these authorities. In fact, as per letter written by Shekhar Singh, a member of ESG of NCA on March 24, 2013, there has not even been impact assessment of the Garudeshwar Dam, which is necessary before ESG can consider clearing the work on Garudeshwar work:
“Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA. In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream. However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”
Similarly, since it is a work under SSP, the R&R policy of SSP is suppose to apply to the people affected by the Garudeshwar Dam. This also means that a R&R Plan have to be prepared and consent of the affected people taken and R&R completed a year before the construction work, which too has not been done, nor a sanction of RSG of NCA taken.
The reservoir upstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam has been declared eco sensitive zone and protected area. The Garudeshwar Dam will create a reservoir that will be affecting the river close to the SSP Dam and thus will be within the eco sensitive zone and legally, such a work requires clearance from National Board of Wildlife, but such a clearance has not been taken.
Since Garudeshwar Dam is proposed in tribal area, consent of the gram sabhas is also legally required. No such consents have been taken.
Thus, the work that has been going on is completely illegal.
State benefiting the most, questions need for the Garudeshwar Dam Official documents obtained by SANDRP under RTI Act shows that GoMP has repeatedly shown their disagreement with the need for Garudeshwar Dam. Here are a few instances from official records. Strangely, in spite of this clear disagreement from a majority beneficiary state, the decision to go ahead with the project was taken by Gujarat and endorsed by SSCAC. The other statutory bodies like the Narmada Control Authority and its Environment Sub Group and Rehabilitation Sub Group were not even consulted.
June 2011 The minutes of the 101st meeting of the PSC of SSCAC held in June 2011 noted, “Summing up the discussion the Chairman observed that the extent of disagreement is now so acute that the very need of Garudeshwar Weir is being questioned.”
July 2011 The events thereafter moved rapidly. Following a request letter of GOG on July 21st, 2011, Secretary to Union Water Resources Ministry (also chairman of SSCAC and NCA) called a meeting of participating states on 25th July, 2011. At this meeting, Madhya Pradesh continued its disagreement with the need for the Garudeshwar weir, as recorded in the minutes of the meeting, providing reasons of their opposition: “The representative from Govt of MP also informed the stand of their government on the construction of the said weir mentioning that State of Madhya Pradesh will become surplus in power by the year 2014 and as such, Madhya Pradesh may not like to avail such a costly peak power. According to their calculations, the tariff for peak power may be more than Rs 6 per unit. In view of this, State of Madhya Pradesh is not in the favour of the proposal of the Garudeshwar Weir requiring the sharing of the cost of construction and the energy required for reversible operations.”
The response of the Secretary (MoWR) was strange, “GOMP to review their stand of surrendering their share of peak hour power generation by reversible operation on RBPH machines and confirm about the same for further course of action.”
The fact that GOG and Union Govt (even as opposite parties were ruling the state and the centre, showing amazing collusion of pro dam fundamentalism) were so much hand in glove that the secretary, brushing aside the objections of the majority beneficiary state of MP, decided to push unwanted dam down the unwilling state’s throat: “Secretary (MOWR) while concluding the meeting, stated that the construction of Garudeshwar Weir needs to be taken up urgently & completed expeditiously…”.
March 2012 The Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) pointed out in their letter dated 21.03.2012 to SSCAC), “there is no mention about Garudeshwar Weir in the NWDT Award”.
The GoMP also made it clear in this letter that GoMP does not concur with the proposal in view of “the change in power tariff scenario”.
Aug 2012: The 104th meeting of PSC of SSCAC records on this agenda Item no 104-5, “The representative of GOMP conveyed that, at this stage, they don’t agree with above decision and a note of dissent in this regard will be sent soon.”
So the state that was supposed to get 57% benefits and also pay same proportion of costs, has refused to concur with the scheme.
Status of work According to the Agenda notes for the 81st meeting of SSCAC held on March 28, 2014, till Dec 2013, 6.88% of excavation was the only physical progress on the Garudeshwar weir. Financial Progress achieved was even less, at 3.19%.
Some recent Developments:
Oct 2013 The affected people and eminent Gujarat citizens write to MoEF and GOG to immediately stop illegal work on Garudeshwar Dam. Affected people and their leaders were put under house arrest when Chief Minister and former Deputy PM L K Advani came to the Kevadia Colony to lay foundation stone for the proposed Statue of Unity.
Jan 3, 2014 Gujarat Government is considering use of force to suppress the movement against the illegal work on Garudeshwar Dam.
