Hydro Power Projects

2022: Hydro Power Projects Disasters, Damages & Concerns in South Asia

(Feature Image:- The residential quarters established alongside the Ichar Nullah by the Chinese workers of the Dasu hydropower project were swept away along with their machinery, trucks and dumpers in the swollen nullah. Image: Pamir Times, Text:Dawn. Aug. 2022)

In addition to India, the local people in Himalayan countries of South Asia have been resisting against the hydro power projects. These countries have also been facing accidents and disasters caused by the hydro power projects. At the same time, the increasing construction as well as operational cost and climate change threats have been making the future of hydro power projects risky and uncertain in the region. This annual overview highlights the hydro power projects related accidents, disasters and concerns in South Asian countries. 

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Dam Safety

2022: Growing Concerns over Dam Safety, Sustainability & Impacts

(Feature image: Breach in Karam dam, MP in Aug. 2022. Dainik Jagran)

This annual overview is focused on issues concerning structural and operational safety of dams that arose in 2022. It includes issues related to how climatic threats and siltation is making the large dams unsustainable. It also highlights the impacts of dams on river eco-system and riverine people amid some corrective measures being taken by the various state and central governments including the formation of National Dam Safety Authority.

Please see for links to SANDRP’s analysis on the issues in 2022 in India covering: (1) Dam induced floods, (2) Dam safety and related issues of Polavaram project, (3) Disasters and accidents caused by hydro power projects in Himalayan states, (4) Growing and ongoing resistance against destructive dams and hydro projects, (5) Fly ash dam breaches.

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Dam Disaster

2022 Fly ash dam breaches in India

(Feature image:- This is the second time in the six months that Rautdih village has become inundated by the breach of ash pond embankment in Bokaro. ToI, Oct. 09, 2022)

Most mining companies make dams to store the semi solid slurry waste from the mines. Similarly most thermal power projects have fly ash dams to store the fly ash slurry. These dams store highly toxic slurries but there is little happening by way of regulation, monitoring or compliance at design, construction or operation level. Many of these dams breach or overflow, leading of release of the toxic slurry in the downstream areas. These dams do not even come under monitoring of Central Water Commission or under the dam safety act passed by the parliament. Despite accidents happening with huge adverse consequences, there is no accountability.

In this report, we have compiled the instances that we could locate about breaches of such dams in 2022. We earlier wrote about the Singrauli instance in April 2020 and in the 2019 SW Monsoon dam breach compilation report.

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Dam floods

Dam Floods, Failures and Disasters in 2022

This annual overview highlights the dam induced flood disasters, dam failure incidents in India during 2022. This year, the massive floods in Godavari have exposed the flood vulnerability of giant projects like Polavaram and Kaleshwaram. Also there have been multiple dam failures and dam induced floods in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In absence of coordination and data sharing Hirakud induced floods in Mahanadi basin have affected several villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. There have been several instances of unscientific operations of dams and the operators continue to hide behind TINA (There Is No Alternative) excuse. The functioning of CWC as key flood forecasting and management agency has not shown any significant improvement. However, now it has accepted that faulty dam operations can lead to flood in downstream areas. Please see links to our 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 annual compilations on the subject.    

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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.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 16 August 2021: Landslides in Himachal worsened due to mindless “development” projects

The numerous landslides this monsoon in Kinnaur and other districts of Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan states have been literally deadly, killing hundreds of people this monsoon. Mindless “development” projects including Hydropower projects, indiscriminate building of roads in mountains, blasting, tunnelling, mining, dumping of waste into the rivers and valleys, deforestation, building townships, all without any credible impact assessment, public consultations, appraisal, monitoring or compliance. While climate change (another anthropogenic factor) leading to more frequent events of high intensity rainfall is worsening the landslide potential of the area, what we are doing in the name of developments is multiplying the disaster potential several fold. The governments at centre and states and judiciary can continue to be blind to this realities, but local people cannot. The local communities in Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti have been opposing such projects strongly and such protests are bound to increase and spread. One hopes this pushes the governments and judiciary to act urgently.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 07 June 2021: Local Water Options Stories from Five states

