Assam · Ministry of Water Resources

Present Tensed, Future Expensive: Large Irrigation Projects in Northeast India

The actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return” this was the unequivocal conclusion of a recent study done by a group of experts from Oxford University on dams around the world[1]. Similar conclusions can be reached from a recent analysis done by SANDRP on five large irrigation dam projects from northeastern region of India, where project costs have increased as high as 35 times from its original costs and projects are under construction for 35 years but yet not completed. The Oxford study which has assessed 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007 in 65 different countries in five continents, including 97 hydropower projects, 59 irrigation projects and 89 multipurpose projects with hydropower component, had identified enormous cost and time overrun as a major problem with large dam projects.

SANDRP had recently done an analysis (https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/) of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India. This analysis covered decisions taken by TAC from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting of December 2013. Within these five years, TAC has given clearance to 38 projects in North East India out of which major number of the projects i.e. 26 are flood and erosion control projects. Rest of the 12 projects includes 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects. All these 12 projects involve irrigation as a major component.

Among the 12 projects, five projects draw specially attention because of the humongous cost escalation and time overrun in the construction of these projects. But this focus on five projects out of twelve should not be taken as an ‘All is well’ certificate for the remaining seven projects. There are significant issues with those projects as well but from the perspective of time and cost overrun, these five projects present a very critical picture.[2] Besides, all the five projects discussed here are under construction projects. TAC had paid little attention to these critical issues and therefore very little information is available in the TAC meeting minutes regarding the five projects discussed here. In this analysis, along with details cost and time escalation other important issues related with the projects have been brought together. Three out of these five projects are located in Manipur where as two are located in Assam.

Starting with the three projects from Manipur, the table below summarizes the cost incurred in these three projects. All these projects are age old projects and how much benefits will be acquired from them once there construction is complete, still remains uncertain.

Name of the Project Year of Starting Original cost Considered in 2009 Considered in 2012
Khuga Multipurpose Project (Major- Revised) 1980 15 381.28 433.91
Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Medium – Revised) 1992 18.86 251.52 360.05
Thoubal Multipurpose Project (Revised) 1980 47.25 982 1387.85
Total  (all costs in Rs Crores)   81.11 1614.8 2181.81

Khuga multipurpose project was first considered in the year 1980 when the cost of the project was Rs 15 crores. 1. The Khuga multipurpose project is located near Malta village in Churachandpur district of Manipur, at least 10 km from the district headquarter. The project was to irrigate 15,000 ha of land, provide 10 million galons for drinking water and have installed capacity of 7.5 MW hydropower. The Khuga (considered in the 110th and 115th meeting of TAC) project witnessed cost escalations of 25.42 & 28.92 times respectively from its original cost.

Map of Khuga multipurpose project; Source: India WRIS Wiki
Map of Khuga multipurpose project; Source: India WRIS Wiki

In the 115th meeting of TAC held in July 2012, the completion deadline of Khuga multipurpose project was stated as March 2013 which implies that it would take 33 years only to complete the project. The minutes of the 115th meeting stated “The project authorities indicated that the increase in cost was due to frequent blockades and law and order problem in the project area, as a result Project authority were unable to obtain construction materials like cement, steel etc, in time, which in turn slowed down the progress of the project significantly. Regarding revised target date of completion, the Project authorities informed that land acquisition had been completed and the project would be completed by March 2013.

We came across some of very crucial issues about these projects discussed in detail in the Manipur based website Manipur online, Hueiyen Lanpao[3]. These issues were very much related with the viability of the Khuga project but none of these issues found any mention in the TAC meeting discussions. The project proponent seemed to have completely ignored these issues, some of these are given below.

