Madhya Pradesh

Hype vs Reality of Narmada Kshipra Pipeline Project

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[1]).  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. 

Dewas district collector Umakant Umarao explaining in Jal Khet film how RWH is the best option for the region and showed this on ground
Dewas district collector Umakant Umarao explaining in Jal Khet film how RWH is the best option for the region and showed this on ground

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!

A farmer of Malwa describing the problem and solution, the result can be seen in the background, from film Jal Khet
A farmer of Malwa describing the problem and solution, the result can be seen in the background, from film Jal Khet

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.

The project claims it will provide drinking water to Dewas and Ujjain cities, over 250 villages along Kshipra river, supply water to Ujjain, Dewas and Pithampur and also recharge groundwater! Showing true intentions, agreements have already been signed with Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor for providing 90 MLD (or 25% of the 362 MLD water to be pumped in this scheme) water from this project to Pitampur industrial area in Malwa at the rate of Rs 26 per KL. That will leave very little water for other claimed objectives. Who will get how much water is a matter of assessments which are not in public domain. Moreover, in absence of credible  wastewater treatment system and governance in place, more water for industry would mean more untreated industrial effluents into the Kshipra river, worsening the problems for the river and the people. (See: http://www.patrika.com/news/narmada-shipra-river-link-to-pithampur-sanctioned-by-dmic/958548http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/MP-IND-special-purpose-vehicle-proposed-for-rs-200-cr-pithampur-water-supply-plan-4236793-NOR.html

)

An engineer explains that ponds in Malwa would certainly fill up even at 400 mm rainfall, from film Jal Khet
An engineer explains that ponds in Malwa would certainly fill up even at 400 mm rainfall, from film Jal Khet

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[2]. 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. 

4500 ponds constructed in just four years, storing 100 MCM water, more water than what Narmada Kshipra pipeline will bring here at much higher expenses: Jal Khet film
4500 ponds constructed in just four years, storing 100 MCM water, more water than what Narmada Kshipra pipeline will bring here at much higher expenses: Jal Khet film

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.

A farmer in film Jal Khet explains how Malwa villages could prosper without the Narmada waters
A farmer in film Jal Khet explains how Malwa villages could prosper without the Narmada waters

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? 

A screenshot from film Jal Khet showing a rainwater harvesting structure in a village in Dewas district in Malwa
A screenshot from film Jal Khet showing a rainwater harvesting structure in a village in Dewas district in Malwa

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[3] 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 farm pond movement also led to reduction in electricity consumption, reducing carbon footprint, but the govt scheme is actually going to increase it manifold!
The farm pond movement also led to reduction in electricity consumption, reducing carbon footprint, but the govt scheme is actually going to increase it manifold!

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[4] 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[5] 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.

The chief minister, through full page advts is now projecting himself as Bhagirath, but the Malwa communities already got it from UN in 2012, from film Jal Khet
The chief minister, through full page advts is now projecting himself as Bhagirath, but the Malwa communities already got it from UN in 2012, from film Jal Khet

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[6], 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.

People started celebrating birthdays of talab and death ceremony of the tubewells in Malwa, from film Jal khet, but MP govt seems hell bent on imposing the pumps on the people
People started celebrating birthdays of talab and death ceremony of the tubewells in Malwa, from film Jal khet, but MP govt seems hell bent on imposing the pumps on the people

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! 

Watch the confidence of the people: No drinking water shortage EVER! (Jal Khet film)
Watch the confidence of the people: No drinking water shortage EVER! (Jal Khet film)

But than MP is not new to working at cross purposes with the ILR project. It already did that in case of Mohanpura[7] 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. 

Model of sangam tirth from NVDA website
Model of sangam tirth from NVDA website

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! 

The whole farm pond movement has led to change in heart of some govt officials, from Jal Khet filmThe whole farm pond movement has led to change in heart of some govt officials, from Jal Khet film
The whole farm pond movement has led to change in heart of some govt officials, from Jal Khet filmThe whole farm pond movement has led to change in heart of some govt officials, from Jal Khet film

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? 

