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

Gujarat · Narmada

Why is media missing the real Gujarat story: Gujarat Satya Samachar!  

It seems large parts of mainstream national media have gone underground these days. If you view most of the English and some Hindi news channels or most of the English and Hindi newspapers, you suddenly find proliferation of reports favouring Mr Narendra Modi and BJP. The repeated highlighting of the doctored pre poll analysis, without attempt at in-depth analysis or investigation into the credentials of the agencies doing such predictions is only one troublesome part. But even in reporting of the news, there is a clearly discernable pro-BJP tendency and an attempt to black out or under report or mis-report the news surrounding BJP’s rivals, particularly the news around Aam Admi Party (AAP). This was most evident in reporting of AAP’s trip to Gujarat in first week of March 2014.

There will be no doubt to any objective viewer that AAP’s trip punctured the well-crafted balloon of Gujarat’s development image. To many Gujaratis like me, this was not such a big breaking news. But strangely, the media that is supposed to report realities in an objective manner, should have been happy reporting this significant development. Arvind Kejriwal’s hour long speech in Ahmedabad at a hugely attended meeting should have been reported extensively in the media. Strangely, large parts of the mainstream media (both print and electronic) almost blacked this out.

This no doubt reflected poorly on the media that has been accepting the claims of Modi and BJP as gospel truths, since an independent media should have exposed the reality of these claims on its own through trips like the one AAP members did. The speech in Ahmedabad on March 8, 2014 was a good opportunity for the media to correct their own failure. In stead of using that opportunity, by not reporting or under reporting or mis-reporting, the media has further discredited itself.

It reminds one of an episode in Gujarat not long ago. “One morning some years ago, Gujarat’s residents found a newspaper on their doorsteps. They hadn’t subscribed to it, and it carried a vaguely familiar masthead. It was called Gujarat Satya Samachar, to make it resemble the state’s largest circulated newspaper, Gujarat Samachar. It was produced by Gujarat’s information department (a portfolio held by chief minister Narendra Modi) and contained reports of the state government’s achievements”, wrote former Divya Bhaskar (Gujarati edition of paper from Bhaskar group) editor Aakar Patel in his column in Mint on March 1, 2014.

The reason Gujarat government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar was “belief was that the local media was either suppressing stories about government successes or was critical of Modi to the point of antagonism”. The Gujarat Satya Samachar did not run much beyond a couple of issues, since Gujarati media quickly fell in line, the way government wanted. In fact, this episode should not give a misleading picture that Gujarati media was depicting the reality of Gujarat’s development before the government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar. Far from it.

While traveling through various parts of Gujarat, I have seen frustration of the aam Gujarati about the way the state is ruled over the last decade and more. Repeatedly, common people on the street have told me, during my numerous trip in the state, about corruption, break down of the regular basic facilities like schooling (everyone seems to have to go for tuitions and tuition classes, “then what are the schools for?” as one frustrated autorikshaw wala told me) or electricity or water and pro-big-industries bias of the state establishment. Intellectuals and independent observers have talked about the huge gap between claims of the Gujarat government and reality for long.

Ahmedabad is supposed to be shining with Sabaramati river front development, but if you go a dozen kilometers upstream or downstream you realize that this is just for the benefit of the real estate developers of the city. The state of the river elsewhere is as bad as Yamuna in Delhi. Even the water you see in Sabarmati flows in it through a fraud.  This water is from Narmada project and not a drop from it was planned or allocated for Ahmedabad city or Sabarmati River.  The project was proposed and justified for drought prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. They are not getting this water, in stead farmers of Saurashtra are fighting FIRs and cases for using Narmada water! Farmers everywhere are feeling discriminated when the state government favours big industries at their expense and without transparency or due justice or their participation. The tribal belt is not only neglected, it is facing prospects of more and more displacement and deforestation in the name of dams, river linking projects and industrial zones and corridors.

Narmada Waters flowing unused in the Rann of Kutch, harming the eocsystem and saltpan workers livelihoods Photo: Counterview.net
Narmada Waters flowing unused in the Rann of Kutch, harming the ecosystem and saltpan workers livelihoods Photo: Counterview.net

While traveling through the tribal areas near Sardar Sarovar dam, Savitaben Tadvi of Indravarna village told us about the repression they are facing while peacefully opposing the Garudeshwar dam on Narmada river, which has neither any valid approval nor any impact assessment or consent from the affected villages in the upstream or downstream. Lakhan Musafir of Umarva village took us to the washed out portion below the Sardar Sarovar dam, including the viewers park, about which there is so little information in public domain. Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, showing the proposed site of the statue of Unity, publicized as world’s highest statue, just downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, said how the foundation stone was laid on Oct 31, 2013 by arresting the peacefully opposing tribals, but that project neither has any impact assessment, nor any of the statutorily required approvals. As Nandini Oza, after traveling for over a thousand kilometers in Gujarat recently said, “You can actually smell development at Vapi, Ankaleshwar!”

Pollution of Damanganga at Vapi Photo: Tehelka
Pollution of Damanganga at Vapi Photo: Tehelka
Protest against the Bhadbhut Barrage also on Narmada Photo: Counterview.net
Protest against the Bhadbhut Barrage also on Narmada Photo: Counterview.net

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who as a chief minister, resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar to show slightly critical Gujarati media its place and succeeded in arm-twisting them, has been resorting to less than Satya in his electioneering. Just to illustrate, during his trip to North East, he did not mention his support for either large hydro projects or inter linking of rivers, which are facing huge opposition in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and other states. But during his speech in following week on February 26, 2014 in Madhya Pradesh, he talked about the North East region being “heaven for hydro power generation”. In that same state of Madhya Pradesh, his party chief Minister flashed full page advertisements (at public expense) for three straight days about Narmada Kshipra link as harbinger of the ILR dream of former prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. In reality it is just a pipeline water supply project with questionable viability and justifiability, without even impact assessment or participation of the people of the Narmada or Malwa region. There is already opposition to the project from among the farmers of the Narmada Valley.

There are others who have taken an objective view of Gujarat story. Revealing research by two professors of British Columbia, Canada about GUJARAT GROWTH VS DEVELOPMENT recently[1] showed: “This is a perplexing picture of development. Gujarat has done so much better in terms of growth and so much worse in terms of development than other states. Why has the fast growth not translated into meaningful development? Finally, it is the grassroot-level institutions that run schools, health clinics, bring water and sanitation to households, and bring the fruits of growth to the multitudes. Could it be that the centralised model of governance that works well for big investment projects does not work as well for grassroot institutions? Or, is this high growth with low development model indicative of the priorities of the government of Gujarat? Or is it something else altogether? It would be good to know the answer.”

Protest against the illegal Garudeshwar Weir Photo: Counterview.net
Protest against the illegal Garudeshwar Weir Photo: Counterview.net

The trouble is, large part of mainstream media has mostly blacked out all this critical news.  This situation is no doubt very bad for Indian democracy. As a senior journalist from financial paper told me, whenever there is extraordinarily positive report about any company or party, first question that arises is, how much has the reporter been paid to write such a story! Media should be wary of at least such a perception.

Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

 

END NOTES:

 

[1] http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/gujarats-growth-for-growths-sake/99/

 

[2] An edited version of this article was published in April 2014 at: http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/pages/Details.aspx?509

[3] Also published at: http://www.hotnhitnews.com/Real-Gujarat-An-Underreported-Story-By-Himanshu-Thakkar-HotnHitNews-13702042014.htm

Some other relevant links:

[4] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-gujarat-tribal-people-get-a-raw-deal/article5873973.ece

[5] VERY INTERESTING Column by AAKAR PATEL, calling Modi a TYRANT, who hates democracy and revers only the dead: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/NP7LlgqacegDU1PoTm3HKI/The-oneman-armys-forward-march.html

[6] How Modi’s government has treated RTI acitivists: http://www.firstpost.com/politics/narendra-modis-gujarat-model-has-no-space-for-rti-activists-1214009.html

[7] Why the growth fundamentalist THE ECONOMIST refused to back Modi: “But for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.” See: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21600106-he-will-probably-become-indias-next-prime-minister-does-not-mean-he-should-be-can-anyone?fb_action_ids=10202394265351839&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=scn%2Ffb_ec%2Fcan_anyone_stop_narendra_modi_

[8] http://indiatogether.org/could-modi-be-a-development-disaster-government by Ashish Kothri

[9] http://www.ndtv.com/elections/article/election-news/blog-gujarat-s-development-pre-dates-modi-considerably-505647?pfrom=home-topstories by Reetika Khera, Development Economist at IIT Delhi

[10] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/gujarat-one-of-the-most-water-starved-states-in-india-un-report/article1-1205787.aspx

[11] BJP’s PM candidate Modi showing his true colours: Opposes even RTI: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/in-karnataka-modi-targets-upas-aadhaar-rti/

[12] http://www.hindustantimes.com/elections2014/state-of-the-states/gujarat-s-pride-wilting-it-s-also-land-of-failing-crops-and-dying-men/article1-1206339.aspx

[13] “Hemantkumar Shah, an economics professor at Gujarat University, has challenged Modi’s claim of dramatic economic growth. He said data reveals the state’s economic and human development parameters worsened under Modi.” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/City/Mumbai/Growth-declined-poverty-increased-in-Gujarat-under-Modi-Guj-varsity-prof-claims-in-book/articleshow/33463710.cms

[14] “CAG reports and data on economic and social development from various sources make it evident that the much-touted “Gujarat model” of development is non-inclusive, socially divisive and highly ineffective in key areas.”

By ATUL SOOD and KALAIYARASAN A.” Gujarat Model: Fiction and Facts: Frontline Cover Story, April 4, 2014: http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/fiction-and-facts/article5795324.ece?ref=sliderNews (needs registration to get full story)

[15] http://themadeconomy.blogspot.in/2013/08/Facts-behind-Modi-and-Gujarat-Model.html

[16] “To sum up, the “Gujarat model” story, recently embellished for the elections, is misleading in at least three ways. First, it exaggerates Gujarat’s development achievements. Second, it fails to recognise that many of these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Third, it casually attributes these achievements to private enterprise and economic growth. All this is without going into murkier aspects of Gujarat’s experience, such as environmental destruction or state repression.” From Hindu article by Jean Dreze, See: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-gujarat-muddle/article5896998.ece

[17] Another warning from eminent people against voting for Narendra Modi for Prime Minister: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/if-modi-elected-india-future-gujarat

[18] Is Modi’s fabled Gujarat model lawful and accountable? http://www.firstpost.com/politics/is-modis-fabled-gujarat-model-lawful-and-accountable-1491885.html

Climate Change · Dams · Hydropower

Dams are not Climate Friendly: Readings from IPCC WG II Report

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment is falling into place. On the 31st March 2014, the report titled ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’, from Working Group II[1] was issued in Yokohoma, Japan. Working Group II assesses “the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development.”[2]

This can be called as one of the more incisive Working Group Reports from IPCC. It states unequivocally that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and world is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. According to Co-Chair of Working Group II, Chris Field, “The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk”.[3]

The report consists of two volumes. First volume contains a Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary, and 20 chapters assessing risks by sector and opportunities for response. The sectors include freshwater resources, terrestrial and ocean ecosystems, coasts, food, urban and rural areas, energy and industry, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty. A second volume of 10 chapters assesses risks and opportunities for response by region. These regions include Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, Central and South America, Polar Regions, Small Islands, and the Ocean.

The summary for policymakers paints a sombre picture: “Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors. In presently dry regions, drought frequency will likely increase by the end of the 21st century under RCP8.5. In contrast, water resources are projected to increase at high latitudes. Climate change is projected to reduce raw water quality and pose risks to drinking water quality even with conventional treatment, due to interacting factors: increased temperature; increased sediment, nutrient, and pollutant loadings from heavy rainfall; increased concentration of pollutants during droughts; and disruption of treatment facilities during floods. Adaptive water management techniques, including scenario planning, learning-based approaches, and flexible and low-regret solutions, can help create resilience to uncertain hydrological changes and impacts due to climate change.”

“Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

Links with water

Being an integral and cross cutting issue, water features prominently in all of Chapters of the Working Group Report. Sections on Freshwater Resources, Costal systems and low lying areas, Food Security, Inland systems, etc. include important findings. It is significant to note that dams, hydropower projects, infrastructure measures like channelization, embankments, etc., are also mentioned in nearly all the chapters of the report. Couple of references indicate dams as a possible adaptation measure, but overwhelming references point to the contrary.