  • The Khuga project is reported to be inaugurated by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi in November 2010.
  • This project was visualized to solve the irrigation, drinking water and electricity problem of Churachandpur district in particular and Manipur in general since agriculture is the main livelihood option of the region.
  • But, in terms irrigation it seemed unrealistic to many since Churachandpur is a hill district where jhum cultivation is practiced. In fact an inspection of the main right canal of the Khuga multi-purpose project showed the very sorry state of the canal.[4] The inspection led by an ex-Minister N Mangi came to the conclusion that the canal had never provided any irrigation to nearby paddy fields.
  • An audit report of Khuga multipurpose project of March 1999 on the performance review of the dam had stated “Since 1984, the IFCD, Manipur, carried out construction work on 25.37 km of canal over an area of 40.27 hectares of forest land in Dampi reserve forest without obtaining the required clearance for diversion of forest land. Barring the unaccounted environmental destruction (that still continues) the overall concept of the multipurpose Khuga Dam project in itself was unpractical and paradoxical.”[5]
  • Regarding drinking water, people in the area when faced with drinking water scarcity, were not sure whether the water reserved in Khuga dam would qualify as good enough for drinking. People of several villages living in the vicinity of the dam had reported that stagnant water actually smells.[6]

    Khuga Multipurpose project in Manipur. Source: http://manipuronline.com/
    Khuga Multipurpose project in Manipur. Source: http://manipuronline.com/
  • The electricity generation component had been scrapped totally even after the power house was reported to be completed by almost 80%. It was said that there were flaws in the design of the Khuga multipurpose project right from the beginning and the electricity generation was not a viable option. It was learnt that the power component was planned and designed without studying its operational feasibility and the power component can be operated for only about 3 or 4 months in a year when there is excess water.
  • There was also a report that a Joint Action Committee on Khuga Dam visited the national capital and submitted a petition to Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission demanding an expert team to investigate the execution of the project.[7] The Joint Action Committee also demanded that the 1.5 MW electricity for the people of Churachandpur district and compensation and rehabilitation money to the affected the villages should be cleared.  None of the above, even the petition submitted to the planning commission was not mentioned in the minutes of the TAC meeting.

Dolaithabi Barrage Project was first approved by the Planning Commission of India in 1992 with a cost of Rs 18.86 crores to be constructed in Imphal East district of Manipur.[8] 22 years have passed since then, but the project is yet to be completed.  The cost of the project has increased 19 times from its original cost when it was considered in the 115th TAC meeting held on 24th July 2012. In that meeting price escalation, change in design on the basis of model studies, detail examination of the project proposal by the CWC field unit had been cited as the reasons for increase in costs of the project. But there was no question on why the design of the project had to be changed 20 years after the project had started. TAC meeting minutes did not mention any completion year for the project, but state Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in an inspection tour to the project site in October 2012, had announced that this project would be over by March 2014.[9] This clearly sounds unrealistic. 

Location map of Dolaithabi and Thoubal project. Source: India WRIS Wiki
Location map of Dolaithabi and Thoubal project. Source: India WRIS Wiki

Thoubal multipurpose project was first considered by Planning Commission in the year 1980 and the original cost of the project was Rs 47.25 crores. The project is still far from completion and witnessed huge cost escalations. From 2009 to 2013, the Thoubal multipurpose project was considered in two meetings. In the 101st TAC meeting, when this project was considered the cost escalation was already 20.78 times the original cost. As per minutes of the 115th TAC meeting, the cost by then was 29.37 times higher from the original cost. The Thoubal project was also considered in 123rd meeting held on January 30th, 2014 where the projected cost was Rs 1694.27 crores. This is a 35.86 times increase in costs from its original cost. It is interesting to see that in the minutes of the 115th meeting the reasons provided to justify the delay in the construction of Thoubal Multipurpose project are exactly same as those given for Khuga multipurpose project.

Dhansiri irrigation project in Darang district of Assam is another glaring example of mind blowing time and cost overrun. This project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29th August 2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. This project started in 1975 and the original cost of the project was Rs 15.83 crores as per the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[10] The same website states that project is supposed to be completed in 2010, 35 years from the time it started.  But in the 119th TAC meeting March 2015 was stated as the new completion target. This implies that the cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but even after that the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost overruns (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or on whether this project which will take 40 years  just to complete will be viable or not.

Dhansiri irrigation project  command area: Source: India WRIS Wiki
Dhansiri irrigation project command area: Source: India WRIS Wiki

The project proponent stated that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed and the TAC seemed to be contended with this. But the minutes of the 119th meeting also showed that major components of the project were in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system completed. There was no detailed assessment of any of these aspects.

