DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study

(Feature Image:- The construction of the Polavaram dam across the Godavari river has posed a big threat to the Pulasa fish, as its movement to the upstream of the river could be curtailed. HT PHOTO).

Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned.

Continue reading DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers

A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.

Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.

Continue reading DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers
Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 050922: Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals

(Feature Image: Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river. Source: Central Water Commission 30.08.2022)

As this article on corruption in large dams in India shows, it is open secret that large dams involve massive corruption, kickbacks and political funding. But the politicians from PM downwards across the party lines have understandably no interest in this issue.

But unfortunately, the large dams-corruption is not limited to politicians. The corruption in various forms plague even the media Mughals like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyer and Shekhar Gupta, both known for their fundamentalist pro dam views. They too have no  interest in corruption in large dams. In fact some of them have no qualms accepting sponsorships of dam contractors for their media awards! They are however, ever ready to criticize Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar, though they have no clue about the issues they are talking about and keep using some flawed study whose reply (by Nandini Oza and Shripad Dharmadhikary) is already out in public domain. It is interesting that they have launched this fresh attack on dam critics just when Gujarat Chief Minister and country’s Home Minister have also launched attack on the NBA. Neither Gujarat CM, PM or HM is replying as to why Kutch, the main justification for Gujarat getting disproportionate share of Narmada waters, were the last to get their share of the water (even now not fully as the canal distribution system is still incomplete), almost two decades after the water rich Central Gujarat started getting Narmada waters. Nor are the pro dam media Mughals bothered about this.

Continue reading DRP NB 050922: Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Aug 2022: Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion

(Feature image: Delta Land Loss Mechanisms. Source Wikimedia Commons)

A new study this week has reminded us what has been known for long. Dams not only store water but also trap the sediment flowing in the river. Whatever smaller quantity of water flow from dams to downstream areas, has much lower or no silt. A lot of that silt was supposed to reach the coast, helping fight against the erosion of the coast due to sea tides and waves. With drastically lower sediment reaching the coasts, higher coastal erosion is the result. While climate change is definitely contributing to the increased coast erosion due to more frequent and higher intensity storms from the sea, the role of dams tend to work as force multiplier in increasing the coastal erosion due to less sediment reaching the coasts from river.

While a new study by a Pune University has highlighted this phenomena in case of Godavari river, peninsular India’s biggest river, this is also happening at most other rivers and where they meet the coasts. As in case of Farakka, closer the terminal dam is to the coast, greater is its effectiveness to trap the river sediment and higher is its contribution likely to be to the increase in coastal erosion.

Continue reading “DRP NB 1 Aug 2022: Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion”
Urban Rivers

Top Ten Judicial Actions on Urban Rivers 2022: Executors Deliberately Delaying, Diluting, Defying orders

(Feature Image: The order is subject to the orders of the SC which is pending. NGT on Nov. 24, 2021ordered the BMC to deposit within three months an environmental penalty of ₹28.20 crores to the CPCB for discharging raw sewage into the city creeks, rivers and drains. HT Photo)

During past one year, the judicial bodies including National Green Tribunal, Supreme Court, various High Courts have passed several orders and made critical observation while dealing with multiple issues afflicting Urban Rivers in India. This report highlights top ten such judicial interventions across India. The stories underline that the responsible agencies particularly pollution control boards and district, state and union governments have been failing miserably in timely and efficient implementation of these judicial orders, some of which are quite remarkable. If the executive bodies do not show right spirit and seriousness in enforcing the existing rules and court orders the state of India’s urban river only go downhill.    

Continue reading “Top Ten Judicial Actions on Urban Rivers 2022: Executors Deliberately Delaying, Diluting, Defying orders”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 040722: Stalled, delayed, cancelled Hydro in Bhutan

(Feature Image: Stretch of Punatsangchu River that will be diverted through the tunnel when the dam is commissioned Photo: SANDRP)

Puncturing the prevalent notion about India Bhutan Cooperation on hydropower projects, there is news this week (in fact the news on this score has been coming for more than a couple of years, but Indian media seems to be practicing a self-imposed ban on putting out such stories – but that is another story as they say) that hydropower projects have been stalled, delayed, reconfigured, and even cancelled in Bhutan. This is broadly in line with the increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects.

Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, has reported about such projects quoting the National Council recommendation to the government of Bhutan to expedite the decisions about the stalled projects like the massive Punatasanchchu-I HEP and the Kholongchu HEP. It has also reported that the government of India conveying to Bhutan that India has sufficient electricity supplies, suggesting that the proposed Nu 200 Billion Sunkosh Hydropower project may not have any definite dateline and hence likely to not go forward. The happenings at the geologically unstable site selection for Punatsanchchu project involving India’s Central Water Commission, Wapcos and Geological Survey of India among others is in fact major scandal and how the whole issue has been dealt with so far. The happenings at the Kolongchu HEP being executed by the SJVN (erstwhile Sutlej Jal Vidhyut Nigam Ltd) as the first ever joint venture project in Bhutan in terms SJVN not giving the promised contracts to Bhutanese companies also does not bode well for Joint Venture projects in future. Both Punatsanchchu and Kholongchu HEPs are stalled and delayed for long, increasing the cost of the projects and power from the projects. While all this is broadly in line with increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects, a lot of this can be avoided by increasing transparency and accountability in governance of these projects.

Continue reading “DRP NB 040722: Stalled, delayed, cancelled Hydro in Bhutan”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 270622: There are many man made factors behind Assam Floods, Mr CM

(Feature Image:- DDMA, UNICEF and Oxfam have innovated boat-mounted water treatment units to provide life-saving water to the people in need within Silchar & its peripheral areas. Source:- Assam State Disaster Management Authority )

The Assam Chief Minister has called the unprecedented floods in Silchar town along Barak river in South Assam as man-made floods. The reason given is that the breach of embankment along the Barak river in the town was created by some people. It is good to see that the Assam CM Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma has recognised that some of the floods can be due to man made factors. And indeed, investigation followed by action is required in all such cases. But the CM should not limit this to just the breach of Barak embankment or the role of some of the people who may have breached the embankment earlier in May to provide outlet to one of the lakes. The investigation must also look into the role of the water resources department as to why they did not swing into action earlier, both in terms of repair and investigation. .

In fact, according to reports so far, no less than 297 embankments have breached during this monsoon so far already. Many or rather most of them have happened due to systematic neglect and lack of proper maintenance by the water resources department and needs proper investigation and action. There is also an urgent need for assessment of cost benefit and efficacy of the embankments in Assam.

Continue reading “DRP NB 270622: There are many man made factors behind Assam Floods, Mr CM”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

Continue reading “DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 30 May 2022: Govt not serious about Rain Water Harvesting

(Feature image: Condition of a RWH structure in Karnal. The Tribune)

As India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared onset of 4 month South West Monsoon in Kerala on May 29, 2022 and published map of monsoon onset in rest of the country, key highlight of the news this week is how callous, non-serious is the govt in harvesting the rain where it falls. This is in spite of all the sloganeering about harvesting rain where and when it falls right from Prime Minister to downstairs. As they say, our actions speak louder than our words. The news came from Delhi and Karnal (Haryana) that in both states the rainwater systems even in government premises are lying defunct if all built.

The story would be similar from rest of the country. This also shows how serious is the government in working towards sustaining groundwater, India’s water lifeline as the biggest help GW can get is from harvesting rain where it falls, when it falls. This is particularly pertinent in the context of changing rainfall pattern with changing climate. If we had systems in place to harvest rain when and where it falls, it would also help reduce the flood peaks significantly. But until the government shows it is serious through demonstrable evidence of functioning rain water harvesting systems all across the river basins across India, there will be little morale authority in government pushing rest of us working to harvest rain, where and when it falls.

Continue reading “DRP NB 30 May 2022: Govt not serious about Rain Water Harvesting”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 May 2022: Forensic Team report: Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable

A Forensic engineering Team appointed by the USA’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission post the May 19, 2020 failure of Edinville and Sanford Dams in Michigan state of USA has published a 502 page comprehensive report on the dam failure within less than two years of the disaster. The full report published on May 4, 2022 is in public domain and has concluded that the dam failures were foreseeable and preventable.

There are a number of things we can learn from this. Firstly that there are such credible independent assessment of dam failures, we have none in India even after multiple dam failures each year. Secondly, such assessments are promptly in public domain. Thirdly, the reports are completed in less then two years. We have none of these. Even the Dam Safety Act passed by the parliament does not have provisions for any of these.

There are a lot of implications for India here. It means for example that we will never know the real reasons for the dam related disasters. Secondly, we won’t be able to learn any lessons. Thirdly we will never be able to improve the governance of our dams and rivers. Fourthly, we won’t be able to fix accountability.

There is so much at stake related to governance of our dams, but we seem completely unconcerned about it. There is a lot we can learn from others here.

Continue reading “DRP NB 9 May 2022: Forensic Team report: Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable”