Dam Disaster

2022: When Polavaram project further unraveled

(Feature Image: Flood water discharging from Polavaram Project to the downstream, in West Godavari district, on Jyly 12, 2022. The Hindu)

Polavaram is the largest and costliest big dam project under construction in India currently, though not much has been written about this projects and its impacts in mainstream in India. The project was given various clearances through a manipulated process, basic studies were not done before clearing it. Several petitions are pending before the various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, but the project is allowed to go ahead without resolving them or the inter-state issues. A number of issues related to the project has been unravelling over the years and in 2022, the project further unraveled as the news reports compiled here reveal.

A snapshot of the status at Polavaram Project: The downstream coffer dam is damaged, the Gap 1 and Gap 2 of the Dam are yet to be constructed, the 1.7 km long Diaphragm wall of the ECRF dam is submerged in flood waters, it was earlier damaged (scoured at two places over an an area of 200 m X 200 m) in 2019 floods implying additional expenditure of Rs 600 cr, the water flow at the dam site on July 15, 2022 was highest since 1920 for July, the assessment of the earlier damage to the diaphragm wall and future options that was underway when the floods struck in the second week of July 2022, had to be stopped while still incomplete, the rehabilitation colonies have been submerged as the engineers assessment proved wrong about their elevation. There is an uncertainty on the structural stability of the other facilities of the irrigation project due to incomplete construction of the main dam, as it is receiving an unprecedented inflow. The height of the upper Coffer dam was increased by 1 m to 44 m between 17 and 19 July, 2022, in the middle of high floods, but that had impact on upstream Telangana and they opposed that this was done without consulting them.

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Dam Disaster

2022 Fly ash dam breaches in India

(Feature image:- This is the second time in the six months that Rautdih village has become inundated by the breach of ash pond embankment in Bokaro. ToI, Oct. 09, 2022)

Most mining companies make dams to store the semi solid slurry waste from the mines. Similarly most thermal power projects have fly ash dams to store the fly ash slurry. These dams store highly toxic slurries but there is little happening by way of regulation, monitoring or compliance at design, construction or operation level. Many of these dams breach or overflow, leading of release of the toxic slurry in the downstream areas. These dams do not even come under monitoring of Central Water Commission or under the dam safety act passed by the parliament. Despite accidents happening with huge adverse consequences, there is no accountability.

In this report, we have compiled the instances that we could locate about breaches of such dams in 2022. We earlier wrote about the Singrauli instance in April 2020 and in the 2019 SW Monsoon dam breach compilation report.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 191222: Question marks over viability of pump hydro projects

(Feature Image: 1772 Mw PSHPs Spain. Photo courtesy of Iberdrola/ ENR)

The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.

This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.

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Dam floods

Dam Floods, Failures and Disasters in 2022

This annual overview highlights the dam induced flood disasters, dam failure incidents in India during 2022. This year, the massive floods in Godavari have exposed the flood vulnerability of giant projects like Polavaram and Kaleshwaram. Also there have been multiple dam failures and dam induced floods in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In absence of coordination and data sharing Hirakud induced floods in Mahanadi basin have affected several villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. There have been several instances of unscientific operations of dams and the operators continue to hide behind TINA (There Is No Alternative) excuse. The functioning of CWC as key flood forecasting and management agency has not shown any significant improvement. However, now it has accepted that faulty dam operations can lead to flood in downstream areas. Please see links to our 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 annual compilations on the subject.    

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Dams · floodplains · Floods

Broken Bandhans and mounds of muck: Consequences of unplanned Dredging in Vashishti River

In the leaning golden sun, 65 year old Hari Ganpat Nikam dived like dolphin under a wooden contraption in the Vashishti River. He emerged a whole minute later bearing a beautiful woven basket, his right hand placed firmly on its mouth. As he brought the basket closer, he gradually removed his hand. Inside, tens of small fish and crabs shimmered in the evening light.

Tonight’s fish curry was sorted.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 121222: Green Hydrogen from Hydropower is false solution

(Feature Image: Reservoir of Vyasi hydro project dam on Yamuna river in Dehradun. Credit: Varsha Singh/The Third Pole.)

A section of the hydro lobby has been trying to push hydropower in the name of producing green hydrogen as an alternative energy source. However, it has been known for a long time that this is a false solution. There cannot be green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower as not only hydropower projects have huge social and environmental footprint, they also have huge carbon footprint as the following article shows. It would be best to out rightly reject any such claim of green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower project.  

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Cloud Burst

J&K & Ladakh Cloud Bursts 2022: Missing Monitoring & Mitigation

(Feature Image: Cloudburst triggers flashfloods; 13 structures washed away, 20 damaged in Doda. Photo PTI/The Telegraph, 20.07.2022)

Tracking cloud burst incidents occurring before and during South West Monsoon season 2022 in North West Himalayan region, this report covers the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh. Kindly see the links for SANDRP’s reports covering the Uttarakhand (31 cloud burst incidents) and Himachal Pradesh (39 cloud burst incidents) in 2022. Our previous reports for J&K and Ladakh region can be seen here 2021, 2020, 2019.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 051222: World Soil Day 2022: Soil where food begins

(Feature Image:-Several practical principles for soil and water conservations are important to be understood and combined. Source Wiki Farmer)

United Nations is celebrating today, i.e. Dec 5, as the World Soil day, the theme this year is “Soils: Where food begins”. The World Soil Day is held on Dec 5 each year since 2014, following the recommendation the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day as a global awareness raising platform.

In the context of climate change, the soil organic content assumes additional huge significance. While the organic content in soils is decreasing globally, it can be reversed. If we can increase the soil organic content, it will not only help in mitigation of climate change by helping reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, it can also help in adaptation as soil with higher organic context has much greater capacity to store soil moisture, which can then be helpful in both flood mitigation (as more of the rain water is stored in the soil), and drought mitigation (soils with most moisture storage will help crops survive longer dry spells).

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Cloud Burst

Himachal Pradesh Cloud Bursts 2022: Rise in Death, Disaster & Destruction

(Feature Image: मनाली में सोलंग नाला के पास सेरा नाले में बादल फटने से आयी बाढ़ का पानी। -प्रेट्र/ The Tribune)

Here is an analysis of cloud burst incidents in Himachal Pradesh during south west monsoon 2022. The first part of the series highlighted the impact of cloud bursts in Uttarakhand and the third and final part would cover the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. SANDRP has been tracking the cloud bursts in West Himalayan states since 2018 and our previous reports for the Himachal Pradesh can be seen here 2021(30 cloud burst incidents); 2020(3 incidents); 2019(16 incidents); 2018(21 incidents).

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Global Water Report

WMO Global Water Report asks for better & shared water data; reduced terrestrial water storage in North India

On Nov 29, 2022, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published its first State of Global Water Resources report to assess the effects of climate, environmental and societal change on the Earth’s water resources. The aim of this annual report is to support monitoring and management of global freshwater resources in an era of growing demand and limited supplies. For report and other related materials, see: https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/water/state-of-global-water-resources

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