(Feature image Mechanized and illegal mining in Chambal river, Morena. Image Source: MP Breaking News)
Large scale illegal sand mining activities are going on in National Chambal River Sanctuary area falling under Morena district of Madhya Pradesh and Dholpur district of Rajasthan despite a ban by Supreme Court, as highlighted by several reports in recent months.
The MP Breaking News report dated Dec. 31, 2021 details how illegal sand mining in Chambal river near Rajghat bridge in Morena side has been unabated contrasting government’s claims of strict actions against sand mafias in the state. Thousands of tractors and heavy machines like JCBs and hydras were involved in the act. It also reveals that the officials from district administration, forest and police departments were fully aware of the situation but did nothing to stop it.
The Mohanpura Project The proposed Mohanpura dam is to be constructed by the Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Deparment near the village Banskhedi of District Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh on river Newaj in ChambalRiver Basin. The earthen dam project envisages irrigation of 97,750 ha, including the irrigable area of 62250 ha in Rabi and 35500 ha in Kharif in Rajgarh and Khilchipur Tehsils of Rajgarh district. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) dated May 2013 has been done by WAPCOS, an agency under Union Water Resources Ministry.
The EIA and the EAC We have provided below some critical comments on the EIA, these are only indicative in nature and not comprehensive. These comments were sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley Projects for its meeting in June 2013 and further comments for Sept 2013 and Nov 2013 EAC meetings. We were glad that EAC asked the project proponent to reply to our submission in detail. But we did not get any reply directly either from the project proponent or MoEF. We several times checked the relevant section of MoEF website before the Nov 11-12, 2013 EAC meeting and did not find any additional submission from the project proponent or EIA consultant except the EIA and earlier submissions. We also wrote to the EAC and MoEF officials about this absence of any response from the proponent or the EIA consultant and they did not respond to our emails.
However, while looking for something else, on Nov 13, 2013, on clicking the EIA (which we assumed was the old EIA), what we got was the Oct 2013 response from the project proponent that supposedly included the response from WAPCOS to our submission. This seems like an attempt on the part of MoEF officials to camouflage/ hide the reply so that the reply is put up, but we do no get a chance to review and respond to it. This is clearly wrong and we have written on Nov 13, 2013 to that effect to the MoEF director Mr B B Barman who is also member secretary of the EAC.
In any case, the WAPCOS reply of Oct 2013 does not really provide adequate response to any of the points we raised as we have discussed in the following sections. If the EAC had applied its mind, EAC too would have come to the same conclusion. However, if EAC decides to recommend clearance to the project based on this reply by WAPCOS, it will not only show lack of application of mind and bias on the part of the EAC, the project clearance would also be open to legal challenge.
In what follows we have provided main critiques of the EIA and the project.
EIA does not mention that the project is part of Inter-Linking of Rivers The Mohanpura dam is part of the Government of India’s Interlinking of Rivers scheme, specifically part of the Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal (PKC) scheme, see for example the mention of Mohanpura dam on Newaj river in salient features of the PKC scheme at: http://nwda.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/7740745524.PDF, the full feasibility report of the PKC scheme can be seen at: http://nwda.gov.in/index4.asp?ssslid=36&subsubsublinkid=24&langid=1. This hiding of this crucial information by the Project Proponent is tantamount to misleading the EAC and MoEF and should invite action under EIA notification. The claim by WAPCOS (through their response in Oct 2013) that this was mentioned in DPR is clearly not tenable since this should have been mentioned in the EIA.
Much bigger Mohanpura Reservoir proposed compared to the PKC proposal It is clear from the perusal of the Feasibility of the PKC link given on the NWDA link that the project now proposed by the Govt of Madhya Pradesh is much bigger and actually an unviable scheme. The Gross and live storage of the NWDA scheme is 140 MCM and 52.5 MCM, where as the proposal now before the EAC has gross storage of 616.27 MCM and live storage of 539.42 MCM (page 1-328 mentions Live storage as 616 MCM, showing another instance of shoddy work of WAPCOS), which means the live storage proposed now is more than ten times the live storage proposed in NWDA scheme. It may be noted that there is less than 4% difference in catchment area of the two schemes, the NWDA site was slightly upstream with the catchment area of 3594 sq km, compared to catchment area of now proposed scheme being 3726 sq km, the difference between the two is only 132 sq km.
