Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 16 Jan. 2017 (MoEF’s Expert Committee Shows Anti-People, Anti-Environment Biases)

EAC against entertaining ‘anti-development’ representations The expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Union Environment Ministry has decided “not to take any cognizance of such representations” received by its members. In its Dec. 30, 2016 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”. 

The EAC noted that in case of any clarification regarding action taken on such representations under the RTI Act, the EAC prescribed that a standard reply “action has been taken in accordance with the decisions taken in the 1st meeting of the EAC for River Valley and HEP on 30.12.2016” should suffice. “It was also felt that many of the objections raised are repetitive. Many such kind of representations have an anti-development attitude so that the projects are kept on hold or delayed. This has financial implications to the developers in particular and to the nation in general.

The committee emphasized that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place. If not satisfied that public consultation had been completed properly, the EAC said it could ask the project promoter to do the needful. The committee also made allowance for representations with “new points” and “grave consequences” on which comments from project proponents could be sought. The EAC considered 13 projects in its December 30 meeting and cleared eight of them.

Environmental activists, however, pointed out the impracticality of the contention that representations should be restricted to the 30-day public consultation window. Sripad Dharmadhikari also, in his blog has mentions various reasons to counter the EAC’s suspicious justifications. He also says that the fact that a body which is supposed to represent the environmental perspective displays such an attitude is the biggest critique of the EAC and the environmental clearance process that it is a part of. The newly constituted MOEF’s EAC on River Valley Projects has in their very first meeting shown anti people, anti democratic and anti environment attitude.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 16 Jan. 2017 (MoEF’s Expert Committee Shows Anti-People, Anti-Environment Biases)”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 19 September 2016 (EAC says EIA of Yadadri Project cut and past job)

EAC Panel Visiting the site in Dec 2015

Centre EAC defers clearance to Yadadri Power project The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) under the Ministry of Environment has deferred its decision for granting environmental clearance for the 8,000 MW Yadadri Thermal Power Station in Telangana by TSGENCO due to a “lackadaisical” approach in preparing documentation. The EAC said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was incomplete and there was lack of clarity on many issues raised by the Committee earlier. EAC on Thermal Power Companies has in its minutes meeting held on 29-30 2016 held the EIA consultants guilty of cut & paste jobs which can be found here.  At some places, it is mentioned that coal will be transported from two ports and in some other places, four ports are mentioned. Hence, complete and specific details regarding coal import ports and coal transportation routes were not given. Further it is also observed that two important sections of the EIA report- “risk assessment” and “disaster management plan”- are almost entirely generic and contain hardly any site or project specific aspects.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 19 September 2016 (EAC says EIA of Yadadri Project cut and past job)”

Dams

Ken Betwa Project will facilitate water export out of Bundelkhand, It will destroy Panna Tiger Reserve: Letter to EAC

June 1, 2016

To

Chairman and Members of EAC on River Valley Projects, MoEF, New Delhi

Urgent: Concerns about Ken Betwa Project on EAC agenda for Environment Clearance for meeting on June 2-3, 2016

Respected Chairman and Members,

  1. No documents since Feb EAC meeting: In continuation of our earlier submissions of Aug 21, 2015, Oct 24, 2015, Feb 6, 2016 and April 15, 2016, we are writing to you again since the Ken Betwa Link is again on the EAC agenda for the meeting on June 2-3, 2016. It may be noted that after the project was earlier considered by the EAC latest in the meeting on Feb 8-9, 2016, no new documents are available on the EC website. This itself is a serious lacuna since this means that all concerned are in dark as to why the project is being reconsidered by the EAC, what progress has been achieved since the last meeting. This is also in violation of the orders of the Central Information Commission that required all such documents be available in public domain at least ten days in advance of the meeting.

Continue reading “Ken Betwa Project will facilitate water export out of Bundelkhand, It will destroy Panna Tiger Reserve: Letter to EAC”

Arunachal Pradesh · Cumulative Impact Assessment · Dams · Himachal Pradesh · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Cumulative Impact Assessment documents not in public domain anymore? Letter to MoEF and CC

Even as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has been sanctioning cascades of hydropower projects on here-to free flowing rivers in the Himalaya and North East India, Cumulative Assessment of the Impacts of these projects became a crucial area of concern. Over 70 dams are planned one after other for the rivers of the Upper Ganga Basin, 44 dams across the Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh famed for its pristine forests and biodiversity, 12 dams across the Lohit Basin, 19 for Subansiri basin. These are bumper to bumper projects, one starting where the other ends. Continue reading “Cumulative Impact Assessment documents not in public domain anymore? Letter to MoEF and CC”

Expert Appraisal Committee · River Valley Projects

Why the Decisions and minutes of the 86th meeting of EAC on River Valley Projects need to be reviewed

September 22, 2015

To

Chairman and Members,

Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects,

Ministry of Environment and Forests,

New Delhi

Respected Chairman and Members,

We have just seen the minutes of the 86th meeting (uploaded on Sept 14, 2015, but clearance letters in some cases have already been issued even before the EAC minutes are made public or the minutes are finalised at the next EAC meeting) of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Committee, held on Aug 24-25, 2015.

