Beas · Himachal Pradesh

NHPC negligence leads to man-made disaster in Parbati Valley in Himachal Pradesh

(Above: illegal muck dumping by Parbati HEP along the Sainj River in Himachal Pradesh)

The people of Sainj-Parbati valley in Beas basin in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu disrict’s Banjar Tehsil are living in constant fear of a disaster. Since six days now, the power tunnel of the NHPC’s under construction 800 MW Parbati II hydropower project is heavily leaking, but NHPC refused to stop water release into the tunnel till the leakage led to landslides and displacement of people. Ultimately on the night of April 17, 2017, huge cracks spread over 200 m appeared in the hills, leading to landslide & fall of soil and rocks, immediately threatening eight families of Rahan (Reina) village, though over 400 families of some 12 villages of Rella Panchayat (including Rella, Sharan, Jiva, Sulga, Khadoa, Rahan, Shalah, Bhebal, Bahara, Bagidhar, Khaul, etc) are facing the prospects of disaster as cracks in the hill have appeared just above the villages. People here are spending sleepless nights since several days now. They are afraid that if the leakage continues, these villages will have to be evacuated any moment, else a major catastrophe may result.[i] Continue reading “NHPC negligence leads to man-made disaster in Parbati Valley in Himachal Pradesh”

Dams · Indus

So who will suffer in the Indus water imbroglio?

Diplomatic and military strategies, by definition, are not decided through public debates. So the jingoism around Indus treaty with Pakistan seems more like an attempt at sending threatening signals. But it will have multiple serious ramifications in any case, so it is worth deliberating about.

The 1960 Indus treaty has allocated rights of development on three eastern tributaries (Sutlej, Beas & Ravi) to India, and we have exhausted that entitlement almost fully. Attempts to use the occasional remaining flow will mean a huge impact in Indian Punjab, which is unlikely to resonate well with the people of Punjab.  The treaty gave Pakistan dominant right of development of the three western tributaries (Chenab, Jhelum and Indus), India has limitations about water use (both in terms of quantity and manner of use) in case of the western rivers. India has not yet exhausted the entitlement in this case.

Continue reading “So who will suffer in the Indus water imbroglio?”

Sikkim · Teesta

TEESTA LANDSLIDE DAM IN DZONGU: RIVER OVERFLOWS OVER DAM BUT RISK CONTINUE

Above: Submerged houses in reservoir behind landslide dam. Photo from Darjeeling Chronicle

The Kanaka River is flowing over the dam that was created on Aug 13, 2016, it is confirmed now, but the risk of the dam failure and disaster downstream continues. In the meanwhile, the upstream villages, cut off due to road damaged and bridge submerged, are facing serious problems.[i] Continue reading “TEESTA LANDSLIDE DAM IN DZONGU: RIVER OVERFLOWS OVER DAM BUT RISK CONTINUE”

Sikkim · Teesta

LANDSLIDE DAM BLOCKS TEESTA TRIBUTARY IN NORTH SIKKIM: MAJOR RISK TO TEESTA RIVER BANK COMMUNITIES

(Above: Lower part of the Dzongu Landslide, Photo from  Save the Hills)

According to a number of reports[i], at around 1230 hours on Aug 13, 2016, a massive landslide completely blocked the flow of Kanaka (Rongyoung) River near Mentam village in Dzongu region in North Sikkim. A hillock called “So Bhir” came crashing down, it is reported. The Landslide dam is about 50 m high, about 45 m wide, the landslide top point is about 900 m above the river. Darjeeling Chronicle reports, the river downstream is totally dry as the water has started collecting behind the landslide dam (that situation seems to have changed on 14th Aug morning around 830 am). Continue reading “LANDSLIDE DAM BLOCKS TEESTA TRIBUTARY IN NORTH SIKKIM: MAJOR RISK TO TEESTA RIVER BANK COMMUNITIES”

Dams · Himachal Pradesh

Sorang Hydropower disaster: Will we learn any lessons?

Google Earth Image of the Area 

A burst in penstock pipe of 100 MW Sorang hydro power project (HEP) in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh have played havoc with the lives and livelihoods of people of Burang and surrounding villages. On surface it may look like an accident. But deeper look raises doubts about many systemic loopholes that allowed the siutation that led to the disaster. Let us see the shortcomings and negligence exercised by project proponent and state government which finally resulted in the fatal accident. We urge the Himachal Pradesh Govt., other governments where such projects are coming up and Central Electricity Authority,  to constitute a monitoring cell to inspect quality of construction of ongoing HEPs and form adequate safety standards and enusre their strict implementation to prevent such mishaps from becoming a norm.    Continue reading “Sorang Hydropower disaster: Will we learn any lessons?”

Disasters · Yamuna River

Yamuna Augmentation Canal Breach – Man-made Disaster?

Goggle Imagery of the Area
Goggle Imagery of the Area

A 75 feet wide breach on right bank of Yamuna Augmentation Canal (AC) has drowned vast agricultural land area belonging to three villages of Alahar, Palewala and Nachron falling under Radaur block of Yamuna Nagar district, Haryana.

