Hindi Blogs · Madhya Pradesh · Urban Water Sector

बाढ़, शहर और नियोजन !

Guest Article by: अभिलाष खांडेकर

कईं वर्ष पूर्व अमेरिका दूसरी बार जाना हुआ। किंतु उस यात्रा में उन पूराने शहर जहाँ मैं पहले जा चुका था, जाना नहीं था, इसलिए मैं ख़ुश था। नए-नए शहर देखना, उनकी बसाहट और इतिहास जानना व उस शहर के किसी भी संग्रहालय को भेंट देना मेरा शौक़ रहा हैं। तो शिकागो शहर जाना हुआ।  शहर का इतिहास जाना तो पता लगा की कैसे एक बार उस शहर का काफ़ी बड़ा हिस्सा जल जाने के बाद नगर नियोजको (अर्बन प्लानर) ने शहर वासियों की मदत से फिर से शिकागो को बनाया। शिकागो नदी के किनारे के इस शहर को नए सिरे से बसाने में नगर-नियोजक डैनीअल बर्नहम की महती भूमिका रही। उन्होंने ही १९०९ में जो विकास योजना बनाईं उसे नगर-नियोजन के वैश्विक इतिहास में स्वर्णाक्षरों में लिखा गया हैं। ‘द प्लान ऑफ़ शिकागो’ नाम से एक सुंदर पुस्तक कॉर्ल स्मिथ नामक लेखक ने उस योजना के लागू होने व शिकागो शहर ने अच्छी नगर-नियोजन प्रणालियों के चलते प्रगति और नाम हांसिल करने के लगभग १०० वर्ष बाद लिखी। उक्त पुस्तक पढ़ने के बाद मेरी दिलचस्पी नगर-नियोजन विषय मैं और अधिक बढ़ी। इंदौर का रहने वाला होने से मैंने स्कॉटिश नगर-नियोजक सर पैट्रिक गेडेज़ के बारे में काफ़ी पढ़-सुन रखा था। गेडेज़ साहब ने ही होलकर महाराज के निमंत्रण पर इंदौर का पहला प्लान १९१४-१९१६ के मध्य बनाया था। गेडेज़ ने इंदौर के अलावा देश के ५०-५५ शहरों की विकास योजनाए बनाईं थीं, जो एक दुर्लभ कीर्तिमान हैं। किंतु यह दुर्भाग्य ही है की उन्हें आज की पीढ़ी कम ही जानती हैं। इंदौर का वह प्लान भी अपने ज़माने का शहरी नियोजन का उमदा दस्तावेज़ हैं जिसमें नदियों का महत्व १०० साल पहले उन विदेशी नियोजक ने रेखांकित किया था।

ख़ैर, मैंने यह छोटी भूमिका इसलिए लिखी जिससे नगर नियोजन के महत्व पर अलग से प्रकाश डाला जा सकें।

जिस महान, प्राचीन भारत में नगरीय सभ्यता व नियोजन की सुंदरता के संदर्भ में मोहनजोदडो व हड़प्पा संस्कृति को चरमोत्कर्ष के रूप में जाना-पहचाना जाता हैं उसी देश में अब नगर नियोजन के समकालीन विज्ञान और कला के साथ-साथ वहाँ के नगरनियोजनकर्ताओं की क्षमताओं पर गम्भीर प्रश्नचिन्ह लगातार खड़े हो रहें हैं। ये इसीलिए की अलग अलग योजनाओं के बावजूद भी तमाम शहरों के हालात चिंतनीय बने हुए हैं।

Continue reading “बाढ़, शहर और नियोजन !”
Gujarat · Madhya Pradesh · Narmada

Gujarat has so much Narmada water this year: Why not share with drought hit & thirsty?

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.

In fact, it was astonishing to find that the water level at SSP kept rising from March 3 (115.55 m) to April 8, 2019 (119.37 m), it has only marginally dropped since then. This was happening bang in the middle of summer! Continue reading “Gujarat has so much Narmada water this year: Why not share with drought hit & thirsty?”

Irrigation · Madhya Pradesh

Pawai Dam Project displacing people without Rehabilitation, allege PAFs

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”

Interlinking of RIvers · Madhya Pradesh · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Ministry of Water Resources

NGT Admits Appeal Challenging Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa Project

Press Release                                                                                                                  Oct 30, 2017

National Green Tribunal Admits Appeal Challenging

Environment Clearance to Ken Betwa Project:

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”

Interlinking of RIvers · Madhya Pradesh

Ken Betwa Project to destroy Raneh Falls: India’s Mini Grand Canyon-cum- Mini Niagra

“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).

In fact, there are Amazing number of untold stories of the destruction that the proposed Ken Betwa link will cause. One of them is the story of Raneh Falls. The name is a bit of misnomer, but let us stick to it. Continue reading “Ken Betwa Project to destroy Raneh Falls: India’s Mini Grand Canyon-cum- Mini Niagra”

Gujarat · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Narmada

Sardar Sarovar gate closure without resettlement or justification is a inhuman, unjust decision: Will SC intervene?

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.”

The gate closure will lead to submergence and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, without even proper resettlement as legally required. There is also no justification for the decision as the canal infrastructure necessary to use the additional water that the dam will store with increase in height from 121.92 mts to 138.68 mts is not even ready. Continue reading “Sardar Sarovar gate closure without resettlement or justification is a inhuman, unjust decision: Will SC intervene?”