Champamati irrigation project in Chirang district of Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), Assam presents a very unique case. This project started in 1980 with an original cost of 15.32 crores. It was discussed in 103rd meeting of TAC held on 11th March 2010 with a revised cost of 309.22 crores which is clearly a 20 times increase from the original cost. This was 30 years after the project had started and referring to the observation of the Chairman, TAC minutes stated “both physical and financial progress of the work was rather going on a slow pace. He enquired to know whether there was any land acquisition problem persisting or not.”

Map of Champamati irrigation project command area. Source: India WRIS Wiki
Map of Champamati irrigation project command area. Source: India WRIS Wiki

Replying to this, the project authorities had stated that “the delay was mainly due to lack of fund and land acquisition problem. However, the main canals had been completed by about 80% while distribution system completed upto 30% which is likely to be completed in another two years.” But in the list of major/medium schemes in the website of Irrigation department, Govt. of Assam the proposed year of completion of this project has been mentioned as 2009.

But in midst of these tall claims of project completion, what is the present status of this irrigation project cannot be confirmed. There is little information available on this project in the internet and from those it can be clearly said that the project was not completed till the mid of 2013. In a news report titled “Centre worried over Cost overruns in old irrigation projects in NE” published in The Sentinal on 26th August 2013 the delay in construction of Champamati irrigation project was also highlighted. On other hand an earlier report “Irrigation scheme damned by delays” published in the Telegraph on 21st August 2006, had indicated that this project had substantial amount of construction left to be done “Till now, only the sluice gate (headwork) of the Champamati irrigation project has been completed, sources said. Of the 37 regulators, only eight are complete, of the 120 canal falls only 20 are complete, while 72 cross-drainage systems have been completed out of a total of 270. Of the 197 bridges, just 50 are finished. The earthwork of the main canal and the branch canal are also incomplete, with only 97.67 km out of 145.95 km finished.

How much benefit these projects will do to the people of India’s Northeast is the question which may appears in the minds of many after going through this analysis. After such humongous in costs and time overrun, the benefits expected to be derived from these projects, would hardly justify the costs incurred. Similar concerns were raised by the representative of the Planning Commission regarding Dhansiri Irrigation project “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.

Whether these projects can actually deliver what had been promised remains uncertain at best. From the history of Khuga project, it is very clear that the promises are never fulfilled and the benefits never reached the people. In fact the Khuga project is also an example of how the expected benefits of the project never become a reality even after completion of construction. The benefits from irrigation largely remained on paper.

This is the case with the several other irrigation projects in northeast. The case of Loktak Lift Irrigation project in Manipur can be cited here about which the minutes of the 122nd TAC meeting (20th December 2013) stated “Loktak lift irrigation project was commissioned in 1986 with an original command area of 24000 ha and 40000 ha as annual irrigation. Due to scarcity of funds from State Government the normal repair and maintenance could not be taken up and as of now the annual irrigation has reduced to 1800 ha.” This is possibly indicative of how much irrigation benefits have actually been accrued from irrigation projects.

Functioning of TAC Barring the cost and time overrun of these projects, the functioning of TAC also needs to be looked into. The Advisory Committee of MoWR very much works like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. A reading of the minutes of its meetings reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the projects and for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the considered projects suffer from. Nor is there any discussion about the performance of the projects. Considering the importance of TAC in India, we believe the committee needs to be more serious in performing its duties. It needs to question the merits and need of a project before clearing and need to do performance evaluation. It should no way become a clearing house for projects. Effective steps need to be taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable. SANDRP has written letters to the concerned authorities in this regard, but we are yet to see an effective change.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar) (meandering1800@gmail.com)

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END NOTES:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/do-large-dams-deliver-deception-and-delusion-oxford-university-research-says-they-do/
[2] In the 100th TAC meeting along with Khuga and Dolaithabi projects there were four other under construction irrigation projects considered by the committee. Three of these projects were from Tripura and one was from Assam. Due to unavailability of the minutes of 100th meeting in the CWC website, those four projects could not be discussed here.
[3] See news sections of http://www.manipuronline.in/ and http://www.hueiyenlanpao.com/
[4] http://www.hueiyenlanpao.com/headlines/item/7311-khuga-multipurpose-project-a-complete-failure-says-mangi
[5] http://manipuronline.com/features/khuga-dam-boon-bane/2011/03/08
[6] ibid
[7] http://manipuronline.com/headlines/jac-negates-ifc-minister-on-two-counts/2011/03/27
[8] http://kanglaonline.com/2012/10/dolaithabi-barrage-to-be-complete-by-2014/
[9] ibid
[10] http://irrigassam.nic.in/