Jan 27, 2014 Tribal women of 70 villages to be affected by the Garudeshwar dam go to the site of ongoing work and ask the contractor to stop the work as it is illegal, without necessary clearances, impact assessments and consents.
Jan 31, 2014 National Green Tribunal order (Lakhan Musafir & Anr Vs. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd and others – Application 10/2013 WZ): “We deem it proper to grant three (3) weeks time to Respondent No.1 to file reply affidavit and make it clear that in the meanwhile if any work done, it will be subject to final outcome of the present Application, without claiming any right of equity arising out of execution of construction work and without pleadings in advance of any ‘fait Accompli’.
Feb 25, 2014 NGT order: “Learned Additional Advocate General, seeks time to file comprehensive reply affidavit, as regards the nature of project in question. He submits that filing of such affidavit requires co-ordination of various departments and Agencies, which will take certain time. He, therefore, seeks reasonable time to complete the exercise of preparing reply affidavit. He undertakes to maintain directions as regards keeping of equity, in the light of earlier order dated 31st January, 2014.” The application next comes up for hearing on May 9, 2014.
April 1, 2014 People of 70 villages affected by Garudeshwar Dam hold protest demonstration in Vadodara.
April 14, 2014 Blasting at Garudeshwar village for the dam leads to rock fall on people, endangering lives of children and also shaking of houses.
Conclusion It is clear that Garudeshwar Dam does not have any justification, any impact assessment study, any required statutory clearances, any consents from affected Gram Sabhas and or even from the state which is supposed to get majority of the questionable claimed benefits. This dam seems like a symbol of Gujarat Government’s dam fundamentalism.
The reason as to why the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is not taking action against this illegal work or why the Union Water Resources Ministry is supporting the work or why the political opposition in Gujarat is silent on this dam is still a mystery. However, under the current circumstances, the project must be stopped immediately. We hope NGT takes this step urgently. It is high time that political parties fighting elections in the area and Gujarat take a stand on this dam immediately.
Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
 “The letter of acceptance-cum-work order for the construction of Garudeshwar Weir across river Narmada near village Garudeshwar has been issued to agency M/s Rithwik Project Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad by SSNNL, Gandhinagar vide letter No. CPC/ Garudeshwar Weir/ 2011/657-P-II dated 04.05.2012”, as per Minutes of 104th meeting of PSC of SSCAC held on Aug 23, 2012.
 Minutes of 104th meeting of Permanent Standing Committee of SSCAC held on Aug 23, 2012, obtained by SANDRP under RTI.
 That the officials knew about the opposition is clear from the Gujarat Samachar clipping of Oct 22, 2012, carrying warning from affected people that if their issues are not settled, the work on the dam will be stopped. This clipping was included in the agenda notes for the 80th meeting of SSCAC held on March 25, 2013.
 The minutes of the 105th meeting of the PSC of SSCAC held in Feb 2013 noted on the issue of Garudeshwar dam, “The representative of GOG informed that work is delayed due to objection of the local peoples for giving better R&R package”.
 Calling is weir is clearly an attempt to mislead everyone, giving an impression that is a low dam, which it is not.
Bahut kathin hai dagar chunav ki; kyo bhar lau pipe-link se ye mataki….
Hype vs Reality of Narmada Kshipra Pipeline Project
The Narmada Kshipra Simhastha Project is to be dedicated to the people of Malwa by former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on Feb 25, 2014. Significantly, it is happening in absence of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
The full page advertisement (going on daily during Feb 23-25, 2014 at huge public expense) and the hype that is being created by the Madhya Pradesh’s BJP government around pumping of around 5000 litres of Narmada water per second from a small Sisalia tank through 47 km long pipeline involving four stage pumping and releasing in the bed of dry KshipraRiver needs to be put in correct perspective. Madhya Pradesh government calls it river linking that too “the first-ever river linking project of the country” (see Madhya Pradesh Govt press release dated: Jan 9, 2013). Such claims are not only a fraudulent presentation, possibly aimed to create a hype in view of the upcoming elections, but are factually wrong in many ways. In MP itself, Indore and Bhopal [both outside Narmada basin] have been getting water from Narmada river through such pipeline schemes for many years, Indore is now getting water through third phase of the scheme). More importantly, the project will not be able to deliver most of the benefits it claims.
