The coastline between Chavara and Alappad in Kollam district of Kerala, has a decades-long story of people’s battle for survival against mining companies. This stretch in Kerala is where the extensive mineral beach sand mining has been happening since the 1960s. The abandoned buildings are the remains of people’s failed agitations and indefinite strikes. One by one the villages in the area are vanishing from the map of Kerala. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 14 January 2019: Will the campaign of 17 year old Alappad Girl Wake up the NATION to the perils of unsustainable sand mining?”
Best Advertisement of What Dam Building can do. Great Expose by NYT: “The dam sits under the glare of an active volcano, with columns of ash spewing toward the sky. Officials had warned against the dam for decades. Geologists said an earthquake could wipe it away. Now, only two years after opening, thousands of cracks are splintering the dam’s machinery. Its reservoir is clogged with silt, sand and trees.
Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.)
In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.
In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.
The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.
The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.
Unprecedented Kerala deluge that swept through the coastal state on the day of Independence day 2018 was most disastrous flood incident in the year. It has also been termed as one the worst flood in the state and reminded the people of July 1924 and July 1962 flood calamities. Many experts, several reports and studies have established the role of dams in worsening the deluge. According to reports, 35 out of the 46 dams within the state were opened for the first time in history. All 5 overflow gates of the Idukki Dam were opened at the same time, for the first time in 26 years.
State Government Accepts Dams Role
Kerala is usually considered a flood-proofed state with its undulating terrain. For a state that receives an annual average rainfall of nearly 3,000 mm, its natural landscape protects it from recurrent floods. Indeed, the Kerala flood has highlighted our poor dam management system.
As per officials the crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” water from at least 30 dams, in advance of high rainfall, adding that local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain predictions. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the State’s unprofessionally run reservoirs management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience.
International news agency, after independent research, have corroborated what SANDRP has been saying: Mismanagement of dams played big role in worsening Kerala floods.
-“The release could have started earlier so that by Aug. 9 there would have been left-over capacities in the reservoirs to store the water,” said Biswajit Mukhopadhyay, director of water resources at U.S-based engineering firm IEA, who analysed some of the publicly available data at the request of Reuters.
– Still, dozens of flood victims interviewed by Reuters, who live in villages dotting the banks of Kerala’s biggest river, the 244 km Periyar, say they faced no floods despite torrential rain in late July and early August. All of them said waters only rose overnight on Aug. 15. That was when more intense rainfall forced KSEB to rapidly ramp-up releases of water from Idukki and Idamalayar reservoirs, which feed into the Periyar.
– Kerala’s revenue secretary and head of disaster management, P.H. Kurien, told Reuters he has twice written to KSEB requesting EAPs and has yet to receive them. KSEB’s Pillai said EAPs and dam operation manuals were still being prepared. CWC said it was working with Kerala’s government to speed this up. The Kerala Chief Minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment. https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/did-dams-make-indias-once-in-century-floods-worse (11 Oct. 2018)
And this fantastic infographic: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/INDIA-FLOOD/010080MF18N/index.html (11 Oct. 2018)
ABSTRACT: Many independent observers have argued that dams have played a role in increasing the proportions of Kerala flood disaster during July-Aug 2018. This article shows that Kerala dams violated many basic norms and if operated prudently, could have helped. It shows how post dam floods are different than pre dam floods. It lists the steps that would help in future disasters involving dams. The lessons are useful for all large dams of India.
In theory, every dam can help moderate floods in the downstream areas, as long as and as much as the dam has space to store water. In fact, every action that helps to store, hold, recharge (to groundwater aquifer), delay flow of rainwater from the catchment to the river would help moderate flow and hence flood in the river. Our catchments are fast losing that capacity, with continued destruction of natural forests, wetlands, local water bodies and also soil’s capacity to hold water. Continue reading “Role of dams in Kerala’s 2018 floods”
Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency in India doing flood forecasting, it becomes very important to understand what CWC does in this regard. The CWC flood forecasting website[i] is the main media through which CWC provides the flood forecasting. CWC has also published on its website, the document giving Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for flood forecasting in 2018[ii]. The Home page of the CWC’s flood forecasting site says that CWC provides Level forecasting for 166 sites and Inflow forecasting for 60 sites. SOP document, however, gives these figures in Table 1, but in Table 2 (as also the full list given in Annexure 1.1 of SOP document), it gives state wise break up for 182 Level forecasting and 93 Inflow forecasting sites. So we can see anomalies in these two sources even about the number of forecasting sites.
Dams and reservoirs make rivers sediment-starved and menacing manifold downstream. While heavy rainfall is also a key factor behind the floods, hungry water had a more pronounced effect, says D. Padmalal, Scientist and Head, Hydrological process group, National Centre for Earth Science Studies.
– “When the sediment transport is interrupted, the potential energy of the hungry water released from dams will scour the river banks downstream, uprooting trees or riparian vegetation and damaging bridges and other engineering structures,” explains Dr. Padmalal. Overloaded with silt and clay from the eroding river banks, the highly turbid and viscous water clogs drainage channels. Subsequent discharge of water from the dam will lead to inundation and waterlogging of large areas.
– Hungry water can also develop in high gradient river channels devoid of adequate quantity of sand and gravel, especially during periods of high rainfall. “Years of uncontrolled sand mining have left most of the rivers in Kerala depleted or exhausted of sand and gravel. This creates a situation similar to the release of hungry water from dams,” notes Dr. Padmalal. When the river channel has adequate supply of sand and gravel, the potential energy of the water is used to transport the mixture. The water does not scour the banks or turn muddy.
Unless immediate corrective action is taken, the NGT which has till recently served as an institution to provide environmental justice, will increasingly become an institution to perpetuate environmental injustice. If this is to happen, it will be a sad day for both India’s environment and democracy; writes Ritwick Dutta.
– Last few months have seen a massive decline in public confidence in the NGT. The first wake-up call was in July when the new chairperson of the NGT commented that around 50% of the petitions before the tribunal were filed by “blackmailers”. Nothing could be more distressing because this comes from an institution that was created to protect the rights of the people. Recently, the decision of the chairperson of NGT to rehear 18 cases, which were reserved for judgment, has raised concerns about both propriety as well as legality.
– The NGT, over the last two months, seems to have evolved four approaches to deal with litigations. First, dispose of existing cases. Second, form committees, comprising mostly people who were responsible for the problem, and outsource even adjudicatory functions. Third, refuse to entertain matters on the ground that the govt has approved the project or other hyper-technical grounds. And finally, rehear cases which were earlier reserved for judgment.
– One is not expecting the NGT to always give judgments in favour of those who approach it for protecting the environment. Rather, the cause for concern is the general reluctance of the tribunal to hear matters on merit, to consider the decision of the govt as virtually sacrosanct and submissions of project proponents as cast in stone. It must not be forgotten that the NGT is not a special tribunal, but a specialised tribunal set up to adjudicate on complex environmental issues through the use of both judicial and technical expertise.
Central Water Commission is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. As per CWC’s Flood Forecasting website[i] the Data Flow Map has information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View, but no flood forecasting is done for these sites.
In order to better understand the CWC’s flood monitoring and forecasting work, SANDRP has published report of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in 5 zones of North India[ii], North East India[iii], East India[iv], South India[v] and West India[vi]. Through this report, we have presented all the data at one place with links to separate zone wise reports with detailed description.