Disasters · Floods · Uttarakhand

Report of Expert Committee on Uttarakhand Flood Disaster & Role of HEPs: Welcome recommendations:


Drop 23 projects, do cumulative assessments & improve governance

In a significant development on role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013, the Expert Body (EB) headed by Dr Ravi Chopra has recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects should be dropped, that hydropower projects played significant role in the Uttarakhand disaster and that there is urgent need to improve the environment governance of hydropower projects. The Report “Assessment of Environmental Degradation and Impact of Hydroelectric Projects During The June 2013 Disaster in Uttarakhand” dated April 2014 has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on April 16, 2014 and was made public following hearing in the Supreme Court on April 28, 2014. The committee was appointed by a reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in October 2013, following the Supreme Court’s suo motto order of August 13 2013.

Source: MATU Jansangathan
Damaged Vishnuprayag Dam in Uttarakhand floods of June 2013: Source: MATU Jansangathan

Uttarakhand floods of June 2013[1],[2]: The committee report endorses the stand taken in a letter[3] that was written to MoEF on July 20, 2013, endorsed by over 20 individuals and groups including from Uttarakhand on the role of existing and under  construction hydropower projects in the Uttarakhand floods  of June 2013. MoEF did not take any action on this letter, but it was Supreme Court order next month that pushed MoEF to take necessary action.

SC order of Aug 13, 2013[4]: On Aug 13, 2013, while disposing off the petition on Srinagar HEP in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court, suo motto, made an order that asked, MoEF and Uttarakhand governments not to provide any further clearances to any more hydropower projects anywhere in Uttarakhand till further orders. Both MoEF and Uttarakhand governments have been violating this order. However, one of the fall outs of this order was formulation of Expert Body appointed by MoEF more than two months latter, through an order on Oct 15, 2013, whose report now is available in public domain.

Limited TOR[5]: The Supreme Court order of Aug 13, 2013 pertained to whole of Uttarakhand, as was the disaster of June 2013. However, the MoEF order and subsequently CWC tried to restrict the field of work of the committee to Alaknanda and Bhagirathi sub basins rather than whole of Uttarakhand.

Problematic constitution: The constitution of the Expert body was also problematic from a number of aspects. There was clear conflict of interest with respect to some of the members like Dr BP Das, former member and Vice Chair of the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, as explained below. The committee also included chairman of Central Water Commission and Central Electricity Authority, which unfortunately act like lobbies for hydropower projects. These persons were in the committee to bring in respective expertise, but in stead used their presence in the committee to discredit evidence which suggested clear role of hydropower projects, some members also advocated for more hydropower projects, in stead of adhering to the mandate given by the Supreme Court, thus raising the issue of contempt of court.

In what follows we have given some useful recommendations and conclusions of the EB, followed by some weak recommendations and conclusions of the EB report, based on a quick reading of the report (we got the over 200 page report only on April 29, 2014), following by some remarks on role of vice chair, CWC, CEA, MoEF and our conclusion.

Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2014 (Source: EB report)
Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2013 (Source: EB report)

On 24 projects recommended to be dropped by WII “After considerable discussions and analysis, the Expert Body concluded that of the 24 proposed Hydropower Projects (HEPs) that Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recommended for Review, 23 HEPs would have significant irreversible impacts on biodiversity values.”

“The EB recommends that for the 23 proposed HEPs out of the 24 identified by WII (other than the Kotli Bhel 1A project) that would have irreversible impacts on the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins, the HEPs that fall in any of the following conditions should not be approved for construction.

(a)               Proposed HEPs that fall inside wildlife Protected Areas such  National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

(b)               Proposed HEPs that fall within the Gangotri Eco-sensitive Zone

(c)               Proposed HEPs that fall above 2,500m that encompass critical wildlife habitats, high biological diversity, movement corridors, and fragile in nature due to unpredictable glacial and paraglacial activities.

(d)               Proposed HEPs that fall within 10 km from the boundary of Protected Areas and have not obtained clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.”

It would have been in fitness of things if EB had exclusively asked for stoppage of work on all these 23 projects with immediate effect.

On Kotli Bhel 1A The EB has, we believe, erroneously concluded, over ruling the conclusion of WII and expert review initiated by EB, “that the Kotli Bhel 1A project might not significantly worsen the condition of the river Bhagirathi between Koteshwar and Devprayag – already part of a highly fragmented zone”. However, EB has asked for  “due modifications to its design and operations so that an adequate stretch of the river downstream of the Koteshwar dam just above KB-IA can be maintained in a free flowing state”. This means the project work should stop and it should reapply for clearances after doing the suggested modifications in credible way.

Restoration: “The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.

All projects must undertake river restoration works after prior clearance from MoEF. It was noticed that project developers were engaged in projects’ restoration only. MoEF needs to conduct a formal review of the environmental damages at all the HEPs in Uttarakhand and prepare guidelines for restoration. Till then none of the projects should begin power production.”

HEPs above 2 MW need EC “All projects > 2 MW, shall require prior Environmental Clearances (EC) from MoEF”.

“A multidisciplinary expert body should be constituted with members of proven expertise and experience to review every year the progress/performance of each HEP and its compliance with the sanction conditions. This body will also review the technicalities of disaster preparedness before each monsoon season and examine the impact of monsoon storm and floods on the performance of all the project components. The environmental health of the river will be a critical area for comprehensive examination.”

No projects above winter snow line “Learning from the June 2013 event, the EB believes that the enhanced sediment availability from and in paraglacial zones could be a serious problem for the longevity of the existing, under construction and proposed HEPs in Uttarakhand. Therefore the EB recommends that the terrain above the MCT in general and above the winter snow line in particular (~2200-2500 m) should be kept free from hydropower interventions in Uttarakhand.”

SIA should be carried out for all river systems in Uttarakhand “The WII study has already identified 24 proposed HEPs in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins as likely to cause irreversible impacts. But comprehensive research studies of other basins in Uttarakhand are lacking at this stage… Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) be carried out in other major river basins of Uttarakhand such as the Yamuna and Kali basins.”

Distance between projects in a cascade “Scientific studies by subject experts should be conducted for establishing baseline data on river parameters, diversity and populations of floral and faunal species in different rivers of Uttarakhand at different elevation zones.  Such studies should be used for deciding upon the minimum distances between two consecutive HEPs. Until such scientific studies are completed, no new HEPs (in S&I stage) should be cleared on the rivers of Uttarakhand within a distance that may later be revoked. Minimum distances for projects in the clearance stage should be significantly revised upward from the current consideration of 1 km.”

SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand
SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand

National Himalayan Policy “Since the Himalaya are our vital source of growth and abundance, a National Himalayan Policy needs to be urgently created and implemented.”

“Therefore, the EB strongly recommends that a detailed study of the impacts of hydropower projects in terms of deforestation/tunneling/ blasting/reservoir formation on the hydrogeology of the area should be carried out.”

A study on the role of large artificial reservoirs on local climate change and precipitation patterns with special reference to the Tehri dam reservoir.”

Sediment transportation studies “Recent studies have highlighted serious concern about the Indian deltas, which are shrinking due to changes in river courses. The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is also noted in this category. This seems to be a major issue in near future therefore we recommend that the studies should be carried out regarding the impacts on sediment transportation due to projects existing on Himalayan rivers.”

Cultural impacts of HEPs “Therefore EB recommends that the Ministry of Culture along with the local representatives and spiritual leaders should undertake a comprehensive study of the cultural impacts of HEPs in the spiritually rich state of Uttarakhand.”

“The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.”

“River Regulation Zone (R.R.Z.) guidelines should be issued immediately by the Ministry of Environment & Forests and should be executed accordingly.”

Muck Management: “The existing practices of muck management are inadequate to protect the terrain and the people from an eventuality like the June 2013 flood. Therefore, a serious revisit is required towards evolving technically better and ecologically sustainable methods for muck disposal and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand.”

Environmental Flows: “Till such time as a decision is taken on the EFlows recommendations of the IITs-consortium, the EB recommends EFlows of 50% during the lean season and 30% during the remaining non-monsoon months. Sustaining the integrity of Uttarakhand’s rivers and their eco-systems is not negotiable.”

Eco-Sensitive Zones: “It is recommended that legislation be enacted to (i) protect small but significant rivers (as done in Himachal Pradesh and also recommended by the IMG for Uttarakhand) as pristine rivers and (ii) designate Eco-Sensitive Zones for all rivers of Uttarakhand.”

Community based CA and CAT “Community-based CA and CAT plan execution must be done by the State Forest Department within the construction period of the project.” This is to be monitored by a committee that includes two representatives from local communities, a renowned environmentalist, among others.

Forests and Biodiversity Conservation: “Community based CAT programmes have to be systemically implemented for ensuring sustenance of the plantations. This requires training of forest officials to work with the communities through their Van Panchayats.”

“It was brought to the notice of the EB that clearances to start work had been granted recently to the Lakhwar (300 MW) and Vyasi (120 MW) projects. This is in violation of the spirit of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order of August 13, 2013. It is also noticed that these projects were approved more than 25 years ago. Consequently they do not have any EIA/EMP/DMP studies that are mandatory today. Without conducting cumulative impact assessments and disaster management studies of the Yamuna and Kali basins no such projects should be allowed at the risk of fragile ecology, biodiversity and lives of people living in and around the project sites.”[6]

SOME WEAK RECOMMENDATIONS OF EB

“The EB recommends that MoEF strengthens its personnel and procedures for post-sanction monitoring of environmental conditionalities. The MoEF should develop a programme for research studies by reputed organizations on the impacts of HEPs on river water quality (and flows). Pre-construction and post operation long term impacts monitoring studies are required.”

Geology & Social Issues: “Given the massive scale of construction of HEPs in Uttarakhand it may be worthwhile to set up a formal institution or mechanism for investigating and redressing complaints about damages to social infrastructure. The functioning of such an institution can be funded by a small cess imposed on the developers. It is also suggested that to minimize complaints of bias, investigations should be carried out by joint committees of subject experts and the community.”

Disaster Management: “Disaster preparedness is critical because all of Uttarakhand lies either in seismic Zone IV or V. These areas are most vulnerable to strong earthquakes. Disaster Management Plans (DMPs) are critical parts of EIA Reports. They need to be carefully reviewed and approved by local communities in the probable zone of influence.”

“It is necessary to establish an independent authority which may commission EIA Reports…”

CONCLUSIONS OF EB:

On Role of Dams in Uttarakhand disaster:

In Chapter 3 (p 10) chairman of EB notes, “Thus THDC’s inundation analysis results could

not be substantiated by the ground survey in Haridwar city.”

“In September 2010, to retain flood inflows in the face of water levels rising beyond the permitted FRL the (Tehri) dam authorities had to seek the permission of the Supreme Court. It led to inundation of the upstream town of Chinyalisaur and later after draw down fresh landslide zones were created around the reservoir rim.”

“Geo-chemical analysis of sediment samples taken from various locations along the river stretch in Srinagar, however, indicated a significant contribution — varying from 47% near the barrage to about 23% much further downstream (Fig. 3.19, pg 101, Main Report) — from muck eroded from muck disposal sites 6 and 9 located on the concave right bank and consequently experienced an intense current of the order of 7m/sec.

This raises a question that if there was heavy to very heavy rainfall from the glacial reaches of the Alaknanda valley, leading to numerous landslides along the banks, then why was massive damage observed only downstream of the Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs? A detailed investigation is warranted in order to arrive at a scientifically viable explanation.”

“Otters appear to be nearing extinction in the Ganga, Alaknanda sub-basins.”

It is good to see that the EB has effectively rejected the critique of the WII report presented by Dr. Sabyasachi Dasgupta, HNB Garhwal University and consultant to UJVNL, following an independent review of the WII report by Prof. Brij Gopal, an eminent ecological scientist who had worked extensively on river ecosystems. Prof Brij Gopal, while finding some limitations in WII methodology, concluded: “he agreed with WII’s findings that the 24 proposed hydropower projects would impact the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins significantly. Based on his own analysis, Prof Gopal recommended that several more projects be dropped.”

SOME WEAK CONCLUSIONS:

“A ground survey of the inundation analysis carried out by THDC on the basis of which it claimed to have saved Haridwar from drowning raised doubts about the accuracy of the computer generated inundation maps. It is therefore not clear how much of Haridwar would have been affected if the Tehri dam had not been there. The problem at Haridwar, as at other towns and habitations along river banks, is that there has been wide spread encroachment and construction inside the river’s regime. Therefore it is imperative to set up river regulation zones where encroachments are forbidden. (Unscientific sand mining on river beds adds to the problem.)”

