Dam Safety · Disasters

A tale of two dam breaches: Spencer (USA) and Tiware (India)

On March 14, 2019 the Spencer dam on Niobrara river, located south of Spencer in Nebraska state in USA breached, killing four people in the downstream. The Investigation Report about the disaster has been made public now on April 24, 2020. The remains of Spencer Dam — a skeleton of concrete and steel amid a sea of sand — became one of the iconic images of the March 2019 “bomb cyclone” flood that caused billions of dollars in damage across Nebraska.

Less than four months later, on July 2, 2019, Tiware dam breached[i] in Chiplun taluka of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, killing 23 people. The then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on July 6, 2019 announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the disaster, the SIT was to submit a report in two months, but the report was submitted in January 2020, but the report is not in public domain. When SANDRP talked with the chairman of the committee, he disclosed that the report has been submitted to the department in early Feb 2020 and it can only be made public by the department once they accept the report. He revealed that the SIT had found that there were issues with material of construction (masonry in place of Concrete) and design of the conduit of the dam. He agreed that the report should be made public promptly, but expressed his helplessness in face of the norms in India. SANDRP also called Secretary, Department of Water Conservation, Govt of Maharashtra, but got no response.

There is a lot to learn for us in India in comparing the two dam breach incidents and how both are treated.

Continue reading “A tale of two dam breaches: Spencer (USA) and Tiware (India)”

DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Nov. 2019: Cauvery is calling, but do we understand her message?

Interrogating Cauvery Calling N Ram questions Jaggi Vasudev’s Cauvery Calling, asks why it shifts goal posts Speaking at Interrogating Cauvery Calling seminar in Chennai, N Ram said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned.

 “Now a very serious issue that must cause concern is the raising of public interest and public money for this project. Truly mega, in terms of money involved – 242 crore trees, 11,000 crore rupees. That is the kind of money involved. Only 0.5% collected. There is still time to put checks on this and prevent this from going further,” he said. “What is the management of this money? Who oversees it? There is no transparency, no verifiable document, no clear management structure for huge amount targeted. It is a matter of great concern.”

– N Ram also said that various state governments and the central government that endorses the project should also be questioned. “As a political journalist, this is the question that occurs to me. Who gave the Isha Foundation the right, the jurisdiction to transgress on what should be the commons. And why are governments being subservient to this idea? Apart from the risks, probable negative outcomes and over simplification of solutions for Cauvery, this is what is worrying,” he concluded.  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/n-ram-questions-jaggi-vasudevs-cauvery-calling-asks-why-it-shifts-goal-posts-112838  (24 Nov. 2019)

Continue reading “DRP NB 25 Nov. 2019: Cauvery is calling, but do we understand her message?”

Assam · Dam Safety

Major disaster at Kopili Dam of NEEPCO in Assam

The 275 MW Kopili Dam Power House of NEEPCO (North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited, a Union Ministry of Power Underaking) in Assam suffered major disaster on Oct 7, 2019. The penstock pipe that takes water from the Umrangso dam to the hydropower house burst during early hours in Assam’s Dima Hasao (earlier called North Cachar Hill) district, and massive quantity of water erupted, a lot of it entered the power house, where four employees of NEEPCO are feared to have been trapped/ washed away[i]. A large portion of the Kopili Hydro Electric Plant was also inundated and a temporary bridge was also washed away[ii]. Some videos of the situation are also available.[iii] Continue reading “Major disaster at Kopili Dam of NEEPCO in Assam”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 27 August 2018: WRONG Management of DAMS Create FLOODS, Accept Officials and Experts

Accepting that reservoirs operation and flood management in India lack scientific supports, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, in an interview has revealed that dams and water reservoirs need flood management systems that use scientific methods to understand when the time is right to open the gates.

“As per my understanding, no big reservoir has a decision support system. So we don’t know when to open them, how to open them… I am not attributing the Kerala floods to an individual. There is a common perception that in India most of the flood management systems are not supported by science… I am very sure we don’t have the decision support system and we need it.” https://indianexpress.com/article/india/not-just-kerala-no-scientific-dam-water-management-across-india-madhavan-nair-rajeevan-secy-earth-sciences-5322003/  (24 Aug. 2018)

In another interview he says that while Kerala records among the highest amounts of rainfall in the country, the State did not have a flood warning system in place. He added that while there were several sophisticated tools to anticipate extreme weather events, India still lacked a mechanism to effectively deploy them. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/reservoirs-not-managed-using-a-scientific-decision-support-system-m-rajeevan/article24785253.ece  (26 Aug. 2018)

Further in a detailed interview, he pitches for ‘decision support systems’ at dams, acknowledges the challenge of climate change, warn against repercussions of ‘fast-warming’ Indian Ocean. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kerala-floods-m-rajeevan-ministry-of-earth-sciences-met-department-5324840/  (26 Aug. 2018)

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 27 August 2018: WRONG Management of DAMS Create FLOODS, Accept Officials and Experts”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dams

Idukki Dam releases water when Kerala is in Floods: Could this have been avoided?

Kerala is facing serious floods. Army, Navy, NDRF, neighbouring states are all out. Dozens of people have died, landslides happening, houses washed away, the whole machinery is out to deal with the crisis.

