Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 July 2020: “Rainwater harvesting is key to solving India’s water woes”

INDEED. With all the emphasis available at our command. We are in the midst of the rainiest season and such a statement is indeed music. It would become even more melodious if one knows who said it: it was none other than Mr G. Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India who said it. Speaking on July 8, 2020, he said: “Rainwater harvesting has become inevitable in the current scenario of water scarcity across the country… The idea is to save the rainwater be it on the rooftop, compounds, and premises.” Mr Kumar also emphasised the importance of groundwater recharge. 

We can pass it as run-of-the-mill statement from the government, but one is tempted to think there is more to it than that. One wishes if there was a way to hold these officials accountable for such statements and ask as to how this translates into policies, projects and practices. There is no evidence of any of these, unfortunately. Unless we were to interpret it cynically the way Central Water Commission ideologues do: Dams are also rain water harvesting structures! By that definition, even river linking is also rain water harvesting structure!! But Mr Kumar do not seem to suggest that. So let us hold on to this statement optimistically and push the water resources establishment to implement through right policies, practices and projects. Since that is where solution to India’s water problem indeed is. Unfortunately so far there is no sign that this wisdom is accepted in any serious way by the water resources establishment.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?

A for Athirapally, B for Bodhghat, C for Cauvery, D for Dibang, E for Etalin, seems to be the new growth alphabets from the Prime Minister’s Office. With the economic growth in negative territory, depression in the corner, the old and trusted Big Dams as major infrastructure to push up expenditure and hope for the growth was a formula used even in 1930s by US president Franklin D Roosevelt to bring the US economy out of the Great depression of 1929. It started with the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of May 1933, which then was pushed as growth model to other countries. In India it came in the form of Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) Act of 1948.

However that 20th century model was a failure even then, as the first CEO of the DVC, Sudhir Sen wrote. That model is no longer relevant in 21st century except possibly as an easy route to corruption and kickbacks. These dams and hydropower projects are no longer even economically viable and better options are now available for irrigation and power. In the changing climate scene they are even less relevant places of worship (temples). Dams and hydropower projects are seeing slow down across the globe, not just in India.

Continue reading “DRP NB 15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?”

Dams · Sand Mining

Tamil Nadu Sand Mining 2020: Persistent Court can’t shake indifferent govt

[Feature Image: Vital resource; Nearly 80% of the State’s output of river sand comes from quarries on the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers in Karur and Tiruchi districts. File photo Credit: M. Moorthy/The Hindu]

The 2019 overview for Tamil Nadu showed that the illegal sand mining incidents, protests, govt actions and court orders kept taking place concurrently. It revealed involvement of govt official in illegal sand extraction activities. In fact, sand mining was reportedly among reason leading to collapse of 185 year old regulator on Kollidam river. Also one officials and two citizens lost their lives in illegal mining related incidents.

Sandhya Ravi Shankar who revealed the gross violations of norms and irregularities in beach sand mining faced defamation cases, threats and stalking. Govt efforts to promote of M-sand & imported sand as alternative to river sand didn’t help.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 18 May 2020: Signs of Impending Dam Floods in SW Monsoon 2020?

These are rather ominous signs. As per the latest reservoir storage bulletin of Central Water Commission dated May 14, 2020, the 123 reservoirs monitored by CWC has massive, 64.6 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters) in live storage capacity, which is about 165% of the capacity on same date last year and average of last ten years, even as monsoon is just weeks away. Most dams known to create DAM INDUCED FLOODS in the past, including Bhakra dams (we wrote about it earlier this month: https://sandrp.in/2020/05/07/are-we-ready-to-use-more-water-from-snow-melt-in-indus-basin-this-year/), Narmada dams, Odisha and W Bengal dams (Cyclone AMPHAN is going to bring a lot of water here in next few days, even before the monsoon), Krishna basin dams, Cauvery basin dams, Bansagar and Gandhi Sagar Dams, and Kerala dams among others. All these dams have above average storage situation.

Continue reading “DRP NB 18 May 2020: Signs of Impending Dam Floods in SW Monsoon 2020?”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 April 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin project being pushed?

In the ongoing debate on forest clearance for the controversial Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh between the Forest Advisory Committee, The Hindustan Times’s consistent reporting and Sanctuary magazine launching a campaign along with others, one (of the many) key question that remains unanswered is: for whom this economically (in addition to socially, environmentally and from climate change perspective) unviable, massively expensive project being pushed in a power surplus country?