“There is some doubt about whether the Vishnuprayag project authorities were able to properly manage the opening and closing of the gates.”

Role of Dr B P Das: Dr B P Das has for close to a decade been member or vice chair or officiating chair of the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF on River Valley project and has in the process been involved in appraising and deciding on clearances for a no of projects and their impacts in Uttarakhand. Hence he was not likely to be in a position to take an independent view on Uttarakhand hydropower projects as there was a conflict of interest involved with respect to his earlier decisions. His biased views were also known through his article in The Hindu earlier. This got reflected in the alternate view on page 27 of chapter 3 and page 16-17 of Chapter 4 of the report authored by Dr Das. In Chapter 3 box, Dr Das’s abiding faith in the project developer could be seen. In Chapter 4 box Dr Das himself mentions that EAC has yet to take a view on WII report, but the he himself is a responsible party for EAC not having taken a view on WII report.

Role of CWC, CEA chairpersons: CWC (Central Water Commission, India’s premier technical body on water resources development under Union Ministry of Water Resources) and CEA (Central Electricity Authority, India’s premier technical body on power sector are largely known to act as lobbies for hydropower projects, in stead of the independent technical and regulatory body that they are expected to work as. In view of that, inclusion of chairperson of CWC and CEA in this committee was wrong step on the part of MoEF. We learn from a letter written by two eminent members of the committee, namely Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani on March 27, 2014, that indeed the chairpersons of CWC and CEA did not really participate in the way they were required to, and rather functioned in violation of the Supreme Court order.

Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB
Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB

Role of MoEF: One had expected that the EB would take a critical view of the functioning of the MoEF around HEPs and contribution of MoEF’s failures in increasing the disaster proportions. Unfortunately we are disappointed in this. Possibly, with the committee having been appointed by MoEF and member secretary of the committee being MoEF official this was a difficult ask. However, not being able to take a critical stand on the role of MoEF (and other institutions like CWC, CEA, state environment department, state disaster management department etc) imposes a limitation on the EB report and provides a free reign to guilty party. The consequences of this became apparent when on April 28, 2014, during the Supreme Court hearing, we are told, the MoEF presented erroneous picture that there are two reports of the committee, one by 10 members(wrongly called activists) another by Vice Chair B P Das, with CWC and CEA chair persons, when at best the note from these three persons can be considered dissent note, that too in violation of SC orders. We hope the Supreme Court will take strong view of this misleading picture presented by MoEF and reprimand the responsible officials to ensure that this does not happen again.

View of the Committee working through its minutes 

Minutes of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th meeting are available on the MoEF, Lucknow regional office website. Perusal of the minutes shed light of the functioning of the committee, and the biases of some specific members. Some highlights from the minutes:

THDC, Tehri and Muck Disposal Sites: Site visit reports of various members, including Dr. Amit Gupta, Dy Director of MoEF presented that THDC is managing active and non active muck disposal sites ‘poorly’. The sites do not have proper retaining wall, slop or plantations.

THDC hid drift tunnel of Koteshwar dam: Member Hemant Dhyani exposed that THDC officials did not accept the presence of a huge drift tunnel of Koteshwar Project near Payal Gaon, which was suffering from severe subsidence. Only when the local people, including the tunnel construction workers insisted that there is a tunnel that the THDC officials accept this fact!

In the 3rd meeting, the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand told the committee that projects with EC or FC should not be closed or stopped. Note here that this suggestion is unacceptable when the SC itself has asked the committee to investigate the role of projects in the flood damages.

To top this, Additional Chief Secretary unilaterally asserted that HEP did not have any role in the mishap. He emphasised every Environmental CLearance needs an EIA. This indicates his poor knowledge about the quality of EIAs which has been accepted by most experts.

He further stressed that a umber of FC cases were peding before the MoEF. Moef official YK Singh Chauhan rebutted this claim.

In the 4th Meeting, Dr. B.P. Das, Co Chair of the committee categorized June event as a rare natural calamity and attributed the losses only to road construction ( Incidentally, many  roads are being built for hydel projects, and do not even allow access to local communities.)

Dr. Ravi Chopra, Chairperson highlighted the poor data management of THDC. He highlighted that THDC could not provide HFL data, rainfall data, inlet level from Maneri Bhali II and outlet level sought by the committee members.

Conclusion: In spite of certain weaknesses, most of the recommendations of the committee need to be immediately implemented and till they are implemented in letter and spirit, the Supreme Court should order a status quo on any further hydropower projects. The EB headed by Dr Ravi Chopra should be congratulated for this report in spite of difficult circumstances under which the committee operated.

Þ     We also hope the Supreme Court would ask MoEF to order stoppage of work on Lakhwar and Vyasi projects that has been started recently, violating the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit, and also as pointed out by the EB.

Þ     The work on 24 hydropower projects that was part of explicit TOR of the committee should be ordered to stop immediately. The EB should have made this explicit recommendation, but even if they have not done that, it is implicit in its recommendation.

Þ     The Supreme Court should ask MoEF to provide a time bound action plan on implementation of the various recommendations of the EB. The SC an also possibly appoint EB (minus Dr Das, CWC and CEA persons) to oversee the implementation of the action plan and continue to provide independent feedback on adequacy of such implementation.

Þ     The Lessons from Uttarakhand are relevant for all Himalayan states of India from Kashmir to all the North East states and we hope Supreme Court to ask the follow up committee to ensure that these lessons are taken note of and necessary steps flowing there from are implemented in these Himalayan states. These will also provide guidance to our Himalayan neighbouring countries.

Þ     The failure of environmental governance is one of the clearest stark message from this episode and we hope MoEF will put its house in order in this respect, revamping its entire environmental governance.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/?s=Uttarakhand

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/uttarakhand-flood-ravage-and-the-dams-short-film-english/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/uttarakhand-disaster-moef-should-suspect-clearances-to-hydropower-projects-and-institute-enquiry-in-the-role-of-heps/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-supreme-courts-directions-on-uttarakhand-hydropower-projects/

[5] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/expert-committee-following-sc-order-of-13-aug-13-on-uttarakhand-needs-full-mandate-and-trimming-down/

[6] By Dr. Hemant Dhyani, Member, EB

[7] Reuters report on this issue: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/04/29/india-flood-idINL6N0NL0VC20140429

[8] The section “View of the Committee working through its minutes” has been put together by SANDRP colleague Parineeta Dandekar. I am also thankful to her for  other useful suggestions from her.

Narmada

Why is Gujarat neglecting Safety of Sardar Sarovar Dam?

Sardar Sarovar Dam Stilling basin damaged: No repairs for 3 years:

No meeting of Dam Safety Panel for 30 months:

WHY IS GUJARAT NEGLECTING SAFETY OF ITS LIFELINE?

 Image

Sardar Sarovar Dam: (Photo by SANDRP)

Gujarat government, Gujarat politicians and their supporters never tire of telling the world that the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) on Narmada River is their lifeline. Shockingly, perusal of recent official documents obtained under RTI indicate that Government of Gujarat (GOG) and its Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) are least bothered about the issues of the very safety of the SSD.

The only technical body that is supposed to be in charge of safety of the dam, namely Dam Safety Panel (DSP), has remained non existent for years together while the official reports show that the structures like stilling basin that are a part of the dam have suffered such serious damage that the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee (SSCAC) and its Permanent Standing Committee (PSC) have repeatedly asked for attention.  First they asked for urgent attention then immediate attention, then attention before monsoon to the repair, but still, there has been no response for a long time from GOG or SSNNL.

Shockingly, India’s premier technical body on water resources, Central Water Commission (CWC), was not taking interest in this issue ostensibly since they were not represented on DSP!

Who can say Sardar Sarovar Project is really Gujarat’s lifeline and that Gujarat government is bothered about the lifeline?

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS RELATED TO DAMAGE AT SSP DAM: In what follows, we have given the blow by blow chronology of events related to the damage to SSP Dam, all information taken from official documents obtained under RTI.

May 2011 The minutes of 101st meeting of PSC notes, “He (Representative of GOG) further informed that a team of nine officials from National Institute of Oceanography, Goa carried out inspection under water of stilling basin of SSP dam during 3rd May to 15th May 2011 and it was found that there is no damage except some erosion of size 3-5 cm at some places, which is not a serious problem.” Please note the description of what NIO found, as reported by GOG here and let us see how this description and implications change from “there is no damage except…” and “not a serious problem”.

It is this report of NIO that had discovered the damage to the SSP dam stilling basins and other underground parts, the damage must have happened during 2010 monsoon or earlier, and till March 2014 and as we  write this, there is no confirmation of the repairs.

SSP Stilling Basin damaged in 1995 Photo: Frontline
SSP Stilling Basin damaged in 1995 Photo: Frontline

June 8, 2011: 101st meeting of PSC notes: “The committee noted the progress of works and directed GOG to include the reports of National Institute of Oceanography, Goa in their quarterly progress report and also to take up remedial measures for the shortfalls indicated therein.” So PSC first asks for just necessary reports and remedial measures.

Feb 10, 2012: The minutes of the 102nd meeting of PSC notes: “Chairman suggested tat the observation of NIO may be taken seriously”. It calls for urgent steps for remedial actions on the recommendations of the NIO report and meeting of Dam Safety Panel at an early date in view of NIO report. If what NIO found was “no damage” and “not a serious problem”, as GOG reported to the 101st PSC meeting, why did PSC ask for URGENT meeting of DSP?

Moreover, the minutes of the meeting note: “The committee directed GOG to initiate urgent steps for remedial actions on the recommendations of NIO report.” The NIO report found, among other damages, “two big cavities noticed along with many minor ones” in Bay 5 and “RT[1] wall cavity at the bottom, where a small area which found disturbed, needs attention.” Damages were also reported from Bay 1, 2, 3 & 4 and divide wall and basin floor had cavities in all the bays, more in Bay 4 & 5.

March 16, 2012: The minutes of 79th meeting of SSCAC note: “… the NIO found minor cavities, loose pieces of concrete and broken iron rod pieces on the floor.” This description shows much more serious damage than what GOG reported to 101st meeting of PSC in June 2011. The Minutes of the 79th meeting of SSCAC go on to say: “SSCAC took on record the above fact and endorsed the decision of PSC for convening the meeting of Dam Safety Panel as early as possible and address the issue.”

So NIO finds damage in May 2011, but there is no meeting of DSP till March 2012. Then PSC (Feb 2012) and SSCAC (March 2012) recommend URGENT meeting of DSP. Note that PSC and SSCAC took nine and ten months respectively to recommend URGENT meeting of DSP. And yet, there is still no meeting of DSP for another 20 months!

Aug 23, 2012: The minutes of the 104th meeting of the PSC says: “it was decided that DSP meeting may be called up immediately and underwater inspection should be carried out after monsoon whenever high magnitude flood occurs.” Note the word “immediately”, since GOG had not responded to earlier URGENT recommendation. GOG still shows no urgency.

The GOG response, on reading of minutes of the 104th meeting of PSC appears most casual: “For conducting above mentioned DSP meeting, Shri Y K Murthy, Chairman DSP panel is being contacted to get the date convenient to him. However, meeting is getting delayed as Shri Y K Murthy is not keeping good health.” Shri Murthy, it may be noted, is close to 92 years old by now… and the meeting of DSP, immediately required since over two years, is not possible since this  90+ year old person is unable to give dates! In the meantime, as the minutes of the 104th meeting notes, two flood seasons (2011 & 2012) have passed and 2012 monsoon saw water level reach record level (till than) of 129.2 m on Sept 7, 2012 and dam overflowed for more  than 50 days.

Oct and Dec 2012: Considering the seriousness of the situation at SSP, SSCAC wrote letters to SSNNL on Oct 25, 2012 (Ltr no SSC/PB/PSC-104/2012/3112) and Dec 7, 2012 (Ltr no SSC/PB/PSC-105/2012/3553) asking for the status of the action by GOG on recommendation of the 104th meeting of PSC that DSP meeting be called immediately. The GOG does not bother to respond to the letters. Could SSCAC, a statutory body chaired by Union Water Resources Secretary & set up under NWDT award have done better than just writing letters, when safety of country’s costliest dam?

Feb 20, 2013: On the agenda of urgent repair of SSP dam stilling basin and meeting of DSP, the minutes of 105th meeting of PSC record: “Representative of Gujarat informed the Committee about the sad demise of Dr Y K Murthy, Chairman of DSP and so DSP has become defunct. To get expert advise it is proposed that BOC constituted for Canal work can also act as DSP for Dam. Accordingly, they referred the matter to BOC[2].” PSC asked GOG to send a proposal about BOC for Canals being given the task of DSP and reminded: “The remedial action needs to be completed before the monsoon of 2013.” The remedial action did not happen before the monsoon of 2013 or before the end of year 2013 either. Nor did the meeting of DSP happened till Nov 2013, after the end of Monsoon 2013.