The collective picture that is arising through these reference is very important. A collation and analysis of all specific references to water infrastructure projects, read in tandem with the report indicates that: 

1. Dams and infrastructure projects contribute significantly to “non-climate impacts” which, after interacting with changing climate, exacerbate the overall impact on human societies and ecosystems

o   Sediment Trapping by reservoirs, exacerbates impact of  sea level rise

o   Hydropower affects local options

o   Climate  change and dams together affect a greater eco-region

o   Increased flow fluctuations by dams exacerbate through climate change

2. In case of Flood Protection, dams and embankments may do more harm than good. Ecological measures would fare better.

3. Dams and Hydropower projects affect biodiversity, which is critical in facing climate change challenges.

4. In the tropics, global warming potential of hydropower may exceed that of Thermal Power

5. Dams increase vulnerability of weaker sections to climate change

6. Existing Dams have to be managed sustainably, with ecological considerations

7. Hydropower itself is vulnerable to Climate Change

~~~

The references used in WG II report are peer reviewed research from several authors.The specific references given below will play an important role in debunking the simplistic myth that dams and hydropower projects are climate friendly and can be considered as de facto adaptation measures to cope with Climate Change.

Some Relevant Extracts from Working Group II Report:

  1. Dams and infrastructure projects contribute significantly to “non-climate impacts” which, after interacting with climate impacts, exacerbate the overall impact of climate change on human societies and ecosystems 
  • Sediment Trapping by reservoirs, exacerbates impact of  sea level rise

“Most large deltas in Asia are sinking (as a result of groundwater withdrawal, floodplain engineering, and trapping of sediments by dams) much faster than global sea-level is rising.” (Chapter 24: Asia)

“Human activities in drainage basins and coastal plains have impacted the coastal zone by changing the delivery of sediment to the coast. Sediment trapping behind dams, water diversion for irrigation, and sand and gravel mining in river channels all contribute to decrease sediment delivery, whereas soil erosion due to land-use changes help increase it. It is estimated that the global discharge of riverine sediment was 16-–19 Gt/ yr in the 1950s before widespread dam construction and it has decreased to 12–13 Gt/ yr. Out of 145 major rivers with mostly more than 25-year record, only 7 showed evidence of an increase in sediment flux while 68 showed significant downward trends. The number of dams has increased continuously and their distribution has expanded globally. As of early 2011, the world has an estimated 16.7 million reservoirs larger than 0.01 ha. Globally, 34 rivers with drainage basins of 19 million km2 in total show a 75% reduction in sediment discharge over the past 50 years. Reservoir trapping of sediments is estimated globally as 3.6 Gt/ yr to more than 5 Gt/ yr (Syvitski et al., 2005; Walling, 2012; Milliman and Farnsworth, 2011). Human pressure is the main driver of the observed declining trend in sediment delivery to the coastline.(Chapter 5 Coastal systems and Low Lying areas)

“Attributing shoreline changes to climate change is still difficult due to the multiple natural and anthropogenic drivers contributing to coastal erosion.” (Chapter 5 Coastal systems and low lying areas)

“The combined impact of sediment reduction, relative sea level rise, land-use changes in delta and river management on channels and banks has led to the widespread degradation of deltas. The changes of sediment delivery from rivers due to dams, irrigation and embankments/dykes creates an imbalance in sediment budget in the coastal zones. Degradation of beaches, mangroves, tidal flats, and subaqueous delta fronts along deltaic coasts has been reported in many deltas (e.g. Nile and Ebro, Sanchez-Arcilla et al., 1998; Po, Simeoni and Corbau, 2009; Krishna-Godavari, Nageswara Rao et al., 2010; Changjiang, Yang et al., 2011; Huanghe, Chu et al., 1996; very high confidence). Deltaic coasts naturally evolve by seaward migration of the shoreline, forming a delta plain. However, decreasing sediment discharge during the last 50 years has decreased the growth of deltaic land, even reversing it in some locations (e.g. Nile, Godavari, Huanghe). Artificial reinforcement of natural levees also has reduced the inter-distributory basin sedimentation in most deltas, resulting in wetland loss.” (Emphasis added.)

“The major impacts of sea level rise are changes in coastal wetlands, increased coastal flooding, increased coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion into estuaries and deltas, which are exacerbated by increased human-induced drivers. Ground subsidence amplifies these hazards in farms and cities on deltaic plains through relative sea level rise. Relative sea level rise due to subsidence has induced wetland loss and shoreline retreat (e.g. the Mississippi delta, Morton et al., 2005; Chao Phraya delta, Saito et al., 2007; high confidence).” (Chapter 5 Coastal systems and low lying areas)

“There have been local variations in precipitation and runoff since 1950, but changes in sediment load are primarily attributed to over 50,000 dams and vegetation changes.”  (Chapter 18: Detection and attribution of observed impacts)

  • Hydropower affects local options

“Hydropower dams along the Mekong River and its tributaries will also have severe impacts on fish productivity and biodiversity, by blocking critical fish migration routes, altering the habitat of non-migratory fish species, and reducing nutrient flows downstream. Climate impacts, though less severe than the impact of dams, will exacerbate these changes.”(Chapter 24: Asia)

  • Climate  change and dams together affect a greater eco-region

“For one climate scenario, 15% of the global land area may be negatively affected, by the 2050s, by a decrease of fish species in the upstream basin of more than 10%, as compared to only 10% of the land area that has already suffered from such decreases due to water withdrawals and dams (Döll and Zhang, 2010). Climate change may exacerbate the negative impacts of dams for freshwater ecosystems.” (Chapter 3: Freshwater resources)

  1. Flood Protection: Dams and embankments may do more harm than good. Ecological measures fare better.
  • “On rivers and coasts, the use of hard defences (e.g. sea-walls, channelization, bunds, dams) to protect agriculture and human settlements from flooding may have negative consequences for both natural ecosystems and carbon sequestration by preventing natural adjustments to changing conditions. Conversely, setting aside landward buffer zones along coasts and rivers would be positive for both. The very high carbon sequestration potential of the organic-rich soils in mangroves and peat swamp forests provides opportunities for combining adaptation with mitigation through restoration of degraded areas.” (Chapter 3 Freshwater Resources)
  • “Ecosystem based adaptation (EBA) can be combined with, or even a substitute for, the use of engineered infrastructure or other technological approaches. Engineered defenses such as dams, sea walls and levees adversely affect biodiversity, potentially resulting in maladaptation due to damage to ecosystem regulating services. There is some evidence that the restoration and use of ecosystem services may reduce or delay the need for these engineering solutions. EBA offers lower risk of maladaptation than engineering solutions in that their application is more flexible and responsive to unanticipated environmental changes. Well-integrated EBA can be more cost effective and sustainable than non-integrated physical engineering approaches (Jones et al., 2012), and may contribute to achieving sustainable development goals (e.g., poverty reduction, sustainable environmental management, and even mitigation objectives), especially when they are integrated with sound ecosystem management approaches.” (Chapter 3 and Also Chapter 15 Adaptation Planning and Implementation)
  1. Dams and Hydropower projects affect biodiversity, which is critical in facing climate change challenges
  • “Freshwater ecosystems are considered to be among the most threatened on the planet. Fragmentation of rivers by dams and the alteration of natural flow regimes have led to major impacts on freshwater biota.” (Chapter 4: Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems)
  • “Damming of river systems for hydropower can cause fragmentation of the inland water habitat with implications for fish species.” (Chapter 4 Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems)
  •  “Freshwater ecosystems are also affected by water quality changes induced by climate change, and by human adaptations to climate-change induced increases of streamflow variability and flood risk, such as the construction of dykes and dams”. (Chapter 3: Freshwater resources)
  • “Hydropower generation leads to alteration of river flow regimes that negatively affect freshwater ecosystems, in particular biodiversity and abundance of riverine organisms, and to fragmentation of river channels by dams, with negative impacts on migratory species. (Chapter 3: Freshwater Resources)
  • “Hydropower operations often lead to discharge changes on hourly timescales that are detrimental to the downstream river ecosystem.”
  • “Climate change and habitat modification (e.g., dams and obstructions) impact fish species such as salmon and eels that pass through estuaries.” (Chapter 5 Coastal Systems and low lying areas)
  1. In Tropics, global warming potential of hydropower may exceed Thermal Power
  • “In tropical regions, the global warming potential of hydropower, due to methane emissions from man-made reservoirs, may exceed that of thermal power; based on observed emissions of a tropical reservoir, this might be the case where the ratio of hydropower generated to the surface area of the reservoir is less than 1 MW/km2”.
  • “Reservoirs can be a sink of CO2 but also a source of biogenic CO2 and CH4” (Chapter 4 Terrestrial and Inland Systems)
  1. Dams increase vulnerability of weaker sections to climate change
  • “A number of studies recognize that not every possible response to climate change is consistent with sustainable development, since some strategies and actions may have negative impacts on the well-being of others and of future generations .For example, in central Vietnam some responses to climate change impact, such as building dams to prevent flooding and saltwater intrusion and to generate power, threaten the livelihood of poor communities. First, the relocation of communities and the inundation of forestland to build dams limit households’ access to land and forest products. Second, a government focus on irrigated rice agriculture can reduce poor households’ ability to diversify their income portfolio, decreasing their long-term adaptive capacity. Indeed, the consequences of responses to climate change, whether related to mitigation or adaptation, can negatively influence future vulnerability, unless there is awareness of and response to these interactions. Here, the role of values in responding to climate change becomes important from a variety of perspectives, including intergenerational, particularly when those currently in positions of power and authority assume that their prioritized values will be shared by future generations. (Chapter 20: Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development)
  •  “Some documented impacts on dams, reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure are: reduction of sediment load due to reductions in flows (associated with lower precipitation), positively affecting infrastructure operation (Wang et al., 2007); impacts of climate variability and change on storage capacity that creates further vulnerability; and failures in the reliability of water allocation systems (based on water use rights) due to reductions of streamflows under future climate scenarios” (Chapter 9: Rural Areas)
  • “Infrastructure (e.g. roads, buildings, dams and irrigation systems) will be affected by extreme events associated with climate change. These climate impacts may contribute to migration away from rural areas, though rural migration already exists in many different forms for many non-climate-related reasons.” (Chapter 9 Rural Areas)
  • “Changes in water use, including increased water diversion and development to meet increasing water demand, and increased dam building will also have implications for inland fisheries and aquaculture, and therefore for the people dependent on them” .
  • “In the case of the Mekong River basin, a large proportion of the 60 million inhabitants are dependent in some way on fisheries and aquaculture which will be seriously impacted by human population growth, flood mitigation, increased offtake of water, changes in land use and overfishing, as well as by climate change. Ficke et al. (2007) reported that at that time there were 46 large dams planned or already under construction in the Yangtze River basin, the completion of which would have detrimental effects on those dependent on fish for subsistence and recreation.” (Chapter 7 Food security and food production systems)
  1. Existing Dams have to be managed sustainably, with ecological considerations:
  • “Suggested strategies for maximizing the adaptive capacity of ecosystems include reducing non-climate impacts, maximizing landscape connectivity, and protecting ‘refugia’ where climate change is expected to be less than the regional mean. Additional options for inland waters include operating dams to maintain environmental flows for biodiversity, protecting catchments, and preserving river floodplains.” (Chapter 24:Asia )
  1. Hydropower itself is vulnerable to Climate Change
  • “Climate change affects hydropower generation through changes in the mean annual stream-flow, shifts of seasonal flows and increases of stream-flow variability (including floods and droughts) as well as by increased evaporation from reservoirs and changes in sediment fluxes. Therefore, the impact of climate change on a specific hydropower plant will depend on the local change of these hydro-logical characteristics, as well as on the type of hydropower plant and on the (seasonal) energy demand, which will itself be affected by climate change”
  • “Projections of future hydropower generation are subject to the uncertainty of projected precipitation and stream-flow. In regions with high electricity demand for summertime cooling, this seasonal stream-flow shift is detrimental. In general, climate change requires adaptation of operating rules which may, however, be constrained by reservoir capacity. Storage capacity expansion would help increase hydropower generation but might not be cost-effective.”
  • “Observations and models suggest that global warming impacts on glacier and snow-fed streams and rivers will pass through two contrasting phases. In the first phase, when river discharge is increased due to intensified melting, the overall diversity and abundance of species may increase. However, changes in water temperature and stream-flow may have negative impacts on narrow range endemics. In the second phase, when snowfields melt early and glaciers have shrunken to the point that late-summer stream flow is reduced, broad negative impacts are foreseen, with species diversity rapidly declining once a critical threshold of roughly 50% glacial cover is crossed.” (Chapter 3 Freshwater Resources)

Let us hope that these collated finding will be helpful in addressing the myth that dams and hydropower projects are climate friendly and can even be looked at as adaptation measures. Let us also hope that the Working Group III Report, which will come out in less than a week’s time from now, will have lessons for hydropower development in line with the above statements in the WG II report.

Issues with WG III, Special Report on Renewable Energy

Findings of WG II contrast strikingly with Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) [4]brought out by Working Group III in 2011.

SRREOne of the two lead coordinating authors of this report was Dr. Arun Kumar, from AHEC, IIT Roorkee. Notably, Dr. Kumar was also a part of the team which worked on Cumulative Impact Assessment of Hydropower projects in Upper Ganga basin of Uttarakhand[5]. The state suffered huge flood and precipitation damages in June 2013 (long after the report came out) and commissioned and under–construction hydropower projects had a large role to play in compounding the impacts of the disaster[6]. Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the Supreme Court of India rejected this report. SANDRP had published a detailed critique of this CIA report at the outset.

Amazingly, the Hydropower Section of the above mentioned IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy severely downplays and ignores the impacts of hydropower. For example, it does not allude to peoples protests to projects, impacts of projects by blasting and tunneling, downstream impacts, impacts of peaking, associated deforestation and related development, cumulative impacts of projects in a cascade, increasing climate vulnerability of the population, seismic impacts, increased disaster vulnerability of the region, etc.,. In fact, these impacts have been some of the most-discussed issues in hydropower discourse in many countries at the moment. The report makes strange statements like “trans-boundary hydropower establishes arena for international cooperation”, when we see across the world that hydropower projects on internationally shared rivers further conflicts and strife between nations. It also downplays methane emissions from hydropower.

In all, the section appears biased towards hydropower and does not do justice to IPCC’s rigorous and objective standards. The section should not have been accepted as it stands now.

Now, the Working Group III is yet to submit its Assessment Report to the IPCC. It will be discussed by the IPCC between 7-11 April 2014, in Berlin. We hope there is true depiction of hydropower in the Working Group III report, looking at the above mentioned impacts and also keeping in mind strong statements from Working Group II report made public on March 31, 2014.

Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

