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.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 May 2022: Sand a strategic resource like water, rethink its exploitation: UN

A United Nations report released this week on Apr 26, 2022 has recommended that river sand needs to be considered by the governments as a strategic resource like water for its multiple roles in the environment and its extraction and use needs to be rethought. The UNEP report says sand is the second most exploited resource. And yet there are no credible governance guidelines or policies for the exploitation and use of this report, nor assessment of impact of unsustainable exploitation.

The report says: “Extracting sand where it plays an active role, such as rivers, and coastal or marine ecosystems, can lead to erosion, salination of aquifers, loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity, which pose a threat to livelihoods through, among other things, water supply, food production, fisheries, or to the tourism industry.”

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 18 April 2022: Clean Hydro does not make much sense in India: Experts

(Feature image:- Following massive landslides in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh sees growing protests against hydropower projects. DTE)

As the following report from Energy Monitor this week says, according to international experts, the idea that hydro is clean does not make sense. They say that for a number of reasons including for the social risks, environmental risks and the increased emissions of methane due to rotting of organic matter flowing in the river and settling in the reservoirs. In spite of some apparent inherent misconceptions, this part of the report is sound and should be a wakeup call for the supporters of big hydro in India. As the report suggests this is particularly true in the context of climate change. Indeed, this has been our own experience in India with increasing disasters related to hydro projects and the increasing unviability of the hydro projects in India.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 April 2022: Ken Betwa Affected people protest land acquisition

The residents of about 15 villages affected by the Ken Betwa link project are opposing the land acquisition process being initiated in violation of all norms have opposed the move. The notices have not been pasted in the affected villages, gram sabhas have not been conducted and the information promised in the notice is not available at the designated places. When question, the Madhya Pradesh officials have responded arrogantly. The history of manipulations and violations that has been the norm every step of the way in Ken Betwa Project continues. In fact the project does not have final forest clearance, its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee and its Environment clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. In absence of the clearances, the land acquisition should not even be started if there is any place for prudent norms in such projects. It would be best if the government stops the process and starts it only if and when it gets all the clearances and after taking all the concerned into confidence through a prudent confidence inspiring process.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers

The government of India, through joint announcement of Union Ministries of Jal Shakti & Environment and Forests (such joint addresses are rather rare events) this week announced its plans to rejuvenate 13 major rivers of India (excluding Ganga but including some of the key Ganga tributaries!) through the limited activity of plantations is not every convincing on many counts. Firstly it is welcome to see that the government sees a role of forests as a hydrological asset. Unfortunately, this is clearly and completely absent in government’s forest management, both in policy and practice. If we see the forest governance of India through the functioning of the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, we see absolutely no sign of acknowledgement of this reality that forests are major hydrological assets. So for example when a decision is taken to allow diversion of major chunks of existing forests, there is never any discussion, assessment or counting of hydrological eco system services that forests provide. This is apparent in many cases, but most recently in the case of Ken Betwa project where the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee too has acknowledged this reality. So again it seems government’s mind or heard does not seem to know what the tongue is conveying!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 March 2022: 25th Anniversary of International Day of Action for Rivers!

14th March is celebrated as International Day of Action for Rivers since 1997 after the resolution at the 1st International meeting of People Affected by Dams in Curitiba, Brazil. At this meeting of Dam affected people from 20 countries (including India) it was decided to celebrate this day as the International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life. It is thrilling to see the celebration continuing and spreading on 25th anniversary of that meeting. The focus this years is on Rivers for Biodiversity. To illustrate how the celebration of this day has spread, in 2021, even during pandemic, the day was celebrated with over 120 events in 32 countries. For details, see: https://www.internationalrivers.org/take-action/international-day-of-action-for-rivers/.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 Feb 2022: Climate Change intensifying water cycle at double the predicted rate

This should be worrying all water managers, particularly in monsoon driven climate like India. New Research by New South Wales University Science and published in Nature in Feb 2022, based on changes in salinity of sea, a new method, says that the climate change is intensifying the water cycle at more than double the predicted rate. This is also likely to have huge impact on the rainfall pattern and possible increase in frequency of high intensity rainfall events and storms, besides other impacts. This will also have impact on the Probable Maximum Precipitation and Probable Maximum Floods in the dam catchments, and would mean the current spillway capacity of many of our dams wont be adequate. All this also means increased frequency high intensity floods and disasters. Unfortunately, CWC or state dam managers in India are not even looking at these figures. India also needs to urgently take up research into all these aspects for assessing India specific impacts.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Feb 2022: UNVIABLE HYDRO STORIES FROM INDIA, BHUTAN, NEPAL, US

One of the key underlying theme of several stories this week is about more resounding evidence from several parts of the world including India (Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Kashmir, NHPC), Bhutan, Nepal, USA and Canada among others, that hydropower projects are no longer even economically viable, besides being socially and environmentally destructive and unacceptable. It is high time that our authorities wake up and realise this soon rather than spending massive amounts of scarce resources on such unviable projects that also work as force multipliers in the changing climate.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Feb 2022: Wake up call: Chairman of Supreme Court HPC Chopra Resigns

(Feature Image: Pillars of elevated road eating into Ganga’s actual riverbed at Rishikesh. Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP, 08 Oct. 2021)

The resignation of Shri Ravi Chopra, chairman of the Supreme Court appointed High Powered Committed to report about the implications and dimensions of the Char Dham Highway in fragile Himalayan region is yet another wake up call for all concerned, including the Supreme Court. Chopra has said that following the Dec 14, 2021 order of the Supreme Court in the Char Dham case, the panel “has been shattered”. Chopra’s resignation letter dated Jan 27, 2022 has only now being made public. The order of Dec 14, 2021 was not only contrary to the order of Sept 8, 2020, but also limited the HPC’s role even in monitoring to less than 30% of the road, that too when the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways have consistently ignored the recommendations of the HPC. Will the resignation have any impact on the apex court of the project or the MoRTH?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

If rating of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) of various states were to be done, it has to be based on how rigorous, how transparent, how participatory, how well defined, how consistent, how comprehensive, how rules following has been the functioning of the various SEIAA. Such an exercise has to be done by a panel of independent experts, who are experienced and knowledgeable about the various aspects of environmental governance and functioning of these authorities. In fact the exercise should also include the National EIAA too and the various Expert Appraisal Committees under it. It clearly cannot be what the MoEF has now proposed. What MoEF has proposed is completely against all basic norms of environmental governance and is part of MoEF’s complete surrender to the vested interests and not is not in the interest of environment governance. As the Tribune editorial noted, such blatant disregard of the environment is completely unacceptable. Similarly as the TOI editorial said, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last. There is a role of judiciary to step in here and ensure that MoEF does not go down this path.

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