The breach reportedly occurred about 14 km downstream Hamida Head on Western Jamuna Canal (WJC) in Yamuna Nagar district around 03:00 am on 12th of April 2015. From all accounts, it seems like an avoidable manmade disaster about which credible independet inquiry alone can help arrive at truth. Continue reading “Yamuna Augmentation Canal Breach – Man-made Disaster?”

Climate Change · Disasters · Hindi Blogs

जलवायु परिवर्तन की मार झेल रहे भारतीय किसान ; बेमौसमी बरसात का प्लेजियों को सबसे ज्यादा नुकसान

जलवायु परिवर्तन की मार से किस प्रकार भारतीय खेती और किसान प्रभावित हो रहे है, इसकी एक झलक हमको फरवरी अंत और मार्च 2015 के आंरभ में हुई। अप्रत्याशित हिमपात, बरसात एवं परिणामस्वरूप आई बाढ़ के रूप में देखने को मिली। 28 फरवरी से 03 मार्च 2015 चार दिन तक हुई इस बेमौसमी बरसात से लाखों भारतीय किसानों के प्रभावित होने की आशंका है। साथ-साथ जलवायु परिवर्तन जनित इन घटनाओं से भूमिहीन किसानों की बहुत अधिक दुर्दशा होती है और ऊपर उनकी सुध लेने वाला कोई नहीं है। Continue reading “जलवायु परिवर्तन की मार झेल रहे भारतीय किसान ; बेमौसमी बरसात का प्लेजियों को सबसे ज्यादा नुकसान”

Climate Change · Disasters

Early Spring Rains bring Climate Disaster for farmers in India

It was bit of a shock to get up to a VERY wet Sunday on March 1, 2015, having slept past midnight the previous night with a ‘dry’ weather. When I checked my inbox, the message from Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan was waiting to provide a link to Accuweather.com site[1] and also satellite image from India Meteorology Department (IMD) site[2]. It looked ominous: “A potent storm will drop unusually far south as March begins, blasting India and Pakistan with heavy thunderstorms, flooding rain and burying mountain snow.” Northwestern India and Northern Pakistan were to face the maximum impact, but the impacts were to reach far down south right upto Karnataka. As the site said it was a rare event: “It is rare for widespread substantial rain such as this elsewhere across northern and central India”. Continue reading “Early Spring Rains bring Climate Disaster for farmers in India”

Disasters

Landslide Dam blocks Zanskar River tributary, threatens Valley

The picturesque Zanskar Valley in Jammu and Kashmir State in Northern India is under threat as one of the tributaries of the Zanskar River has been blocked by a massive 200 ft high landslide dam (equal to height of a 20 storey building). The landslide dam between Shaday Sumdo and MarShun in the Zanskar subdivision of Kargil district has created about 8 km long lake, whose size is increasing with every passing day. The landslide dam is made of mostly fine grained debris & blocks 97% of the flow of around 50 cusecs flow at this period as per records. While the lake is frozen right now, the threat of its breach looms as soon as the melting season starts. The landslide dam was reportedly created on Dec 31, 2014, when a whole side of mountain soil had landed on the Phuktal River. The landslide lake has been accumulating water for over a month now. Continue reading “Landslide Dam blocks Zanskar River tributary, threatens Valley”

Dam Induced Flood Disaster · Himachal Pradesh · Himalayas · Hydropower · Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013: Lest we forget the experience and its lessons

June 16, 2014 This is a sad day, reminding us of the Uttarakhand disaster that began on this day a year ago. The disaster was triggered by unseasonal and heavy rainfall in which indicates a clear footprint of climate change. At the same time, the role played by massive infrastructure interventions, including an onslaught of hydropower projects and dams in Uttarakhand’s fragile ecosystem, in magnifying the proportions of this disaster manifold is also undeniable[1]. It is a sign of callousness of our system that till date we do not have a comprehensive report about this disaster that throws light on what all actually happened, which institutes played what role, which institutes failed or succeeded in their assigned role, what were the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions, processes, plans and policies, and what lessons we can learn from this experience.

The lessons from this experience hold significance for the entire Himalayan region.

Uttarakhand and the union government declined to even investigate the role of hydropower projects in the disaster. It was left to the Supreme Court of India, through its order of Aug 13, 2013, to ask the government to set up a committee to assess the role of existing and under construction hydropower projects in the disaster.[2] The apex court also asked governments to stop clearances to all such projects in the state in the meantime. The reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) took two more months to set up the committee which was headed by Dr Ravi Chopra.[3]The committee submitted the report in mid April, 2014, but two months later the MEF is yet to put up the report in public domain. Or make it available to the people of Uttarakhand in their language or invite their views. SANDRP had written in detail about the recommendations of the EB, the committee certainly said that the hydropower projects played a significant role in the disaster[4]. Eminent geologist Prof K S Valdiya has also written in Current Science in May 2014 (Vol. 106, p 1-13) that most projects are being built in landslide prone, seismically active area and should not be built there.