In this flood crisis, Idukki & Idamalayar two of the Kerala’s biggest dams along with about two dozen others, are releasing water, adding to the floods and the disaster. Why are Idukki and Idamalayar, both having live storage capacity above a Billion Cubic Meters, releasing water NOW, when whole of Kerala is facing floods due to recent excessive rains? Standard excuse: The dams are full and they have no option but to release the water, they cannot store more. But why did they wait to start releasing water till the dams are full and they are faced with TINA: There is No Alternative. This love to be in TINA situation seems like a disease affecting all dam operators.

Continue reading “Idukki Dam releases water when Kerala is in Floods: Could this have been avoided?”

Dams, Rivers & People

DRP News Bulletin 30 July 2018: Laos Dam DISASTER: Yet Another Wake Up Call?

The various aspects of tragic Dam Disaster in Mekong Basin in Laos are still unfolding. But it is clear from many accounts that it was an avoidable, man-made disaster due to neglect of contractors, decision makers, consultants and supervising agencies. There is a lot we can learn from this if we want to avoid such disasters in India. We still do not have credible Dam Safety Law or institution, CWC is clearly not the right agency considering the conflict of interest with the various other roles of CWC. But for now let us look at the reports of Laos Dam Disaster.

Reminding the world of one of the worst dam disasters, the under construction dam Xepian Xe Nam Noy Hydro power project breached releasing 5 billion cubic metres of water in Southern Laos on July 23.

The gushing water current swept the surrounding leading to death of about 26 people and displacing about 6600 residents. As per report hundreds of people are still missing from neighbouring villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, which bore the brunt of flooding. The deluge has reportedly destroyed thousands of homes.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 30 July 2018: Laos Dam DISASTER: Yet Another Wake Up Call?”

Dams · Dams, Rivers & People

How India Measures Water Storages

Govt and media typically report the status of water storage in India using the CWC’s Weekly Reservoir Storage Bulletin, which contain information about just 91 reservoirs in India. In this article we show that the state websites provide information about huge 3863 reservoirs, which even if not sufficient, is a huge improvement over just 91 reservoirs that CWC bulletin includes. We hope all concerned will try to improve the reservoir storage reporting.

It should be added here that this measures only surface water stored in some of the large reservoirs of India. This excludes large number of big reservoirs, lakhs of smaller reservoirs, groundwater aquifers and soil moisture storage. In spite of these limitations, this provides more accurate picture than just the 91 reservoirs of CWC that everyone in India, including media, govt monitoring and policy makers look at.

Continue reading “How India Measures Water Storages”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Dam Safety

Risk of collapse of Hidroituango Dam hangs over Colombia

Above: The abutment of the Hidroituango dam, showing the unstable slopes. Image tweeted by UNGRD June 10 2018. Dam is almost full to the brim

The 225 m high Hindroituango Dam on Cauca River in Colombia continues to face emergency situation since April, and collapse of the dam is one of the likely possibilities. It’s a very large embankment dam being built Cauca River near to Ituango in Antioquia Province in Latima American country Colombia.  The dam, estimated to cost $2.8 billion, was due to be completed this year.  When operational it will generate 17% of the electricity demand of Colombia, but critics have been questioning the need for the dam. As we see through the details below, it is clear that the mega dam has been taken up without adequate geological, social and environmental studies, and now there is a big question mark if it will be successfully completed. There is a lot for the world to learn, here, including for Indian and South Asian Dam supporters.

Ominously, William Gutiérrez, a fisherman and gold prospector, after escaping the floods due to the dam last month, with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, told Guardian as vultures circled overhead: “We’ve always said this river could not be dammed. But the dam is more important to those in power than our lives.” Continue reading “Risk of collapse of Hidroituango Dam hangs over Colombia”

Dam Safety

Oroville Dam damage in US: Many questions

USA’s tallest, Oroville Dam on Feather river in California suffered severe spillway damage, as discovered on Feb 7, 2017. As we wrote in our blog “Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come”[i] on Feb 12, 2017, worse was yet to come, but the author did not imagine the threat would materialize so soon. Here we try to capture the key events since that blog. Continue reading “Oroville Dam damage in US: Many questions”

Dam Safety

Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come

Oroville Dam, the tallest Dam in USA was found to have suffered severe damage to its spillway on Feb 7, 2017. A crater of about 180 feet width, 250 feet length and 30 feet depth was found in lower portion of the 3000 ft long spillway on Tuesday when 55000 cusecs (cubic feet of water) was flowing down the spillway.

That water release down the damaged spillway was stopped the same day. But the water level in the Oroville dam was than already over 80%, fast climbing to over 90% by the evening of Feb 9, 2017 and with inflow of 128000 cusecs on Feb 7, rising to 191000 cusecs on Feb 9, the officials of Department of Water Resources (DWR) of California decided to first test the damaged spillway by releasing 20000 cusecs twice on Feb 8, 2017. This further damaged the spillway, increasing the depth of the crater to upto 300 ft as per some reports and not only increasing the length and width, but also eroding the adjoining hills. Continue reading “Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come”