This does not warrant or justify more than ten time higher live storage. In fact the NWDA scheme had the proposal to transfer 464 MCM from the Patanpur Dam to the Mohanpura dam and yet, under the Mohanpura live storage capacity proposed under NWDA scheme was much smaller. It is clear that the proposal before NWDA is completely unviable proposal and should be rejected.
No justification for increasing the live storage capacity OVER TEN TIMES This is a very serious issue and unless this is satisfactorily resolved, EAC should not consider the proposal.
Here it should be point out that the following discussion in the 67th EAC meeting regarding the SANDRP letter is misleading: “The developers were asked to clarify doubts raised in the above letters relating to the project features that contradict with the assumptions made in the NWDA study of Parbati – Kalisindh – Chambal Scheme, a major issue is that the NWDA scheme envisaged a gross and live storage provision of 140 and 52.5 MCM respectively against the present proposal 616.27 and 539.42 MCM respectively because the NWDA proposed transferring 464 MCM from Patanpur dam to Mohanpura Reservoir to reduce the large submergence of Mohanpura Reservoir. The developers clarified that the NWDA scheme has not been accepted by the M.P. Government and is not likely to be implemented in the near future. The M. P. Government wants immediate implementation of Mohanpura Project for poverty alleviation of the backward Rajgarh District.”
The issue is not only about how NWDA plans differed from the current proposal in terms of transferring 464 MCM water to Mohanpura dam from Patanpur dam and transferring 403 MCM from Mohanpura dam to Kundaliya dam. Net effect of these two transfers is addition of less than about 61 MCM water to Mohanpura dam in NWDA proposal from outside the Newaj basin. In spite of this addition, the storage capacity of the Mohanpura dam in NWDA proposal is HUGELY LOWER than in the current GOMP proposal. There is clearly no justification for such huge storage capacity from any angle. Even the water use plan has exaggerated figures and does not change even with changed cropping pattern. The issue is the viability, desirability, need and optimality of the ten times larger reservoir than was NWDA proposed earlier.
Unfounded assumption about water availability The project assumes huge yield of 745.2 MCM, much higher than that assessed by the Chambal Master Plan, without assigning any reason. This seems to be a ploy to push for unjustifiably huge reservoir. This is clearly wrong and the proposal should be rejected. The reply by WAPCOS that “The calculated yield of dam is approved by Bureau of Design of Hydel & Irrigation Project (BODHI), M.P.” is not convincing since BODHI is government of Madhya Pradesh organisation and in any case, their approval letter and methodology details have not been attached. In any case, Newaj being in interstate Chambal river basin, it will need vetting by the interstate Chambal River Board or credible independent body.
Inadequate assessment of upstream water requirement The EIA does not do proper or adequate assessment of current and future water requirements of upstream areas and allocates almost all available water in the catchment to the project in a bid to justify unjustifiable project. The figures given in table 10.9 are not even substantiated with any basis and hence are far from adequate in the context. The PP has also not responded to the EAC query about the upstream water demand.
Unjustifiable submergence The proposal entails submergence of 7051 Ha, almost three times the submergence as per NWDA scheme of 2510 ha. The project proponent has hugely underestimated the number of affected families to 1800 against private land acquisition of 5163 ha. They have amazingly, allotted just 132 ha of land for R&R, when land for land provisions under the MP R&R policy will require much more than 5000 ha just for R&R. The social impact assessment has not been done at all. In fact the phrase Social Impact Assessment or Social Impact does not figure in the entire EIA, when the National Green Tribunal has been laying such a stress on SIA.
The whole social impact assessment of the proposal now submitted is shoddy. It is clear the huge displacement is unjustified, and the project proponent has no interest in even doing any just rehabilitation. The PP has not explained the justification for three times increasing the submergence area compared to the NWDA proposal.