March 25, 2013: The minutes of the 80th meeting of SSCAC notes that there is still no progress. On the GOG proposal of entrusting the DSP work to BOC for canals, SSCAC reminds GOG that “as per CWC guidelines for the safety of the project, the constitution of DSP is must.” Nothing happens till the monsoon is well underway, even the constitution of the DSP does not happen till July 2013. This means that for over 30 months after NIO discovers damaged dam, there is not even a meeting of the DSP, leave aside any remedial action.

July 6, 2013: SSNNL reconstitutes DSP under chairmanship of Shri R Jayaseelan (he is also the chairman of Board of Consultants of SSNNL), a former CWC chairman. DSP was originally constituted through GOG resolution of 20.2.1986. The DSP constituted on July 1, 2010 was supposed to be functioning till June 30, 2013 with extended term and was chaired by Dr Y K Murthy. Born in Oct 1920, Dr Murthy was already 90 when the DSP chaired by him got this extended term. Dr Murthy too was chairman of CWC during 1977-78[3].

Aug 18, 2013: The GOG remains most casual on the subject of DSP meeting, as reported in the minutes of the 106th meeting of PSC: “GOG representative informed that meeting of DSP will be convened within this month as per the availability/ convenience of the Chairman, DSP”. The dam safety has to wait, of course, till the chairman finds time for the meeting.

Aug 29, 2013: A letter from SSNNL to Gujarat Engineering Research Institute explains possible reason for damage to stilling basin: “Due to uncontrolled flow passing over the spillway, hydraulic conditions which have not been considered in the design of spillway basin have developed. This has caused damage/ erosion in the stilling basin area… in the floor of stilling basin, junction of stilling basin floor and divide wall/ right training wall.” SSNNL must know these conditions are existing since 2006 when dam reached present level of 121.92 m and should have taken necessary measures, but not only they do not take any, but even after NIO report shows the damage in May 2011, they don’t take any action on it for over 30 months before calling DSP meeting and even longer to start repair work.

Nov 25-26, 2013: The 48th meeting of Dam Safety Panel (at last) happens. Its first agenda is: “Repairing of Concrete Panels of different bays of stilling basin of Sardar Sarovar Dam.” In the meantime, letter dated Nov 20, 2013 from Chief Engr (Dam and Vadodara), SSNNL to secretary SSCAC says: “Regarding safety measures for Stilling Basin, memorandum is prepared for repairing of Stilling Basin and submitted to the DSP for heir guidance by the Superintending Engr, N P Designs (Dams & Power House) circle, Vadodara.. DSP meeting will be called as per the convenience of the DSP members.” So 30 months after NIO discovered damaged dam stilling basin, SSNNL has prepared memorandum for repair and six days before scheduled DSP meeting, they feign ignorance about the date of the meeting!

Dec 18, 2013: The minutes of the 107th meeting of PSC says: “The Committee directed GOG to give top priority for repair of stilling basin before coming monsoon and keep ready the embedded parts required for at least one working season.”

The minutes also note what GOG reported about the DSP meeting on Nov 25-26, 2013: “It has been suggested that dewatering of bay No 4 & 5 shall be carried out at first instance & then inspection of damaged portion will be done by the DSP members. After inspection by DSP members, remedial measures will be suggested… Representatives of GOG informed the Committee that the procedure for carrying out above works will be started after receiving the final report of 48th Dam Safety Panel Report.” Dam repairs are still waiting for the DSP report, dewatering and inspection by DSP members!

March 28, 2014: Agenda note of the 81st meeting of the SSCAC throw light on lack of interest by CWC in this whole affair: “… it was observed that there was no participation from CWC in DSP and on enquiry it was learnt that they did not give this priority as they are neither invitee nor member in the DSP.” The key words are that CWC “did not give” dam safety of SSP priority!

Conclusion It is clear from the above sequence of events that serious damage was found in the stilling basin[4] of Sardar Sarovar Dam by NIO in May 2011. Till March 2014 (34 months after damage was discovered) and till as we write this, there is still no news that the damage has been repaired, even as the monsoon of 2014 is about six weeks away. In fact it took Gujarat government 30 months just to organize the dam safety meeting. That too after pushing and prodding from several meetings of Permanent Standing Committee of SSCAC and also meetings and letters from statutory SSCAC itself. This for the costliest dam of India. A dam about which the Gujarat government and Gujarat politicians never tire of telling the world that it is Gujarat’s lifeline.

Image

Sardar Sarovar Dam with milestone showing 2 km distance (Photo: SANDRP)

Why did the central government (Please note that SSCAC is a body under Union Water Resources Ministry and is chaired by Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources) not do anything beyond writing letters and changing words from necessary to urgent to immediate and yet not doing anything when none of these words were heeded to?

Why did the premier water resources agency of India, CWC, not bother to do anything about this situation and did not take interest in Dam Safety Panel? Can CWC even be entrusted with the task of dam safety?

Why did SSNNL employ a person as old as 90 years to head an important body like Dam Safety Panel? Why did it take no action even as the chairperson reported sick then passed away dead ? Why did it wait for the chairperson’s term to be over before appointing a new Panel, again headed by a former CWC chief?

Is the Dam Safety Panel of Sardar Sarovar Dam a retirement perk for CWC chiefs? If Gujarat government cannot take necessary steps for the safety of Sardar Sarovar Dam, its claimed lifeline, then is this Government capable of taking any serious responsibility? Will the officers responsible for this state of affairs both in Gujarat and the Centre be identified and held accountable?

There are too many questions like these for which there seem to be no easy answers.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] RT wall: Right Training wall

[2] Board of consultants (for canals)

[3] http://ienblc.org/personality/murthy.HTM

[4] A depression just downstream of the dam, deep enough and so structured as to reduce the velocity or turbulence of the flow and also channelise the downstream flow. The stilling basin is in fact integral part of the dam and without a safe stilling basin, a safe would not exist since an eroded and damaged still basin can expose the foundation of the dam to damage.

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

6. Carried at: http://www.counterview.net/2014/04/despite-serious-issues-with-narmada-dam.html

7. Carried in full at: http://counterview.org/2014/04/30/sardar-sarovar-narmada-dam-why-is-gujarat-government-neglecting-the-safety-of-its-lifeline/

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

Maharashtra

El Nino and Maharashtra: Lets dig the Well before we are thirsty

2012-13 was described by the Maharashtra government as the worst drought in the state since 1972. Weather scientists are predicting that conditions are fast developing that seems like a repeat of 2012. The Reserve Bank of India has already warned the states about the possibility of El Nino and be ready for the worse. Maharashtra could take several steps to be ready for this developing situation, including using its available water storage in reservoirs around the state prudently.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again when we need to be alert to weather predictions and reservoir storages. Especially for Maharashtra. At this time last year, following poor 2012 monsoon, many of the bigger reservoirs were at 0% live storage for months (Ujani, Jayakwadi, several projects in Marathwada, etc). A satisfactory monsoon 2013 and some small contribution from the ill-fated hailstorms has resulted in better status of Maharashtra reservoirs storages at this point in time.

However, Maharashtra (like the country) needs to be extra cautious with using the available resources. Several institutes and bodies like Skymet, Buraeu of Meteorology, Australia, National Weather Service USA, etc. are predicting a strong possibility of El Nino effect this year, which generally results in poor monsoons.  Sky met is specifically saying that this year may be a repeat of 2012 poor monsoons. The report also states that Vidarbha, Marathwada and Central Maharashtra, could face monsoon deficit.[1] Bureau of Meteorology, Australia has issued notice stating a 70% or more chance of El Nino this year. They state “Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate continued warming of the central Pacific Ocean in coming months. Most models predict sea surface temperatures will reach El Niño thresholds during the coming season.”[2] A similar prediction has been made by US agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Centre.[3] While some weather scientists are saying that we should not panic and wait for IMD’s (India Meteorological Department) official forecast on April 25 and the next one in June, however, it would certainly be useful to be careful from now onwards.[4]

According to the latest Central Water Commission (CWC) Reservoir bulletin of 090414 regarding water levels in 85 selected major reservoirs in India, the 12 major reservoirs of Maharashtra have a combined storage of 4.471 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters) which is still good 38.73% of live storage capacity of 11.544 BCM.  This is down from 6.522 BCM (over 50%) on Feb 6, 2014. It is not clear where this huge 2 BCM water has been used up in these two months.

However, Maharashtra is indeed lucky to have this 4.471 BCM water in 12 major reservoirs[5] at this time. We need to use this prudently in view of the forecast that situation similar to what prevailed in 2012 when Maharashtra experienced bad drought could get repeated in coming monsoon. Government needs to take advance steps to ensure that storage capacity is not frittered away and there is less land under water intensive sugarcane and such other crops. Media, civil society and independent observers need to be vigilant in this regard to ensure that mistakes of 2012 are not repeated and available resources are used wisely.

In terms of wise water management and effective use of available reservoir storage, waiting for June IMD forecast will be much too late. It will be wiser if water management is cautious starting from now. At this time, already some regions are facing water scarcity.

Maharashtra farmers are already in dire states due to 2012 drought followed by hailstorms and the disastrous impacts of extreme weather events in 2014. Another drought possibility is bad news, but impacts can be reduced with wise planning and prudent advance steps. Maharashtra Water Resources Department Website[6] provides further details about storage position. Let us look at basin-wise water storage position.

Godavari Basin

Marathwada: In Marathwada, the overall live storage is 31% on 17th April 2014, including Major, Medium and Minor storages. However, this gives a misleading picture as many dams with better storages (like Vishnupuri) are placed at the end of the basin.

Dams like Manjra, Lower Terna and Seena Kolegao are already at 0 live storage, while Jayakwadi is at 15% (It was at 0%, along with six other dams of Marathwada even before this time last year).

In the upstream of Godavari Basin, Kadwa sub basin is showing severe water scarcity already. The region consists of premier onion and grape growing belt of Maharashtra, as well as wine processing centre. The chronically drought affected town of Manmad lies here and last year, it received water after 51 days in March from the upstream Palkhed Dam.[7] Surprisingly, Palkhed is currently at 5% Live Storage, when this time last year it was at 19% live storage. Water releases from Palkhed were extremely contentious last year. This year with even lesser storage, things may flare up again and wise water management, curb on non-essential uses (in dry period) like wine industry, preventing siphoning water from canals for cash crops, etc., needs to be observed to avoid stress in coming two months or more. Kadwa Dam shows a dipping live storage at 2%, while Nilwande Dam in downstream Ahmednagar shows just 3% against 7% last year.

Vidarbha shows a better picture at 58% live storage, Lowest being Bagh Kalisarar inn Bhandar at zero live storage. Now this project, though in heavy rainfall region of Bhandara has been at 0 live storage since January for the past 6 years! Either the information about the project is incorrect, or the dam has serious issues which need urgent attention.

Krishna-Bhima Basin

Ujani which was at 110% LS earlier this year after many years because of the monsoon in 2013 is now showing LS of 22% on April 17.[8] Two irrigation rotations have been released from the dam. It was reported that last rotation was used up largely by sugarcane,[9] leaving little for other crops. Ujani was at sub-zero storage (-39%) at this time last year. According to that standard, it has a good storage now, which should be used very cautiously. Solapur has added several new sugar factories this year, in addition to the 28 factories and the area under sugarcane has increased tremendously because of good rainfall.[10] Keeping the possibility of a weak monsoon in 2014, water to sugarcane must be controlled and curtailed, else we will see a repeat of 2013, only on a larger scale.

1920 MW Koyana Hydropower Project: Surprisingly in Koyana, the reservoir level this year is worse off than last year at the same time, which is not the case for any other Maharashtra reservoir in CWC bulletin. While this year it is at 30%, last year it was at 47% as on April 9.

Falling Groundwater tables: Recent GSDA report[11] has warned that groundwater levels in more than 2700 villages in Maharashtra has fallen below 1 meter than the average levels in the past 5 years. This is definitely alarming as groundwater is the water lifeline of rural Maharashtra. Out of the 2700 villages, levels in nearly 1200 villages have fallen below two or even three meters (for 497 villages).

Sugarcane: Area under sugarcane has increased in Maharashtra following good rains in 2013. This cane will demand more water in its lifecycle in farm and also for crushing. Agricultural Minister of India too did not find it appropriate to curb the wide spread plantation of sugarcane in drought prone areas even when national and global sugar prices were falling.It is estimated that current year may see more than 10,00,000 hectares of sugarcane which will demand water.The government has not even taken its own promise of enforcing drip to sugarcane.