~~~

 

[1] The IPCC Working Group I (WG I) assesses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands). The IPCC Working Group III (WG III) assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere. (https://www.ipcc.ch/working_groups/working_groups.shtml)

[2] https://www.ipcc.ch/

[3] https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf

[4] http://www.ipcc-wg3.de/special-reports/srren/special-report-renewable-energy-sources

[5] http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf

[6] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/uttarakhand-and-climate-change-how-long-can-we-ignore-this-in-himalayas/

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

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/uttarakhand-floods-of-june-2013-curtain-raiser-on-the-events-at-nhpcs-280-mw-dhauliganga-hep/

 

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources

Analysis MoWR’s Advisory Committee’s Decisions for Northeast – January 2009 to Dec 2013

This is analysis of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India[1] from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting held in December 2013. In our last analysis of TAC minutes we have covered the decision taken for NE states from July 2011 to December 2013 which  is available at – https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/. In this analysis, we have covered the same for an extended period. In these five years TAC has accepted project proposals worth of 5515.46 crores. In calculating the total cost of the projects considered we have considered only the projects whose proposals were given clearance by TAC. In these five years, some of the projects also made two appearances with revised costs. In such cases the higher revised cost has been taken into consideration, e.g. Khuga Multipurpose Project and Dolaithabi Barrage Project, both located in Manipur were accepted by the committee in its 100th meeting (held on 9th October 2009) with revised cost of Rs 381.28 crore and 251.52 crore respectively. In the 115th meeting (held on 24th July 2012) of the TAC, these two projects were considered again where the cost for Khuga Project was Rs. 433.91 cr and for Dolaithabi Project it was Rs. 360.05 Cr. The same is the case for the Thoubal Multipurpose Project which appeared in 101st and 115th meeting of the TAC.

Within these five years, TAC has given financial clearance to 26 flood and erosion control projects and majority of these projects are from Assam. The committee gave the clearance to 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects.[2] The committee also gave clearance to a strom water drainage improvement project below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong in Sikkim within this period.

In this period, largest no of considered (25) and approved (20) projects were from Assam. Assam also has the maximum cost of projects among all states (Rs. 2631.99 Cr). Highest number of projects were considered (16) and approved (14) in the year 2009, with total cost of Rs 2321 Crores, which too was highest among all the years.

As found in our previous analysis, in the last five year from 2009 to 2013 TAC has not rejected a single project. Five projects had been deferred but were approved in the subsequent meetings within the same period. In the 108th meeting (held on 4th January 2011), the TAC did not discuss two projects on the Brahmaputra river stating “It was observed that the flood control and anti erosion scheme of Brahmaputra Board are implemented through Central Fund, which do not require investment clearance from the Planning Commission. Therefore, these schemes need not be put up to the Advisory Committee. However, the technical aspect of such project may be looked into by Central Water Commission as per past practice.”  But both these projects were reconsidered in the 110th meeting of TAC (held on 20th July 2011) and were cleared by the committee.

So this seems like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. Reading of the minutes of the meetings also reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the questions for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the projects suffer. Nor is there an discussion about the performance of the projects.

As we noted earlier, this committee functions in most non transparent, non participatory and unaccountable way. Neither the minutes nor the agenda notes of the meetings are in public domain. Following our letters along with TAC analysis in April 2011, addressed to Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission and members of the National Advisory Council, for the first time, TAC minutes were put up on CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.gov.in/main/webpages/TAC%20minutes.html). However, the last uploaded minutes were for the 115th meeting held in July 2012, after which minutes have stopped being uploaded. Secondly, some of the links are not working and all the files are unnecessarily large PDF files since only scanned pages of the minutes are put up, in place of the PDFs of normal word files, which would be of much smaller size. The TAC also has no independent, non government members, all the members are government officials. As we wrote to MoWR and Planning Commission in April 2011 and again in March 2014, there is urgent need for TAC to have  such members so that they provide objective perspective about the projects that come up before TAC.

The importance of functioning of this committee cannot be over emphasised. As we  wrote  in our letter to MoWR and Planning Commission, TAC “considers dozens of such projects with huge economic, social, environmental and other implications for the country in every one of its meetings. All of these projects are supposed to be public purpose projects, and are taken up using public resources. The Planning Commission accords investment clearance to the projects only after the TAC clearance. This Committee’s decisions are perhaps the ones which impact on India as a whole the most – as they relate to land and water – which are the basic life sustaining and livelihood providing resources for the people.”

It is high time that first effective steps are taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable.

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

State No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 106.6
Assam 25 20 2631.99
Manipur 10 10 2268.99
Meghalaya 1 1 5.63
Sikkim 1 1 48.55
Tripura 6 6 453.7

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 5 years period.

Year-wise List of Projects Cleared by TAC

Year No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
2009 16 14 2321
2010 5 5 663.67
2011 12 9 497.33
2012 5 5 2208.81
2013 9 9 1439.45

Meeting-wise List Projects Cleared by TAC January 2009 to December 2013

Sl. No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
95th 20.01.2009 4 3 1 0 196.07
96th 16.02.2009 2 2 0 0 168.14
100th 09.10.2009 6 5 1 0 264.73
101st 30.11.2009 4 4 0 0 77.26
102nd 28.01.2010 1 1 0 0 59.91
103rd 11.03.2010 1 1 0 0 302.22
106th 16.09.2010 3 3 0 0 301.54
108th 04.01.2011 2 0 2 0 0
109th 04.03.2011 3 3 0 0 70.13
110th 20.07.2011 5 4 1 0 211.56
111th 17.08.2011 1 1 0 0 167.09
112th 14.09.2011 1 1 0 0 48.55
115th 24.07.2012 5 5 0 0 2208.81
117th 21.03.2013 1 1 0 0 155.87
118th 30.07.2013 2 2 0 0 467.38
119th 29.08.2013 2 2 0 0 601.67
120th 13.09.2013 1 1 0 0 42.96
121st 08.10.2013 2 2 0 0 146.01
122nd 20.12.2013 1 1 0 0 25.56
Total   47 42 5 0 5515.46

95th meeting (20.01.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 196.07 crores (revised costs have been taken into consideration)

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Protection of Sialmari Area Morigaon/ AS 2002 B’putra 14.29 (25.73) Accepted
2 Protection of Bhojaikhati, Doligaon and Ulubari AS 2002 B’putra 14.52 (27.92) Accepted
3 Protection of Majuli Island Ph II-III AS New B’putra 116.02 Deferred the proposal with suggestion to prepare the cost at current prices.
4 Raising & strengthening Dyke from from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti erosion measures AS New B’putra 142.42 Accepted

96th meeting (16.02.2009): Accepted Total – Rs 168.14 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Flood protection of Majuli Island Ph-II & III AS New B’putra 115.03 Accepted
2 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New B’putra 23.32(53.11) Accepted partially & suggested that proposal of coffer dam, pilot channel, etc. may be put up to the Standing Committee for expert opinion

100th meeting (09.10.2009): Accepted: TOTAL – Rs 897.53 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Borolia Irrigation Project AS 1980 Brahmaputra 92 m 6.775 (135.93) 9717 15,000 Ha Deferred due to non-submission of State Finance Concurrence
2 Khuga Multipurpose (Major- Revised) Manipur 1980 Khuga/ Imphal 230 m 15 (381.28) 9575 14,755 Ha Accepted
3 Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Med Revised) Manipur 1992 Iril/ Manipur 79 m 18.86 (251.52) 5,500 7,545 Ha
4 Gumti Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1979 Gumti 96 m 5.88 (83.01) 4,486 9,800 ha Accepted
5 Khowai Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1980 Khowai 96 m 7.10 (83.01) 4,515 9,320 Ha Accepted
6 Manu Irrigation Project Tripura 1981 Manu 82 m 8.18 (98.71) 4,198 7,600 Ha Accepted

101st meeting (30.11.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 1059.26 crores

SN Project State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA/ flood prot. Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Raising & strengthening to Puthimari embankment Assam New B’putra NA 30.23 15000 Ha NA Accepted
2 Anti Erosion measures to protect left B’putra Dyke Assam New B’putra NA 27.97 5000 Ha NA Accepted
3 Protection of Gakhirkhitee and its adjoining areas Assam New B’putra NA 19.06 20,000 Ha NA Accepted
4 Thoubal Multipurpose Project (revised) Manipur 1980 Thoubal/ Imphal 1074 m 47.25 (982) 21,862 ha 33,449 Ha Accepted

102nd meeting (28.01.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 59.91 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original Cost-CrRs Benefit-flood protsn Decision
1 Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Dist Assam New Brahmaputra 59.91 18,000 Ha Accepted

103rd meeting (11.03.2010): Accepted: TOTAL Cost of approved projects: Rs 302.22 crores

Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs CCA (Ha) Annual Irrigation (Ha) Decision
Champamati Irrigation Project Chirag/AS 1980 Champamati/B’putra 258.5 m 15.32 (309.22) 17,414 24,994 Accepted

106th meeting (16.09.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 301.54 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Raising & strengthening of tributary dyke on both banks of Kopili River Assam New Kopilli/ B’putra 110.72 Accepted
2 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Dibrugarh/ Assam New Brahmaputra 61.33 Accepted
3 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Palasbari/ Assam New Brahmaputra 129.49 Accepted

108th meeting (04.01.2011): Accepted TOTAL- Rs 0

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New Brahmaputra 23.32(53.11) The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.
2 Protection of Majuli Island from flood & erosion, Ph II-III AS New Brahmaputra 116.02 The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.

109th meeting (04.03.2011): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 70.13crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Dikrong Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Dikrong 23.68 Accepted
2 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Bhareli sub Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Bhareli 16.81 Accepted
3 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Siyom Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Siyom 29.64 Accepted

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection in Tawangchu basin ArP New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood & Erosion Ph II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration of rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in W Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost decision
Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon Sonitpur/Assam New Brahmaputra Rs 167.09 Cr Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

 

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 155.87 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Protection of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 467.38 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

 

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal W Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

 Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar

————————————–

[1]While this article only contains the details of the North East India Projects considered in TAC for the five years, we hope to soon provide details of the projects considered by TAC from all over India.

[2] Sicne Khuga Multipurpose, Thoubal Multipurpose and Dolaithabi barrage project, all from Manipur appears twice in this period, they have calculated only for once here.

[3] Feature image – Khuga Mutipurpose project. Image courtesy – http://manipuronline.com/

Dams

World Water Day focus on Water and Energy: Behind the “Clean, Green, Sustainable” jingle of Hydropower

The theme of this World Water Day, 2014 is Water and Energy. The occasion gives us an opportunity to take a look at the hydropower rush going on in the country at this moment.

Hydropower projects are being incessantly pushed from the highest quarters ( including the Prime Minister’s Office, through the formulation of Cabinet Committee on Investment, Ministries like Power, Private dam lobbies, etc.,) . Some environmentalists do not seem to bat an eyelid while labelling ALL hydropower as “Green”. (Director General of CSE was a part of the Kasturirangan Committee report which certified all hydro as green, did not object to two of the most destructive projects:  Gundia and Athirappilly, did not stress that mini hydel projects should be appraised for their impacts)

Satluj, downstream Nathpa Jhakri Dam Photo: SANDRP partners
Satluj, downstream Nathpa Jhakri Dam Photo: SANDRP partners

Despite its far reaching impacts, the general perception about hydropower, consciously pushed by developers, funders like World Bank [1]and ADB and also institutions is that they are ‘clean, green and sustainable’. ( The overall understanding of institutions like World Bank on the water-energy nexus is itself limited, as is highlighted by this critique by Shripad Dharmadhikary.[2])

With impacts of HEPs and protests from local communities increasing, we need to check these premises which blindly give a “Green and Clean” certificate to all hydropower, without qualification. On the occasion of the World Water Day, we attempt to look at some impacts of HEPs planned across India on ecosystems and local communities, the existing environmental governance and the justification behind pushing these projects.

Whither River? A typical HEP impounds water behind a dam, transfers it through a Head Race Tunnel (HRT) to the powerhouse where electricity is generated and transfers water back into the river through a Tail Race Tunnel (TRT). Prima facie, supporters of hydropower claim that water is returned to the river and hence hydropower is a renewable and green. However, the tunnels that carry water from dam to the powerhouse and back tend to be kilometers long, effectively drying the river between. Even for one project, this can be a long stretch. 588 MW Luhri HEP in Himachal Pradesh, on Sutlej will have Asia’s longest tunnel of 38.14 kms bypassing the river for 50 kms. Upstream Luhri, there are 3 dams bumper to bumper: 412 MW Rampur, 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri and 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo. Effectively, the entire river will flow through tunnels made by blasting fragile Himalayan Mountains or through stagnant waters behind dams.  Same is the case of the Teesta basin in Sikkim and many other rivers.

SatlujMap

Along with rivers, the aquatic biodiversity, specialist riparian forests, forests in submergence zones, groundwater recharge zones, habitats to numerous wild animals, watering holes of wildlife and communities too are being destroyed.[3] Seventy hydroelectric Projects in Uttarakhand will submerge more than 3,600 hectares of forests. Dibang Multipurpose HEP in Arunachal alone can submerge 5,056 hectares of forest while the Tipaimukh HEP in Manipur can submerge an unbelievable 25, 822 hectares of forest, providing 1 MW installed capacity for 16 hectares of forest submerged.

Teesta 150411

Diurnal fluctuations and impacts of peaking When the releases from power houses eventually meet the rivers, there is a huge fluctuation on a daily basis in the water level in the downstream. For example, in case of the 1,750 MW Demwe Lower HEP on the Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh, the water level fluctuations 100 kilometers downstream in the Lohit River at Dibru Saikhowa National Park will range from 70 cumecs to 1920 cumecs, each day in the lean season. This is a level fluctuation of 3-5 feet every day in the plains![4] In case of the Siang River, if all dams on the main stem and tribuataries are constructed, water level in the downstream DErring National Park will flucatute beween 23 feet everyday in the lean season![5]

Run ‘with’ the River Projects? Project Proponents, industry and even official committees are claiming that Run of the River (ROR) Projects are green as they do not involve major storage and do not alter the rivers flow over a 10 day period. ROR thus get an official tag of sustainability. In reality, most of the ROR Projects involve massive dams and massive storages behind these dams. They involve reservoirs which run upto ten or more kilometers. For example, the reservoir og Luhri will be 6.8 km long; Kotli Bhel IB will be 27.5 km, Kotli Bhel 2 will be 31.21 km and Lower Demwe will be 23 kms long.

Map_A_B_jpeg

At the same time, for the riverine ecosystem and downstream population, the daily fluctuations in the river levels is devastating. Over a hundred people have died in India due to sudden release of water from upstream hydro projects in non-monsoon months.

Impacts on the aquatic ecosystem: HEPs alter the master variable which governs major riverine processes: its flow.[6] Dams physically block upstream and downstream migration of fish species crucial for their spawning. Fragmentation of rivers, water fluctuation, dry river stretches and passage through turbines have a disastrous impact on fisheries and fish diversity which has been collapsing in all major rivers in country, mainly due to dams.[7]

Himachal Pradesh Fisheries Department has a ‘Negative list’ of rivers and streams rich in biodiversity where in situ protection of fisheries should take place[8]. Ironically, even in this region, hydropower plants are being sanctioned and set up, sometimes in cascades.

Dried Baspa River downstream Baspa Dam. Baspa River supported rich fisheries and fish diversity Photo: SANDRP Partners
Dried Baspa River downstream Baspa Dam. Baspa River supported rich fisheries and fish diversity Photo: SANDRP Partners

There are no provisions for fish migration like fish passages and ladders, eflows. For example the 300 MW Baspa II HEP on Baspa River, in the negative list for fisheries does not have a fish ladder, and has been drying the river without e-flows. Fisheries Departments in Himalayan as well as Western Ghat States have become rubber stamps for providing No Objection Certificates to HEPs while taking monitory compensation. Himachal Fisheries department charges Rs 50,000 per kilometer and additionally, Rs 50,000 Per MW electricity generated as compensation. This means windfall profits to Fisheries departments and nothing to actual fish diversity that is being destroyed.

Hydel Power Dams coming up in the Western Ghats like the 163 MW Athirappilly and 200 MW Gundia will affect endemic and endangered fish diversity in the region, which is not mentioned in the cut paste EIAs of these projects. While WGEEP report categorically rejected both these projects, the HLWG headed by Dr Kasturirangan did not reject them. Instead it simply asked for a revaluation.

The 780 MW Nyamjangchu Project to come up in Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh threatens one of the last remaining wintering sites of the Black Necked Crane and habitat of Red Panda, though the EIA of the project did not mention this fact. While the Cumulative Impact Assessment report on Upper Ganga HEPs submitted by Wildlife Institute of India recommended dropping 24 HEPs for their irreversible impacts on ecology, but the report of the IMG on Ganga Projects headed by B K Chaturvedi rejected this without giving any reasons.

Disaster potential [9] A critical issue left unaddressed in the environmental clearance, forest clearance and even report of committees like IMG on Ganga and HLWG on Western Ghats is the assessment of disaster potential of hydropower projects. Deforestation, building activities, boulder mining, tunneling and blasting, integral with hydropower projects in the Himalayas make the young mountain more prone to landslides and rivers more flood prone. Impoundment and water level fluctuations play a major role in landslides.

EIAs of mega projects like Luhri, which plans to have world’s longest tunnel does not even include impacts of this tunnel in EIA Report submitted by CISHME team. In the recent Uttarakhand disaster, projects like 400 MW VishnuPrayag, 330 MW Srinagar, 76 MW Phata Byung, 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari, 304 and 90 MW Maneri Bhali I and II & 280 MW Dhauli Ganga hugely increased the damages and loss of lives. If more projects on Alaknanda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi, cleared by MoEF and IMG, were present, losses would have been higher. However, there are studies after studies which do not mention the disaster potential of projects, like the recent Siang Basin Study.[10]

Muck disposal – an example of impacts of non-compliance Throughout the Himalayan states, rivers are littered and changing courses due to millions of tonnes of muck illegally dumped by the HEPs in the riverbed itself. This muck dumped by 330 MW Srinagar Project in Alaknanda bed hugely increased the disaster in Srinagar Town. Muck disposal plans of HEPs remain resolutely on paper, whereas on ground, muck is dumped at the most convenient sites: the riverbed. MoEF has refused to take action even when presented with evidence. The IMG report missed most of these ground realities.

Major struggles From Lahaul Spiti in the glacial north, Singoli Bhatwari & Phata Byung in Uttarakhand, to Subansiri Lower and Tawang in the North east, to the Athirappilly in Western Ghats of Kerala, most of the large (and also small) HEPs are being opposed strongly by local communities. India is witnessing one of its largest anti dam stir against the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP in Assam where construction on the project has been stalled for 20 months. Why are the communities resisting at this scale? Why are litigations surrounding HEPs increasing? Do the communities have any role while decisions are taken in Delhi and private proponent’s offices about destroying their rivers? The answer is no.

Climate Friendly façade of Large Hydro: Large Hydro promoters, government, funders like World Bank and ADB as well as research institutions are supporting HEPs because of the claimed climate friendly nature of the projects.

This is hugely misleading. World over, HEPs are being increasingly recognized as being ‘False Solutions to Climate Change’. Reservoirs of HEPs (including RORs) emit Methane which is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than Carbon dioxide. This emission is further boosted at each draw down of the dam.[11]

The trouble is, we have not conducted a single credible greenhouse gas emission study for any of India’s so-called ‘climate friendly’ hydros. The only project where this was a condition laid while granting a hasty environmental clearance was the 1000 MW Tipaimukh HEP. But here too, after 5 years of granting the EC the study has not been conducted. There is no logic behind labeling large hydro as climate friendly. On the other hand through deforestation, drying up of rivers, destruction of ecological services, instability, increased risks of landslides and flash floods, the adaptation and mitigation potential of local communities to Climate Change is hugely compromised.

With Climate change, Glaciers in Himalayas are receding faster than those at other mountains (ICIMOD). This is leaving moraine debris on the path of receding glacier, building up into moraine dams which can fail catastrophically, as was witnessed in Kedarnath disaster. In this scenario, hydropower dams, which depend largely on glacial melt are not only vulnerable to climate change, but have catastrophic impacts on the downstream population as was witnessed in Uttarakhand in case of 400 MW Vishnuprayag and 330 MW Srinagar Projects.     Hence, claiming that HEPs in India are important from climate change perspective is unscientific.

Environmental governance: As per SANDRPs analysis, the Expert Appraisal Committee granting environmental clearance to River valley projects has not rejected a single project of the 262 project considered in last six years ending in Dec 2012[12]. Even when local groups and organisations like SANDRP have raised concerns about impacts of HEPs on rivers, ecosystems and communities, these have been routinely sidelined. While sanctioning cascades of HEPs, no credible CIAs or basin studies or carrying capacity studies are being performed. IMG report on Upper Ganga Projects has also come across as a huge disappointment in this aspect.[13]

Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan
Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

MoEF has openly stated that it does not have the capacity to ensure environmental compliance of clearance conditions and environment management plan. In the absence of any enforcement, violations have become a norm. Neither has the MoEF thought of stalling Environmental and Forest Clearances of HEPs unless streamlined compliance is enforced, like it did for the case of Goa Mines. The pressure of lobbies seems to have blinded precautionary principle or democratic governance at all levels.

Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/
Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/

It may be noted that 50% of our existing HEPs are generating at less than 50% of their designed 90% dependable generation[14], while nearly 89% projects generate at below the promised levels! Per MW generation has fallen by about 25% in last two decades. On the other hand, micro-hydel projects are making remote places like Anjaw in Arunachal power secure without major impacts.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by poor environmental governance, by discouraging community participation, by excluding affected communities from decision-making while externalizing impacts on local communities, ecology and future generations. Energy security and access to energy to poor and disadvantaged sections of the society is a very real challenge and there are ways to address this challenge, which are not ecologically and socially destructive. Let us hope that the Water-Energy Nexus also upholds the rights of the rivers and its people.

-Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com


Dams

Water for Power: Irrigation Dam to be Used for Thermal Power- Drinking Water Supply of BHU, Agriculture, and Existence of Waterfalls at Risk

Welspun Energy which is famous for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power plants in India, is now becoming more infamous in thermal power sectors in India. While, the Environmental Clearance of one of its thermal power plant in Katni (Madhya Pradesh) is under controversy since 2 years alleging fake public hearing and protests from farmers for forcefully acquiring land with help of local administration,… an action replay is observed in another thermal power plant proposed by the company in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. While High Court of Madhya Pradesh has issued notices to Central and State government of M.P. for Katni Thermal Power Plant raising question on the whole EIA process[i], the proposed 1320 MW Mirzapur thermal power plant is awaiting EC and is facing huge opposition from local people and Banaras Hindu University which has its new 2700 acres of south campus very near to the project site. Students of BHU even sent a written petition to MoEF alleging that public hearing was not communicated properly and the EIA concealed several critical information.In this article, we tried to highlight the issues related to water where the company has been alleged to conceal information and not taking into account the factors which will is bound to have  significant impact on environment.

A 1320 MW coal based thermal power plant is proposed at village Dadri Khurd in Mirzapur by M/s Welspun Energy (U.P.) Pvt. Ltd. Issues like concealment of wildlife data and utilizing forest areas caught the eyes of environmentally concerned people after the Site Visit report prepared by Vindhya Bachao was made public. One of the key issues raised was the impact of water withdrawal and the manner in which it is proposed in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report. The project proponent concealed information regarding the presence of an entire river, water-falls, a University campus of 2700 acres and the fact that the same water source provides drinking water to the entire campus!

The project was considered for Environmental Clearance by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) – Thermal Power and Coal Mines on 26th March, 2013 and 18th November, 2013, and was deferred both the times. Local activists and Banaras Hindu University have made representations for shifting of this project to MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) already. The project is being under consideration for third time by EAC in its meeting dated 25th March, 2014. This article presents a short summary of the contradictions between the claims made by the Company and the reality at the ground level. It also illustrates the extent to which a company can go to mislead the authorities to get an Environmental Clearance.

1. No EIA of withdrawal of water from Ganga

Ecological Flow ignored while giving NOC to withdraw Ganga water

The project proponent wrote in its EIA that 40 lakh liters of water per hour will be required by the power plant which will be withdrawn from River Ganga via Upper Khajuri Reservoir. In the NOC (No Objection Certificate) letter given by CWC (Central Water Commission), the dry period of Ganga has been written as January to May. According to researchers based in Varanasi and Mirzapur, the water flow in Ganga improves only around July after the onset of monsoons. Apart from this, one can visually make out the state of river Ganga in Mirzapur which starts drying in October and by November end, the river looks completely dry. In any case, the extraction of water in lean season will not only affect the river ecology but the livelihood of people dependent on the river as well specially the fishermen. Mirzapur stretch also reportedly has Gangetic Dolphins, which will be also affected due to the proposed activity. However, it is ironical to see that the country’s premier institutions like CWC ignored the water flow of Ganga at Mirzapur while giving NOC to withdraw water. Not only the lean season has been altered for the project but the high level of pollution in Ganga has also kept aside while allowing so much water (36 MCM) to be pumped for the power plant. Mirzapur lies between Allahabad and Varanasi, both of which lie on the banks of Ganga, and are responsible for its severely polluted state. No doubt the water quality of Ganga at Mirzapur is not great and there should be enough water present in the river to allow safe dispersal of pollutants and improving the self cleansing capacity of the river. In such a crisis, the decision of the CWC to allow withdrawal of water from Ganga is extremely incongruous.