Agriculture · Dams · Irrigation · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Marathwada

Pulse Farmers: Custodians of Fertility, Water and Climate-friendly Agriculture

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”

Gujarat · Madhya Pradesh · Ministry of Water Resources · Narmada

Appeal to Government to revoke unjustified decision of increase in Sardar Sarovar Dam Height to 138.68 and Start Dialogue

1 September 2014

To
Sushri Uma Bharati
The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Government of India
New Delhi
minister-mowr@nic.in, psmwr-mowr@nic.in, mod-mowr@nic.in, secy-mowr@nic.in, mwp@nic.in

Copy to:
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

Respected Madam,

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.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

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.

Yours sincerely,

A. C. Bhagabati,
A. Latha,
A. Vaidyanathan,
Achyut Das,
Amita Baviskar,
Ashish Kothari,
Bharat Patankar,
Brij Gopal,
Devaki Jain,
Dinesh Abrol,
Dunu Roy,
Ghanshyam Shah,
Himanshu Thakkar,
Himanshu Upadhyaya,
K. J. Joy,
Kanchan Chopra,
M K Prasad,
Mamata Dash,
Manoj Mishra,
N. C. Narayanan,
Nafisa Bharot,
Prashant Bhushan,
Rajeswari Sarala Raina,
Ramaswamy R. Iyer,
S. Janakarajan,
Sanjay Kak,
Seema Kulkarni,
Sharachchandra Lele,
Shripad Dharmadhikary,
Sudarshan Iyengar,
Sudhirendar Sharma,
Suhas Paranjape,
Vimalbhai,
Viren Lobo.

Names added subsequently:

Persis Ginwalla,

Rohit Prajapati

V N Sharma

For any further details and follow up please contact:
Ashish Kothari (chikikothari@gmail.com);
Himanshu Thakkar, (ht.sandrp@gmail.com);
Himanshu Upadhyaya (himanshugreen@gmail.com);
K. J. Joy (joykjjoy2@gmail.com);
Shripad Dharmadhkari (manthan.shripad@gmail.com);
Suhas Paranjape (suhas.paranjape@gmail.com)

Gujarat · Madhya Pradesh · Maharashtra · Ministry of Water Resources · Narmada

Why is Government of India indulging in this unwarranted & unnecessary act of raising SSP Dam height?

Why this hurry to submerge tribals and farmers under

Narmada waters?

In a shocking decision[1] 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.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

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).

The claim of Gujarat government that cost of the project has increased because height of the dam has not been raised is completely wrong. The cost of the project is going up (TOI has reported on June 13, 2014 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Narendra-Modi-gives-Gujarat-its-lifeline-Narmada-Dam-height-to-be-raised-by-17-metres-lakhs-will-lose-their-homes-activists-say/articleshow/36453275.cms) that the project has already spent Rs 65369 Crores and ultimate cost is likely to be Rs 90 000/-) because Gujarat government has not been able to complete the canal network and has also been paying huge amounts to service the debt.

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[2] and Gujarat has embarked on building another Garudeshwar Dam in immediate downstream without any impact assessments, participatory democratic process or required sanctions[3]. 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.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] http://www.firstpost.com/india/decision-to-raise-narmada-dam-height-by-17-metres-makes-medha-patkar-furious-1567405.html

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/why-is-gujarat-neglecting-safety-of-sardar-sarovar-dam/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/why-is-this-dam-being-constructed/

Madhya Pradesh · Narmada

Why is This Dam being constructed? Is this not an example of Big Dam Fundamentalism?

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[1] out of approved construction cost (alone) of Rs 438.18 Crores[2].

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[3],[4] 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[5] 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.

Ongoing work at Garudeshwar Dam site. Photo: SANDRP
Ongoing work at Garudeshwar Dam site. Photo: SANDRP

Sardar Sarovar Dam in the upstream of Garudeshwar dam. Photo - SANDRP
Sardar Sarovar Dam in the upstream of Garudeshwar dam. Photo – SANDRP

Map of Garudeshwar dam  affected area. It also shows the Sardar Sarovar on right side.  Photo: SANDRP
Map of Garudeshwar dam affected area. It also shows the Sardar Sarovar on right side. Photo: SANDRP

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[6] 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.”

River Narmada from Indravarna village which will be affected due to  construction of Garudeshwar dam. The map on the ground speaks volumes about locked between two dams and a river in reality.
River Narmada from Indravarna village which will be affected due to construction of Garudeshwar dam. This image speaks volumes about Narmada, the river in reality and the river locked between two dams as there in the map. Photo: SANDRP

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[7], 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[8], “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[9]), “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[10] 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[11] 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.

    Women leading the protest against Garudeshwar Dam. Photo: http://www.counterview.net/
    Women leading the protest against Garudeshwar Dam. Photo: http://www.counterview.net/
  • 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.

A milestone on the way to Sardar Sarovar, with the dam in the background. Photo: SANDRP
A milestone on the way to Sardar Sarovar, with the dam in the background. Photo: SANDRP

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 (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:
_________________________________

[1] “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.

[2] Minutes of 104th meeting of Permanent Standing Committee of SSCAC held on Aug 23, 2012, obtained by SANDRP under RTI.

[3] 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.

[4] 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”.

[5] Calling is weir is clearly an attempt to mislead everyone, giving an impression that is a low dam, which it is not.

[6] http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/garudeshwar-weir-could-pave-way-for-sardar-statue/776013/

[7] Annexure 79.2(C).5 with the Agenda for 79th meeting of SSCAC held in Feb 2012

[8] Agenda of the 79th meeting of SSCAC held in Feb 2012.

[9] Obtained by SANDRP under RTI Act.

[10] http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/tribal-body-demands-scrapping-of-garudeshwar-weir-113102901241_1.html

[11] http://www.counterview.net/2014/01/government-now-considering-to-use-force.html