It was again left to the Supreme Court on May 7, 2014 to order stoppage of work on the 24 hydropower projects. The Expert Body recommended cancellation for 23 of these projects and change of parameters for one project. There is immense hope in further proceedings in the apex court in coming months, since the results will provide a guide for the whole Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, in other states in India and even for the Himalayan region beyond the border.

At the same time, it is unfortunate to see that the MEF, the Union government and Uttarakhand government seem to have learnt no lessons from the disaster. These bodies have been trying all sorts of manipulations to push massive projects like Lakhwar and Vyasi in Yamuna basin even without Environment Impact Assessment, Cumulative Impact Assessment or public consultations.

Now a new government has taken over at the centre. It is possible sign of things to come that India’s new Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has chosen this anniversary day to lay foundation stone for a huge hydropower project in the Himalayan region, read his own statement dated June 14, 2014[1], about his impending trip to Bhutan on June 15-16, 2014: “During the visit, we will lay the Foundation Stone of the 600 MW Kholongchu Hydropower Project[5].” This possibly indicates the thinking of new government on this issue.

Picture1

The memory and lessons of this unprecedented disaster seem to be fading already. While going through the articles on this disaster in a number of newspapers like Indian Express, Hindu, Tribune, Business Standard, among others, I could find just one article in Business Standard[2] that mentioned the role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand disaster.

gangani1

It is very important, in this context to remember the issue. We are here presenting here some photos of the damaged hydropower projects of Uttarakhand in that context. The photos are mostly taken from official sources, namely 582 page annexures to the Ravi Chopra Committee report. Most of the photos have not been in public domain to the best of our information.

Assi Ganga I (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Letter from Regional office of MoEF to Uttarakhand Forest secretary dated 30 March, 2014 says:“The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” It also says that the project is in Ganga Eco Sensitive Zone and in the zone only projects below 2 MW capacity and serving the needs for the local population are allowed. Hence it says, “…the project should not start without obtaining fresh forest clearance and permission from the Central Govt.”

Assi Ganga II (4.5 MW in Uttarkashi district): Similar letter from Regional office of MoEF says: “The project was heavily damaged in 2013 devastation.” Following photos from the monitoring report of the project speak about the damage this project suffered:

AssiGangaII

2AssiGangaKaldigarh HEP (9 MW in Uttarkashi district) The project heavily damaged in 2012 floods and it being in Eco Sensistive zone, the report says the project should not be allowed to restart without permission from central govt.

Kotli Bhel 1A HEP (195 MW on Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi district) The project has not given the final forest clearance. The stage I forest clearance was given on 13.10.2011 and environment clearance on 09.05.2007. The Ravi Chopra Committee report has asked for changes in the project parameters and Supreme Court order of May 7, 2014 has asked for stoppage of work on 24 HEPs, this project is on that list of 24 projects. The regional office report says that work on the project has been started on non forest land, which should now come to stop.

Kaliganga II HEP (6 MW, Rudraprayag district, Mandakini Basin) The Project got forest clearance on March 6, 2007. But project is yet to provide non forest land as required under act. The project is also within 2 km of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, but has not got clearance either from state wildlife Board or National Wildlife Board. The project construction thus is clearly illegal. Project has now suffered damages in June 2013 disaster, as can be seen from the photos below.

KaligangaII

2KaliGnaga

Madhya Maheshwar HEP (10 MW, Rudra Prayag district):

MadhyaMaheshwar

Phata Byung HEP (76 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):

PhataBuyung

Singoli Bhatwari HEP (99 MW, Mandakini river, Rudra Prayag district):

SingoliBhatwari

Bhyunder Ganga HEP (15 MW, Alaknanda river, Chamoli Disrict):

BhuynderGanga

Lata Taopan HEP (171 MW, Chamoli district):

Lata Tapovan

Tapovan Vishnugad HEP (520 MW, Chamoli district):

TapovanVIshnugad

Kali Ganga I HEP (4 MW, Rudraprayag District):

KaliGangaI

Banala Mini HEP (15 MW, Chamoli Dist):

BanalaMiniHEP

 CONCLUSION: We hope this would possibly remind us that Himalayas cannot take the hydro onslaught that is happening now.

What happened in Uttarakhand a year ago in June 2014 was possibly a warning.

These photos are a reminder that even the hydropower projects are not safe and they will invite not only destruction for themselves, but also for the surrounding areas. Lest we forget the warning.

-Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

References:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/expert-committee-following-sc-order-of-13-aug-13-on-uttarakhand-needs-full-mandate-and-trimming-down/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/

[5] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-woos-Thimphu-ahead-of-Bhutan-China-dialogue/articleshow/36623685.cms

End Notes:

[1] PIB statement of June  14, 2014, see: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx

[2] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/the-mountain-s-not-a-molehill-114061400858_1.html