In a response to a representation that we sent to the MoEF regarding this, the company replied that they are using just 0.0003% of total 60,000 Cu.mec. water flow in the Ganges. It must be mentioned here that this calculation was based on the consideration of 4 lakh litres of water required per hour, instead of 40 lakh/hour. As discussed earlier, such huge extraction of water will have significant impact on the river flow in lean season. There has been no impact assessment of the withdrawal of water from Ganga which was required to be done as per the TOR issued to the project.

The Distance of Upper Khajuri Reservoir by road from Mirzapur is at least 24 Km and from Upper Khajuri reservoir to the proposed site is another 7 Km. The elevation of the proposed project site is at 630 feet while the elevation of Upper Khajuri dam and river Ganga is at approx. 510 feet and 260 feet respectively. The pipeline crosses through several Reserve Forests like Barkachha RF, Daanti RF, Marihaan Reserve Forest and Patehra which are home to at least six Schedule I species including Sloth Bear, Chinkara and Vultures. According to a reply under RTI application from the forest department, it is also noted that the region has a very small population of Swamp deer and Mugger Crocodile too.

Picture 1: Map showing location of BHU Campus, Wyndham Fall, River Khajuri & Lower Khajuri Fall, presence of which were concealed in the EIA Report
Picture 1: Map showing location of BHU Campus, Wyndham Fall, River Khajuri & Lower Khajuri Fall, presence of which were concealed in the EIA Report

2. Diversion of Irrigation Reservoir to Industrial Use, was there any participation of the affected people in this decision?

i) Imprudent approach to use Upper Khajuri The project proponent says that the water for dry season of Ganga will be met from Upper Khajuri Dam, which will be filled up during monsoon.The company also added that 9.5 MCM will be also pumped for agricultural needs of the people. Firstly, the reservoir is very much in use and is source of irrigation and drinking water. The subsequent question that arises is whether they have the permission for additional 9.5 MCM to be withdrawn and whether there is any checking mechanism to monitor that only 36 MCM water is being pumped and no more? Will they be able to maintain the water quality, which will be effected due to ingress of Ganges water?

According to the information available on WRIS-NRSC website, the Upper Khajuri Reservoir is a very old reservoir developed in 1962 as a medium irrigation project with potential created at 7280 Ha with a live storage-capacity of 37.834 MCM.

Our concern here is, whether the idea of filling up of a rain-fed reservoir with the severely polluted water from Ganga will solve the problem or escalate it? There are several agricultural fields adjoining Upper Khajuri reservoir that will be submerged. In addition, the clean water available to the farmers will be completely jeopardised and there will be increased threat of contamination of the fields due to the constant filling of polluted water from Ganga. It is worth noting that the current source of water for the reservoir is rainfall surface run-off which gets enough time to clean its water from suspended particles and other contaminants.

Picture 2: Upper Khajuri Reservoir| 10.02.2011. Photo: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 2: Upper Khajuri Reservoir| 10.02.2011. Photo: Debadityo Sinha

ii) No Mention of downstream features and impacts of alteration to Upper Khajuri reservoir The EIA report does not mention the important downstream features and uses of Upper Khajuri Reservoir. The Upper Khajuri Reservoir (UKR) is connected to Lower Khajuri Reservoir (LKR) via River Khajuri. River Khajuri runs alongside the Banaras Hindu University’s South Campus (A k.a. RGSC-Rajiv Gandhi South Campus) and has to two of the famous water-falls of Mirzapur, namely Wyndham Fall and Kharanja Fall.

Wyndham fall is a very famous historical water fall and nature park being maintained by Forest Department, which is on River Khajuri. The length of the river between Upper and Lower Khajuri Reservoir is very short, which is approximately less than 10 Km. The LKR is the source of drinking water to the entire BHU South Campus and any alteration to Upper Khajuri Reservoir will directly affect the Lower Khajuri Reservoir as both of them are connected via River Khajuri.

The EIA report not only ignores the presence of 2700 acres of RGSC-BHU, but also does not even mention the presence of River Khajuri, Wyndham Fall and Lower Khajuri Reservoir (LKR). LKR, commissioned in 1949 as per CWC register of Large Dams in India has gross storage capacity of 120.37 MCM (Million Cubic Meters). UKR, commissioned in 1958 has gross storage capacity of 44.74 MCM and live storage capacity of 37.83 MCM. As CWC register shows, both are irrigation projects.

A representation from Banaras Hindu University has already been sent to MoEF on 18th September, 2013, in which they have mentioned that any alteration to Upper Khajuri will jeopardise the drinking water source of the campus. In the same letter it has been demanded to shift the site of the project far from the campus.

Opposition is also coming from the students of RGSC. Students recently sent a petition with more than 500 signatures showing opposition to the use of Upper Khajuri dam and saying that Khajuri River has cultural values for the students and they are sentimentally attached to the river system, especially the Wyndham fall and Kharanja fall. They also showed concern regarding water quality as it is also the source of drinking water for them. The same petition also alleged that the information about public hearing was not communicated properly, due to which no one from RGSC could participate in the Public Hearing and register their complaint.

Picture 3: Wyndham Fall | 08.08.2010. Photograph: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 3: Wyndham Fall | 08.08.2010. Photograph: Debadityo Sinha
Picture 4: Cleanliness Drive at Wyndham Fall by BHU students with DFO Maneesh Mittal| 02.02.2012. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 4: Cleanliness Drive at Wyndham Fall by BHU students with DFO Maneesh Mittal| 02.02.2012. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 5: Cleanliness Drive at Kharanja Fall by BHU students with DFO Adarsh Kumar| 02.02.2014. Photograph: Eco One-BHU
Picture 5: Cleanliness Drive at Kharanja Fall by BHU students with DFO Adarsh Kumar| 02.02.2014. Photograph: Eco One-BHU

3. No Impact on water resources?

Under the Terms of Reference recommended by MoEF for EIA of the project, it was mandatory to:

“Study on the impact on river/marine ecology (as may be applicable) due to the proposed withdrawal of water/ discharge of treated wastewater into the river/ creek/ sea etc shall be carried out and submitted alongwith the EIA Report.”

The company repeatedly maintained in the EIA report that there will be no impact on water resources due to the project.

In the EIA report they wrote that the project will be designed for zero waste water discharge and the waste water generation will be only 1% of freshwater withdrawn. This magical prediction is based on their theoretical design. However, it is highly impractical. Moreover, there is no mention of River Khajuri, Wyndham fall and most importantly, the fact that the same water source is also used for drinking water by BHU and also irrigation.  Apart from withdrawal of water, what concerns us is the impact of water pollution on the water sources. In a thermal power plant project, the water pollution range from discharges from cooling tower blow down, boiler blow down, demineralisation plant effluent, coal handling plant dust suppression,  ash handling,  Leachate of heavy metal (especially Mercury) from ash pond, effluent from oil handling and transformer areas, power house and turbine area effluent and domestic waste water. No detailed assessment of impacts on water due to withdrawal or discharge is given in the EIA report.

Though the company’s arguments have seems to have convinced State Government and Central Water Commission, it is becoming very hard for the BHU Professors to accept that this will not jeopardize the drinking water supply of the campus. As the Upper Khajuri dam and river Khajuri is being used extensively for drinking water, this will severely affect the water quality. As the length of river Khajuri between UKR and LKR is short, one cannot expect the self cleaning capacity of the river will be too sufficient. The impact of the water withdrawal on the aquatic ecology, groundwater recharge, irrigation, water falls was also required, none has been done.

EAC in its meeting dated 26th  March, 2013 raised this issue to project proponent and asked for some other alternative water source for the project site, since the dam was constructed for drinking and agricultural needs and not for industrial purposes.

In our representation to EAC we also emphasized that water from Ganga will have very very high levels of BOD, coliforms and other pollutants, which will cumulatively jeopardize the water quality in the streams leaving this entire region in severe crisis of drinking water. Apart from that, contaminants like Zinc, Aresinc, Chromium, Phosphate, Copper and radioactive element like Uranium will impose heavy threat to the water quality of the local water sources as the waste water will be finally discharged in local nallah which will drain either into Khajuri river or some other wetland. The company has still kept a mum on the disclosure of that local nallah till now, where the wastewater is to be discharged.

On raising the issue regarding water discharge and impact on water resources to EAC in November last year, the company responded as follows:

“The desired water is sourced primarily from Ganga River flowing at a distance of 17 km from project site for which desired approvals have already been obtained from State & Central Government.  The same is only intermediately stored at Upper Khajuri Dam, which is finally pumped to reservoir at project site. Therefore, our source of water is not common as Vindham Falls…

 I. Referring Point No. I, we confirm that Upper Khajuri Dam will be used as intermediate storage of water from Ganga & ultimately will be pumped to our project site after fulfilling the commitment with State Government for irrigation & other purposes of local community…

Total water requirement for power project including irrigation requirement would be met by pumping water from river Ganges and storing In Upper Khajuri Dam and there is no conflict of interest as for as BHU and Vindham fall is concerned.”

We just hope EAC takes note of the silly and unscientific replies of the project proponent while making any decision in future of this project. In any case, an assessment of the quality of the Ganga water, how it will affect the UKR and Khauri river and downstream ecology and how will it ensured that water used by the company will be exactly same as the water pumped from Ganga minus the losses? Why can the project not be asked to build their own facility rather than using the UKR?

4. Other Issues with the Project There are numerous environmental issues which were raised by Vindhya Bachao in its ‘Site Visit Report’ submitted to MOEF on 15th November, 2013 – including location of the project site inside a forest area, presence of Schedule I animals in the project site – which are in direct contradiction to the claims made in the EIA report that no forest land is involved and no endangered animal is present in project area. Some other issues were also reported like illegal means of getting signatures in support of the project in the form of job application form. The Site visit report prepared by Vindhya Bachao, BHU’s representation and all EIA documents of the project can be accessed at www.vindhyabachao.org/welspun.

It is also interesting to see what stand Mr. Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate who will be contesting from Varanasi, just 60 km downstream of Mirzapur, will take. While he tries to woo people of Varanasi for clean Ganga, will he understand the ecology of Ganga? And can he prevent further destruction of this mighty, holy river from companies like Welspun. This becomes particularly interesting since Welspun has flourished in Gujarat under Modi’s rule.

Debadityo Sinha (debadityo@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[i] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/the-good-earth/High-court-notice-to-Centre-Madhya-Pradesh-govt-on-Welspun-plant/articleshow/29517083.cms

[ii]  http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/did-welspun-fudge-facts-its-coal-fired-power-plant-mirzapur

[iii] http://greenbhu.blogspot.in/2014/03/students-of-rgsc-sent-petition-to_20.html

[iv] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Upper_Khajuri_Reservoir_JI01845

[v] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Upper_Khajuri_D00870

[vi] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Farmer-commits-suicide-in-Katni-district/articleshow/21444754.cms

[vii] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/bhopal/land-allotted-to-welspun-farmers-to-stage-protest/article1-965389.aspx

[viii] http://india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wrpinfo/index.php?title=Lower_Khajuri_D00555

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources · Sikkim

Lack of Transparency and Accountability Remains the Norm of Functioning for MoWR’s Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) is a very important committee. It accords the financial clearance for any irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project. TAC is supposed to discuss the techno-economic viability of projects as per the resolution published in the Union of India Gazette Notification No. 12/5/86-P-II dated Nov 27, 1987. This committee came into being replacing a similar committee that existed earlier in the planning commission. Even now, the guidelines for functioning of the committee are issued by the Planning Commission.

The Gazette notification cited above also said, “The committee may also invite representatives of any other Government organizations, scientific body of experts in the relevant fields to participate in its deliberations.” This seems like a window to appoint credible, independent, non-government persons in the committee, but this window does not seem to have been used. Among the functions of the committee listed in this notification include, “The functions of the Committee will be to examine projects proposed by State Governments, Central Government or other organizations and satisfy itself that the schemes have been prepared after adequate investigations” and “the need of environment conservation and proper rehabilitation of project-affected persons have been taken into account.” However, our perusal of the functioning of the TAC shows that TAC has failed to fulfill both these mandates.

As noted in the Guidelines for Submission, Appraisal and Clearance of Irrigation and Multipurpose Projects, 2010 available on the CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/publications.html), “The project proposal, thereafter, is put up to the Advisory Committee for clearance, which is, by and large, like single window clearance.” The importance of such a single window clearance becomes all the more important. The guidelines further note, “On the basis of examination conducted by the Advisory Committee, decision on techno-economic viability of the projects is taken in the meeting of this Committee. The projects found acceptable by the Advisory Committee shall be recommended for investment clearance by the Planning Commission and inclusion in the Five Year Plan/Annual Plan.” This shows how important is the role of the TAC in judging techno-economic viability of projects and also from the point of view of prudent planning.