There seem to be turbulent times ahead and it will be advisable if water management in Maharashtra tightens up to respond to upcoming challenges. The fact that there is useful water storage in some reservoirs and that warning is available in advance could be blessings if necessary steps are taken.

Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

Himanshu Thakkar, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

 

 

END NOTES:

 

[1] http://www.skymet.net/

[2] http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

[3] http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_discussion.html

[4] http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/el-nino-may-disrupt-monsoons

[5] These 12 reservoir include: Jayakwadi, Ujani, Koyna, Khadakwasla, Isapur, Mula, Yeldari, Girna, Upper Vaitarna, Upper Tapi, Pench and Upper Wardha.

[6] http://mahawrd.org/default.htm

[7] http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/a-drop-in-the-bucket/article4560869.ece

[8] http://www.agrowon.com/Agrowon/20140415/5237052667319190169.htm

[9] http://www.agrowon.com/Agrowon/20140415/5237052667319190169.htm

[10] https://sandrp.in/Sugarcane_and_Drought_in_Solapur_june2013.pdf

[11] http://www.esakal.com/esakal/20140416/4977647275092496415.htm

Dams, Rivers & People

Dams, Rivers & People – February – March 2014, Vol 12, Issue 1-2

The February – March 2014 edition of SANDRP’s magazine ‘Dams, River and People’ is now available online. This is the 1st-2nd issue of magazine in its 12th volume.  The contents magazine is mentioned in the list below. This edition of the magazine covers varied but very significant issues related with dams, rivers and environment in India. This issues brings together detailed reports on a river protection rally in Western Ghats, blatant violation of environmental laws for construction Yettinahole Diversion Project in Karnataka, impacts of hailstorm on Maharashtra farmers and state’s ‘Inaction’ plan on climate change, a reality check on Narmada Kshipra pipeline project in Madhya Pradesh and a detailed critique of cumulative impact assessment study of Siang river basin in Arunachal Pradesh. The magazine in pdf format is available here — https://sandrp.in/DRP_Feb_Mar_2014.pdf. Several of the articles are also available in SANDRP’s blog and they can be viewed just by clicking on the name in the list. Enjoy reading.

cover page_drp_feb_mar_2014

 

Contents

Page No
International Day of Action for Rivers: Shalmala River Protection Rally 1
Examplary Fraud in environmental governance! Sonthi LIS in Karnataka 4
Veerappa Moily supports foundation stone laying of Yettinahole Diversion Project 7
Maharashtra farmers face impacts of hailstorms and State’s ‘Inaction’ Plan on Climate Change 9
Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki; ab kyo bhar lau pipe-link se ye mataki…. 13
Chinki Major Irrigation Project on Narmada 21
Cumulative Impact Assessment of Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh 24
New Publication from SANDRP: Report on Unjustified Dams for Mumbai Metro Region 32

 

Climate Change

Why is the IPCC’s Mitigation (WG3 summary) report so disappointing?

Extracts from and comments on WG3 summary report of IPCC of April 13, 2014

The summary for policy makers[i] of the Working Group 3 (WG3) report of IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change) Assessment Report 5 (AR5) was made public on April 13, 2014 in Berlin. As Dr Youba Sokono, a co-chair of the IPCC’s working group 3 said said science has spoken with a road-map and as IPCC chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri hoped, high-speed mitigation train was all ready to leave the station with all on board, as reported by BBC.

IPCC scenarios showed world emissions of greenhouse gases would need to tumble by 40-70 % from 2010 levels by 2050, and then to almost zero by 2100, to keep rises below 2C. “Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” the IPCC said. The trouble is, the emissions are still rising as the WG3 report summary report shows and there are no plans in sight to reverse that trend and achieve even these targets that may not be sufficient. In such a situation to talk about rather business as usual low carbon technologies do not sound convincing. 

Here are some important relevant extracts and comments thereon. As IPCC statement in Berlin while releasing this report highlighted, this report is endorsed by the governments and is supposed to provide the main scientific guide for nations working on a UN deal to be agreed in late 2015. While governments of the world have promised to limit the increase in global temperature within 2 degrees C above pre-industrial level (there are many who have questioned if this will be good enough), this report does not provide clear implications of current global warming path and credible road-map to achieve that objective in a equitable, sustainable and democratic way. Many of solutions suggested in this report  including Carbon Capture & Storage, Nuclear Energy, Redd+, CDM and plantations are in reality false solutions, as is also proved by increasing trajectory of emissions in spite of so called actions being taken since over a decade. As a Guardian report on leaked copy of the report warned, it seems this report is largely making business as usual recommendations without showing will to face the reality or learn from past experiences.

According to IPCC, the IPCC WG III assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere. The main economic sectors are taken into account, both in a near-term and in a long-term perspective. The sectors include energy, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management. The WG analyses the costs and benefits of the different approaches to mitigation, considering also the available instruments and policy measures. In case of some of the issues, our comment on the IPCC statements is also included. The overall conclusion is that the report is disappointing, but let us first go through some note worthy aspects.

“Total anthropogenic GHG emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 with larger absolute decadal increases toward the end of this period (high confidence). Despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, annual GHG emissions grew on average by 1.0 giga tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2eq) (2.2%) per year from 2000 to 2010 compared to 0.4 GtCO2eq (1.3%) per year from 1970 to 2000. Total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010 and reached 49 (±4.5) GtCO2eq/yr in 2010.” The figure below provides how the emissions across sectors have been changing over the years. Even at conservative estimates, the emission is likely to have reached 53 GtCO2eq by 2014.

GHG emissions graph WG3 report
GHG emissions graph WG3 report

“About half of cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 have occurred in the last 40 years (high confidence). In 1970, cumulative CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, cement production and flaring since 1750 were 420±35 GtCO2; in 2010, that cumulative total had tripled to 1300 ±110 GtCO2. Cumulative CO2 emissions from Forestry and Other Land Use (FOLU) since 1750 increased from 490±180 GtCO2 in 1970 to 680±300 GtCO2 in 2010.” It is not clear why the full emission from all sectors was not counted to arrive at this comparative statement.

GHG by sector WG3 report
GHG by sector WG3 report

“Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades, while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply (high confidence). Between 2000 and 2010, both drivers outpaced emission reductions from improvements in energy intensity (Figure SPM.3). Increased use of coal relative to other energy sources has reversed the long‐standing trend of gradual decarbonization of the world’s energy supply.” The equating of contribution from population growth and economic growth this way is a bit inappropriate and in any case, since contribution from economic growth went up, separate figures for the two should have been given.

GHG by type
GHG by type

“Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist. Baseline scenarios, those without additional mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre-industrial levels” (the increase could be 7.8°C when including climate uncertainty). “For comparison, the CO2eq concentration in 2011 is estimated to be 430 ppm” (uncertainty range means it be as high as 520 ppm).

The Cancún Pledges are likely to keep temperature change below 3°C relative to pre-industrial levels and not below 2°C as is required. This admission that Cancun Pledges (which still does not  a credible road map for implementation) are insufficient is welcome.

“In the baseline scenarios assessed in AR5, direct CO2 emissions from the energy supply sector are projected to almost double or even triple by 2050 compared to the level of 14.4 GtCO2/year in 2010, unless energy intensity improvements can be significantly accelerated beyond the historical development (medium evidence, medium agreement).” In the last decade, the main contributors to emission growth were a growing energy demand and an increase of the share of coal in the global fuel mix.

Regarding electricity generation, RE (Renewable Energy) accounted for just over half of the new electricity‐generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power. However, the IPCC should not have put all hydro on same pedestal as solar and wind, it is well known that large hydro is not considered among Renewable source of energy.

Questionable certificate to Nuclear Energy and CCS This certificate of the IPCC report to Nuclear Energy is certainly going to be questioned: “Nuclear energy is a mature low‐GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low‐carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and risks exist (robust evidence,high agreement). Those include: operational risks, and the associated concerns, uranium mining risks, financial and regulatory risks, unresolved waste management issues, nuclear weapon proliferation concerns, and adverse public opinion (robust evidence, high agreement). New fuel cycles and reactor technologies addressing some of these issues are being investigated and progress in research and development has been made concerning safety and waste disposal.”

Similarly, the claim of IPCC report about CCS is questionable: “Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies could reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions of

fossil fuel power plants”. In this respect, the warning issued by the Guardian[ii] based on a leaked copy of the report seems to be correct: “The underlying assumption appears to be that business as usual economic growth must be sustained, and industry and corporate profits must be protected and maintained. But if we focus on ‘business-as-usual economics’, seeking and accepting only bargain basement options for addressing global warming – the costs will be far more severe.”

Hopeful forecast for AFOLU GHG emissions The IPCC report is hopeful about emissions from AFOLU (Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use) sector: “Most recent estimates indicate a decline in AFOLU CO2 fluxes, largely due to decreasing deforestation rates and increased afforestation… in the future, net annual baseline CO2 emissions from AFOLU are projected to decline, with net emissions potentially less than half the 2010 level by 2050 and the possibility of the AFOLU sectors becoming a net CO2 sink before the end of century”. However, this is not the situation for India where deforestation continues to be on the rise. Moreover, it is not clear if the IPCC report equates forests with plantations. Similarly it is disappointing to note the IPCC saying that REDD+ is a “cost effective policy option” in forest sector, neglecting to note the huge opposition such measures are facing from the forest dependent populations in India and elsewhere.

No mention of SRI The report concludes, “In agriculture, the most cost‐effective mitigation options are cropland management, grazing land management, and restoration of organic soils”. However, it is disappointing that there is no mention of the huge potential of emission reduction through use of cropping methods like the System of Rice Intensification for rice and various other crops. It is good to see that the report notes that suitability of the conclusion “Bioenergy can play a critical role for mitigation” is limited by concerns of food security, water resources and biodiversity conservation.

Urbanisation “As of 2011, more than 52% of the global population lives in urban areas. In 2006, urban areas accounted for 67–76% of energy use and 71–76% of energy-related CO2 emissions. By 2050, the urban population is expected to increase to 5.6–7.1 billion, or 64–69% of world population. Cities in non-Annex I countries generally have higher levels of energy use compared to the national average, whereas cities in Annex I countries generally have lower energy use per capita than national averages”. However, there is little systematic efforts at tapping the huge potential of mitigation in Urban areas. The report has no success story in this regard. On the other hand there are many examples of urban areas demanding more dams in nearby areas at the cost of forests, rivers, biodiversity and people, without doing any options assessment or exhausting local options. From India, Mumbai[iii], Nashik[iv] and Bangalore[v] provide some examples in this regard.

What are low carbon energy sources? It is disappointing to note that IPCC report brackets “renewables, nuclear and electricity generation with CCS” as “low‐carbon electricity supply”. This is certainly recommendation for business as usual situation, without much change for the USD 1200 billion per year investment sector. This is certainly very questionable.

Are energy efficiency measures working?  The report makes and interesting observation about labeling programs to achieve energy efficiency: “There is general agreement that rebound effects exist, whereby higher efficiency can lead to lower energy prices and greater consumption, but there is low agreement in the literature on the magnitude”. This is particularly relevant since such programs are more likely to benefit more for the richer sections who are polluters in the first place.

“Cap and trade” is not working? The report conclusion in this regard is noteworthy: “Since AR4, cap and trade systems for GHGs have been established in a number of countries and regions. Their short-run environmental effect has been limited as a result of loose caps or caps that have not proved to be constraining”. In India this program is underway in terms of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) and India’s power ministry rather misguidingly wants to implement this also for large hydro. In absence of any punitive measures for distribution companies not abiding by the CERC norms, there are few takers for the RECs and the price of RECs have also been low.

No attention to abject failures of UNFCCC and CDM The IPCC report says United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has “nearly universal participation” and “Kyoto protocol offers lessons towards achieving the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC, particularly with respect to participation, implementation, flexibility mechanisms, and environmental effectiveness”. Nothing can be farther from truth particularly in the context of actual implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is the main vehicle for achieving UNFCCC objectives. CDM has been a vehicle for perpetrating further environmental degradation, destruction of forests, biodiversity, rivers and livelihoods of people to basically benefit the private sector’s business as usual projects and with no benefits or participation for the local communities. The process of certifying the CDM projects as sustainable and additional in terms of emission reduction have proved to be complete failure as numerous examples from India and elsewhere show.

“Sustainable development and equity provide a basis for assessing climate policies and highlight the need for addressing the risks of climate change. Limiting the effects of climate change is necessary to achieve sustainable development and equity, including poverty eradication.” This sounds good, but there are no credible recommendations in the report to achieve equity or sustainable development.

“Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently. Climate change has the characteristics of a collective action problem at the global scale, because most greenhouse gases (GHGs) accumulate over time and mix globally, and emissions by any agent (e.g., individual, community, company, country) affect other agents.” This is welcome indeed and should have been added that there are different classes of people who are polluters, different from those who are vulnerable to the impacts of such pollution.

“Important options for mitigation in waste management are waste reduction, followed by reuse, recycling and energy recovery (robust evidence, high agreement). Waste and wastewater accounted for 1.5 GtCO2eq in 2010. As the share of recycled or reused material is still low (e.g., globally, around 20% of municipal solid waste is recycled), waste treatment technologies and recovering energy to reduce demand for fossil fuels can result in significant direct emission reductions from waste disposal.” Indeed, but there are no credible measures to achieve progress on this front, particularly in country like India.

“Policies governing agricultural practices and forest conservation and management are more effective when involving both mitigation and adaptation. Some mitigation options in the AFOLU sector (such as soil and forest carbon stocks) may be vulnerable to climate change (medium evidence, high agreement). When implemented sustainably, activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+ is an example designed to be sustainable) are cost‐effective policy options for mitigating climate change, with potential economic, social and other environmental and adaptation co‐benefits (e.g., conservation of biodiversity and water resources, and reducing soil erosion) (limited evidence, medium agreement).” This recommendation of REDD+ is seriously problematic considering the opposition to such measures from forest dependent communities all over the world, including India. This shows how cut off from ground is the report.

Gas a bridge fuel? As BBC report [vii] noted, one of the surprising endorsements in the report is natural gas: “Emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal-fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined-cycle power plants,” says the summary. However, gas is itself a fossil fuel, extraction of gas has its impacts and the extraction of shale gas, the newest and hottest source has worse kind of impacts. Without looking at all these issues, recommending gas as a bridge fuel is not likely to be convincing.

Conclusion The summary of the Working Group 3 report of the IPCC’s fifth Assessment Report is disappointing considering that it has failed provide the current status of climate change and its implications in 2020, 2030, 2050 and 2100 for the various sections of  the global society, particularly the vulnerable ones in clear terms. This conclusion seems justified even though the report does have certain welcome statements and recommendations as mentioned above. Since this is the summary for the policy makers and governments, it is a very crucial document, even as we await the full publication of the report. A number of recommendations of the report are  disappointing and unscientific, including: continued use of fossil fuels with questionable Carbon (dioxide) Capture & Storage techniques, nuclear energy, and putting  them in same footing as Renewables like solar, wind and micro hydro; equating plantation and forests, omission of SRI, omission of democratic and participatory governance, omission of identification of vulnerable sections, omission of critical view of CDM implementation and keeping them in focus and lack of sufficient emphasis on equity. The lack of recommendation that climate change polluters among the developed countries and rich sections of developing countries be made to pay for the pollution and upholding the principle of equity at global, national and local section is glaring. The report mentions nothing about need to reduce the demand. We hope the full WG3 report does not have more worrying aspects and has more hopeful recommendations.

Himanshu Thakkar, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

END NOTES:

[i] http://report.mitigation2014.org/spm/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers_approved.pdf

[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/apr/07/ipcc-un-climate-change-mitigation-wg3-worsen-geoengineering

[iii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/dams-in-tribal-areas-of-western-ghats-for-water-supply-to-mumbai-why-are-they-unjustified/,

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/multiple-dams-for-mumbai-region/,

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/crisis-in-indias-urban-water-sector/

[iv] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/forest-advisory-committee-does-not-clear-a-dam-project-in-western-ghats-of-nashik-affecting-nearly-1000-hectares-of-land-in-the-absence-of-relevant-studies-information-and-compliance/,

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/can-a-dam-submerging-1000-ha-be-encouraged-only-because-its-drinking-water-project/

[v] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/open-letter-to-dr-veerappa-moily-as-he-supports-foundation-stone-laying-of-yettinahole-diversion-project/

[vi] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/dams-are-not-climate-friendly-readings-from-ipcc-wg-ii-report/

[vii] http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27008352

[ix] On 24 April 2014 on email:

The edits to the summary of the IPCC’s recent report, were all about governments vying for position ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Paris next year. –‘Censored’ IPCC summary reveals jockeying for key UN climate talks by David Stern, Australian National University
One of the graphs dropped from the summary  shows that per capita emissions have grown rapidly in middle-income countries like China and India, but have declined in both the richest and the poorest countries. Despite that, it also shows that per capita emissions remain much higher in the developed world than in developing countries.

Another graphs which was dropped shows that the greenhouse gases emitted to produce goods destined for rich countries outweigh the emissions created by rich countries to make goods for export elsewhere. Naturally, the reverse is necessarily true for middle- and low-income countries

Hydropower Performance · Narmada

Narmada dams’ levels depleted to generate more electricity: Threatening water security for Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh

An analysis of the available information on water levels and live storage % during February and March 2014 raises questions marks about the reasons for depletion of water levels in these dams when there was no apparent need. It prime facie seems to indicate that this has been done to generate more electricity in view of impending elections. However, this is likely to threaten water security of the people of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat during coming summer months. It could also raise difficulties in post summer period if monsoon is deficit as seems to be indicated by the rapidly developing El Nino conditions. In table below we have given these figures for the Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar Dams, the biggest dams on Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Intake well at Kasrawad. Last intake hole is above the water level Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika
Intake well at Kasrawad. Last intake hole is above the water level Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika

 Level change in SSP and NSP between Feb 6 and April 9, 2014

Project Particulars Feb 6 Feb 13 Feb 20 Feb 27 Mar 6 Mar 13 Mar 20 Mar 27 Apr 9
SSP level m 121.47 120.88 119.8 117.79 117.31 115.62 115.12 113.88 114.82
% live storage 95 (58) 88 (55) 76 (51) 59 (48) 53 (58) 38 (60) 33 (57) 22 (53) 31 (58)
ISP level m 255.27 254.7 254.38 254.11 253.76 253.49 253 252.5 251.39
% live storage 47 (48) 43 (47) 41 (47) 40 (46) 37 (41) 35 (39) 34 (35) 31 (34) 26 (28)

Note: figures in bracket with those % live storage levels are the figures for % live storage same date last year.

Source: CWC weekly reservoir level updates. Strangely, the Apr 3, 2014 bulletin does not provide the reservoir details, see: https://docs.google.com/folderview?usp=sharing&id=0B2IHafYlWNipTm1wVXhXelV4RDg

It is clear from the above figures that level and % live storage of water in Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP, on Narmada River in Gujarat, considered Gujarat’s lifeline by Gujarat politicians and government) has drastically reduced from 95% on Feb 6, 2014 to just 22% on March 27, to rise slightly to 31% on April 9. The level last year remained almost constant between 58% and 53% during the same period.

News

In case of upstream Indira Sagar Project (ISP) in upstream on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh too the level has been drastically reduced from 47% on Feb 6, 2014 to 26% on April 9, 2014. There was no need for this depletion and water stored could have been of use during summer. Here too it seems level has been reduced to generate more power, again at the cost of water security for people of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

bank of Narmada at Rajghat. Gandhi Samadhi is also being seen in the background Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika
bank of Narmada at Rajghat. Gandhi Samadhi is also being seen in the background Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika

It should be noted here that the storage gets depleted to the extent water is released from dams for hydropower generation and when water is released from 1200 MW River Bed Power House (RBPH) of SSP, it is not even useful for irrigation. Only water released through the 250 MW Canal Head Power House (CHPH) of SSP goes into canals and can be used for irrigation or water supply.

Overflowing Sardar Sarvor Dam in Monsoon 2013: Source: PTI
Overflowing Sardar Sarvor Dam in Monsoon 2013: Source: PTI

There was no need for this depletion and considering the impending summer and likelihood of deficit monsoon in view of developing El Nino conditions[1]. It seems the level has been depleted for generating extra electricity in view of ongoing elections, risking the water security for the Gujarat’s drought prone areas in coming summer. It should be disturbing that water level in SSP should reach such low level of 22% by March 27 this year when the monsoon was above average and water level at SSP reached its highest level till date in the monsoon. This mismanagement also punctures the hole in the oft repeated claim of the Gujarat government that Gujarat is suffering as it is not allowed to increase the dam height. If Gujarat cannot use water available at current dam height in optimal way, where is the case for increasing dam height?

Narmada river be between Kasrawad and Rajghat Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika
Narmada river be between Kasrawad and Rajghat Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika

Hydropower Generation The figures of electricity generation from these projects (and also Omkareshwar also on Narmada in Madhya Pradesh between ISP and SSP) from the official website of Central Electricity Authority (http://cea.nic.in/monthly_gen.html) for Feb and March 2014 and 2013 are given below.

Project Power stations February March
2014 2013 2014 2013
SSP RBPH 340.96 51.74 301.61 154.89
CHPH 48.48 17.09 44.3 47.92
Total 389.44 68.83 345.91 202.81
NHDC ISP 230.76 120.67 242.94 223.21
OHP 106.23 68.08 109.18 116.75
Total 336.99 188.75 352.12 339.96

Note: All figures in Million Units (One Unit is one Kilowatt hour). All figures from Central Electricity Authority Website. The figures for March 2014 are tentative, but the final figures do not change much as past experience shows. RBPH: River Bed Power House; CHPH: Canal Head Power House; OSP: Omareshwar Hydropower Project; NHDC: Earlier known as Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation (http://www.nhdcindia.com/ a joint venture of Govt of Madhya Pradesh and NHPC Ltd)

It is clear from these figures that electricity figures at SSP and NHDC hydropower stations have certainly been much higher during Feb-March 2014 compared to the same months the previous year. For SSP, the total power generation during Feb March 2014 was 735.35 Million Units, compared to 271.64 MU during the same period last year, the increasing being huge 171% in 2014 compared to the same in 2013. In case of NHDC stations, the generation during Feb Mar 2014 was 689.11 MU, compared to 528.71 in Feb Mar 2013, increase in 2014 period being 30.33% higher in 2014. Thus it is clear that much higher amount of power has been generated during Feb Mar 2014 at SSP and NHDC stations compared to same period previous month, at the cost of depletion of water level in the SSP and ISP. The power benefits from SSP are shared in the ratio of 57: 27: 16 % for MP: Maharashtra: Gujarat.

While people in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are likely to suffer in coming summer and monsoon due to this unjustifiable depletion of these reservoirs, some people are already suffering. For example, as reported by newspapers[2], Badwani city water supply in Madhya Pradesh has already suffered as the water level in the river has gone the lowest intake level. The report says that Badwani does not even get regular electricity to lift water from the river for city water supply. So even as SSP and NHDC power stations are generating extra power, it is not being made available to such small towns. Worse days are in store, it seems. With electricity demand and rates in Feb and March being lower than in summer, it also raises the question as to how prudent it was to generate this power in winter and not in summer when demands and rates of electricity are higher.

As  Energylineindia.com reported on April 14, 2014, “in February 2014, the PLF of thermal power plants was at 68.44% against the target of 71.3% on account of weak off-take of power… reason for lower thermal PLF is higher hydro generation. Hydel plants in February 2014 reported a 7.70% higher generation than what was programmed for the month. Hydel power generation is up by a whopping 25.98% in February 2014 as compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.” This also seems to be the case for March 2014. Thus, higher hydro generation during Feb-March 2014 actually led to backing down of thermal power plants, thus the Plant Load Factor of thermal power plans was lower in these winter months when electricity demands are not at peak. However, when electricity demand will be at peak in coming summer, these projects wont have water to generate power! Who will hold the operators of these projects accountable for this questionable decisions?

Reservoir storage at all India level At all India level, Central Water Commission provides storage situation for 85 reservoirs (37 of these reservoirs have hydropower component with installed capacity over 60 MW and total live storage capacity of 111.73 BCM) in its weekly bulletins, these reservoirs have total live storage capacity of 155.05 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters). On Feb 6, 2014, these reservoirs had a healthy 88.934 BCM in live storage, amounting to 57% of live storage capacity. By April 9, 2014 (the latest CWC bulletin), the storage in these reservoirs had dwindled to 59.581 BCM, just about 38% of live storage capacity. We hope these reservoirs are not further depleted in view of ongoing elections.

Not for the first time This is not happening for the first time in India[3]. During 2004 and 2009 elections too reservoir levels were unjustifiably depleted for additional electricity generation and people suffered in following monsoon when there were deficit monsoons. While in case of Narmada dams, the responsible agencies for reservoir operation decisions are state governments, Narmada Control Authority and Union Ministry of Water Resources in case of other dams, Central Water Commission is also responsible.