Interstate aspects ignored The project is coming up on an interstate river basin and will have clear implications for the downstream state of Rajasthan, but there is no mention of this in the EIA. Several meetings have also happened between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan about the PKC link mentioned above. The Government of India has prioritized this link, but by taking up this project unilaterally without consent of Rajasthan or Centre (Ministry of Water Resources) the Madhya Pradesh government is violating the interstate and federal norms. The EIA does not even mention any of these issues.
Underestimation of Land required for Canal The project has command area of 97750 ha and claims that it will require just 152 ha of land for canals (table 2.6 of EIA), which is clearly a huge under estimate and is not based on any real assessment. The project will require several times more land for the canals and will have related social and environmental impacts which have not even been assessed. The response from WAPCOS that this is because most of the water conveyance system is underground is far from adequate since an assessment of land requirement should still have been done and a lot of land would still be required at the end of water conveyance system.
No Command Area Development Plan The EIA report (May 2013) mentions CAD in two sections: Section 2.8 and 10.9. However, perusal of both sections show that neither have full description of Command Area Development Plan or adverse Impacts of the project in the Command Area including drainage, health, biodiversity and other issues.
Shocking statements in Command Area Development Plan The CAD now annexed in the Additional information (dated Aug 2013) makes some shocking statements. e.g. It says: “GCA of the project is 928680 ha…” with an extra “0”. This seems to suggest that the EIA consultant is callous.
The CAD further says: “Maximum height of the spillway above the ground will be 47.90 m (measured from river bed level to top of the spillway bridge). Maximum height of spillway from expected foundation level will be 47.90 m.” So the height of the spillway above the riverbed and above the foundation is same! This means that there is no foundation of the dam below the riverbed level! This again shows the callousness and lack of understanding of basic concepts by WAPCOS.
Section 2.9 of CAD says: “The groundwater development is of the order of 6.9% to 8.7% in the command area blocks.” In reality, as the table 2-3 just below this statement shows, the groundwater draft is 69 to 89%.
Section 3.1 of CAD says: “…the catchment area intercepted upto Mohanpura dam site is 3825 sq.km.” The last sentence in the same para says: “The catchment area intercepted at the dam site is 3726 sq.km.” Such figures for the catchment area upto Mohanpura dam keeps appearing in the documents.
The CAD should start with clear statement of HOW MUCH OF THE PROPOSED COMMAND AREA IS ALREADY IRRIGATED. This is not even mentioned.
No Downstream Impact Assessment The EIA report has not done any downstream impact assessment, including the impact on biodiversity, livelihoods, draw down agriculture, water security, groundwater recharge, geo-morphological impacts, among others. The response of WAPCOS in Oct 2013 that Newaj is a monsoon fed river and hence there are no downstream impacts is completely inadequate and shows the lack of understanding of functions of the river on the part of WAPCOS.
Impact of project on National Chambal Sanctuary It may be noted that the project is to be constructed on Newaj river, a tributary of the Chambal river. The project will have significant impact of water, silt and nutrient flow pattern into the ChambalRiver, the approximate 600 km of which has been declared as National Chambal Sanctuary between 1979-1983 across three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. However, the EIA does not even mention that the National Chambal Sanctuary exists down stream of the proposed project and will be impacted by the project. According to section 29 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, any project that affects flow of water into or out of the protected area should be assessed for its impact on such sanctuary and necessary clearances be taken from the designated authorities including Chief Wildlife Wardens and National Wild Life Board. However, WAPCOS does not even seem aware of the existence of the sanctuary.
Another point to note is that the entire water availability in the NCS is dependent on the KaliSindh and Parbati since there is no discharge below the Kota Barrage. The response from WAPCOS (Oct 2013) that the Mohanpura catchment is about 200 km from the river and that it is just 2.5% of the Chambal catchment and hence will not have any impact is clearly untenable. Firstly, the EIA does not even mention the existence of National Chambal Sanctuary. Secondly, it is not the distance of % catchment, but the impact of the abstraction that is important and the EIA has clearly not done that.
Impact of mining of materials for the project not mentioned The EIA has some assessment of material required to be mined for the project at Table 2.7, but where will these materials come from and what will be the impacts of this is not even mentioned.