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources · Sikkim

Lack of Transparency and Accountability Remains the Norm of Functioning for MoWR’s Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) is a very important committee. It accords the financial clearance for any irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project. TAC is supposed to discuss the techno-economic viability of projects as per the resolution published in the Union of India Gazette Notification No. 12/5/86-P-II dated Nov 27, 1987. This committee came into being replacing a similar committee that existed earlier in the planning commission. Even now, the guidelines for functioning of the committee are issued by the Planning Commission.

The Gazette notification cited above also said, “The committee may also invite representatives of any other Government organizations, scientific body of experts in the relevant fields to participate in its deliberations.” This seems like a window to appoint credible, independent, non-government persons in the committee, but this window does not seem to have been used. Among the functions of the committee listed in this notification include, “The functions of the Committee will be to examine projects proposed by State Governments, Central Government or other organizations and satisfy itself that the schemes have been prepared after adequate investigations” and “the need of environment conservation and proper rehabilitation of project-affected persons have been taken into account.” However, our perusal of the functioning of the TAC shows that TAC has failed to fulfill both these mandates.

As noted in the Guidelines for Submission, Appraisal and Clearance of Irrigation and Multipurpose Projects, 2010 available on the CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/publications.html), “The project proposal, thereafter, is put up to the Advisory Committee for clearance, which is, by and large, like single window clearance.” The importance of such a single window clearance becomes all the more important. The guidelines further note, “On the basis of examination conducted by the Advisory Committee, decision on techno-economic viability of the projects is taken in the meeting of this Committee. The projects found acceptable by the Advisory Committee shall be recommended for investment clearance by the Planning Commission and inclusion in the Five Year Plan/Annual Plan.” This shows how important is the role of the TAC in judging techno-economic viability of projects and also from the point of view of prudent planning.

No Transparency, independent participation or accountability of TAC Considering the above, there is strong case for clearly defined norms for transparency, participation and accountability in (1) functioning of TAC; (2) The screening process of the projects at initial stages that also happen under these guidelines in the Central Water Commission, based on which approval for DPR preparation is given.

In view of the significance of TAC, this is SANDRP’s third analysis of the decisions taken in TAC meetings. The present analysis covers decisions taken for North East India from 110th to 122nd TAC meeting. In the two previous analysis done by SANDRP, TAC meeting decisions taken from 95th meeting to 109th meeting has been covered. Here it is important to note that lack of transparency has been observed right from the agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings. The agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings should be uploaded on CWC website but CWC website has minutes only till the 115th meeting held on 24th July 2012 and the website has been last updated on 31/08/2012.

In this analysis we have covered 13 TAC meetings held from July 2011 to December 2013. In these 13 meeting, 21 projects from 6 northeastern states have been considered. But out of the 13 meetings held, projects from northeast were considered only in 10 meetings. TAC has accepted the proposals for projects with a total cost of rupees 4075.46 crore. Majority of the projects were given clearance at the first time of consideration. Thus, on an average TAC  had cleared projects worth of 407.55 crores from the North East in each of these 10 meetings. Number of the projects considered by TAC in each meeting along with their total cost is given below. A state-wise and a project-wise list is also provided.

Total Cost of Projects Cleared by TAC July 2012 to December 2013

Sl No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered from NE No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
1 110th 20-07-11 5 4 1 0 211.56
2 111th 17-08-11 1 1 0 0 167.09
3 112th 14-09-11 1 1 0 0 48.55
4 115th 24-07-12 5 5 0 0 2208.81
5 117th 21-03-13 1 1 0 0 155.87
6 118th 30-07-13 2 2 0 0 467.38
7 119th 29-08-13 2 2 0 0 601.67
8 120th 13-09-13 1 1 0 0 42.96
9 121st 08-10-13 2 2 0 0 146.01
10 122nd 20-12-13 1 1 0 0 25.56
  Total     20     4075.46

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

Sl. No State No of projects approved Total cost of the approved projects, Rs Crore
1 Arunachal 1 36.47
2 Assam 7 1526.85
3 Manipur 7 2268.99
4 Meghalaya 1 5.63
5 Sikkim 1 48.55
6 Tripura 3 188.97

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 30 month period.