Electricity from hydropower projects is no longer economically viable, since cheaper options are available. Some misguided people are claiming virtue in hydropower project claiming it provides peaking power. The fact is India is today not only power surplus, the peak power deficit has been just around 1% or less for long time. This when there is no attempt to either monitor as to how much of the electricity produced from existing hydropower projects provides peaking power, nor is there any attempt to achieve optimisation of operation of existing hydro projects to produce maximum possible hydropower. Nor is there any attempt to even manage the peaks either through pricing or other policy measures. In such a situation there is clearly no justification for more hydro for peaking. Moreover, the storage option is becoming increasingly cost effective, reducing the peaking power needs. So then for whom this project whose cost won’t be less than Rs 30000 crores at most conservative estimates, being pushed? The contractors, the equipment suppliers, the hydro lobby, the consultants, the timber lobby, the dam lobby, or the kickbacks?

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 April 2020: Solutions to Covid 19 & Climate change are same?

This proposition clearly sounds simplistic and seems devoid of science or logic. But the case studies of the epidemics since 1980 and loss of forests, biodiversity and sustainability shows that this is not to be dismissed that easily. In fact the following interview with Dr Aaron Bernstein makes a powerful case to show why this indeed has a lot of science and logic behind it. It also hence makes a case that yesterday (our “normal”), is no longer a good model for better tomorrow.

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Dams · Rivers

Cleaner rivers in lockdown: Lessons we can learn

Within a week of 21-day long lockdown in India that started at midnight on March 24, 2020, several reports in print, electronic and social media have been doing rounds showing remarkable improvements in water quality in many rivers in the country. Most of these are on the basis of naked eye observations in the form of pictures and videos by people.

Some of the reports quote pollution control boards’ officials and experts with some analytical data. People generally believe that the shutting down of industrial units has led to reduction in discharge of industrial effluents in the rivers, breathing fresh life in pollution laden streams. It’s right that there is halt in industrial belts and there is less industrial pollution reaching the rivers. However there are other factors contributing to the change in the scenario. 

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 April 2020: Ganga-Yamuna-Cauvery flow cleaner in lockdown: What can we learn?

A number of reports have appeared that show that the state of a number of rivers of India, including Hindon, Yamuna, Ganga and Cauvery has improved during the current lockdown due to Covid 19 crisis. That is indeed great news. At Kanpur and Varanasi there are reports that suggest the dissolved oxygen level has gone above 8 ppm and BOD level has gone down below 3 ppm at a number of places. While lack of industrial effluents entering the rivers due to closure of industrial units is a major reason, there are other reasons that has led to this situation, including above average winter rainfall, high snowfall now melting with onset of summer, reduction of irrigation water demand and also stoppage of sand mining along the rivers. The reduction of cultural activities including puja, bathing and cremations have also contributed to this situation.

The biggest lesson we can learn from this cleaner rivers after so many decades is that if our pollution control boards at the state and central level were doing their duty to ensure that no untreated effluents from the industries and also urban sewage enter the rivers, it is not that difficult to achieve cleaner rivers. But unfortunately there is no political will to achieve this simple and legally enforceable objective.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 16 March 2020: Invitation to another Kedarnath floods tragedy?

This remarkable TOI report on March 14, 2020 (there was a Hindustan Times Report on March 9, 2020, we found out later: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/scientist-flags-kedarnath-project-worries/story-1DoLBHLeMOmYLI3OPFOq1M.html) says that rampant redevelopments termed as “unabated unscientific work in the valley” around Kedarnath is likely to create dangerous situation leading to 2013 like catastrophe. We could not find report about such an important development in any other media.

But this detailed report, not contradicted by any of the quoted sources, seems sufficient reason to be alarmed by all concerned.

Experts of the Wildlife Institute of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC) and even the Principle Science advisor to the Prime Minister K VIjay Raghavan and also the contractors, Woodstone Constructions along with other state and central govt officials were present where officials made some candid presentations. It seems there has been neither any impact assessment studies or clearances for the controversial interventions happening, including 9 km long approach road for Kedarnath on the left bank of Mandakini river, (left band has basically loose glacial sediments and hence is unstable and could get affected by avalanches and landslides) and a massive 50 ft deep and 100 m wide pit just 50 m behind Kedarnath for the Samadhi sthal. MPS Bisht, the Director of USAC in his presentation called the pit an extremely dangerous for future. He asked: “Why are we creating a situation for another disaster like the 2013 tragedy to take place again?” Scientists from the Wadia Institute are quoted saying: “The Road being built to Kedarnath is being made on the most vulnerable of Kedarnath Valley and may any day collapse under the pressure of so many glacier shoots which are directly opening on the road.” Raghavan called these revelations tipping points.

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Dams · Rivers

International Day of Action for Rivers 2020: Positive River Stories from India

On the occasion of International day of action for rivers which is annually celebrated on March 14, SANDRP put together some positive citizens and community led actions taken in last one year to protect and revive the rivers in different parts of India.

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