Hydro Disaster

NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad HPP after Chamoli Disaster

(Feature image showing July 24 landslide blocking mouth of NTPC’s main tunnel. Mahadeep Panwar/Atul Sati via social media.)

The 520 MW hydro power project (HPP) Tapovan-Vishnugad having proved a recipe for disaster during Chamoli deluge on February 07, 2021, continues to jeopardize the local environment and play havoc with the lives and livelihoods of people in Joshimath area.

National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the developer of the project was seen working round the clock, close to para glacial zone without installing any Early Warning System (EWS) and providing adequate safety equipment to workers before stuck down by the catastrophic event resulting in death of over 200 innocent workers there.

It has been 15 years, since the project was started in November 2006, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2978.48 crore with 2012-2013 as planned commissioning year, however the project is still far from completion.

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Dam Disaster · Dam Induced Flood Disaster

Andhra Pradesh: Pulichintala Dam Gate disaster shows improper maintenance and operation

In another dam related disaster in Andhra Pradesh, a flood gate of K L Rao multi-purpose irrigation project also known as Pulichintala  Dam was washed away on August 5, 2021 raising flood alarm in downstream areas along Krishna river. As per latest information the gate has been fixed and officials have started filling up the reservoir again. However, there is no official statement regarding exact causes, financial losses, damages to dam structure and downstream flood impact caused by the apparently avoidable dam disaster. The rule curve seems to be violated in operation of every dam and the gates do not seem to have been properly maintained. An independent enquiry needs to be immediately set up to find out what lessons we can learn and how we can fix accountability for the disaster.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 Aug 2021: Disappointing UKD HC order on Chamoli disaster: Will SC intervene please?

( Feature image:- Women members of Raini village’s gram sabha, Source: Atul Sati/ Facebook/The Quint)

The July 14, 2021 order of Uttarakhand HC, dismissing the petition of those affected by the Chamoli disaster of Feb 2021 and asking that NTPC, developer of the Tapovan Vishnugad project be accountable, is most distressing. While Indian judiciary is rightly credited with doing a lot for the cause of environment and people in general, in the unequal battle of the communities and activists against injustice and negligence of giant projects and their developers, the judiciary has more often failed to ensure that the developers are held accountable and are not allowed to bulldoze ahead using their might, supported by the state, to crush attempts to achieve just and democratic results. In the Chamoli disaster, there are many many questions that remained unanswered and one expected the HC to use the petition to seek those answers. But in stead, the HC has chose to question and fine the petitioners. One hopes the higher judiciary will correct this and stay the order and in stead seek answers from the developers of the hydro projects in such fragile, disaster prone areas and those that sanctioned such projects, including the environment ministry, the state government, the CWC, the CEA, the Geological Survey of India and also the project developers.

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Cloud Burst

Uttarakhand: ‘Cloud Burst’ in Chauthan, Disaster Preparedness Missing Again

Excessive rainfall in the intervening night July 28-29 2021 has impacted several villages in Chauthan Patti under Thailisain tehsil of Pauri district. Fortunately there has been no casualties reported however village & public infrastructure and also the crops have suffered huge damages.

While heavy downpour lashed out the large parts of the district, the villagers of Dumdikot also reported of a ‘cloud burst’ incident causing significant destruction. The village is located at the trijunction of Pauri-Chamoli-Almora districts border.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 26 July 2021: “Unprecedented rainfall” used to escape responsibility?

(Feature image source: India TV https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/monsoon-mayhem-maharashtra-floods-landslides-death-toll-latest-news-721924)

As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.

Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 June 2021: Where is the impact of lessons of the water conservation efforts that Modi praises, on his government’s water projects and policies?

When the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Mentioned some exemplary water conservation efforts in his Mann ki Baat on June 27, 2021, it was not for the first time he was doing it. These are certainly most welcome.

However, these mentions raise a number of questions. If the Prime Minister considers these local water options as exemplary, which they indeed are, where do we see the reflection of the lessons from such efforts in government programs and policies? In fact why there is no reflection of such lessons in what the government does in water sector? How can the government justify the destruction of Panna Tiger Reserve, over 9000 ha of forests, some 46 lakh trees, the catchment of Ken river and large part of Bundelkhand in the name of Ken Betwa Link Project, in the same Bundelkhand. How can his government justify the destructive projects like the Char Dham Highway, the big hydro projects and so on in the same Uttarakhand where Sachidanand Bharati (who was incidentally recipient of the Bhagirath Prayas Samman of India Rivers Week) works, whose efforts the PM praised? One hope the PM and his government will be awake to the implications and lessons of the works that PM praises.

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Cloud Burst

Uttarakhand: Cloud bursts in May 2021

From the beginning of May 2021, Uttarakhand has started witnessing excessive rainfall events termed as ‘cloud bursts’. Worryingly the intensity and frequency seems on higher side this time. So far there have been about 24 reported cases of ‘cloud bursts’ in the state but the monitoring, prediction and mitigation efforts are lagging far behind.

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Hydro Disaster

Deaths and disaster at NHPC’s Parbati-II Hydro project

In a tragic incident, 4 labourers were killed and one was injured after part of an under construction tunnel of NHPC’s Parbati-2 hydropower project collapsed on Friday evening around 4.30 pm, May 21, 2021[i]. This happened at Pancha Nalla in the Garsa (Bhuntar) Valley of Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district[ii]. The accident happened when the labourers were doing drilling work in the 600m-long diversion tunnel (a sub tunnel of the main 31.52 km long tunnel[iii]). The whole area, where drilling was underway, collapsed. Four bodies were found buried under the debris. This description possibly shows signs of neglect of NHPC and the contractors.[iv]

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Hydro Disaster

Rishiganga HEP: A foretold disaster for River, People and Chipko legacy

The February 7 2021 Chamoli deluge has completely destroyed Rishiganga Hydro Electric Project (HEP). The 13.2 MW run of the river project has also become graveyard for over 50 innocent workers and villagers. The damages to homes, bridges, forest and river eco-system is additional which cannot be restored easily.

In fact, the disaster is among the threats against which experts and locals had been warning the authorities time and again. Sadly, the past history of struggle and destruction shows that not only the state government but the judiciary also failed miserably to address the pleas of locals and assess the disaster risks in a timely manner.

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Dam Disaster · Uttarakhand

Force Multipliers in Uttarakhand disaster

Given below if the text of the presentation made by SANDRP coordinator on Day 1 at the FICCI-NIDM (NIDM: National Institute of Disaster Management; FICCI: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) 3-day training program on Feb 18-20, 2021 on “Resilient Infrastructure in Hilly Areas: Avalanche, GLOF & Debris Flow” in the context of the Chamoli Disaster of Feb 7, 2021.

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