The hype The Madhya Pradesh government claims this is “Making possible what seemed impossible”. It is not clear since when has pumping 5 cumecs water through piple-line become impossible in India. It is claimed to be “Realizing the dream of former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Bajpeyi” (wrong spellings in the official MP govt advertisements). It is not clear when did Mr Vajpayee say that it was his dream to achieve pumping of some water through 47 km long pipeline. The project achievement, the advertisement claims: “First phase of restoring Malwa’s legendary prosperity successful”. This claim actually takes the cake and much more! What happened to Malwa’s legendary prosperity? Did they need piped water from another basin for that? How can such a limited quantity of water from another basin at huge cost achieve that?
Some over-enthusiastic MP government officials are claiming (see press statement dated Nov 27, 2012) that this project will also link Narmada with Ganga and some water from the project will go right upto Allahabad! It is just god’s grace that they did not claim it will also help Bangladesh in achieving greater food production!
The reality But first let us understand what this project is about. The water that will be pumped from Sisalia tank will reach there from NarmadaRiver: through one of the right bank canals of Omkareshwar dam. So the path of the water will be: Narmada river – Omkareshwar dam – common water carrier canal – right bank canal – Rising main of Omkareshwar project Phase IV – Sisalia tank – pump station (PS)-1 – Rising Main (RS pipe) 1 – BP Tank 1 – Gravity Main (GM) 1 – PS-2 – RM-2 – PS 3 – RM 3 – BPT 2 – GM 2 – PS 4 – RM 4 – tank – (Ujjaini village) Kshipra river. Secondly, how much of the water that is released from the dam will reach the consumers? There are no assessment of this in public domain, but considering the long path of the water even after reaching the Kshipra riverbed and considering huge evaporation losses and seepages into the dry riverbed and aquifers below, only a small fraction, less than a quarter of the water pumped, would reach the consumers.
Unaffordable cost of water Thirdly, this pipeline project involves pumping through 47 km long pipes that would raise the elevation of water by about 348 m from Sisliya (228 m) to Ujjaini (576 m) through pipelines of 1.8 m diameter. This involves use of at least 27.5 MW of power. The power bill of this project would be Rs 118.92 crores per year as per the MP Govt Public Relations Officer (PRO), power cost would be Rs 9 per KL for the pumping of 362 MLD (Million Liters per day). Even if 35% (very optimistic assessment) of the water were to reach the consumers, just the power cost of the raw water reaching the consumer would come to Rs 24 per KL (kiloliter). If we add the cost of maintenance, replacement cost, staff costs for the Narmada Kshipra Pipe Project (NKPP) and also the cost of treatment, distribution of the water to the consumers, the cost of the water that would reach consumer will multiply, would surely go much above Rs 50 per KL. Compare this to the water rate of Rs 5-10 per KL that average urban consumer in India is paying. Which of the rural or even urban consumer is going pay this kind of water bill? Here it may be added that the Rs 432 crores of the project cost is not even included in this water rate. More importantly, do we need this project for drinking water needs of Malwa? Such high head pumping schemes have proved unviable elsewhere too.
It maybe added here that Kshipra river is today in highly polluted state. About 4 lakh liters of polluted water is entering the Kshipra river from Dewas city and industries, affecting villages of Ujjain, Dewas and Indore, and also Hirli dam and even groundwater. The Madhya Pradesh government has completely failed to ensure that such illegal dumping of polluted water is stopped. Now pouring this pipeline water to the polluted Kshipra water would only mean more quantity of polluted water.
Inappropriate use of Omkareshwar Project’s water and funds The administrative approval for the project dated Oct 19, 2012 says the cost of the project will be taken from Omkareshwar Project Unit II (Canals). Now this raises many questions. Firstly, it is clearly wrong to include the cost of the NKPP in the Omkareshwar canal cost. Secondly, this component was not included in the Omkareshwar project as approved by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Water Commission or the Planning Commission. Adding this component to the Omkareshwar project would change the scope of the project and which should entail a fresh clearance from all these authorities. Thirdly, the Omkareshwar project canals get significant funding from Union of India under AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme) and using that project money for such completely new component is clearly wrong, also from audit and accounts point of view. We are sure CAG will take due note of this and disallow such practices.
Similarly, diversion of water from Omkareshwar canal has angered the farmers and they have filed an Interlocutory Application in Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, asking for stay on inauguration of the project. While the HC has not provided a stay, it has remarked that command area of the project cannot be changed. As Rehmat of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra said, these projects are also creating new conflicts, which also happened in case of Veda dam in NarmadaValley. More conflicts are likely to come up in future.
