This must be the defining (and predictable, this was the lead story in our DRP NB of April 27, 2020, see: https://sandrp.in/2020/04/27/drp-nb-27-april-2020-for-whom-is-this-unviable-etalin-project-being-pushed/) moment in the campaign to save the Dibang Valley now from the proposed 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project. The CEO of Jindal Power Ltd has said in so many words that project is NOT an attractive investment, they will struggle to find buyers for the costly power and only support from government can help make the project viable. The CEO seemed to suggest that they would be happy to sell the project to NHPC or form a joint venture with NHPC to get the govt funding for the project. Again completely on predictable line. The question then is why should government spend previous public money on such an unviable project?
So the question remains the same, the one we asked on April 27, 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin Project being pushed?
The hilly state of Uttarakhand also known as land of rivers has seen increase in riverbed quarrying operations over past decade. With establishment of stone crushers industry, scale and intensity of riverbed minerals (RBM) excavation has further increased in past few years. So has become the impact on villagers and rivers.
However, the government lacks monitoring, transparency, accountability in checking the unscientific, unauthorized RBM as is evident from a review of Uttarakhand Mining and Geology Department (M&G) website and media reports. In fact the state government has neither conducted replenishment study nor formed District Mineral Foundation (DMF), suggesting that it is hand in gloves in organized loot of RBMs.
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?
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.
With the beginning of south west monsoon season 2019, many Himalayan states started witnessing exceptional rainfall events known as Cloud Bursts. The extreme weather event – like previous years- caused large scale destruction in ecologically sensitive and remotely located vulnerable hilly areas. This account compiles the available information about such incidents in Uttarakhand in 2019 SW monsoon.
यह रिपोर्ट बड़कोट के निकट धरासू बैंड पर सुरंग निर्माण कार्यों में नियमों की अवेहलना किये जाने से स्थानीय पर्यावरण और ग्रामीणों पर हो रहे विपरीत प्रभावों को दर्शाती है। इस सुरंग का निर्माण चार धाम राजमार्ग परियोजना के तहत किया जा रहा है। साढ़े चार किलोमीटर लम्बी सुरंग के माध्यम से यमुना-गंगा घाटी को आपस में जोड़ा जाना है। वास्तव में यह निर्माण कार्य हाल ही में शुरू किया गया है जबकि चार धाम राजमार्ग परियोजना में पर्यावरण को हो रहे नुकसान का मामला माननीय उच्चतम न्यायालय में विचाराधीन है। अपने फ़रवरी 2019 में जारी आदेश में सर्वोच्च न्यायालय ने स्पष्ट तौर पर कहा था कि जब तक जब तक मामले पर अंतिम निर्णय नहीं आ जाता तब तक परियोजना के तहत नए कार्य शुरू नहीं किया जाना है। इस तरह यह सुरंग निर्माण कार्य सर्वोच्च न्यायालय के आदेश में अवमानना है। साथ में निर्माण कार्य के दौरान तय मानकों का खुलेआम अवेहलना की जा रही है सो अलग।
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
The landslide incident[i] on under construction Char Dham All Weather Road Project in Rudraprayag district of Uttrakhand has killed 8 labours on 21 December 2018 around 12.30 pm near Banswada in Ukhimath Bhiri area on the Rudraprayag-Gaurikund national highway (NH 107).
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.