Photo from NVDA, showing part of the pipeline
Photo from NVDA, showing part of the pipeline

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[8] 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[9], Madhya Pradesh is least bothered about downstream states. 

Another screenshot from Jal Khet showing why the govt official changed his views
Another screenshot from Jal Khet showing why the govt official changed his views

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.]

Annexure 1:

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%

END NOTES:


[2] 4 lakh litre chemical water being released to Kshipra 4 lakh litre chemical water being released to Kshipra 

[3] Govt of MP press statement here was clearly wrong, Sisliya is not where Kshripa river originates.

Madhya Pradesh · Narmada

Chinki Major Irrigation Project on Narmada: Yet another evidence of MP’s obsession with Large Irrigation Dams & WAPCOS’s shoddy reports

In recent years Madhya Pradesh has been on a Major Irrigation project spree. Some such projects at various stages of Environmental and forest clearance from MP recently include the Kundaliya Major Irrigation Project which will submerge nearly 8000 hectares of land and displace more than 8000 people, Kalisindh Major Irrigation project which will submerge nearly 5000 hectares of land and displace more than 2000 people, Mohanpura Major Irrigation project which will submerge more than  7000 hectares of land and displace more than 10,000 people and  Bansujara Multipurpose project on Dhasan river (Betwa/Yamuna basin) which will submerge more than 5200 hectares (though the EMP of the project also done by WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy Services) then says that submergence will be 7476 hectares!) and displace at least 25,000 people .[i],[ii]

Projects in Narmada Basin Photo: NVDA
Projects in Narmada Basin Photo: NVDA

It is significant to note that Madhya Pradesh has one of the worst records of dealing with rehabilitation and resettlement of affected population. The state is struggling with several serious issues including mining (including illegal mining), sand mining, deforestation, alienation of tribals from their lands and rights, etc.

Affected tribal population of the Kharak Dam in Khargone District who were brutalised by police force for peacefully protesting against the dam Photo: The Hindu
Affected tribal population of the Kharak Dam in Khargone District who were brutalised by police force for peacefully protesting against the dam Photo: The Hindu

It is also significant that it was at the behest of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan that the clause of Social impact Assessment for Irrigation Projects and land for land compensation for affected population was deliberately removed from the new Land Acquisition Act 2013 (The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013).[iii] How the Union government agreed to this blackmail is another question.

Chinki Project Latest addition to the long list of irrigation projects in MP is the Chinki Major irrigation Project in Narsinghpur District, proposed by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). The project envisages irrigation for 89,029 ha of gross command area in Narsinghpur and Raisen Districts and 15 MW of hydro power generation. This project will affect more than 8000 hectares of land and affect a whopping 49 villages in Narsinghpur and Jabalpur according to its preliminary estimate. The project was awarded Terms of Reference Clearance by the EAC of the MoEF in its 58th meeting in June 2012. Recommending TORs (Terms of Reference, which is the first stage clearance) implies that the pre-feasibility study has been done thoroughly and the same is appraised in detail by the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment and Forests) EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee) for River Valley Projects.

Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh
Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh
Chinki Irrigation Project Plan
Chinki Irrigation Project Plan

Shattering all these assumptions, we see that Chinki Multipurpose project has applied for TORs again and is on agenda for the 72nd EAC meeting being held on Feb 20-21, 2014 for strange reasons.  A perusal of the new PFR (Pre Feasibility Report) exposes that the initial PFR and assumptions were flawed beyond imagination! The initial PFR was done by WAPCOS, which is under the Ministry of Water Resources of India. WAPCOS has been routinely churning out studies of substandard quality and seems to have a strong bias AGAINST environment and people. At the same time, this incidence raises a question mark over the so called “detailed scrutiny” that is done by the EAC of the MoEF while appraising a project. SANDRP studied the new proposal in detail and sent comments to the EAC, MoEF. Excerpts from the submission are given here.