No proper Options Assessment The EIA does not do proper options assessment to arrive at the conclusion that the proposed project is the most optimum proposal. It may be noted that the area has rainfall of 972 mm (see Chapter 2 in Command Area Dev Plan in Additional Information dated Aug 2013) and there are a lot of options for local water systems. As is clear from the public hearing report, several farmers suggested that in stead of one big dam a series of smaller dams should be built and that farmers will have to commit suicide if the dam is built. The response in the EIA is most callous that this is not technically feasible is not even backed by any evidence, which again shows the shoddy nature of the EIA.
The response of WAPCOS (Oct 2013) that the project is justified for fluoride affected area is completely misleading since if that was the concern than much smaller dam and large number of rain water harvesting structures would better serve the purpose. This again shows that WAPCOS has not done any options assessment.
Public hearing in the office of the DM? Chapter 17 of the EIA says, “Public Hearing for Mohanpura Multipurpose Major Project was conducted by Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) on 11th March 2013 in the premises of the office of the District Magistrate, Rajgarh”. This is most shocking state of affairs. The Public hearing as per the EIA notification is supposed to be conducted at the project site and cannot be conducted in the office of the District Magistrate. The MoEF should have applied its mind on just this aspect and rejected the proposal and asked them to get the public hearing done in legal way. The public hearing report is also incomplete with several sentences not being complete. This again shows lack of application of mind on the part of the MoEF and WAPCOS. The response from WAPCOS in Oct 2013 that the DM office is just 9 km from the dam site and is convenient to all concerned is clearly wrong, the public hearing should have been conducted in the affected area and public hearing report should be full and cannot be accepted with half sentences. This public hearing will also not pass the legal scrutiny.
CUMULATIVE IMPACT ASSESSMENT FOR CHAMBAL BASIN A very large number of dams and other water use projects have been constructed, are under construction and under sanction in the ChambalRiver Basin. It is high time that a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) and carrying capacity study for the ChambalBasin be done before any more projects are considered in the basin. This is also required as per the MoEF Office Memorandum (J-11013/1/2013-IA-1 dated May 28, 2013) that required states to initiate CIA in all basins within three months, that is by Aug 28, 2013.
Unacceptable EIA The whole EIA is done in most shoddy way and should be rejected for this reason and EAC should make recommendation for black listing of WAPCOS as EIA agency. Just to illustrate, the EIA says MDDL stands for Maximum Draw Down level (page 1-14), has not even mentioned the project impact on the National Chambal Sanctuary (one of the only two river sanctuaries of India also proposed as Ramsar site), for hugely inadequate R&R land and canal land requirements, for not doing impact of mining of materials for the project, for not assessing the hydrological viability of the project, for making unfounded assumptions, among other reasons mentioned above.
Issue of Conflict of Interest for WAPCOS It may be noted that WAPCOS is a Ministry of Water Resources organization, and has been in the business of doing pre-feasibility, feasibility reports and Detailed Project Reports, which are necessary for the justification of the projects. This is part of the business of the organization. Such an organization has clear conflict of interest in doing an honest EIA since an honest EIA can lead to a possible answer that the project is not viable. Hence EAC should recommend that the WAPCOS should be debarred from doing any EIAs or CIAs (Cumulative Impact Assessments).
Other Issues Besides the above, a large number of issues raised by EAC in 67th meeting remain unresolved.
Þ For example, the area to be inundated by dam break needs to be listed and shown on map, which has not been done.
Þ EAC had asked: “Details of drainage network planning be included in the report.” In response, PP has attached Annex III which is just a map!
Þ EAC had asked: “75%flow series gives a total yield of catchment as 25.77 cumec-10 days in 75% dependable year. Whereas in table-5.2 the 75% dependable yield is given as 749.71 Mcm. The same needs to be corrected. Corresponding corrections at relevant sections in Volume-II, EMP report also be done”. This has not been done except an amended table
Þ Annex XIV in Additional Info on “INCOME – EXPENDITURE DETAILS OF PAFs” leaves a lot to be desired. Here, what does the figures represent in Table 1 is also not clear.
