DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 11 Oct 2021: Are we being forced towards nature based solutions?

Four interesting developments in this week seems to suggest that mankind is being pushed closer to nature based solutions to society’s needs. In Brussels in Belgium (Europe), the local government has started to uncover the Senne river that now is hidden under the pavements with the declared objective to “return nature to the city” and the river becoming an ecological corridor in the city.

In USA, the Army Corps of Engineers, more known as Dam builders, have over the last five years, moved towards nature based flood control by creating wetlands. In the 2020 Water Resources Development Act, US Congress directed the Corps to consider nature-based systems on equal footing with more traditional infrastructure. Its possibly a baby step, but a very significant one for a traditional dam building organisation that has stopped building dams and have been working towards decommissioning dams.

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Dams · Hydro Disaster

Uttarakhand: Cloud Bursts around Vyasi HEP

On August 25-27, 2021 the most of hilly districts in Uttarakhand witnessed intense rainfall events causing widespread destruction. Media reports and local people suggest at least seven cloud burst incidents occurring in quick succession over Binhar range in Pacchawadoon and Mussoorie hills dividing Ganga and Yamuna basins in Dehradun district. The resultant deluge has also affected the under construction Vyasi Hydro Electric Project (HEP) areas in Vikas Nagar tehsil highlighting that the project is unprepared to cope with existing & emerging disasters.

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CWC - Central Water Commission · Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Ganga

Why are Patna & Bhagalpur facing unprecedented floods on India’s 75th independence day?

As India prepares to celebrate 75th Independence day on August 15, 2021, large parts of Bihar along the Ganga river, including Patna (flood water entered colonies near Ganga in Patna) and Bhagalpur are preparing to face unprecedented floods. In fact, Central Water Commission’s (CWC) flood monitoring site at Hathidah in Patna district crossed the HIGHEST FLOOD LEVEL (HFL) of 43.17 m at 0300 hours in early morning on Aug 13, 2021. The water level is already at 43.33 m at 1300 hrs on Aug 14. It is forecast to reach 43.45 m by 0800 on independence day still with rising trend. This is apparent from the CWC hydrograph of this site shown above.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 June 2021: Where is the impact of lessons of the water conservation efforts that Modi praises, on his government’s water projects and policies?

When the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Mentioned some exemplary water conservation efforts in his Mann ki Baat on June 27, 2021, it was not for the first time he was doing it. These are certainly most welcome.

However, these mentions raise a number of questions. If the Prime Minister considers these local water options as exemplary, which they indeed are, where do we see the reflection of the lessons from such efforts in government programs and policies? In fact why there is no reflection of such lessons in what the government does in water sector? How can the government justify the destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, over 9000 ha of forests, some 46 lakh trees, the catchment of Ken river and large part of Bundelkhand in the name of Ken Betwa Link Project, in the same Bundelkhand. How can his government justify the destructive projects like the Char Dham Highway, the big hydro projects and so on in the same Uttarakhand where Sachidanand Bharati (who was incidentally recipient of the Bhagirath Prayas Samman of India Rivers Week) works, whose efforts the PM praised? One hope the PM and his government will be awake to the implications and lessons of the works that PM praises.

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Cloud Burst

Uttarakhand: Cloud bursts in May 2021

From the beginning of May 2021, Uttarakhand has started witnessing excessive rainfall events termed as ‘cloud bursts’. Worryingly the intensity and frequency seems on higher side this time. So far there have been about 24 reported cases of ‘cloud bursts’ in the state but the monitoring, prediction and mitigation efforts are lagging far behind.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 1 March 2021: Actions speak louder than words on PM’s appeal for water, river conservation

In his #MannKiBaat on Feb 28, 2021, India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi appealed to people to conserve our Rivers, Water, referring to Magh Purnima on Feb 27 2021 and Sant Ravi Das teachings. He also said that India’s traditions, festivals, scriptures, etc have so much place for rivers, also mentioning the Kumbh mela this year at Haridwar. He mentioned that a 100 day campaign will be launched soon by the Jal Shakti Ministry for rainwater harvesting. He gave several examples from across the country where individuals and groups have taken up such words.

All that sounds fine and welcome. But the trouble is that his all-powerful government is working consistently and with increasing intensity towards opposite direction. This very week his Power Minister expressed ignorance if hydropower projects have any environmental adverse impact, right in the face of destruction wrought by the hydropower projects in Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand on Feb 7, 2021. Why is the Union Government still pushing hydropower projects which are no longer even economically viable, they never were environmentally sustainable or socially acceptable.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 22 Feb 2021: Case against NTPC for criminal negligence in Tapovan Project?

(Feature image: NDRF personnel carry out rescue and restoration work at damaged Tapovan Vishnugad barrage after the massive flash flood. PTI/Arun Sharma)

Consider these facts: The NTPC, the project developer, failed to appraise that the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower project, where maximum damage and deaths occurred in Chamoli Avalanche disaster that started on Feb 7, 2021 morning, is in Paraglacial influence zone. Such an appraisal would have meant a number of implications, including possibly a decision that the project is geologically unviable.

NTPC failed to take any action to save the workers even after it was known upto 10-20 minutes before the disaster struck. Something that Mangshri Devi could do to save about 25 lives, NTPC could not do.

The project had faced several disasters since 2008, but fails to put in early warning system in place. For several days post disaster, reports say that NTPC failed to share even the detailed map of the tunnel where over 30 workers were stuck. NTPC’s disaster management system showed no signs of existence throughout the disaster. Reports say that the barrage gates were closed, which if they were open, it may have helped the flow of the flood debris downstream, which in turn could have possibly meant more time and saving of more lives.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 15 Feb. 2021: Why Mangshri Devi of Tapovan Should Head Uttarakhand’s Disaster Management Department?

Feature image Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project in Chamoli district on Feb., 7 by Gajendra Yadav, Express Photo

In a fantastic story, Shivani Azad of The Times of India has reported possibly the most remarkable story of the Chamoli avalanche disaster that started on Sunday morning on Feb 7, 2021. She reported that Vipul Kairuni of Dhaak village in Tapovan, working at the time at the now destroyed Tapovan Vishnugad project, got saved thanks to frantic calls by his mother Mangshri Devi as she and his wife saw from their village home, situated at a height from the river, that a massive flood is approaching the dam site. It was thanks to frantic, repeated calls by Mangshri Devi that not only Vipul, but at least two dozen more people could run to safety of a ladder and saved their lives.

So effectively, Mangshri Devi has saved at least two dozen lives in Chamoli disaster. Who else can claim to have achieved anything like that in the disaster? The disaster management department seems completely absent from the scene either in terms of pre disaster monitoring or in taking steps to save lives during the disaster. In fact, there should have been an early warning system in place that could have saved many more lives. But it does not exist. Either in Rishiganga/ Dhauliganga basin or anywhere else in Uttarakhand. NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Project has faced so many disasters already since 2008, but is only now talking about putting in place early warning system. Should not the NTPC and power ministry top brass as well as Uttarakhand disaster management department held accountable for that?

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Dam Disaster · Landslide dam

Rishiganga Ground visit report reveals landslide dam & raises questions

The first ground visit report of the Rishiganga catchment in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district by Dr Naresh Rana, a geologist after the Chamoli Avalanche disaster of Feb 7, 2021 has been shared by NDTV on Feb 11, 2021[i]. Dr Rana visited the catchment of the Rishiganga to understand the ground situation on Feb 10 ,2021 and this is possibly the first such visit since the disaster.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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