The minutes make a disturbing reading. The EAC seems to be bending every ecological norm, facts and even legal stipulations to push ahead with every project that the government wants them to clear. There seems to be no application of mind from the EAC on the proposals. The minutes are not even internally consistent. It is putting forward facts in misleading fashion to give a wrong picture. Continue reading “Why the Decisions and minutes of the 86th meeting of EAC on River Valley Projects need to be reviewed”

Beas · Himachal Pradesh

Larji Dam Fishladder: an unlovely trinket, a deceptive ornament

Emmanuel Theophilus[1] (etheophilus@gmail.com)

The 126 MW Larji Hydropower project near Aut on the mainstem of the Beas is run by the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HPSEB)[2]. The dam is constructed a little downstream of the confluence of the two main tributaries upstream, the Sainj and the Tirthan, at the narrowest part of a spectacular gorge, towering with limestone cliffs. The impounded waters of this dam have, since its construction in 2006, drowned the access road to the entire upper Kullu valley including Manali and the hundreds of villages upstream, including access to the entire Lahul valley and the region of Ladakh over the high passes from this end. The HPSEB then constructed a 3 km long tunnel to enable passage of traffic, and many people have warned of the hazardous nature of the tunnel. The 220 odd gods that descend from different valleys, on the backs of people to the lower Kullu valley every year in autumn however, refuse to use this tunnel. This is what compelled the HPSEB to build and maintain this tunnel, and during autumn to winter, to keep the water-storage in the dam low to enable the passage of gods, who have been traveling this route for over three and a half centuries. It is remark-worthy though, that this dam constructed as recently as 2006, seems to be heavily silted-up already and the dark shadows of sediment-shoals are visible just below the waters of the reservoir[3].

Being among the most recently completed, the Larji dam is the only dam on the Beas that has a fish-ladder, so it was of particular interest to us. Seeing no guard at the security booth, we walk in to the HPSEB dam operating office, and ask to speak to an officer about the fish ladder. To our complete surprise, we are spoken to and even taken on a tour of the ladder by a foreman who has worked on the dam for many years.

Having seen an elaborate fish ladder on the Kuri Chhu river in Bhutan of doubtful effectiveness[4], we could not help but look at this one with hope and excitement. Located at around 1,000 meters altitude, this dam was clearly in the way of a host of migratory species of fish. If this ladder design was effective, then surely the ‘barrier’ problem to seasonal migration for breeding and dispersal would have been addressed. Here though, is what we saw and heard.

  1. For one, the flow through the fish-pass seems too small to create an ‘attraction flow’ for fish. But even more obviously, the downstream entrance of the fish ladder is a steep cascade over a couple of meters of broken masonry and rock, that would clearly be un-negotiable by any fish that does not jump that high[5].
Downstream entrance of Larji fish ladder: The 2 m high jump that fish require to enter the ladder can be seen here
Downstream entrance of Larji fish ladder: The 2 m high jump that fish require to enter the ladder can be seen here (all photos by the author)

2. The outlet from the dam reservoir into the fish ladder is blocked off by a metal grill-mesh that is narrow enough to trap flotsam like Bisleri water-bottles. The mesh seemed too fine to let Mahseer of breeding-age pass through, either upstream or downstream.

3. The fish ladder was in a serious state of disrepair. To our questions about whether the ladder worked or not, the foreman says honestly that it does not. We see the reasons for this when we walk down the ̴100 meter length of the fish-pass channel.

Fishladder can be seen in serious state of disrepair and blocked by broken concrete parts can be seen here
Fishladder can be seen in serious state of disrepair and blocked by broken concrete parts can be seen here

4. The Larji fish ladder seemed to be a hash of different designs of fish passes. There were four different design elements in this one fish-pass. It had a slotted-weir fishway design, a low gradient Denil fishway, a steep-pass Denil fishway and a plain concrete culvert on a grade design. Most of these slotted weirs were clogged with fallen rocks and debris from the slope above, and in places, the pools in them were over-flowing the weir in a vertical fall almost 2 meters high.