Þ Annex XV in Additional Info volume is basically a reproduction of 10.11.6 from the EIA. Incidentally, it ends by saying: “Project planner need to understand the negative impacts with sensitivity, and formulate mitigation measures appropriately; such mitigations measures that would be acceptable to the concerned population groups and that are sustainable.” The proposed project or the R&R plan are neither acceptable to the concerned population groups, nor sustainable, in any case, there is no process to achieve this.
Þ EAC had asked for more no of villages in the sample compared to 9, but the EIA consultant has refused to do this (Annex XVI and XVII in additional Info) without any convincing reason.
CONCLUSION In view of the above, we urge EAC to:
1. Reject the proposal for environmental clearance. It will be most shocking if the project gets cleared with this kind of EIA.
2. Reject the EIA, as explained above this is most shoddy EIA.
3. Reject the Public hearing; as explained above, the public hearing has not been conducted as legally required. The public hearing also need to be conducted again since the EIA is found to be so seriously inadequate and needs to be redone. In any case, with so many additions and changes to the EIA, the public hearing clearly needs to be redone.
4. Suggest black listing of WAPCOS as EIA and CIA agency. It is high time for EAC to send a signal that such shoddy EIA would not be accepted and is in violation of law.
Submission showing how the WAPCOS EIA of Mohanpura Project is Inadequate and Plagiarised
Sep 23, 2013
Chairman and members,
Expert Appraisal Committee on RiverValley Projects,
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
New Delhi Subject: Serious concerns on the Mohanpura Irrigation Project on agenda for the 68th meeting of EAC of RVP
Dear Chairman and Members of the EAC-RVP,
With reference to the Mohanpura Irrigation Project on agenda for the 68th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, and WAPCOS response to EAC comments (August 2013), I believe that the concerns raised by the New Delhi based SANDRP has not been addressed. The Project Proponent has also not responded satisfactorily to the queries raised by the EAC, and I outline a few of their (WAPCOS) responses below –
EAC Comment No. 16: The source of data for faunal population is to be provided. The source of secondary information may be provided if used.
EAC Comment No. 17: The avifaunal list is good but requires a lot of typographical corrections. Also some of the species such as Golden Plover and Redshank have been shown as resident although they are migratory.
EAC Comment No. 18: The list of reptiles appears deficient for this hot and dry area of central India. This needs to be updated. The information provided by WAPCOS under-represents the faunal richness of the region and is an attempt to deceive the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects. The sources used in the EIA are old and I would like to draw you attention to more recent work from the region (attached below).
Nair, T. & Krishna, Y. C. (2013). Vertebrate fauna of the ChambalRiver Basin, with emphasis on the National Chambal Sanctuary. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 5(2): 3620–3641; doi:10.11609/JoTT.o3238.3620-41
EAC Comment No. 19: The methodology for faunal surveys has not been provided properly. The faunal part in section 4.2.2 is too brief and fails to provide any idea about the primary effort. The source of secondary information may be provided if used. The methodology outlined in Annexure-XII by WAPCOS has simply been copied from other survey reports / studies without actually conducting them. This amounts to professional dishonesty and fraud, and is another attempt to deceive the EAC-RVP.
EAC Comment No. 20: The presence/absence of Blackbuck, a Schedule-I species, may be commented upon since it is expected in the area. WAPCOS response that ‘Blackbuck is not reported in the area’ is again not true. Please refer to the press report and scientific study which show the presence of black buck from the area. Press report: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-05/flora-fauna/36162066_1_blackbuck-population-stray-dogs-habitat Scientific publication: Karanth, K. K., Nichols, J. D., Hines, J. E., Karanth, K. U. and Christensen, N. L. (2009), Patterns and determinants of mammal species occurrence in India. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 1189–1200. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01710.x I believe that such a manner of plagiarism and false claims of having used scientific methods during the Environmental Impact Assessment is reason enough to reject the project and to blacklist WAPCOS. Further, the Government must initiate civil and criminal proceedings against WAPCOS for fraud, suppressing facts and providing misleading information on an issue that has serious and negative ecological and social consequences.