No Transparency, independent participation or accountability of TAC Considering the above, there is strong case for clearly defined norms for transparency, participation and accountability in (1) functioning of TAC; (2) The screening process of the projects at initial stages that also happen under these guidelines in the Central Water Commission, based on which approval for DPR preparation is given.

In view of the significance of TAC, this is SANDRP’s third analysis of the decisions taken in TAC meetings. The present analysis covers decisions taken for North East India from 110th to 122nd TAC meeting. In the two previous analysis done by SANDRP, TAC meeting decisions taken from 95th meeting to 109th meeting has been covered. Here it is important to note that lack of transparency has been observed right from the agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings. The agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings should be uploaded on CWC website but CWC website has minutes only till the 115th meeting held on 24th July 2012 and the website has been last updated on 31/08/2012.

In this analysis we have covered 13 TAC meetings held from July 2011 to December 2013. In these 13 meeting, 21 projects from 6 northeastern states have been considered. But out of the 13 meetings held, projects from northeast were considered only in 10 meetings. TAC has accepted the proposals for projects with a total cost of rupees 4075.46 crore. Majority of the projects were given clearance at the first time of consideration. Thus, on an average TAC  had cleared projects worth of 407.55 crores from the North East in each of these 10 meetings. Number of the projects considered by TAC in each meeting along with their total cost is given below. A state-wise and a project-wise list is also provided.

Total Cost of Projects Cleared by TAC July 2012 to December 2013

Sl No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered from NE No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
1 110th 20-07-11 5 4 1 0 211.56
2 111th 17-08-11 1 1 0 0 167.09
3 112th 14-09-11 1 1 0 0 48.55
4 115th 24-07-12 5 5 0 0 2208.81
5 117th 21-03-13 1 1 0 0 155.87
6 118th 30-07-13 2 2 0 0 467.38
7 119th 29-08-13 2 2 0 0 601.67
8 120th 13-09-13 1 1 0 0 42.96
9 121st 08-10-13 2 2 0 0 146.01
10 122nd 20-12-13 1 1 0 0 25.56
  Total     20     4075.46

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

Sl. No State No of projects approved Total cost of the approved projects, Rs Crore
1 Arunachal 1 36.47
2 Assam 7 1526.85
3 Manipur 7 2268.99
4 Meghalaya 1 5.63
5 Sikkim 1 48.55
6 Tripura 3 188.97

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 30 month period.

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

1. Zero Rejections The TAC did not reject a single project. There was only one project which was deferred in the 110th meeting but it was approved in the next meeting. Rest of the new projects were were approved in the very first meeting of their consideration.

2. Lack of information The TAC minutes provide little information about projects. Specially in case of newer projects, detailed discussions should have happened. The minutes of TAC meetings do not give much of an idea about size, location, benefits of a particular project. In the project- wise list provided towards the end of this analysis, we have provided limited information available in the minutes. Some of the noteworthy missing information is listed below:

– In the 115th meeting, 5 projects from Manipur were considered. Out of these five projects, 2 were multipurpose projects and 3 were barrage projects. Surprisingly, there was no information about where these projects are located, on which river, what the size of these projects. None of the minutes mentioned about whom these projects will actually benefit. Only two projects mentioned about increase in annually irrigated land but no more detail was provided.

– In the 118th meeting, construction of embankments on both banks of river Ranganadi for flood management and river training was considered. But the cost of the project was on the higher side compared to the embankment construction work to be done on the river Dikrong, considered in the same meeting. This cost escalation may be due to the difference in the length of the projects. But this cannot be confirmed since minutes do not mention the length of the proposed embankments.

India's First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
India’s First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

But the increased costs may also be due to the use of Geo bag technology for construction of Ranganadi embankments. Use of Geo-bag technology is a costly affair but nothing has been mentioned about the use of this technology in the minutes of 118th meeting. This is stated in the annexure (Annex VI as mentioned in the document) of the meeting. Interestingly this annexure too has been mentioned only as a corrigendum.

3. No Detailed Discussion on Projects Considered This was very evident in the two previous analysis done by SANDRP and situation remains the same this time as well. In case of all the projects, including the ones considered for the first time, there was no detailed information or any detailed discussion. There is no discussion on technical viability of the project. Reading through the minutes gives an impression that approval for any project considered by TAC is fait accompli. There is no discussion about whether the project is a desirable project, if there are other options available, if this is the best option and so on. Under the mandate given to it, TAC is supposed to discuss all these issues. TAC accepted projects proposals with huge cost and time overruns but little enquiry has been made why such escalation happened.

Dhansiri irrigation project This is a glaring example of cost escalation. The project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29.08.2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. But, it was surprising to find that original cost of the project in 1975 was Rs 15.83 crores as according to the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[1] The same website states that project started in 1975 and supposed to be completed 35 years later in 2010. In the TAC meeting a new time schedule of March 2015 was stated. The cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost over runs (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or whether this project which will take 40 years just to complete will be viable or not. On the contrary, the planning commission representatives said, “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.”

The TAC should have done a detailed assessment why the project took so long time to complete. But it seemed to be contended with the rational that the project authorities provided which was that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed. But in the meantime minutes of the meeting also showed that that major components of the project are in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system were reported to have been completed. There has been no detailed assessment in to any of these aspects.

Imphal Barrage project In this project, the cost of the project mentioned in the minutes of the 115th meeting contradicted with the cost provided in the annexure. The cost of Extension, Renovation and Modernization (ERM) of the Imphal barrage project as mentioned in the minutes is Rs 16.80 crores. But a letter from the Under Secretary, Govt. of Manipur to the Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Manipur dated 21.07.2012 stated the cost of the project as 23.41 crores. This reflects the lack of serious discussion over projects in TAC. It is also surprising that TAC, being the committee which gives the techno economic clearance to projects, does not have clarity about even the cost of the project.

4. No Discussion over Social, Environmental and Other impacts of the Projects The projects cleared by TAC have serious social, environmental and other impacts but the committee never discussed these impacts. TAC does not at all take into account the impacts a project would have on the environment.

In the 118th meeting (30.07.2013), while considering the proposal for flood management of Dikrong along with river training works on both banks, the minutes stated “Effectiveness of existing embankments of river Dikrong has been deteriorating due to lack of repair, siltation of river bed and consequential change in river behaviour, change in flow pattern due to release of Ranga Nadi hydel project etc.” But this is one of the rare instances when TAC mentioned about the environmental impacts on embankments. But rather than asking for more details on these impacts or to see whether embankment would really be a viable option or not, the TAC accepted the proposal. On the other hand nowhere the committee discussed what impacts an embankment has on river bed, siltation or downstream stretches of a river.

Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong/Pare. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
River Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is also important to note here TAC also does not take into consideration impacts of the hydropower projects on the embankments in the downstream of the river. In the above mentioned case, the increased costs of Dikrong embankment should have been charged on the Ranga Nadi HEP, but there is no discussion on this. The Pare hydropower project (110 MW) in Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh is currently under construction on Dikong / PareRiver. Moreover there are at least 10 hydropower projects at various stages in the combined Ranganadi-Dikrong basin in Arunachal Pradesh, including one operating, three TOR approvals given and five additional MoA signed (in addition to a proposed project). There is no provision to assess the impacts of these projects on the embankments downstream of DikrongRiver in Assam. In fact there is no provision for any impact assessment study for embankments even though studies show the disastrous impacts of embankments on environment, floods and on the lives of the people living close to the river.

5. Clearing Same Embankment Projects over Years In terms of embankments, it is observed that the TAC had cleared same projects over the years. Not emphasizing on the environmental impacts of embankment projects is one of the major reasons for this. In the 117th TAC meeting held on 21.03.2013 the proposal for “Protection of Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta at different reaches from Lotasur to Tekeliphuta from the erosion of river Brahmaputra Assam” was considered. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 155.87 crore. But on the same embankment, a project titled “Raising and Strengthening to Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti-erosion measures (to protect Majuli and Dhakukhana areas against flood devastation by the Brahmaputra, Lakhimpur district, Assam) was accepted in the 95th TAC meeting held on 20.01.2009. The estimated cost of the earlier project was 142.42 crore.

A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.
Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

The minutes of the 117th meeting, about the previous scheme said that it “was taken up primarily for closure of breach in the then existing embankment including raising of embankment around the breach area only.” But the minutes of the 95th TAC meeting had said something totally different about the project. The minutes stated that project proposal envisaged – (i) Raising and strengthening of embankment for a length of 13.9 km, (ii) Construction of retirement bund with geo-textile tubes of length 5000 m. This shows how the discussion on the Brahmaputra dyke Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta is 117th meeting is completely misleading. TAC does on even take into account its previous meeting discussions before clearing a project. This possibly gives a hint of a scam.

The Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta has a long history of facing severe erosions. The first geo-tube embankment was constructed on this dyke in Dec 2010. Crores have been spent for the protection of this embankment. But even after that the Dhakukhana sub-division always remained in the headlines during the flood season in Assam. There is need for area specific detailed study assessing the impact on and of the embankment, but little has been done in this regard. Besides, the Bogibeel Bridge, the fourth one on the BrahmaputraRiver, is coming up in the upstream of this embankment. Construction of this bridge would make this dyke even more prone to erosion since the length of this bridge will be 4.94 km, shrinking the wide river to great extent. In a personal visit to the area, one of the government officials informed that as a result of this “funneling action”, the force of water will increase and it will directly hit the embankment leading to more erosion. But TAC has never dealt with these issues in its meetings but cleared all the proposals that it considered.
Short History Brahmaputra Dyke from Sissikalghae to Tekeliphuta[2]

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6. There is no independent, critical voice in the meetings. The agenda, proceedings, or decisions of the meetings are not even in public domain.
7. There is no mechanism to hold the TAC accountable for any wrong decisions taken.
8. The TAC is clearly not fulfilling the mandate given to it in the guidelines for TAC meetings. The guidelines themselves need revision from several points.
9. There is no attempt to assess the justifiability of the kinds of projects that are being accepted and if they are indeed delivering the promised benefits.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection work Arunachal Pradesh New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood and Erosion Phase II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration fo rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in West Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya  New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon against erosion of the river Brahmaputra Sonitpur/Assam  New Brahmaputra 167.09 Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below GreenfieldAirport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Protecion of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
2 Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
1 Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
2 ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal West Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
2 Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

[2] From the brochure published by WRD, Assam at the time of commissioning the geo-tube embankment in Matmora

Ministry of Water Resources

Shalmala River Protection Rally: Local Actions on the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers

On the eve of International Day of Action for Rivers (14th March), more than 1500 people gathered on the Ganeshpal Island in the Shalmala River. The mood was upbeat and there was spring in each step, young and old. The crowd was made up of a remarkable majority of women, all of them with flowers in their hair. There were barefooted farmers, planters with gardens along the river, priests in dhotis clutching files full of river protection stories, swamis who were to deliver a tough message, researchers working on rivers, tribal groups who venerated the Shalmala and after 5 pm, even school children who splashed around in the river! The densely forested river banks were decorated with garlands of flowers and mango leaves and there was a local band drumming rhythmic beats.

"Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers"
“Let our Shalmala Flow. International Day of Action for Rivers” Photo: All photos by Parineeta, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
People gathering for the rally Photo: All photos by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

The gathering was here to celebrate the lovely Shalmala River, a life giving resource to these villages. On one of the boulders inside the river was a painted notice: “If anyone tries to destroy our environment and rivers, we will NOT allow it”

Sign on a river boulder
Sign on a river boulder

They were unaware that this remarkable local phenomenon was resonating with a similar global endeavor. That the International day of Action for Rivers celebrates just this spirit: of protecting, celebrating and fighting for our rivers. Residents along Shalmala have been taking action for their river for more than 10 years now.

Shalmala River, as the name suggests, evokes lyrical beauty and magic. This small river is a tributary of the West Flowing River Bedthi of the Western Ghats, in Uttar Kannada District of Karnataka.

Bedthi herself is a special river. In the 1980’s when the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited announced its proposal for damming this river for a hydroelectric project, the resultant protest movement brought together myriad groups from Uttar Kannada led by Panduranga Hegde, Ananth Hegde, researches , economists, scholars and activists like Sundarlal Bahuguna, Vandana Shiva from across India. Like the Narmada and Silent Valley struggles, Bedthi struggle helped lay the foundation stones of an informed discourse surrounding dams and rivers. While it talked the language of a local peasant who did not want his land to be submerged and his river to go dry, it also talked the language of a scholar working on cost benefit analysis and ecological goods and services. The movement is an inspiration to many because the Bedthi still flows freely and the dam is all but scrapped, bowing to the opposition.

Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Ananth Hegde Ashisar addressing the Shalmala Rally
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies
Priests earnestly discussing river protection strategies

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Shalmala, a smaller tributary of Bedthi is no less special. For one, it is one of the very few protected rivers in India. Following untiring research and advocacy by Bhalchandra Hegde and local communities and with support of Forest Department Officials and erstwhile Chairperson of Western Ghats Task Force Ananth Hegde Ashisara, Shalmala the river has been protected through constitution of Shalmala River Riparian Conservation Reserve in June 2012. With Shalmala River Riparian Ecosystem Conservation Reserve, Uttar Kannada now has 4 CRs under its belt: all of them protecting important rivers in the region, without affecting local traditional use. These include Aghanashini-Lion Tailed Macaque Conservation Reserve, Bedthi Conservation Reserve and Hornbill Conservation Reserve along the Kali River. Several researchers like Dr. TV Ramchandra from IISC, Dr. Praveen Bhargava, Politicians, Swamijis of local Matths, and importantly the local population have supported this cause.

Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions
Women of all ages took active part in the rally and the discussions

Conservation Reserve is a new concept in the rigid framework of Protected Areas under the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002. The novel part of these reserves is that they seek to protect habitats that are under private ownership also, through active stakeholder participation. They are typically buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved protected forests in India. They are designated as conservation reserves if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the government but used for subsistence by communities, and community reserves if part of the lands are privately owned. Administration of such reserves would be through joint participation of forest officials and local bodies like gram sabhas and gram panchayats.

Shalmala Conservation Reserve was declared in June 2012 through a gazette notification. It encompasses more than 15.9 kms of the Shalmala River, with 100 mts riparian buffer on each bank. The reserve starts at Sahasralinga and culminates at Ganeshpal, the island where the rally took place. Just downstream Ganeshpal, the river takes a plunge down a steep gorge to form the Ganesh falls. From here, the boundaries of the Bedthi Conservation Reserve begin.

One of the important arguments in the proposal for conservation reserve is the unique cultural value of Shalmala River. At Sahasralinga, one is awestruck to see hundreds of Shivlingas carved on the bedrock of the river. The river itself is a temple, with carvings of Shivalingas, Nandi (Basaveshwara), Garuda, deeps and inscriptions. There is a huge pilgrimage here on the occasion of Shivratri.

Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga
Shalmala Riverbed with Shivlingas and Carvings at Sahasralinga

Hydel Project in the Conservation Reserve

Even as the conservation reserve was declared in June 2012, Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) has allotted a 24 MW Hydel project right inside the conservation Reserve across the Shalmala! This 24 MW Ganeshpal hydel project by KARE Power envisages a trench weir as well a dam to store and divert water away from the river. The proposed location of the weir is just upstream of Ganeshpal isalnd. The project envisages a 4.4 kms long Head race tunnel to divert water from river to the powerhouse. The powerhouse is planned to be at the foot of the waterfall.

Through this tunnel diversion which will need blasting in the river bed and riparian zone, nearly 5 kms of the rivers well as the Ganesh Falls will be rendered dry. As a trench weir is proposed, there is no possibility of releasing eflows.

Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala
Bhalchandra Hegde and Ananth Hegde Ashisar, instrumental behind protecting Shalmala

The Ganeshpal Island, where the rally took place will be exposed, without a river caressing it and Ganesh Falls will dry up. The project also envisages a 15 kms long transmission line to the power station and most of this area is under forest. In addition, the DPR of the project plans  for construction of roads to the weir, powerhouse and tunnels as well as workers colonies and rest house with recreational facilities. If materialised, this small hydel project which does not legally require an Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing, will destroy the Shalmala Conservation Reserve.

The local people are opposing this project with all their might. One of the resolutions of the rally was an appeal to the government to install solar power projects in Uttar Kannada in non-forest regions, which will be heartily supported by locals, but to leave their river alone. It is understandable. The economic, social and cultural ethos of the region is very strongly linked to flowing rivers. People worship rivers, they fish from them, use water for drinking water needs, diver streams for irrigation g their lands and look upon the rivers in awe in the monsoons.

People after the rally
People heading back home after the rally
Enjoying Shalmala
Enjoying Shalmala

The protest rally was organised and addressed by Sri. Ananth Hegde Ashisara, past Chairperson of the Western Ghats Task Force and past member of the State Wildlife Board, noted economist B. Kumarswamy, Dr. Subhashchandra from IISC, Bangalore, Adv. Shankar Bhat from Bangalore, Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP and Shri. Karunakar Gogate from Hosamat, Dakshin Kannada. Shri. Gogate shared now Kukke hydel project planned in his region has not disclosed even its submergence details after 3 years of being told to do so by the government. Incidentally, Kare Power Projects which is proposing Ganeshpal Hydel,  is constructing the Thangarabalu Hydel Project across Krishna in Gulbarga and here too, the company has not shared submergence details for a dam as high as 22 meters!

The meeting was presided over of Swamiji of a Svarnavalli Matth. He is locally known as the Green Swamy. Rather than going into religious sermons, Swamiji told the people: “Along with Shanti Mantra, now is the time for Kranti mantra. Do not let project developers who have no link with your river, come here and destroy it. We have a duty towards our river and we will fulfil it.”

More than 1500 people stood and vowed to protect Shalmala river and their entwined lives in days and years to come.

After the rally, school children splashed about in the river, researchers went for bird watching along the riparian stretch, farmers returned to their gardens to water their crops and the elderly sat down on the river sands for a gossip.

The Shalmala flowed by serenely. May this flow continue…

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

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Expert Appraisal Committee · Karnataka

Tragedy of Errors : Environmental governance and the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme

That small-time EIA agents and private project proponents put up sham EIAs and project justifications is not really news. People, from erstwhile Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to Prof. Madhav Gadgil, have spoken famous lines about this issue.

But what if respected government agencies and departments too join this band wagon of fraud?

In the 69th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF[i], officials of Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited and WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy, under the Ministry of Water Resources) earnestly discussed the ‘proposed’ Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme, which ‘envisages’ a non-submersible barrage ( dam) across the Bhima River in Gulbarga, Karnataka. The barrage and project would submerge over 1400 hectares of land and affect nearly 3000 people.

As per EIA Notification 2006, the project had applied for first stage environmental clearance (Terms of reference clearance) in which the EAC is supposed to appraise the viability of the proposal holistically, assess the pre-feasibility report (PFR) and Form I submitted by the project proponent and, if all these are found satisfactory, recommend specific Terms of Reference for carrying out Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Public Hearing of the project. On completing these, the project comes back to the EAC for Environmental clearance. Based on the EIA and public hearing, EAC decides on recommends Environmental clearance (EC). EC is issued by the MoEF and only after this can the actual project work start.

This forms the backbone of the Environmental clearance process of the country, upheld by the EIA Notification 2006 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Now comes the intriguing and sad part.

The Pre-feasibility report of the project, presumably done by WAPCOS, talked about Sonthi Lift Irrigation scheme, which ‘envisages construction of Sonthi barrage, its ‘proposed’ submergence and people who ‘may be affected’. Form I by the proponent talked about “967 structures which will have to be cleared in submergence village for the project”. Note here that WAPCOS is no small time EIA Agency, it is a part of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India.[ii]

The reality is that the Sonthi barrage with vertical gates, which the Executive Engineers and WAPCOS were ‘proposing’, already stands across the Bhima River near Sonthi village. While work on the barrage is complete, work on canals is also complete in some stretches and progressing in some. Contracts for this Lift Irrigation scheme, which was discussed for TORs in 2013, were issued by the Karnataka Government as early as 2005!

Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima
Completed Sonthi Barrage Photo: KBJNL http://www.kbjnl.com/Comp-CZ1-Sonthi-BCBAR-Bhima

And the status of the Sonthi LIS is not a secret either.

In fact, the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited website itself sports a picture of this barrage and states that: “Sonthi Barrage, with a capacity of 4 TMC is already completed!” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Ongo-CZ1-Sonthi-LIS)

The website states:

Location:

Across River Bhima near Sonthi Village of Shahapur Taluk.
Utilisation 4.00 TMC
Components Bridge cum Barrage across River Bhima.
Head Work – 1 No.
Main Canal – 23 Km, Branch Canal – 16 Km
Yargol Minor Canal – 10 Km & Distry. Network.
Command Area 16,000 Ha.
Status of work

Sonthi Bridge cum Barrage completed.
Head work in progress

The barrage completed with all 37 gates of the barrage fixed, work on the canals of the Lift Irrigation scheme is also progressing water is stored and work on feeder canal is completed, branch canals on going fast and completed in some stretches. According to KBJNL, Civil work of barrage & Erection of all 37 vertical gates completed and water stored at Barrage. Construction of Feeder Canal work is completed. Works of Sonthi LIS Main Canal Km 0.00 to 5.00 including Aqueduct, Sonthi Branch canal Km 0.00 to 7.00, Distry. No.1 Km 0.00 to 15 & Yargol Minor Canal works are in progress.” (http://www.kbjnl.com/Progress-Report)

CAG’s report

Ironically, not only is the scheme complete, but CAG had punched holes in the contracting of this LIS back in 2011.( http://agkar.cag.gov.in/docs/ARPSU%202013-Eng.pdf ) According to CAG Report, No. 4, Commercial of 2011, Karnataka, modifications of converting a submersible bridge into a lift irrigation scheme have happened on the barrage and Sonthi barrage has already been modified into a Lift Irrigation Scheme. CAG has recorded irregularities in awarding contracts for this extended work also to the same contractor, without proper tendering process. CAG proves that contracts for converting the submersible barrage into a non-submersible barrage and Lift Irrigation Scheme were given as early as 2005, nearly a decade before the project came for first stage environmental clearance!

According to teh CAG report: After award of the work (June 2003) the Company (Karnataka Bhagya Jal nigam Limited) decided (December 2003) to construct a non-submersible bridge on a request from the Minister for Minor Irrigation (October 2003). This resulted in increase in quantity by more than 125 per cent of tendered quantities. The same contractor was entrusted (Nov 2004) with the additional works necessitated due to change over to non-submersible bridge at the cost of Rs  7.85 crore.”

“On the directions of the Government (Dec 2005) Sonthi bridge- cum-barrage was modified to include lift irrigation scheme also. Construction of steel embedment works for vertical gates and the associated additional civil works at the cost of Rs 30.15 crore were also entrusted to the same contractor.”

Media reports also support this change into a Lift Irrigation scheme way back in 2005 ““The Government has increased the scope of the Sannati barrage ( which is the same as Sonthi barrage, as the place is called Sonthi as well as Sannati) and converted it into a lift irrigation scheme to utilise 4 tmcft of water to irrigate more than 17,000 hectares. Mr. Singh laid the foundation stone for the redesigned Sannati lift irrigation project on June 16 2005”

Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigram Limited or WAPCOS however, did not share this advanced status of the work with the MoEF and went on talking of the ‘proposed’ barrage in the EAC meeting.

69th EAC Meeting: SANDRP sent a submission to the EAC ahead of the 69th meeting in which the project was considered, exposing this state of affairs. Following this, the 69th minutes of the EAC note: “It was informed to the project proponent  that a complaint/representation against the project from SANDRP has been received. As per the complaint, construction work for the project has already been started.  In that case, this is a violation of Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The project proponent was given a copy of the complaint and was asked to give a detailed response. The EAC also advised MoEF to write to State Government on the violation and take necessary action/ settle in accordance with provisions of prevalent office memorandum on such violation.  The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved.”(Emphasis added)

Public Hearing of an existing Project?!

Despite these clear instructions by the EAC we are shocked to see that Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has announced on its website that Environmental Public hearing of the Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme will be held in Sonthi village on the 23rd March 2014! (http://kspcb.kar.nic.in/pubhear.html)

The announcement is also accompanied by Executive Summary of EIA report and a complete EIA report. This EIA will not stand legal scrutiny as this is done without TORs from the MoEF. The Kannada version of the EIA report also bears the name of WAPCOS.

Shockingly, both the Executive Summary and the EIA paint a fraudulent picture that the project has received TOR clearance in the 69th EAC meeting, when we saw above that this is categorically incorrect.

The EIA report states: “The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA study were approved by MoEF. A copy of the approved Terms of Reference for the CEIA study is enclosed as Annexure-I.”

The EIA Executive Summary states: “Annexure III: TOR Clearance, 69th Meeting Minutes.”Annexure III consists of the 69th Minutes and has shockingly removed the parts of the minutes which unequivocally state that TORs have been rejected.

(It has removed: “The proposal may be placed before EAC only after this issue is resolved”)

These consciously misleading statements are completely unexpected and unacceptable from the Karnataka Bhagya Jal Nigam Limited as well as WAPCOS.

COPY PASTE EIA!

The travesty does not end here. The EIA report by WAPCOS is a confusing document. Though it is meant for Sonthi LIS, Karnataka,large parts of the report mention Kundalia major multipurpose project from Madhya Pradesh!

For a lift Irrigation Scheme, without any drinking water supply angle, the reader is told: “The proposed Kundalia Major Multipurpose project will provide 20 Mm3 Improvement in agriculture production of water every year to meet drinking water requirements. This will serve a population of 1.35 million, who will be served with low fluoride levels. Thus, Rajgarh district, which is categorized as fluoride affected, will be immensely benefitted due to the project.” (Page 10.6)

This repeats with unerring regularity at various places like 10-4, 10-6, 10-8, Table 2.2 (Cost required for Kundalia Project), 9.1 (Prediction of impacts!), many places at 9.7, etc.

