The South West Monsoon in 2019 in India brought the highest rainfall of last 25 years and issues related to heavy rainfall continue even to the end of October 2019. Here we have listed major instances during the monsoon when there were question marks over safety of dams either due to structural safety or due to wrong operations of the dams. Some issues of breaches of embankments/ canals are also included here. As we can see, the instances come from across the country, including North East, North, West, Centre, South.
It’s pretty unusual situation in Bhakra, Pong and Ranjit Sagar dams this summer. These reservoirs on Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers respectively, allocated to India under Indo-Pak Indus Waters Treaty, are releasing so much water this summer that a significant part of it is flowing into Pakistan, much against the proclamations of the Government. Continue reading “BBMB & Punjab ill prepared to use water flows to Bhakra dams in 2019 summer”
The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in Kollam district of Kerala, has a decades-long story of people’s battle for survival against mining companies. This stretch in Kerala is where the extensive mineral beach sand mining has been happening since the 1960s. The abandoned buildings are the remains of people’s failed agitations and indefinite strikes. One by one the villages in the area are vanishing from the map of Kerala. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 14 January 2019: Will the campaign of 17 year old Alappad Girl Wake up the NATION to the perils of unsustainable sand mining?”
In a shocking revelation, Jay Mazoomaar in this Indian Express report exposes how Wildlife Institute of India not only accepted consultancies from hydropower companies, but also diluted the mandate for the studies for given by statutory bodies like NGT, NBWL and FAC, but also provided compromised reports catering to the interests of the hydropower developers, thus trying to clear the way for the two controversial mega hydropower projects, one each in Dibang and Lohit river basins in Arunachal Pradesh. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/arunachal-pradesh/wildlife-institute-all-for-hydel-projects-in-arunachal-pradeshs-tiger-zone-5499656/
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
Himachal Pradesh has received 917.3 mm rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. The amount is 11 percent higher than normal rainfall category of 825.3 mm. However at district level there is considerable variation in the distribution of rainfall. Out of 12 districts in the state, rainfall departure has been in deficit in three districts namely Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahul & Spiti by 38 percent, 32 percent and 43 per cent respectively. All these three districts are in upper part of Himalaya, the origin of many rivers & where mountains are mostly snow covered.
(Feature Image: IMD Sub-Division wise Weekly Rainfall Map 26 July – 1 Aug. 2018)
Amid news of monsoon being normal, farmers in several parts in the country have started facing irrigation water problems affecting sowing of Kharif crops. Apart from, insufficient rainfall, mismanagement of water resources is turning the situation grim for them.
As per reports, water levels in Bhakra and Pong dams in Himachal has plunged to lowest in decades. As a result dam authority has issued advisory to lakhs of farmers in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to use water judiciously. Some official also said that the beneficiary states lacks efficient water management practices which is making the situation tough for them.
The Sri Ram Sagar Project in Telangana has no irrigation water. As per state water minister, a Rs. 1100 crore work was going on to renovate the dam. Meanwhile farmers of about 24 villages have started protest demanding irrigation water form SRSP for their standing crops. Given the tense situation, the State Govt has deployed heavy police forces to control farmers agitation.
At the same time, farmers in North Gujarat farmers have lost 40% of sown crops particularly in Ahmedabad, Morbi and Surendranagar. Non availability of Narmada waters have added to the problems. It is worth to mention that mismanagement of water during past four months in Narmada dam by the authority, has worsened the plight of farmers. Meanwhile, there are reports of furious Surendranagar farmers themselves opening the dam gates going against authority.
Similarly, lack of rainfall in Beed district which is part of Marathwada in Maharashtra has affected the rural population badly. In fact, the rainfall situation in a fourth of India, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, was in stark contrast to the rest of the country. Overall, the southwest monsoon in 2018 was only 2 % below normal by July, 27.
The southwest monsoon in Bihar was almost 40 % below normal till July 27 and the state was set to be formally declared ‘drought-hit’. It is worth to mention that the monsoon scenario seems less than reassuring, based on Skymet latest forecast and reading between the lines of IMD Aug. 3, press release.
Govt and media typically report the status of water storage in India using the CWC’s Weekly Reservoir Storage Bulletin, which contain information about just 91 reservoirs in India. In this article we show that the state websites provide information about huge 3863 reservoirs, which even if not sufficient, is a huge improvement over just 91 reservoirs that CWC bulletin includes. We hope all concerned will try to improve the reservoir storage reporting.
It should be added here that this measures only surface water stored in some of the large reservoirs of India. This excludes large number of big reservoirs, lakhs of smaller reservoirs, groundwater aquifers and soil moisture storage. In spite of these limitations, this provides more accurate picture than just the 91 reservoirs of CWC that everyone in India, including media, govt monitoring and policy makers look at.
Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB, http://bbmb.gov.in/english/index.asp) is the manager of India’s celebrated icons: Temples of Modern India as our first Prime Minister called it. In a rare occasion, when we get a candid account of insider’s view of this organisation, it is worth taking note of it.