Vast difference between two PFRs! The EAC had issued TORs to Chinki Project in its 58th meeting in June 2012 9PFR by WAPCOS). It is shocking to see the drastic changes between the two PFRs, considering that the dam site and command is staying exactly the same. Comparison of original project features with revised features reveals that the changes in project features include-

  • Catchment area decreased by more than half the original from 8,802 sq.  km to 4,377 Sq. km
  • Dam height decreased from 35.5 m to 30 m.
  • Submergence increased more than twice from 3,250 Ha to 6,995 Ha
  • Land to be acquired nearly doubled from 4,150 Ha to 7,895 Ha
  • FRL decreased from 348 m to 340 m.

So with lesser catchment area, same dam location, lower dam height, the submergence area has more than doubled!!

These facts highlights how shoddy and unreliable the initial PFR done by WAPCOS and put forward to the EAC was, which was cleared by the EAC. This is a clear case of providing factually wrong reports to the EAC and MOEF and EAC and MoEF should take a clear stand on this instance and suggest necessary punitive steps against the Project Proponent and WAPCOS. This is yet another instance of shoddy work of WAPCOS.

It is high time that the EAC and MoEF blacklist WAPCOS for its conflict of interest and poor quality work. The EAC should not award a new TOR for this scheme, but should ask the MP government to change its EIA consultant, enquire into the reasons and persons responsible for this fraud and undertake necessary steps, including points raised below.

Cumulative Impact Assessment of Projects on Narmada should be mandatory before considering any more projects: The 58th Meeting itself noted the severe over-development of NarmadaBasin in Madhya Pradesh and beyond. The Chinki Multipurpose Project on the Narmada is sixth project after the Upper Narmada, Raghavpur, Rosara, Basania and Bargi Projects, amongst the schemes proposed in the upstream of this site on river Narmada. There are 7 existing projects in the Narmada Basin namely, Karjan (Karjan River), Sukta (Sukta River), Tawa (Tawa River), Barna (Barna River), Bargi (Narmada River) and Matiyari Major (Matiyari River). There are 7 on- going projects namely; Sardar Sarover on Narmada River, Jobat (Hathni River), Man (Man River), Upper Beda (Beda River), Maheshwar, Omkareshwar and Narmada Sagar on Narmada River. Besides these projects, there are 17 projects proposed in the basin!

Jal Satyagraha at Omkareshwar Dam Photo: The Hindu
Jal Satyagraha at Omkareshwar Dam Photo: The Hindu

Most of these projects are fraught with serious issues related to massive displacement, forest submergence, poor rehabilitation and resettlement, tribal issues and forest rights, reservoir fishing leases, legal and procedural issues, questionable benefits, lack of assessments or appraisals, etc. Considering these issues and also MoEF’s Office Memorandum of May 28, 2013, a cumulative impact assessment of all projects in Narmada, including the carrying capacity study should be carried out. This was recommended by the EAC also in its 58th meeting. However, this study should not be conducted by MP Govt or NVDA or WAPCOS, as this is a clear conflict of interest. The study should be carried out involving a multidisciplinary team of experts & local participation after TORs of the study are discussed in public domain. Only after such a study has been approved through a participatory process should other projects be considered. Looking at the severe impact of ongoing projects on Narmada and its people, this is needed to uphold the principle of sustainable development.

Madhya Pradesh’s extremely poor track record of rehabilitation & resettlement For almost three decades now agitations have been going on against MP Govt’s poor R&R. In one of the latest episodes, in Aug 2012, several affected people from Omakareshwar and Indira Sagar Dam undertook a Jal Satyagrah for 17 days together against absence of rehabilitation by MP Govt. The Supreme Court issued a show cause notice to MP Govt and again in 2013, the SC passed strictures against MP Govt when the latter tried to demand an undertaking from farmers affected by the Omkareshwar dam to the effect that they will not demand compensatory land under the rehabilitation policy[iv]. The MP Government has indulged in a number of unfair and unjust practices about rehabilitation and resettlement.  It is to be noted here that at least 5 villages submerged by the Omkareshwar dam were not even envisaged to be submerged, indicating the blunders in planning, as well as insensitivity to the displaced population. Affected population of Omkareshwar had to risk their lives while protesting against the unjust ways of MP Government. MP govt’s injustice to SSP affected people is well known, the govt just refused to provide land to the displaced people. MP govt has also shown least concern of the impacts of such projects on the downstream states[v].