The EIA further extolls the benefits of Kundalia Multipurpose Project in an EIA document of Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme!

In fact the EIA of Kundalia was also done by WAPCOS.

SANDRP and a number of organisations have pointed out the severe issues with WAPCOS’s EIAs, basin studies, cumulative impact assessments tudies, etc. Even Forest Advisory Committee of the MoEF has passed strictures on WAPCOS. But it seems that WAPCOS is insulated against these errors, which severely affect communities and ecosystems.

Complete reading of the EIA report highlights:

  • Wrong figures of affected population: EIA Report (10-2) states that 2861 people will lose their lands and 1760 people would lose homesteads. Same page states that 2004 people would lose lands. Topping this, section 13.3 states that in total only 942 people would be affected! (From 852 families, so this is assuming 1.1 persons per family!!). Its interesting to see that the agency could not get the numbers right even for a project which is already existing.
  • Wrong impoundment figures: Chapter 5 of Hydrology states: The Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a barrage across Bhima River near Sonthi village in Chittapur taluka, Gulbarga district, in Karnataka to impound 4 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC. Chapter 2 Project Description states: Sonthi Lift Irrigation Scheme envisages construction of a Barrage across Bhima River to impound 2.89 TMC of water including a dead storage of 0.265 TMC!
  • Cost: Page2-13 gives cost at 502 crores. Page 2-14 gives it at 600 crores.
  • Gross irrigated area and Culturable command are the same at 16800 hectares. Irrigation intensity should thus be 100%, its shown as 105%!
  • Rehabilitation: Although the barrage is built and is storing water, rehabilitation of the affected population still not done.

This is only indicative list of the cut and paste instances, inconsistencies and contradictions in the EIA.

 All in all, it is clear that Public hearing for Sonthi Project should not be held on the grounds of:

1. Absence of TOR from MoEF due to violations

2. Violation of Laws

3. Cut Paste EIA Report

4. Serious issues with the quality of the EIA Report

We urge KSPCB to cancel this public hearing immediately and take action against KBJNL and WAPCOS for making wrong statements of TOR clearance given by EAC when, EAC has not given any such clearance. Not doing so will implicate KSPCB in these illegal activities.

The case of Sonthi LIS is critical as it negates nearly all aspects of the environmental governance surrounding dams in this country. It has violated EIA Notification 2006, EPA 1986, it has conducted a sham EIA study without TORs, the EIA is a copy paste document and we do not even know the status of the displaced population. The question here is not about 16000 hectares of irrigation. If the project had undergone honest and transparent environmental appraisal, it would not have affected the irrigated area. The question is how serious are we in implementing, upholding and respecting laws protecting people and environmental and our entire environmental governance system.

SANDRP has sent submissions to the EAC, MoEF as well as the KSPCB to cancel this sham of a public hearing for an existing project. Our eyes are now at the KSPCB and MoEF to see what action do they take against a project which undermines rules laid down by the MoEF and the laws of the land.

-Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com

 

Climate Change · Maharashtra

Maharashtra farmers face impacts of hailstorms and State’s “Inaction” Plan on Climate Change

Marathwada, Vidarbha, Northern Maharashtra and parts of Western Maharashtra are reeling under unprecedented hail storms and unseasonal rainfall. Hailstorms in end of February 2014, initially thought of as a one-off phenomenon, continue to batter places like Solapur for nearly two weeks now, absolutely destroying the farmer. Rabi crops like Wheat, Harbhara, Cotton, Jowar, summer onion are lost, horticultural crops like Papaya, sweet lime, grapes are battered and orchards which took years to grow are ridden to the ground. For many farmers the tragedy is unbearable as majority of crops were about to be harvested. Turmeric was drying in the sun, grapes were waiting to be graded, wheat was harvested and lying in the fields.

Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal
Hail in drought-prone Baramati. Photo from : eSakal

According to a preliminary estimate and news reports, crops over 12 lakh hectares have been severely affected, thousands of livestock, animals and birds have succumbed to injuries and diseases, which threaten to spread. Around 21 people have lost their lives to the disaster.[1]

Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Grapes destroyed. Photo from : Loksatta
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Destruction in Latur Photo from: Dainik Ekmat
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal
Hailstorms Photo from : eSakal

The hailstorms developed as a response to hot, damp air from Bay of Bengal as well as Arabian Sea, rising and meeting the cold air coming south from the Himalayas, which led to formation of huge hail. This, though, is a very preliminary understanding of the phenomenon and hopefully, a clearer picture will arise in some time.

According to news reports, Madha Taluka in Solapur alone received 208 mm rainfall, Kurduwadi received 154.1 mm rainfall and Pandharpur received 63.95 mm rainfall in a single day[2].

SANDRP compared this rainfall with the 1901-2002 district wise rainfall dataset of IMD available at India Water Portal. 208 mm rainfall in Madha in March 2014 is 771.79% higher than the highest recorded monthly district rainfall for Solapur District for the entire month of March in the 100 years between 1901-2002! The highest total recorded rainfall of March for the district was 26.95 mm in 1915 [3]. Similarly, 65 mm rainfall received by Ausa Taluka in Latur[4] is 146 % higher than the highest 100 year recorded March rainfall of the district in 1944. Similar is the case with Parbhani, Akola, Wardha, etc.

While district rainfall masks extreme spikes due to averaging and also due to the distribution and location of rain gauges, this is truly unprecedented.

But is it also truly unexpected?

Is Climate Change an unknown phenomenon to us? IPCC[5] has predicted that in peninsular India, rainfall patterns will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events. What we are witnessing is certainly an extreme weather event.

That climate change is happening and that the reasons are anthropological is beyond debate[6]. Unfortunately, Climate change, its scientific status, its impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the changing climate do not enter discussions in functioning of Maharashtra government with any seriousness. Being a fuzzy, global phenomenon, linking climate change to singular events is difficult, though climate scientists are unanimous that there is footprint of climate change in each such extreme weather event.

The complexity of this issue does not allow us to brush the issue under the carpet. In the recent floods of United Kingdom, the issue of climate change was debated and led to serious discussions between researchers, climate scientists, politicians and policymakers and it seems that it will lead to an action plan.[7],[8]

Significantly, there are studies that claim that Marathwada and other regions of Maharashtra are vulnerable to Climate Change. In a 2012 paper by ICRISAT “Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience” (2009-2012) by Naveen Singh et al, which was highlighted in the latest edition of Adhunik Kisan, a Marathi magazine on agriculture, the authors have warned that Semi-Arid Tropics (SAT) in Maharashtra (as also the country) are specifically vulnerable to Climate Change. Their analysis of Maharashtra has shown that Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha are particularly vulnerable to climate change challenges, which include increase in the incidence of extreme weather events. Vulnerability index depends not only on the changing climate, but also on the vulnerability of the communities in the region: Despite hundreds of dams, agriculture in Marathwada region is mostly rain-fed, miniscule area which is irrigated appropriates all the water and grows sugarcane: a crop fundamentally unsuitable for a drought prone region, making the lesser endowed communities more and more vulnerable to challenges posed by climate changes or even small natural oscillations in the weather. This was seen very starkly in 2012-13 drought, when the region had highest area under sugarcane in Maharashtra, but several villages did not have water for drinking and dams became pawns at the hands of politicians-cum-sugar kings of the region.[9]

The ICRISAT Paper says, “In the SAT region, [10]Rainfall variability over the years is the major cause of yield uncertainty and makes rain-fed agriculture one of the risky enterprises in SAT India.

In SAT region of Maharashtra, long-term climatic analysis undertaken by ICRISAT shows “an average rise of 0.02°C per year in annual temperature in the last 40 years. In addition, the mean surface air temperature is projected to rise by 1.7-2.0°C by 2030 and 3.4-4.5°C by 2080 from the 1960-1990 . According to simulation studies, there can be productivity losses from 5% to 18% from 2030 to 2080 if no effective mitigation measures are undertaken. Differential degree of drought together with unpredictable rainfall variability has become common. This situation makes it difficult for the farmer to take pre-emptive decisions, resulting in crop and economic loss. Everyone is affected by this sudden change in weather. However, the extent of damage caused will be dependent upon each one’s ability to cope with the deleterious effects. The evidence, although incomplete, is indicative of major changes in the climatic conditions at macro levels. However, this masks the situation and variance at the local level. Greater vulnerability at the local levels implies greater pressure at the state and national level governance systems to respond to prevent the spillover effects such as urban migration, socio-political instability and conflicts, national poverty indicators, increased demands on disaster response systems, depletion of food and fodder production, etc.” However, there is no mention of increasing coping capacity of the vulnerable and compensating those who lose and demanding that those who are responsible (High consumption sections of the world and India) pay for these impacts in this long list.

According to an undated report ‘Climate change in Maharashtra’[11] brought out by Met Office (Hadley Centre, UK), TERI and Government of Maharashtra:

  • “Increased temperatures and altered seasonal precipitation        patterns (both in amount and timing) could affect the hydrological systems and agricultural productivity.
  • Increased risk of severe weather events may have a      devastating impact on agriculture, water resources, forestry and the well-being of the population.
  • TERI states that due to changing climate, Sugarcane yield in Maharashtra could go down by 30%

 When all this is known, what is Maharashtra’s response to these predictions and the looming challenge of Climate change?

 The National Action Plan on Climate Change was made public in June 2008 amidst huge fan fare by PM Manmohan Singh.[12] It was mandated that states will come up with State Action Plans for Climate Change by 31st March 2011. These State Action Plans would outline the vulnerability of the state as whole as well as specific regions and specific communities in the state to Climate change and recommend a strong adaptation and mitigation plan for overcoming these challenges. Till date (11th March 2014), SAPCCs of 12 states have been submitted to the MoEF. [13]

Maharashtra Cabinet had reportedly approved a State Action Plan for Climate change prepared by its environment department on Aug 20, 2009[14], however, the Maharashtra’s Action Plan is not finalized till date. When enquired about the status of this plan, the Director in Environment Department, Government of Maharashtra told SANDRP that they had contracted the plan to TERI and TERI has not completed the task till date.

Given the gravity of the issue, the State Action Plan for Climate Change is supposed to be overseen by a High Powered Committee, whose Chairperson is the Chief Minister, with participation from ministers of Urban Development, Public Works, Transport, Agriculture, Water resource, Revenue & Forest, Energy, industry, Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department and Education Department.[15] The agenda and minutes of meetings of this High Powered Group should have been in public domain, but none are.

A formal contract was signed between Government of Maharashtra and TERI in March 2010 and TERI was supposed to submit a complete report in two years, i.e., by March 2011. However, Maharashtra still does not have a state action plan, indicating its lack of seriousness about Climate Change and vulnerable communities.[16]

As Maharashtra continues to be battered by hailstorms, rainfall and winds, it is not useful to get into discussions of whether this is due to climate change or not. The challenges right now is to devise strategy that will help the most vulnerable sections of Maharashtra: its farmers, more than 85% of whom practice rain fed agriculture. It is time not only to seriously revamp the nearly non-existent disaster management systems, but also the weather prediction and crop insurance systems. To build resilience of farming communities, reliance cannot be put on monoculture like sugarcane which does not allow even protective irrigation to a large proportion of farmers outside the sugarcane belt.

After closely spaced events like Mumbai floods in July 2005, Phyan cyclone in 2009, 2012-13 drought, erratic monsoon rainfall and current hailstorms, Maharashtra cannot afford to drag its feet on addressing climate change challenges, organizations like WOTR are specifically working on strengthening capacities of local communities to adapt to challenges thrown by Climate change[17]. Let us hope that at least State Action Plan on Climate change is finalized, not only by the experts from far away, but with full participation of the people of Maharashtra. Similar rain induced damages are also being witnessed in the North India and scientists fear that the coming monsoon may suffer due to El Nino effect. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Fears-of-El-Nino-on-rise-may-spell-woes-for-the-economy/articleshow/31824485.cms)

In the meantime, the least that the government of Maharashtra and also the Union Government can do is to compensate the affected farmers irrespective of red tapes and Codes of conduct.

High-end consumers and polluters of India and abroad contribute to climate change, which ironically hits the poorest sections  of the society harder. This gives an added urgency to address these linked issues.

–          Parineeta Dandekar, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com


[1] Sakal (Marathi) Newspaper, 11 March 2014

[10] The semi-arid tropics (SAT) region is characterized by highly variable, low-to-medium rainfall and poor soils, further characterized by lack of irrigation. In general, the historical average annual rainfall in the SAT is below 700 mm. In agricultural policy terms, this region is considered to be a less favored area (LFA) (ICRISAT)

[17] http://www.wotr.org/climate-change-adaptation

http://www.wotr.org/audio_visuals_english/does-it-ever-rain-time

[18] 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

[19] Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate change: Farmers Suffer, State and consultant TERI unaffected https://sandrp.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2529&action=edit