No Impact Assessments, no participatory process There has been no social or environmental impact assessment for this project at any stage. The project also escaped need for environmental clearance using the loophole (which has been questioned for years now) that drinking water projects do not need environmental clearances and hence environmental or social impact assessment or management plans or monitoring or public consultations. In fact, since the project was funded from Omkareshwar project fund, use of that loophole itself is fraudulent. From the statements of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and others, they seemed quite sure about the project being beneficial. Why then they did not have any participatory processes and impact assessments? Incidentally, Mr Advani laid the foundation stone for the project on Nov 29, 2012, strangely at Ujjaini, where no significant work of the project was to happen, leave aside starting of the work where normally, foundation is laid! Did the project have inappropriate foundation?
That the project had adverse impacts was apparent even from Govt of MP Press statement of March 21, 2013, which said: “Families who are growing water melons for generations at Kshipra river’s originating point Sisliya reservoir urged Shri Agrawal to give them assistance since they will no more be able to grow water melons due to all-weather filling of Sisliya reservoir due to the project and their livelihood will be affected. Shri Agrawal assured to consider these families’ demands sympathetically.” It is not clear, what decision, Mr K L Agrawal, then chairman of NVDA, took about these and other affected people, it has not been brought out in public domain. There was also forest land affected in construction of the pipeline. There will also be issue of huge energy footprint and hence carbon foot-print of this water. These are only a few of the environmental issues related to the project.
The project was in fact approval through a hurried process without any involvement of either the people of the NarmadaValley or the people of the Malwa. The introductory note of Govt of Madhya Pradesh’s Narmada Valley Development Authority claims: “The Malwa region of M.P. had been reeling under acute water scarcity since about 3 decades. The ground water was plummeting at fast pace and experts had opined that if such conditions prevails, the whole Malwa region shall transform into a desert. The life line of M.P.-Narmada was the only option to feed the water to Malwa…” Similarly, MP Information Department Press Release says: “…the Chief Minister concluded that the crisis can be solved only through Narmada water.” Amazing claims, since there are areas within Malwa that are even today have no water shortage, as can be seen from the screenshots from the film on water harvesting work done in Malwa. However, more importantly, is there anything to substantiate this standard “only option” theory? Why did the government not have a participatory process for arriving at such a conclusion? Also, if Malwa was once prosperous, without needing water from outside, why has it come to this stage now? Why not tackle those reasons? Why did Kshipra, a perennial, sada nira River became, seasonal, polluted River?
As Planning Commission member Dr Mihir Shah recently wrote, the 12th Five Year Plan proposes paradigm shift in Urban sector sector: “Each city must consider, as the first source of supply, its local waterbodies. Therefore, cities must only get funds for water projects, when they have accounted for the water supply from local waterbodies and have protected these waterbodies and their catchments. This precondition will force protection and build the infrastructure, which will supply locally and then take back sewage also locally.” The NKPP clearly violates this norm.
Story of proven alternative: Jal Khet However, this conclusion of There Is No Alternative (TINA for short) is typical phrase used by authorities to shut down any questions or debate. There are many Options for the Malwa region, but to see something that has been proven by the people of Malwa on ground, see a 25 minute film Jal Khet by Anjali Nayar, done for the International Water Management Institute, the film synopsis says: “In this awe-inspiring tale of innovation and courage, watch how the district administration joined forces with the villagers to bring water to this arid land. Soon the entire district would come under the throes of change in a massive effort to resolve its own problems, and many other fascinating and unforeseen changes would be discovered to have accrued. The perseverance of these people is a testimony to the enormous human capacity for resourcefulness and resilience.” Note that the district administration and the state were involved in this effort! Even the United Nations recognised this Bhagirath Krishak Abhiyan as best practice of water conservation for food security, as recently as in 2012. There should be no doubt that there are better alternatives than the Narmada Kshipra pipeline project.
The Bhagirath Krishak Abhiyan work was simple: create farm ponds in Dewas district villages in Malwa that will harvest rainwater and provide source for groundwater recharge, irrigation and drinking water. The scheme started on a slow note, but has picked up over the years and has led to construction of over 4500 ponds, recharging groundwater, increasing water and food security and making the people so confident that they say they will never have water shortage. The biodiversity in the area has increased, with lots of birds and some wild animals too coming to the area. While there could be some questions about the claims of the district collector and other government officials, there is little doubt that if such works are implemented with honesty and participation, they can bring significant change.
