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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Dams

Why are we still building Large Dams?

Analysis of official information shows that Big dams are not longer necessary or viable or optimal in India. Most (over 95% of India’s 5701 large dams (5264 completed and 437 under construction as per CWC’s National Register of Large Dams[i]) are built for irrigation, but most of our irrigation now comes from groundwater. In fact, about 90% of additional irrigation in last four decades has come from groundwater.

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Dam Induced Flood Disaster

Dam Floods & Embankment Breaches in South West Monsoon 2020

Improper operations of dams, disasters related to dams and hydro projects and breaching of embankments have been aggravating flood disasters during every monsoon. There have been several such incidents during South West Monsoon 2020, taking heavy toll on people and property which could have been avoided or impacts reduced in many cases with proper dam operations and proper maintenance of the embankments. This compilation attempts to put together all such instances when avoidable flood disasters were created by improper operation of dams and breaching of embankments in the south west monsoon 2020.

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Chhattisgarh · CWC - Central Water Commission · Dam Disaster · Mahanadi

Khanda Dam Breach in Chhattisgarh in Sept 2020

The earthen Khanda dam in Korea district[i] in Chhattisgarh’s Mahanadi basin breached around 6.30 hrs on Wednesday, Sept 23, 2020. Local farmers alleged negligence by the Water Resources Department officials, who were informed about the dilapidated condition of the dam. The engineers even came and inspected, they said, and went away. They alleged that if they had reduced water storage and in stead opened the two canal gates, this situation may not have come.

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

ROLE OF DAMS IN 2018 KERALA FLOODS: Rejoinder of J Harsha to the response by Sudheer et al

Rejoinder Article by: J.Harsha

An article titled “Role of dams on the floods of August 2018 in Periyar River Basin” was published by Sudheer et al. (2019) in Current Science. A rebuttal was prepared and thanks to South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), the same was published by SANDRP on 25th August 2020 (https://sandrp.in/2020/08/25/role-of-dams-in-kerala-floods-distortion-of-science/) for which Sudheer et al. (2019) has now furnished a response (https://sandrp.in/2020/09/19/response-of-sudheer-et-al-to-the-comments-by-mr-j-harsha-on-the-article-role-of-dams-on-the-floods-of-aug-2018-in-periyar-river-basin-kerala/).

In the rebuttal published by SANDRP, I had questioned the very basis of fitting HEC-HMS model for Periyar River Basin (PRB) by Sudheer et al. (2019), and also challenged the assumptions made by them, the methodology followed and the consequent voluminous inferences such as catchment response at Neeleshwaram (L2), virgin simulations, bank full discharges and particularly inferences that indicted nature for the flood calamity but exonerating the role of dams for the floods of Kerala in 2018. 

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