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

1. Zero Rejections The TAC did not reject a single project. There was only one project which was deferred in the 110th meeting but it was approved in the next meeting. Rest of the new projects were were approved in the very first meeting of their consideration.

2. Lack of information The TAC minutes provide little information about projects. Specially in case of newer projects, detailed discussions should have happened. The minutes of TAC meetings do not give much of an idea about size, location, benefits of a particular project. In the project- wise list provided towards the end of this analysis, we have provided limited information available in the minutes. Some of the noteworthy missing information is listed below:

– In the 115th meeting, 5 projects from Manipur were considered. Out of these five projects, 2 were multipurpose projects and 3 were barrage projects. Surprisingly, there was no information about where these projects are located, on which river, what the size of these projects. None of the minutes mentioned about whom these projects will actually benefit. Only two projects mentioned about increase in annually irrigated land but no more detail was provided.

– In the 118th meeting, construction of embankments on both banks of river Ranganadi for flood management and river training was considered. But the cost of the project was on the higher side compared to the embankment construction work to be done on the river Dikrong, considered in the same meeting. This cost escalation may be due to the difference in the length of the projects. But this cannot be confirmed since minutes do not mention the length of the proposed embankments.

India's First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
India’s First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

But the increased costs may also be due to the use of Geo bag technology for construction of Ranganadi embankments. Use of Geo-bag technology is a costly affair but nothing has been mentioned about the use of this technology in the minutes of 118th meeting. This is stated in the annexure (Annex VI as mentioned in the document) of the meeting. Interestingly this annexure too has been mentioned only as a corrigendum.

3. No Detailed Discussion on Projects Considered This was very evident in the two previous analysis done by SANDRP and situation remains the same this time as well. In case of all the projects, including the ones considered for the first time, there was no detailed information or any detailed discussion. There is no discussion on technical viability of the project. Reading through the minutes gives an impression that approval for any project considered by TAC is fait accompli. There is no discussion about whether the project is a desirable project, if there are other options available, if this is the best option and so on. Under the mandate given to it, TAC is supposed to discuss all these issues. TAC accepted projects proposals with huge cost and time overruns but little enquiry has been made why such escalation happened.

Dhansiri irrigation project This is a glaring example of cost escalation. The project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29.08.2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. But, it was surprising to find that original cost of the project in 1975 was Rs 15.83 crores as according to the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[1] The same website states that project started in 1975 and supposed to be completed 35 years later in 2010. In the TAC meeting a new time schedule of March 2015 was stated. The cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost over runs (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or whether this project which will take 40 years just to complete will be viable or not. On the contrary, the planning commission representatives said, “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.”

The TAC should have done a detailed assessment why the project took so long time to complete. But it seemed to be contended with the rational that the project authorities provided which was that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed. But in the meantime minutes of the meeting also showed that that major components of the project are in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system were reported to have been completed. There has been no detailed assessment in to any of these aspects.

Imphal Barrage project In this project, the cost of the project mentioned in the minutes of the 115th meeting contradicted with the cost provided in the annexure. The cost of Extension, Renovation and Modernization (ERM) of the Imphal barrage project as mentioned in the minutes is Rs 16.80 crores. But a letter from the Under Secretary, Govt. of Manipur to the Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Manipur dated 21.07.2012 stated the cost of the project as 23.41 crores. This reflects the lack of serious discussion over projects in TAC. It is also surprising that TAC, being the committee which gives the techno economic clearance to projects, does not have clarity about even the cost of the project.

4. No Discussion over Social, Environmental and Other impacts of the Projects The projects cleared by TAC have serious social, environmental and other impacts but the committee never discussed these impacts. TAC does not at all take into account the impacts a project would have on the environment.