Bhakhra Dam: Photo from BBMB
BBMB, created on Oct 1, 1967, has current annual budget of massive Rs 1000 crores and manages the Bhakra Nangal Project, the Beas Project I (Pandoh dam, the Beas Sutlej Link and the Dehar Power House) and the Beas Project II (Beas Dam and Pong power houses). With close to 3000 MW of installed capacity it generates about 12.5 billion units of power annually.
Mr Satish Loomba, who served as Financial Advisor to BBMB between 1996 and 2001 has just provided an interesting view about the functioning of BBMB in his article Need to corporatise BBMB in The Tribune of January 23, 2014: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140123/edit.htm#6. While the author, as the title suggests, is advocating a corporate restructuring of BBMB, what he has said in the process provides a valuable insights from an insider. Here are some snippets:
Þ “This organisation, which has become heavy, slow and bureaucratic…”
Þ “However, despite a façade of running smoothly, the BBMB, from the organizational standpoint, suffers from several infirmities, limitations and internal contradictions.”
Þ “At the core of the inadequacies in the BBMB are the… systems which do not promote efficiency, cost control and long term health of its vast assets… It has no concern with the value of its output…”
Þ “… capital of the BBMB is not being preserved in accordance with accepted principles…” In fact in recent years, the illegal dumping of humungous quantities of muck (even a 100 MW project creates several million meter cube of muck) by the numerous major, medium and small hydropower projects in upstream Sutlej (see: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydro_Electric_Projects_on_Sutlej_River_in%20HP.pdf) and Beas (see: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects_in_Beas_Basin.pdf) basins is leading to accelerated silting up of the Bhakra, Pong and Pandoh reservoirs, but no one, not even BBMB has shown the slightest concern.
Þ “For the ageing irrigation wing assets, which are colossal and could be in sudden need of massive recapitalization…”
Þ “… there is no account which summarises its results for a specific time period…”
This is a very serious indictment, not only of BBMB but also the way the “icons” of India are being managed by an organisation controlled by the Union Ministry of Power. Are these remediable infirmities or are these the implications of the kind and size of structures that BBMB manages? The author of the above article does not even pose this question, but is a very relevant one.
Declining Hydropower generation As per our analysis of hydropower generation from the three BBMB projects in Himachal Pradesh, namely Bhakra (1325 MW), Dehar (990 MW) and Pong (396 MW), with total installed capacity of 2711 MW, the generation per MW installed capacity has shown hugely declining trend with trend line declining by 18-20% in less than three decades. We also have graphs of individual BBMB hydropower projects that show similar trend line. This is a massive decline and in any responsible governance, questions would be asked as to why this is happening, but here, there are no questions.
Unravelling Bhakra In a comprehensive critique Unravelling Bhakra, (see: http://www.manthan-india.org/spip.php?rubrique1, available in both English and Hindi), author Shripad Dharmadhikary has shown that it is a myth to assume that Bhakra dams were the only or major reasons behind India’s food security, green revolution or irrigation in North West India. He has shown with facts and figures that are yet to be proven wrong that the contribution of Bhakra dams was limited.
Displaced people still awaiting justice Over five decades after commissioning of the Bhakra project, the people displaced by this most celebrated of Indian dams are still awaiting justice, as is clear from this latest news report (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140120/haryana.htm#10) in January 2014. This has been highlighted by many in the past including Govt of India’s Water Resources Minister in his autobiography, by SANDRP in 2002, by Shripad Dharmadhikary in above mentioned book and continuous media coverage. This also shows the callous attitude of BBMB and concerned state and central governments.
Ad hoc, callous reservoir operation It is no secret that even this irrigation system is in bad and declining health. This is due to many reasons, including due to lack of maintenance and participatory governance. Several times it has been pointed out how unaccountable and inefficient has been the operation of the Bhakra reservoirs. Two recent occasions when SANDRP pointed this out include the following:
Þ July 2012: Precarious situation of Bhakra dams: BBMB says emergency measures are imminent: Callous, ad-hoc reservoir operation again? Could this situation have been avoided? https://sandrp.in/dams/PR_Why_precarious_water_situation_at_Bhakra_dams_was_avoidable_July_2012.pdf
Þ Sept 2010: Bhakra reservoir is being operated in casual, adhoc manner? Need for clearly defined norms of accountability in reservoir operations https://sandrp.in/dams/Bhakra_and_Need_for_accountability_in_Reservoir_Operations_Sept_19_2010.pdf
Þ With general elections approaching in coming April May 2014, we have to wait and see if the Bhakra reservoirs will again be operated in an ad hoc manner like it happened before previous two national elections.
We hope right lessons will be learnt from this insider’s view of the alarmingly inadequate functioning of the BBMB and efforts will be made to make its functioning more participatory, transparent and accountable.
Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)