bargi

Again last year, oustees from Omkareshwar, Indira Sagar, Maheshwar, Maan and Upper Beda all protested together[vi] in Bhopal. The EAC should be aware of the past performance of MP govt in this regard, it should not give TOR clearance for Chinki project which will submerge nearly 8000 ha of land.

Narmada

WAPCOS’s poor track record: Time and again WAPCOS reports have proved to be of poor quality, aimed only at pushing projects and not concerned at all with any objective or rigorous analysis of the impacts. We have pointed this out to the EAC several times, latest related to Kundaliya, Bansujara[vii] and Mohanpura[viii] Irrigation Projects in MP, and Kangtangshiri HEP in Arunachal Pradesh, but the EAC and MoEF do not seem to be bothered by these serious problems. NGT has indicated that problematic EIA agents need to be blacklisted, but MoEF is not ready to blacklist WAPCOS. Even the Forest Advisory Committee, a statutory body, has passed strictures against WAPCOS.

Plagiarisation: In Chinki Project too, section on wildlife and forests is in fact a description of Kanha National Park, which is far away from the project site. The section says: “At times one is surprised that wild life has survived so well despite the decades of senseless slaughter indulged in by the so called big-game hunters.” This seems unrelated to the project site and is plagiarized from a MP tourist website![ix]

No mention of cumulative impacts: The PFR makes no mention of evident cumulative impacts. The entire section on environmental impacts is superficial.

Discrepancies: The EAC had specifically noted the impact of 2 kms tunnel on forest land. At page 6 and 24, PFR mentions length of tunnel to be 66 meters. At page VII-4, the length of the same tunnel becomes 2.025 kms and at VII- 49, it becomes 2.5 kms!

Form I: In the section 9 on Cumulative impacts, the Form I says there are no cumulative impacts! This is absolutely incorrect when the hydrology, sociology and ecology of the Narmada basin is being changed by several existing, planned and u/construction dams in the basin.

Rainfall in command is nearly 1200 mm! Options Assessment needed: The PFR states:The purpose is to develop irrigation to about 74273 ha culturable command area spread over the Narsinghpur and Raisen Districts to improve the irrigation system by supplementing limited and erratic rainfall.” (Emphasis added.) Now the average rainfall of Raisen and Narsinghpur Districts is 1200 and 1192 mm each! This is by no means limited. The taluks to be services by the project: Kareli, Tendukheda, Barely and Udaipura have good groundwater irrigation. Barely is the biggest Gud Mandi in India and also has a good network of canal irrigation. In such a situation, rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge & watershed management should be the first options rather than large dams.

In fact, looking at the dependence on groundwater and the groundwater potential of the region, the Central Groundwater Board recommends creation of several percolation tanks.[xi]

Considering all these issues, we have requested the EAC not to award TORs to Chinki Irrigation Project unless Cumulative Impact Assessment is completed, thorough options assessment is done and a holistic view of human and ecological development in NarmadaBasin in Madhya Pradesh is adopted. We also expect the EAC to recommend action against the Project Proponent and WAPCOS for submitted factually wrong reports to EAC and MoEF.

Amruta Pradhan, Parineeta Dandekar

END NOTES:


[ii] Other recent projects include Pancham Nagar Multipurpose project in Ken River Basin requiring 2260 ha of land, Pawai irrigation project on Ken River in Panna district, Runjh irrigation project in Panna district, Datuni irrigation project in Dewas district, Sip Kolar River link project, Upper Ghogra irrigation project in Sehore district in Narmada basin and Tori Tank project in Badwani district.