This again raises the recurring issue of more transparent, accountable and participatory reservoir management, which is completely absent in India. Without such a regime, politicians are likely to use the reservoir water as per their own agendas, to the detriment of the people and economy.

Rehmat M (Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Badwani, r9300833001@gmail.com, 09300833001)

Himanshu Thakkar (SANDRP, Delhi, ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798)

Small temple on the Rajghat Ghat submerged Sardar Sarovar Dam, In the background are Rajghat bridge and Chikhalda village Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika
Small temple on the Rajghat Ghat submerged Sardar Sarovar Dam, In the background are Rajghat bridge and Chikhalda village Photo: Pancham Choyal, Badwani Bureau chief of Patrika

 

END NOTES:

[1]http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-04-09/news/49000001_1_excess-rainfall-monsoon-forecast-normal-rainfall

[2] Dainik Bhaskar, April 9, 2014: http://epaper.bhaskar.com/detail/?id=546908&boxid=4902654906&ch=mpcg&map=map&currentTab=tabs-1&pagedate=04/09/2014&editioncode=363&pageno=1&view=image

[3] For exmaple, in case of Bhakra, the way the reservoir level was allowed to deplet in summer of 2012 had consequences in subsequent monsoon: https://sandrp.in/dams/PR_Why_precarious_water_situation_at_Bhakra_dams_was_avoidable_July_2012.pdf

[4] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/indias-power-conundrumspot-power-prices-crash-to-lowest-ever-dipping-below-ntpcs-average-tariff-for-the-first-time-114041000455_1.html

ARTICLE IN HINDI TRANSLATED BY REHMAT OF MANTHAN ADHYAYAN KENDRA:

ज्यादा बिजली बनाकर नर्मदा का जलस्तर घटाया

मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात में पेयजल सुरक्षा खतरे में

सरदार सरोवर और नर्मदा सागर बाँधों के जलस्तर और उनके उपयोगी भण्डारण (प्रतिशत में) के फरवरी और मार्च 2014 के आँकड़ों के विश्लेषण से इन बाँधों का जलस्तर घटाने पर गंभीर सवाल खड़े हुए हैं क्योकि जाहिर तौर पर ऐसी कोई जरूरत नहीं है। प्रथमदृष्टया यह आम चुनाव के मद्देनज़र ज्यादा बिजली उत्पादन के लिए किया जाना प्रतीत होता है। जलस्तर कम किए जाने से आगामी गर्मी में नर्मदा किनारे स्थित मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात की शहरी आबादियों की जल सुरक्षा खतरे में पड़ने की संभावना है। यदि अल नीनो प्रभाव के कारण बारिश में कमी हुई तो गर्मी के बाद भी जलसंकट बना रह सकता है। इस स्थिति को स्पष्ट करने के लिए नीचे की तालिका में नर्मदा पर गुजरात और मध्यप्रदेश में बने सबसे बड़े बाँधों क्रमशः सरदार सरोवर और इंदिरा सागर के आँकड़े दिए गए हैं।

6 फरवरी से 9 अप्रैल 2014 के मध्य जलाशयों के जलस्तर में बदलाव
परियोजना का नाम विवरण 6फरवरी 13फरवरी 20फरवरी 27फरवरी 6 मार्च 13मार्च 20मार्च 27मार्च 9 अप्रैल
सरदार सरोवर जलस्तर, मीटर में 121.47 120.88 119.8 117.79 117.31 115.62 115.12 113.88 114.82
उपयोगी जल भण्डार, प्रतिशत में 95 (58) 88 (55) 76 (51) 59 (48) 53 (58) 38 (60) 33 (57) 22 (53) 31 (58)
इंदिरा सागर जलस्तर, मीटर में 255.27 254.7 254.38 254.11 253.76 253.49 253 252.5 251.39
उपयोगी जल भण्डार, प्रतिशत में 47 (48) 43 (47) 41 (47) 40 (46) 37 (41) 35 (39) 34 (35) 31 (34) 26 (28)
नोट – उपयोगी जल भण्डार के प्रतिशत वाली पक्ति में कोष्ठक में दिए गए आँकड़े पिछले वर्ष के इन्हीं तारीखों के हैं। इन आँकड़ों का स्रोत केन्द्रीय जल आयोग द्वारा साप्ताहिक जारी किए जाने वाले जलाशयों के स्तर संबंधी अपडेट है। आश्चर्यजनक रूप से 3 अप्रैल 2014 को जारी बुलेटिन में जलाशयों के कोई आँकड़े नहीं दिए गए हैं। इन बुलेटिनों को यहाँ देखा जा सकता है –https://docs.google.com/folderview?usp=sharing&id=0B2IHafYlWNipTm1wVXhXelV4RDg

उपरोक्त आँकड़ों से स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर जलाशय (नर्मदा पर बने इस बाँध को गुजरात के राजनेता और सरकार गुजरात की जीवनरेखा बताते हैं) का उपयोगी जलभण्डारण 6 फरवरी से 27 मार्च 2014के मध्य 95% से घटकर मात्र 22% रह गया था जो 9 अप्रैल को हल्का सा बढ़कर 31% हुआ है। पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में ये आँकड़े 58 से 53% के मध्य स्थिर थे।

नर्मदा के ऊपरी क्षेत्र मध्यप्रदेश में बने इंदिरा सागर जलाशय में भी 6 फरवरी से 27 मार्च 2014 के मध्य जलभण्डारण 47% से घटाकर मात्र 27% कर दिया गया है। इस उपलब्ध जलभण्डारण को गर्मी के दिनों के लिए सुरक्षित रखने के बजाय अनावश्यक रूप से कम किया जा रहा है। ऐसा लगता है कि चुनावी फायदे के लिए अधिक बिजली उत्पादन कर जल भण्डारण में कमी कर मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात के लोगों की जल सुरक्षा को दाँव पर लगा दिया गया है।

आसन्न ग्रीष्म ऋतु और अलनीनो प्रभाव के कारण अगले मानसून में कमी[i] की आशंका के मद्देनज़र भण्डारित जल में कमी करना उचित नहीं है। ऐसा लगता है कि वर्तमान में जारी लोकसभा चुनाव के कारण अतिरिक्त बिजली पैदा करने हेतु जलाशयों को खाली किया जा रहा है जिससे गुजरात के सूखा प्रभावित क्षेत्रों की जल सुरक्षा खतरे में पड़ गई है। आगामी मानसून में बारिश में कमी या देरी से नर्मदा जल पर आश्रित भोपाल और इंदौर जैसे शहरों में भी जल उपलब्धता प्रभावित हो सकती हैं। हाल ही में जोरशोर से प्रारंभ की गई नर्मदा-क्षिप्रा पाईप लाईन योजना भी नर्मदा में पानी की कमी के कारण अनुपयोगी हो सकती है। यह दुःखद है कि गर्मी का मौसम शुरू होने के पहले 27 मार्च को ही सरदार सरोवर में जलभण्डारण घटाकर मात्र 22% कर दिया गया था जबकि पिछले वर्ष पूरे देश में औसत से अधिक बारिश हुई है और मानसून में सरदार सरोवर जलाशय अपने उच्चतम स्तर तक भर गया था।

गुजरात सरकार दावा करती है कि सरदार सरोवर की ऊँचाई नहीं बढ़ाए जाने के कारण उनका राज्य पीड़ित है। लेकिन सरदार सरोवर के पानी के इस कुप्रबंधन से इस दावे की हवा निकल गई है। यदि गुजरात सरकार बाँध की वर्तमान ऊँचाई पर उपलब्ध जलभण्डार का ही महत्तम उपयोग करने में ही सक्षम नहीं है तो फिर बाँध की ऊँचाई बढ़ाने का सवाल ही कहाँ उठता है?

पनबिजली उत्पादन – केन्द्रीय विद्युत प्राधिकरण (http://cea.nic.in/monthly_gen.html) द्वारा जारी इन परियोजनाओं (औंकारेश्वर परियोजना सहित) से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 और 2013 के बिजली उत्पादन के आँकड़े निम्नानुसार है –

परियोजना/कंपनी बिजलीघर फरवरी मार्च
2014 2013 2014 2013
सरदार सरोवर परियोजना नदी तल बिजलीघर 340.96 51.74 301.61 154.89
नहर मुख बिजलीघर 48.48 17.09 44.3 47.92
योग 389.44 68.83 345.91 202.81
नर्मदा हाईड्रोइलेक्ट्रिक डेवलपमेंट कार्पोरेशन(एनएचडीसी) इंदिरा सागर परियोजना 230.76 120.67 242.94 223.21
औंकारेश्वर जलविद्युत परियोजना 106.23 68.08 109.18 116.75
योग 336.99 188.75 352.12 339.96
नोट-आँकड़े मिलियन यूनिट में है (एक यूनिट एक किलोवाट घण्टा के बराबर होता है)। सारे आँकड़े केन्द्रीय विद्युत प्राधिकरण की वेबसाईट से लिए गए हैं। मार्च 2014 के आँकड़े अनंतिम है लेकिन पिछले अनुभवों से स्पष्ट है कि अंतिम आँकड़ों में भी कोई खास बदलाव नहीं होता है। नर्मदा हाईड्रोइलेक्ट्रिक डेवलपमेंट कार्पोरेशन (http://www.nhdcindia.com/ )मध्यप्रदेश सरकार और राष्ट्रीय पनबिजली निगम का संयुक्त उपक्रम है। 

उपरोक्त आँकड़ों से स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर और एनएचडीसी (नर्मदा हाईड्रोइलेक्ट्रिक डेवलपमेंट कार्पोरेशन) के पन बिजलीघरों से पिछले वर्ष के फरवरी-मार्च महीनों की अपेक्षा इस वर्ष के फरवरी-मार्च महीनों में विद्युत उत्पादन काफी अधिक था। सरदार सरोवर परियोजना से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 में 735.35 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली का उत्पादन किया गया जबकि पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में 271.64 मिलियन यूनिट था। इस वर्ष बिजली उत्पादन में 171% की भारी वृद्धि की गई है। एनएचडीसी के बिजलीघरों से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 में 689.11 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली उत्पादित की गई जबकि पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में 528.71 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली का उत्पादन किया गया था। इस प्रकार पिछले वर्ष की अपेक्षा यहाँ भी 30.33% बिजली उत्पादन बढ़ाया गया है। इस प्रकार स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर और एनएचडीसी के बिजलीघरों से इस वर्ष फरवरी-मार्च में पानी के भण्डारण की कीमत पर बहुत ज्यादा बिजली उत्पादन बढाया गया है। सरदार सरोवर से उत्पादित बिजली का लाभ मध्यप्रदेश, महाराष्ट्र और गुजरात को क्रमशः 57,  27 और 16% के अनुपात में मिलता है।

हालांकि जलभण्डारण में इस अनुचित कमी के कारण मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात के लोग तो आगामी गर्मी और मानसून में प्रभावित होने वाले हैं ही लेकिन कुछ तो अभी से प्रभावित हो चुके हैं।[ii] सरदार सरोवर जलाशय के स्तर में अचानक कमी कर दिए जाने से बड़वानी की जलप्रदाय व्यवस्था बुरी तरह प्रभावित हुई है। बिजली की कटौती के कारण वैकल्पिक व्यवस्था में भी परेशानी आ रही है। सरदार सरोवर परियोजना और एनएचडीसी द्वारा भारी मात्रा में उत्पादित बिजली का लाभ भी बड़वानी जैसे छोटे कस्बों को नहीं मिल रहा है। लगता है आगे आने वाले दिन और अधिक मुश्किलों भरे होंगें। फरवरी-मार्च महीने में बिजली की माँग और राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर इसकी दरें गर्मी के दिनों के मुकाबले काफी कम होती है। यहाँ यह उल्लेखनीय है कि खेती में बिजली की माँग अभी तक शुरू नहीं हुई है। कपास की अगेती फसल (early crop)की बुआई मई के पहले सप्ताह से शुरू होती है और पानी की उपलब्धता के आधार पर जून के पहले सप्ताह तक चलती है। ऐसे में सवाल उठता है कि माँग और दरों में कमी के दौर में बिजली का भारी उत्पादन कौनसी बुद्धिमानी है?

राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर जलाशयों में भण्डारण – केन्द्रीय जल आयोग अपने साप्ताहिक बुलेटिन के माध्यम से राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर 85 जलाशयों (इनमें से 37 जलाशयों, जिनकी भण्डारण क्षमता 111.73 करोड़ घनमीटर है, में 60 मेगावाट से अधिक का पनबिजली घटक भी शामिल है।) के भण्डारण की स्थिति के बारे में जानकारी उपलब्ध करवाता है जिनकी कुल भण्डरण क्षमता 155.05 करोड़ घनमीटर है। 6 मार्च 2014 को इन जलाशयों में 88.934 करोड़ घनमीटर यानी कुल भण्डारण का 57% उपलब्ध था। लेकिन 9 अप्रैल आते तक भण्डरण मात्र 59.581 करोड़ घनमीटर यानी कुल भण्डारण का 38% ही बचा था। उम्मीद है कि ये इन जलाशयों का भण्डारण अब और चुनावी फायदों के लिए घटाया नहीं जाएगा।

ऐसा पहली बार नहीं हुआ – चुनावी लाभ के लिए ऐसा पहली बार नहीं हुआ है।[iii] वर्ष 2004 और 2009 के आम चुनावों के दौरान भी अतिरिक्त बिजली उत्पादन के लिए अनुचित तरीके से जलाशयों को खाली किया गया था और अगले मानसून में कमी के कारण लोगों को इसका खामियाजा भुगतना पड़ा था। नर्मदा पर बने बाँधों के मामले में जलस्तर का नियमन राज्य सरकारें, नर्मदा नियंत्रण प्राधिकरण और केन्द्रीय जल संसाधन मंत्रालय द्वारा किया जाता है। अन्य बाँधों के मामले में केन्द्रीय जल आयोग भी जिम्मेदार होता है।

अधिक पारदर्शी, जवाबदेह और सहभागी जलाशय प्रबंधन, जो भारत में नदारद है, का बारंबार उठने वाला सवाल यहाँ फिर उठता है। जब तक व्‍यवस्‍था में सुधार नहीं होता राजनेता जलाशयों के पानी का अपने एजेण्डे के अनुसार उपयोग करते रहेंगें और आम देशवासी और देश की अर्थव्यवस्था इसकी कीमत चुकाने को मजबूर रहेंगें।

–    रेहमत (मंथन अध्ययन केन्द्र, बड़वानी, R9300833001@gmail.com, 09300833001)

–    हिमांशु ठक्कर (दक्षिण एशियाई बाँधों, नदियों और लोगों का नेटवर्क, दिल्ली ht.sandrp@gmail.com, 09968242798)

 टिप्पणियाँ

[i]   इकॉनॉमिक टाईम्स, 9 अप्रैल 2014:  http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-04-09/news/49000001_1_excess-rainfall-monsoon-forecast-normal-rainfall

[ii]   दैनिक भास्कर, 9अप्रैल 2014: http://epaper.bhaskar.com/detail/?id=546908&boxid=4902654906&ch=mpcg&map=map&currentTab=tabs-1&pagedate=04/09/2014&editioncode=363&pageno=1&view=image

[iii] उदाहरण के लिए भाखड़ा बाँध के जलाशय का भण्डारण वर्ष 2012 की गर्मी में जिस तरह से घटाया गया उसके असर आगामी मानसून में दिखाई दिए : https://sandrp.in/dams/PR_Why_precarious_water_situation_at_Bhakra_dams_was_avoidable_July_2012.pdf

Dams

The World Bank drops funding USD 650 m for the LUHRI Hydro project! Victory for the Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti

The World Bank has decided not to lend financial assistance to the massive Luhri Hydropower project on Sutlej River in Himachal Pradesh. The World Bank, which was to provide a huge USD 650 million to the $ 1150 million project, on its website now indicates[i] the status of the project as DROPPED. Environmental groups and local affected people under the banner of Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti consider this is a major victory for the campaign to save the last remaining stretch of “free”[ii] flowing Sutlej River.

Protest against Luhri Dam
Protest against Luhri Dam

Continue reading “The World Bank drops funding USD 650 m for the LUHRI Hydro project! Victory for the Sutlej Bachao Jan Sangharsh Samiti”

Climate Change · Maharashtra

Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate change: Farmers Suffer, State and consultant TERI unaffected

Even as rural areas in otherwise-drought hit Maharashtra (as also in neighbouring areas of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) are trying to cope with the immense damages due to untimely rain and hailstorms in Feb-March 2014, the IPCC Assessment Report 5 by Working Group II warns that extreme weather events may increase in their frequency. This was also supported by the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Events in 2012.

Sr No Event Date
1 NAPCC made public June 30, 2008
2 Mah state council on CC formed by a GR Sept 2008
3 Work awarded to TERI “to assess Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies for Maharashtra State and to prepare a Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for the State” at the cost of Rs 98 lakhs; to include six case studies Aug 20, 2009
4 Maharashtra govt order regarding TERI (6 members in addition to Dr Pachauri and Dr Leeana Srivastava as advisors) given above task, along with Met office, Hadley Centre, UK (2 members) and formation of state coordination committee for this under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Nov 26, 2009
5 Dept of Environment conducted decision makers workshop CC adaptation and mitigation Feb 24-25, 2011
6 State advisory committee on CC created with chief minister as chair July 8, 2011
7 First meeting of State advisory committee on CC Feb 2013
8 Meeting (latest) held on draft climate change action plan with Chief Secy in chair Oct 7, 2013
9 Mah Env department gives RTI response to SANDRP: “The final action plan on climate change is not yet submitted by TERI to Govt of Maharashtra” Apr 2, 2014

Back to back in two years, Maharashtra faced a drought (in 2012-13), touted to be worst in past 40 years, to a hail and rain event which broke records of past hundred years (and perhaps even more) several times over. Studies are pointing out that the coastal region and the traditionally drought-affected part of Marathwada and Vidarbha is specifically vulnerable to climate change.

Drought 2013. Photo: Mint
Drought 2013. Photo: Mint

It is also highlighted by the IPCC reports, experienced painfully by Maharashtra that: “Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

So how prepared is Maharashtra to face, adapt to and mitigate the challenges put forth?

Information obtained by SANDRP under RTI underlines the fact that respective governments have given no priority, time or importance to consider climate change or its impacts on societies and ecosystems.

The Maharashtra State Council on Climate change was formed in Sept 2008 by a GR, its Chairperson was the then Chief Minister and included ministers from Agriculture, Water resources, Industries, etc. This Council awarded work related to State Action Plan on Climate Change to TERI on 20th Aug 2009 and TERI was supposed to complete this Study in two years,  that is by Aug 2011.

More than four and a half years latter, TERI has still not completed the report on State Action Plan on Climate change and Government of Maharashtra does not seem too bothered by it.

The process by which TERI was given the task of doing the SAPCC also seems inappropriate. The process is described in Maharashtra government order of Nov 16, 2009, where there is no mention of any competitive bidding. The order says that Dr RK Pachauri of TERI was  asked to make a presentation on climate change in Maharashtra, based on which it was decided to give the task of preparing the SAPCC to TERI and Met Office, UK at the cost of Rs 98 lakhs. This is clearly inappropriate process.

It’s been 5 years since the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was made public in June 2008. NAPCC itself was formulated in non-transparent, non-participatory way by Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change.  Several States have submitted and are working towards their Action Plans.

In Feb 2011, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced Advisory committee on Climate change similar to PM’s council on CC. However, the Government Resolution for the State Council on CC came only on 8th July 2011. Some its  current 19  members include Chief Minister (chair), Deputy Chief Minister,  Ministers of Environment, Agriculture, Water resources, Rural Development, Chief Secretary, Secy-Environment, etc. Some Expert members include Sunita Narain, Jamshed Godrej, Anu Agha, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Dr. Anil Kakodkar and Ajay Mathur from Bureau of Energy Efficiency.

The Terms of Reference of the Committee indicate the following duties:

(a) To evaluate the study being done by TERI in the State and recommend strategies. (Emphasis added)

(b) Provide an oversight to the State Government in the drafting an action plan to combat climate change;

(c) To ensure a co-ordinated response to all issues relating to climate change.

This council was to meet “at least twice a year to review situation on CC and adaptation strategy” as per the GR. It has met just once in last 33 months.

After giving contract to TERI in 2009, announcing State Council on CC in 2011, the first and only meeting of the State Council on Climate Change happened only in Feb 2013! Minutes of the meeting claim that final report from TERI is expected in March 2013. However, there was no discussion on this important report or even a discussion to hasten the formulation and implementation of this report. Strangely, TERI and MET Office UK had already published a note on the Action Plan in 2012[1] itself, when the State Action Plan is still not final even today!

There is also issue of conflict of interest here: when TERI is given the task of preparing Maharashtra SAPCC, how can Dr. Pachauri, who heads TERI be on the State Council to oversee the preparation of SAPCC? Secondly, Dr. Pachauri is a member of PM’s Council on Climate Change, which recommends state action plans and then his own organisation, TERI is awarded the work to prepare the action plan for Maharashtra. Is not there a conflict of interest here?

Moreover, Sunita Narain and Dr. Pachauri are also members of PM’s Council on Climate Change and having seen the performance of PMCCC in bringing out business as usual NAPCC in non-transparent, non-participatory way. The state government should have appointed independent members who have knowledge of the state.

The minutes of the first meeting of the state council seem to suggest that the meeting had rather unfocused discussions. The meeting had interesting conclusion: “All the members Council were of the opinion that the implementation of the existing schemes/ plans need to be focused on climate change adaptation strategies and did not encourage going in for further studies.” In spite of such a clear conclusion, we see neither the state action plan in place, nor adaptation of the existing schemes/ plans with the climate change implications in Maharashtra. In fact, Sunita Narian was also member of the Kasturirangan committee on Western Ghats, but we see no effective reflection of climate change concerns in the conclusions of the Kasturirangan committee.

The Chief Minister said in conclusion, “Providing income support to farmers was of utmost importance to the Government. A special “Climate Change Cell” would be established in the state to focus on climate change issues”. There is no evidence of functioning of any such cell, more than a year after that meeting.

There have been some meetings of High Powered Committee on climate changed, headed by Chief Secretary, the latest meeting happed on Oct 7, 2013.

The minutes of the Oct 2013 meeting notes, “The officers of the disaster management department were attending the meeting for the first time, which according to the Chief Secretary was not very useful given that they do not have any background in the subject area as well as the previous discussions.” Considering how important is the role of disaster management in climate change context, this callousness of disaster management department seems disturbing. The minutes also noted the need for additional Rs 40 lakhs to get run off (hydrology) data.

The minutes of the meeting ends with this conclusion: “Chief Secretary instructed TERI, to finish the consultations with respective departments for validations of data and finalise the recommendations within a month time, post which the presentation could be made before the cabinet.” However, that was in Oct 2013, but even in April 2014, there is no sign of the State Action Plan on Climate Change, an exercise that has dragged on for over 4 and half years now.

While all this has been going on without any conclusion, action plan or implementation of any necessary actions, the millions of the vulnerable people of the state are suffering and more than 20 farmers have committed suicide in the face of inconsolable loss.

The State Action Plan on Climate change is not a magic wand that will cure all ills. It is, however, one of the indicators of the seriousness and intent of our administration in tackling the real and grave challenges. Right now, there seems to be no seriousness and no intent.

 -Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar

parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

 

END NOTES:

 

[1] http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/c/a/GOM_brochure_for_web.pdf

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/maharashtra-farmers-face-impacts-of-hailstorms-and-states-inaction-plan-on-climate-change/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/dams-are-not-climate-friendly-readings-from-ipcc-wg-ii-report/

4. VERY TRAGIC story of how hailstorms have hit poor farmers in Marathawada in Maharashtra: http://www.livemint.com/Specials/jkcra6zQqMShlFJjzmvXeN/Death-and-despair-in-hailstormhit-Marathwada.html

Dams

Election manifestos of BJP, Congress and AAP: Comparative reading on Environment and natural resource management

Now that the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has made its manifesto for the 2014 Parliamentary elections in India public on April 7, 2014, we are in a position to make a comparative reading of manifestoes of three most prominent parties in fray at national level, namely the BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). While manifestos are largely ritualistic exercises, they are also the most important documents that declare the intentions of the political outfits, besides the other statements of the party leaders and track records of the parties and their leaders. These documents need to be read both in terms of the promises that they make as also the roadmaps that the parties provide to achieve the promises.

Overall impression In that respect, the overall impression that BJP manifesto (let us begin with a comment on BJP manifesto since all the opinion polls are giving the party an edge over others, though it is well known that opinion polls are largely doctored exercises that have proved wrong so many times) gives is one of an arrogance: both in terms of the content and the timing of the document. The BJP manifesto reads more like a laundry list of feel good factors, without any roadmap as to how the party hopes to achieve the listed objectives. The fact that the party came out with manifesto even as the voting in first phase of the elections was already underway, signals that it is not bothered to tell people why they should vote for them. There is little in the track record of the party in the states it is in power for over a decade, like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, to show that it is serious on these issues in these states.