Steep-pass Denil fishway part of the fishladder can be seen here, water is flowing too rapidly here for any fish to be able to go upstream
Steep-pass Denil fishway part of the fishladder can be seen here, water is flowing too rapidly here for any fish to be able to go upstream. The water picks up momentum down an extremely steep slope with the baffles at 45 degrees to the flow, not offset to slow the water, but concentrating the force of the water in mid-stream flow. The slope seemed to be at almost 40 degrees angle, and the water was turbulent in the extreme in this section. A workable Denilway slope, even for the strongest of swimmers among fish, is not designed to exceed a slope of 20% at most. This was close to a 100% slope

5. The oblique baffles on a Denil fishway are supposed to be placed in a manner that provides staggered partial-obstructions that slow the water down at variable velocities to make it passable for fish. However, here we saw that the water picks up momentum down an extremely steep slope with the baffles at 45 degrees to the flow, not offset to slow the water, but concentrating the force of the water in mid-stream flow. The slope seemed to be at almost 40 degrees angle, and the water was turbulent in the extreme in this section. A workable Denilway slope, even for the strongest of swimmers among fish, is not designed to exceed a slope of 20% at most. This was close to a 100% slope[6].

This part of fish ladder is less steep Denil
This part of fish ladder is less steep Denil

The last part of the fishway was a plain concrete culvert on a grade channel, essentially a sloping channel, where even the concrete sides of the channel had toppled over into the river-bed, and the final drop was over a two meter fall into the downstream flow. I asked the foreman whether he knew whether fish managed to make it over this extreme gauntlet. He said that they did not, but that he often saw fish gather and concentrate at the bottom of the dam under the sluice gates, and make futile leaps in an attempt to get over the dam. Clearly, the Larji dam fish ladder is just an unlovely trinket, a deceptive ornament.

Watch a 41 seconds video showing how fast the water is moving through the Larji Dam fishladder at: http://youtu.be/grVaxXPdeyY, Video is by the author.

It seemed to me that the dam builders and operators, the HPSEB in this case, both at the design and the executive levels, were not serious about constructing a fish-pass that would work, and neither were they serious about this at the operation and maintenance aspects. Whether they were serious at all even at the conceptual level, to put in place a mitigation measure that actually helped migratory fish bye-pass the barrier of the dam, or was this part of the design merely to obtain environmental clearance, can only be conjectured about. That hydropower projects can devise deceitful strategies for obtaining environmental clearance is one thing, but what does this tell us about the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects appointed by MoEF, the regional office of the MoEF, the state Fisheries Department and also the state pollution Control Board, who are all variously part of the approval processes for hydropower projects, when they get their environmental clearances based on such ‘mitigation measures’?

Larji Dam - about 100 m long fishladder channel can be seen on the right side
Larji Dam – about 100 m long fishladder channel can be seen on the right side

END NOTES:

[1] This article has been extracted from SANDRP’s publication: Headwater Extinctions: Hydropower projects in the Himalayan reaches of the Ganga and the Beas: A closer look at impacts on fish and river ecosystems, authored by Emmanuel Theophilus, for details, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/new-publication-headwater-extinctions-impact-of-hydropower-projects-on-fish-and-river-ecosystems-in-upper-ganga-and-beas-basins/

[2] The 126 MW Larji project is also infamous for being the costliest hydro-power project per unit electricity generated so far in India. Finally built at a cost of R.s 10.27 billion, which was twice the estimated cost, the Vigilance department unearthed major financial misappropriation by HPSEB officials.

[3] The Larji Dam became infamous in June 2014 when 25 students were washed away downstream from the dam due to sudden and unannounced release of water from the dam, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/nadiya-bairi-bhayi/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/fish-ladder-at-kurichhu-hydropower-project-bhutan-some-thoughts/

[5] Other than loaches, those tiny finger sized fish that can even climb (squiggle technique) up high waterfalls, provided there is something like a water-slide at the margins of the fall. They however, are not migratory fish.

[6] CIFRI recommends that the speed of flow of water in a fish-pass should not exceed 2 meters per second. Please see ‘Status of fish migration and fish passes with special reference to India’. MK Das and MA Hassan. CIFRI 2008.

Arunachal Pradesh · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee

Submerged – what to expect if the Dibang river is dammed

Guest Blog by: : Karthik Teegalapalli (kartix@gmail.com) a researcher with the Nature Conservation Foundation

In April 2014, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) decided to deny clearance to the 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydro-electric Project, the largest capacity hydro project in the country proposed to be developed by the National Hydropower Power Corporation (NHPC) in the biodiversity-rich Arunachal Pradesh State (Saikia 2014). The project was also denied clearance in July 2013. More recently though, the project has been recommended forest clearance by the FAC and Environment Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee. Therefore it is pertinent to look at the impacts the project may have in some detail.