Is this Interlinking of Rivers? Is this part of ILR? The whole hype bringing in Vajpayee dreams etc seems designed to imply that the NKPP is part of the controversial and discredited interlinking of Rivers proposal. This is clearly far fetched and a major stretch on the credulity of all concerned, considering the scale, manner and cost of the ILR compared to a water pipeline project like NKPP. While it does involve transfer of some water from one basin to another for drinking water and the NKPP, like the ILR itself is of seriously doubtful justification, optimality, desirability and sustainability, there can be no comparison of NKPP with the ILR. Moreover, in ILR scheme of things, Kshipra, being part of Ganga basin, is surplus basin, and Narmada, claimed to be a deficit basin, is supposed to get water from Par and Tapi rivers! It seems we are seeing a case of Ulti Ganga here too, compared to ILR!
But than MP is not new to working at cross purposes with the ILR project. It already did that in case of Mohanpura and Kundalia major irrigation projects in Chambal basin in recent months. Both projects are part of PKC (Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal, one of the five prioritized links of ILR) link of the ILR project, but MP is going ahead with the projects independently, jeopardizing the ILR link. And the Central Water Commission is in fact supporting MP in these machinations.
Next phase of Narmada Malwa link? The Madhya Pradesh government is saying that the NKPP is only phase 1 of a larger programme. In next phases, they hope to transfer water from NarmadaRiver to other tributaries of ChambalRiver like the Kali Sindh, Parbati and Gambhir. Those phases will involve much bigger transfer, much bigger impacts, costs and implications. However, the MP govt on Sept 27, 2013, gave in principle approval to full Narmada Malwa link at the cost of Rs 2375 crores and asked the NVDA to prepare Detailed Project Reports for these phases. The next phase is making impossible sounding claims of achieving irrigation to 17 lakh ha, drinking water to 3000 villages and 75 towns, in addition to water for industries!
No information is available as to how much water is to be transferred (earlier estimates said 3 Million Acre Feet of water is to be transferred, requiring over 550 MW of power), in what manner and with what impacts. MP govt is clearly most undemocratic, non transparent and non participatory. There is an interesting clause in the administrative in principle approval, however. It says the project operation and maintenance expenses must be recovered from the farmers! Rehmat of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra based in Badwani suspects this is because the project is part of the application to the World Bank. Going by the first phase costs, the O&M (Operation and Maintenance) costs of next phase are going to be only higher! But farmers have no clue what they are going to be asked to pay! In no state of India are the farmers charged to completely recover the O and M expenses. In this project, it would clearly be impossible, considering the much larger O&M costs of this project compared to standard gravity fed canals. Is this than a ploy to create a water source of urban and industrial areas?
However, besides requiring the statutory impact assessments and clearances, the next phase will also have serious inter state implications for the downstream Gujarat state (even NKPP will transfer 158 MCM of water). Gujarat sees NarmadaRiver and the Sardar Sarovar Project on it as its lifeline. The large no of projects that MP is building and planning to build on Narmada is going to have serious implications for Gujarat. With hydrological basis of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, on basis of which Sardar Sarovar has been designed, already in doubt, Gujarat would be wary of this. Now with these Madhya Pradesh plans of transferring water outside the basin, Gujarat would be very worried! And so would Modi! But as recent Madhya Pradesh decisions have shown, Madhya Pradesh is least bothered about downstream states.
In fact, while the discredited ILR is included in Modi’s Lok Sabha elections agenda, he seems to be missing from the scene at this major ILR moment (Modi also completely forgot about it during his trip to North East, it seems, but that is another story!). May be, Gujarat’s worries at Madhya Pradesh schemes are somewhere a reason for this? It is clear, to paraphrase the words of famous qawalli of yester-years (with apologies to poet Sahir Ludhianwi), Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki… Full page advertisements at public expenses, making unfounded claims about river linking are much easier!
Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP [We would like to acknowledge the useful comments provided by Shripad Dharmadhikary and Rehmat from Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP on an earlier draft of this note.]
Time line of Kshipra Narmada Pipeline Project
April 8, 2007 A global call floated by NVDA to invite EoI for selecting a consultant for DPR
Aug 8 2012 The approval of project was given by the CM, to be completed in one year
Aug 27, 2012 Tenders invited
Oct 12 2012 Official sanction for Rs. 432 Crore was accorded
Oct 19 2012 Approval letter issued
Nov 5, 2012 Contracts signed (not clear who are the contractors)
Nov 29 2012 Mr. L K Advani laid the foundation stone
Feb 25 2014 Project to be dedicated to the nation after time over run of 25%