Congress manifesto, also of 52 pages like that of the BJP manifesto, provides much more details about the specific issues they list, but it is not written in particularly imaginative style, nor is it making any attempt at taking care of the negativity that has been generated around its performance over the last decade. In that sense, Congress’s manifesto makes for somewhat bureaucratic and boring reading. It also lacks in providing the big picture and a big vision.

The AAP manifesto at 28 pages is more interesting as it is not written as a marketing product pamphlet. It starts with the section on Jan Lokapal, their main plank and tries to answer why people should vote for AAP. The major highlight of the whole manifesto is that the party wants to give Gram Sabhas and mohalla sabhas a decisive say in all matters at their respective levels and in overall governance. This is a major departure from other two manifestos, besides their reliance on tackling corruption & Crony Capitalism with more seriousness and convincingly than other two parties. However, while it is more elaborate than the BJP and Cong manifestos in describing how the party seeks to change the governance in India, it seems less comprehensive. Another lacuna of the AAP manifesto’s PDF file is that it is not searchable, unlike the other two manifestos.

Having taken an overall view, let us look at some specific issues that we are concerned about.

Natural Resource Management The BJP manifesto seems to have poor understanding of the scope of ‘Natural Resources’. The manifesto lists only coal, minerals and spectrum among natural resources. The most important natural resources of land, forests, rivers, water sources and biodiversity are not even listed. It seems the party is only interested in directly marketable (as in equity market) commodities that their industry friends are interested in. Interestingly, the section starts with Gandhi’s famous quote on need vs greed, but there is no reflection of this principle in what is said here.

The Congress manifesto talks about “establishment   of a clearly defined policy for fair, transparent equitable and time bound development of natural resources. The Indian National Congress will immediately put in place a Special Purpose Vehicle for this.”  The fact that this comes in industries section does not sound very confidence inspiring.

The AAP has a section on natural resources that does include water and forests among natural resources along with major minerals and provides Gram Sabha pivotal role, without whose consent, decisions about exploitation of such major natural resources cannot be taken. The ownership of the minor natural resources remains with the gram sabhas in AAP scheme of things.

Environmental governance The BJP section on this issue has interesting heading: “Flora, Fauna and Environment – Safeguarding Our Tomorrow”. However, the section or the rest of the document does not tell us anything how they are going to improve environment governance in India or do they even see this need. On the contrary, by stating in Industry section that it intends to “Frame the environment laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of proposals without delay” and talking about single window and speedy clearance elsewhere, it is clear what is their understanding is and where they intend to go. This can only be disastrous for India’s environment and environmental governance.

The Congress Manifesto claimed that it intends to set up National Environment Appraisal and Monitoring Authority. However, as Supreme Court judges promptly remarked, this is actually the order of the Supreme Court and Congress had no business of putting it on their manifesto. Moreover, Congress lacks credibility on this, since, when Jairam Ramesh, as environment minister proposed this, he was actually removed and his successor did nothing to implement this. Moreover, the environment ministry under UPA II actually filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it is not possible to set up such an authority with any teeth. The appointment of Union Oil Minister Veerappa Moily as Environment Minister, forgetting about conflict of interest and the actions that Moily as been taking subsequently including pushing the disastrous Yettinahole Diversion Project to benefit his parliamentary constituency in Karnataka takes away any credibility the party may have had. It is true that National Green Tribunal is the only major contribution of UPA on this issue, but that too is largely due to Mr Ramesh as his successor ministers tried their best to scuttle the functioning of NGT.

The AAP manifesto talks about reforming “Ministry of Environment and Forests and its agencies so that they can empower and facilitate Gram Sabhas to be effective custodians and managers of their local natural resources.” This is certainly welcome. However, there are insufficient details as to how this will be achieved. Their clubbing of Ecology and Economy in one section sounds promising at one level, again how this will be implemented without allowing ecology to be subservient to economic interests is not described.

Rivers It is well known that Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) is high on agenda of BJP and Mr Modi. However, for some unclear reasons, they have played down ILR, saying, “Inter-linking of rivers based on feasibility.” Possibly they do not want to raise the hackles prematurely. However, the Narmada Kshipra link that was recently inaugurated and the track record of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere seems to suggest that BJP state governments are working at cross purposes with the national ILR plan.

The BJP manifesto says, “BJP commits to ensure the cleanliness, purity and uninterrupted flow of the Ganga on priority”, but this is not helpful, since no roadmap is given how this will be achieved. Moreover, this intentionally ignores the three biggest threats that the Ganga and other rivers face: The dams & hydropower projects, the urban & industrial pollution & encroachment. The BJP manifesto is silent on all these three threats to the river. Even on the issue of River Pollution, the only thing the party manifesto condescends to inform the readers is that “a massive ‘Clean Rivers Programme’ will be launched across the country driven by people’s participation.” No details again. Even on the issue of seemingly unsolvable urban water pollution, the only solution party can offer is more sewage treatment plants, choosing to ignore that the existing STPs are non functional most of the places. Interestingly, BJP manifesto has a section on North East India (unlike the other two manifestos) and mentions the flood problem of Assam and promises tackling the river, but without any details as to how.

It is worth noting in this context that when BJP’s PM candidate Mr Modi visited North East India in general and Arunachal Pradesh in particular he did not mention ILR or large hydropower projects in that region, knowing that local sentiments are totally against them. However, Mr Modi, while proposing his national energy plan in Madhya Pradesh in March 2014, said that North East India is heaven for hydropower projects! The manifesto again is expectedly silent on this issue!

The Congress manifesto says that “The National Ganga River Basin Authority has begun the ambitious task of cleaning the Ganga River. We  will use similar models of creating empowered, well-funded agencies to clean other major rivers in the country”. Now this sounds mindless and incredible! NGRBA, five years after it was notified, has been the most ineffective, non transparent institution that has achieved no change in the state of the river. How can such an institution be used as a model for other rivers? The authors of the Congress manifesto seem completely ill informed on this score.

The AAP manifesto seems to have nothing on Rivers: a major omission of the manifesto.

Water The BJP manifesto promises piped water supply to all households! Irrespective of if all households need it or not or is it feasible or appropriate or not. The BJP manifesto claims that there will be 50% gap between demand and supply of water in India by 2050. This is totally off the mark, according to Govt of India’s National Commission for Integrated Water Resources Development, country’s water requirement will match the available resources in 2050, even considering high growth trajectory, we are going far below that level currently. The BJP manifesto writers seem to have no clue about the realities, or they are just trying to push greater market for water companies. There is one promise in this regard that is welcome: “We will promote decentralized, demand-driven, community-managed water resource management, water supply and environmental sanitation.” However, how they will promote this is not given. Moreover, this promise remains unconvincing considering they also talk about river linking.

The Congress manifesto talks about adding 1 crore ha in gross irrigated area in 12th Plan, two years of which are already over! It clearly looks impossible, but more importantly, it does not say how they will achieve it. Both Congress and BJP manifestoes talk about water conserving irrigation techniques, which is actually seems to be scam ridden and affected by crony capitalism. Congress manifesto also talks about increasing irrigation efficiency and water use efficiency in general, but without any roadmap. More worryingly, the UPA government has pushed the proposal to allow Jain Irrigation (the biggest private supplied of drop and sprinkler systems) to set up the National Bureau of Water Efficiency! Crony capitalism?

The AAP manifesto talks about giving priority to watershed development to reduce pressure on big irrigation projects, but fails to take an informed and prudent stand on performance of big irrigation projects. This is certainly a major let down of AAP manifesto.

Urban Water Issues There is nothing noteworthy in BJP manifesto in this regard, even as it plans to prioritise Urban Development. It has no clue about how to tackle Urban Wastewater as it only talks about more STPs when existing STPs are not working, including in Modi’s Gujarat.

The Congress manifesto talks about continuing the problematic Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission under which over Rs 70000/- crores have been spent, mostly on Urban water issues, without any attempt at democratic governance, local water options, demand side  management or recycle and reuse of treated sewage. This is creating havoc on surrounding areas with displacement of tribals, destruction of forests and pushing unjustifiable dams. But it seems Congress is least bothered about it. The problem is so acute that some 18000 people in Thane to be displaced by Kalu dam meant for Mumbai have decided to boycott the polls, since the dam is being taken up without any clearances and when all the gram sabhas have passed resolutions against it. The writing is clearly on the walls for the Congress.

The only positive aspect in this regard in AAP manifesto is the proposed empowerment of Mohalla Sabhas. Let us hope they are able to show how this will work.

Climate Change It is interesting to see that Climate Change is an issue recognised by BJP and Congress manifestos, but what they say there is disappointing in both cases. BJP manifesto talks about launching a National Mission on Himalayan Ecosystem, but there is already one existing, which is supposed to be under implementation for some years, but no one seems to know what it is doing! BJP Manifesto also talks about program devised to arrest melting of Himalayan glaciers, sounds strange, since no such program is known.

The Congress manifesto promises of continued implementation of National Action Plan on Climate Change when the plan and its mission stand discredited, along with the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. These are the things that make the Congress manifesto sound so bureaucratic.

AAP manifesto seems silent on climate change.

Renewable Energy It is welcome to note that BJP manifesto talks about promoting small hydro with local support and without displacement. However, it is not welcome that there is no mention of big hydro and big dams. Their promise to push infrastructure development in Arunachal Pradesh without any mention of participatory decision making with the local communities is likely to raise suspicion that this is for pushing big hydro there. The manifesto is also silent about promoting household level solar power projects.

The Congress manifesto is also silent on promoting household level solar power projects. It talks about giving new  thrust to  small hydro under new and renewable energy sources, but these projects need social and environmental impact assessment, the manifesto is silent on this.

The AAP manifesto is the only one that does talk about pushing decentralized renewable energy plants, which is welcome.

Tribal Development The scary part in BJP manifesto in this regard is that tribal development in India will be pushed on the lines of what has been achieved in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh! If this is the tribal development model for tribals in other areas, tribals all over India need to be very wary of this party.

The Congress manifesto says: “We will ensure the stringent implementation of PESA, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 to ensure that Scheduled Tribes are empowered and brought into the mainstream.” Sounds good, but the trouble is what has Congress governments both at centre and states done? Nothing about PESA and very little to implement FRA in letter and spirit.

In that respect AAP manifesto does make such commitment and this is most welcome. This is possibly the only useful thing for tribals among all three manifestos, in addition to the fact that AAP provides separate section for Tribals, for Scheduled castes and also for Valmikis, unlike the BJP and Congress manifestos basically clubbing all under one head.

In conclusion It is apt that the last page of the BJP manifesto says “Time for Modi” and not for BJP! The Congress manifesto on last page shows Rahul Gandhi sitting with urban youth. This appeal will have limited catchment. The last page of AAP manifesto asks voters in Hindi to vote for the honest party.

Let us hope the voters everywhere will do that.

Himanshu Thakkar, ht.sandrp@gmail.com

BJPcongressaap

This blog also hosted at: http://www.write2kill.in/himanshu-thakkar/election-manifestos-of-bjp-congress-and-aap-comparative-reading-on-environment.html

and at: http://indiatogether.org/comparing-manifestos-of-national-parties-environment.

END NOTES:

1. BJP Manifesto: http://www.bjp.org/images/pdf_2014/full_manifesto_english_07.04.2014.pdf

2. Congress Manifesto: http://inc.in/media/pdf/English_Manifesto_for_Web.pdf

3. AAP manifesto: https://app.box.com/s/q9k6f7e21265olkpxrzq

4. Some articles on Congress, AAP manifestos: http://www.thethirdpole.net/new-indian-party-integrates-economy-and-ecology-in-manifesto/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/indias-congress-party-releases-poll-manifesto-green-promises-remain-unfulfilled/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/environmentalists-attack-catch-all-bjp-manifesto/,

http://www.thethirdpole.net/little-space-for-environment-in-indian-elections/

5. A related article: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/why-is-media-missing-the-real-gujarat-story-gujarat-satya-samachar/

6. http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/elections-manifesto-2014-water-policy

7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/22/water-decide-indian-elections-aam-admi

8. Great to see hydropower projects become election issue in Sikkim: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/in-sikkim-environmental-issue-get-top-priority-1470713.html

9. http://prernabindra.com/2014/04/09/little-space-for-conservation-in-the-election-manifestos/

10. EPW editorial: “The absence of any engagement with climate change in the planet’s biggest elections is shocking” http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2014_49/15/King_Canutes_Land.pdf

11. Quotes SANDRP http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/politics/green-agenda-gets-the-grand-shove/article5897143.ece?homepage=true

12. http://indiatogether.org/comparison-of-congress-bjp-aap-manifestos-government