In the 118th meeting (30.07.2013), while considering the proposal for flood management of Dikrong along with river training works on both banks, the minutes stated “Effectiveness of existing embankments of river Dikrong has been deteriorating due to lack of repair, siltation of river bed and consequential change in river behaviour, change in flow pattern due to release of Ranga Nadi hydel project etc.” But this is one of the rare instances when TAC mentioned about the environmental impacts on embankments. But rather than asking for more details on these impacts or to see whether embankment would really be a viable option or not, the TAC accepted the proposal. On the other hand nowhere the committee discussed what impacts an embankment has on river bed, siltation or downstream stretches of a river.

Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong/Pare. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
River Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is also important to note here TAC also does not take into consideration impacts of the hydropower projects on the embankments in the downstream of the river. In the above mentioned case, the increased costs of Dikrong embankment should have been charged on the Ranga Nadi HEP, but there is no discussion on this. The Pare hydropower project (110 MW) in Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh is currently under construction on Dikong / PareRiver. Moreover there are at least 10 hydropower projects at various stages in the combined Ranganadi-Dikrong basin in Arunachal Pradesh, including one operating, three TOR approvals given and five additional MoA signed (in addition to a proposed project). There is no provision to assess the impacts of these projects on the embankments downstream of DikrongRiver in Assam. In fact there is no provision for any impact assessment study for embankments even though studies show the disastrous impacts of embankments on environment, floods and on the lives of the people living close to the river.

5. Clearing Same Embankment Projects over Years In terms of embankments, it is observed that the TAC had cleared same projects over the years. Not emphasizing on the environmental impacts of embankment projects is one of the major reasons for this. In the 117th TAC meeting held on 21.03.2013 the proposal for “Protection of Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta at different reaches from Lotasur to Tekeliphuta from the erosion of river Brahmaputra Assam” was considered. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 155.87 crore. But on the same embankment, a project titled “Raising and Strengthening to Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti-erosion measures (to protect Majuli and Dhakukhana areas against flood devastation by the Brahmaputra, Lakhimpur district, Assam) was accepted in the 95th TAC meeting held on 20.01.2009. The estimated cost of the earlier project was 142.42 crore.

A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.
Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

The minutes of the 117th meeting, about the previous scheme said that it “was taken up primarily for closure of breach in the then existing embankment including raising of embankment around the breach area only.” But the minutes of the 95th TAC meeting had said something totally different about the project. The minutes stated that project proposal envisaged – (i) Raising and strengthening of embankment for a length of 13.9 km, (ii) Construction of retirement bund with geo-textile tubes of length 5000 m. This shows how the discussion on the Brahmaputra dyke Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta is 117th meeting is completely misleading. TAC does on even take into account its previous meeting discussions before clearing a project. This possibly gives a hint of a scam.

The Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta has a long history of facing severe erosions. The first geo-tube embankment was constructed on this dyke in Dec 2010. Crores have been spent for the protection of this embankment. But even after that the Dhakukhana sub-division always remained in the headlines during the flood season in Assam. There is need for area specific detailed study assessing the impact on and of the embankment, but little has been done in this regard. Besides, the Bogibeel Bridge, the fourth one on the BrahmaputraRiver, is coming up in the upstream of this embankment. Construction of this bridge would make this dyke even more prone to erosion since the length of this bridge will be 4.94 km, shrinking the wide river to great extent. In a personal visit to the area, one of the government officials informed that as a result of this “funneling action”, the force of water will increase and it will directly hit the embankment leading to more erosion. But TAC has never dealt with these issues in its meetings but cleared all the proposals that it considered.
Short History Brahmaputra Dyke from Sissikalghae to Tekeliphuta[2]

box text

6. There is no independent, critical voice in the meetings. The agenda, proceedings, or decisions of the meetings are not even in public domain.
7. There is no mechanism to hold the TAC accountable for any wrong decisions taken.
8. The TAC is clearly not fulfilling the mandate given to it in the guidelines for TAC meetings. The guidelines themselves need revision from several points.
9. There is no attempt to assess the justifiability of the kinds of projects that are being accepted and if they are indeed delivering the promised benefits.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection work Arunachal Pradesh New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood and Erosion Phase II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration fo rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in West Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya  New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon against erosion of the river Brahmaputra Sonitpur/Assam  New Brahmaputra 167.09 Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below GreenfieldAirport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Protecion of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
2 Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
1 Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
2 ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal West Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
2 Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

[2] From the brochure published by WRD, Assam at the time of commissioning the geo-tube embankment in Matmora