(Feature image A big main pond that has been constructed in the Phular village, Damoh. (Pic: Shahroz Afridi, News 18))

This week we would like to highlight some remarkable local water option stories from five states spread across India: Madhya Pradesh from Central India, Punjab from North India, Karnataka from South India, Rajasthan & Maharashtra from western India. These are stories just from this week among many others that show that local water options exist, they are the cheapest, sustainable, equitable, democratic and with least impacts and most appropriate in the climate change context. In a country like India where groundwater has been India’s water lifeline for over four decades now, these options are best suited for ensuring optimum recharge of groundwater aquifers at local level and sustaining those lifelines. Particularly when South West Monsoon is on our doorstep to gift its annual bounty to India. As UN starts the International Decade for Ecosystems Restoration with the theme of preventing, halting, reversing the degradation of ecosystems, these become even more important.     

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 31 May 2021: Worrying Dam Water Storage at the onset of SW monsoon

(Feature image source: Onmanorama.com)

It would be very useful and educative to look at the water storage levels of some of the major reservoirs of India even as India awaits the annual bounty of water from the South West Monsoon that normally officially starts on June 1, but this year may start on June 3 as the latest India Meteorological Department forecast yesterday, that is on May 30, 2021. While high storages at this point in time creates a possible Dam Flood hazard that India has been experiencing with increasing frequency with changing monsoon rainfall patterns and unaccountable reservoir operations, it also indicates the gross inefficiency of our use of water stored in these reservoirs if there is a lot of water there in the beginning of the annual filling period. It indicates that the storages created with such massive economic, social and environmental costs have not been optimally utilised in the just ending water year on May 31. Unfortunately, no agency is monitoring the water storages in these major reservoirs and asking as to why there is non optimal use of water and then addressing the reasons wherever they see such non optimal storages at the end of water year. SANDRP has been raising this issue for many years.

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Chalakudy · Dam floods · Kerala

Reservoir Operations Fail People in Chalakudy River Basin in Kerala in 2020

Guest Article by S P Ravi

Kerala continues to witness unusual monsoon rainfall patterns for the third straight year in 2020. Kerala had witnessed its worst flood in almost a century in 2018. The 2019 flood was probably second only to the 2018 floods over the last 50 years, with many places experiencing larger floods than that in 2018. While the state did not face huge floods this year, tragedy struck in the form of the Pettimudi landslide near Munnar in Idukki district. It buried alive 70 members of plantation labourer families, making it the worst ever landslide in Kerala in terms of human causality. Kerala has also witnessed its wettest monsoon in September in this millennium with a rainfall of 601 mm, surpassing the previous highest of 526 mm recorded in 2007. The S-W monsoon period is now over and the state received 2227 mm rainfall, which is 9 percent above long term average.

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CWC - Central Water Commission · Dam floods · Floods

Central India downpour brings unprecedented flows in Brahmani, Chambal, Godavari, Mahanadi, Narmada, Suvarnarekha

A massive wave of flood is flowing down the rivers originating in Central India states from Odisha in East to Gujarat-Rajasthan in the west. At least fourteen river sites have seen breach of Highest Flood Levels (HFL) in last four days, a record by itself: 7 in Mahanadi, 5 in Godavari, 2 in JNarmada and one each in Suvarnarekha and Chambal. In at least four of these cases, the earlier HFL had survived for 26 years and has now been broken.

The flood wave that is traveling down is above above 35500 cumecs (12.54 lakh cusecs) in Narmada (at Indira Sagar Dam), above 25000 cumecs (8.83 lakh cusecs), in case of Mahanadi (at Hirakud Dam) and Godavari (at Gosikhurd Dam) rivers & over 15000 cumecs (5.3 lakh cusecs) in Chambal (at Gandhi Sagar Dam) River. Continue reading “Central India downpour brings unprecedented flows in Brahmani, Chambal, Godavari, Mahanadi, Narmada, Suvarnarekha”