Ecological impacts The project, in its earlier version involved diversion of more than 5000 hectares of relatively undisturbed grassland and tropical forest habitat. These and the adjoining forests harbour endangered species such as tiger, leopard, serow as well as the critically endangered takin, all of which are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (these species are also listed as present in the area in the Environmental Impact Assessment report of the project, undertaken by National Productivity Council, Guwahati). The grasslands in the area harbour the critically endangered Bengal Florican, a grassland habitat specialist (Sinha et al. 2014). Other species recorded from the area include the critically endangered white-rumped vulture, the slender-billed vulture and the white-winged wood duck. The project site lies in an area identified by the Bombay Natural History Society as a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area (Islam & Rahmani 2004). The habitat of six endangered plants (Aconitum ferox, Coelogyne mossiae, Dendrobium aurantiacum, Paphiopedilum fairieanum, Paphiopedilum venustum and Vanda coerulea) will be submerged by the reservoir (Chernaik 2007).

The project will also affect aquatic species; the dam will block the breeding migration of four species of fish: the Vulnerable snow trout Schizothorax richardsonii, Endangered golden mahseer Tor putitora, Near-Threatened mahseer Tor tor, and chaguni Chagunius chagunio. The recommendation of the Environmental Management Plan of the Project to establish fish hatcheries for these species is impractical and can have further damaging effects on the species due to collection of eggs and spawn from the wild population.

The project will have other collateral damages such as through Compensatory Afforestation (CA) that often involves converting an area with diverse native species into monocultures, as has been shown for other dams such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river (Bhatnagar 2004). The project involves CA of a relatively large area of over 100 sq. km (double the area of forest being affected by the project). The ill-effects of this conversion particularly for the project can be expected to be higher if tree-less natural grassland habitats in Dibang Forest Division, Namsai Forest Division and Anini Social Forestry that harbour grassland habitat specialists are planted with undesired native or non-native tree species. Perhaps the irreversible loss of biodiversity in the forests and grasslands that will be diverted for the project could never be ‘compensated’.

During the construction phase of the project, an estimated 32 lakh truckloads of boulders and 16 lakh truckloads of sand is to be extracted from the Dibang river basin. Unsustainable extraction of sand and boulders has significant negative effects on geomorphology, bank stability, flood character of the river, water quality, river flow, and the biodiversity in the river basin (Padmalal et al. 2008). The project during the construction is to generate 198 lakh cubic meters of muck which will be disposed in the river bank which will cause further loss of 120 ha of river habitat. Construction of new roads (64 km) and widening of existing roads (19.5 km) will also lead to removal of trees and increase the vulnerability of the region to landslides and erosion (Chernaik 2007).

Social impacts The Lower Dibang valley is currently a region of relatively low human population density (~14/km2); the entire population of the Idu-Mishmi tribe is about 12,000. The influx of approximately 6,000 project staff (which is very likely an underestimate) for a period of 8 years or more will affect their way of life, their culture and their tradition as well as open up access to relatively moderately disturbed habitat and biodiversity in the region.

Downstream effects include those on fisheries, agricultural lands and wetlands (beels) and the dam will also increase the vulnerability of the region to flash floods. For instance, in the year 2007, flash floods caused due to sudden release of water from the relatively smaller 405 MW Ranganadi project in the Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh swamped 83 villages and caused huge loss of lives and property in the Assam State. The project will have a considerable impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam which has not been studied in detail in the EIA.

On shaky grounds A critical issue with the project is that the site lies close to an active Fault Line in the Mishmi Thrust of the Mayudia Group in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh with a history of several seismic activities including the Great Assam earthquake of 8.6 magnitude in 1950 (Figure 1, Misra 2009). In the event of an earthquake, the project poses a risk of catastrophic submergence of several villages and vast areas of forests downstream. The recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project are cursory and suggest further research on the natural seismicity of the region as well as reservoir-induced seismicity, which should be the basis for the decision about the project.

Figure 1 (reproduced from Misra, 2009) showing the location of the fault lines around the proposed project site. 1 is the location of the Fault line and 2 is the location of the proposed site.
Figure 1 (Modified from Misra, 2009) showing the location of the fault lines around the proposed project site. 1 is the location of the Fault line and 2 is the location of the proposed site.

Notwithstanding these, in Oct 2014 the project was cleared by the FAC constituted by the new Government, although the committee still had four of the six members who had earlier twice recommended rejection of clearance. Is this decision driven by changes made by NHPC in their project plan? Clearly not. Diversion of forests has now been reduced by a mere 9% to about 4600 hectares; instead of 3.55 lakh trees, the felling has been reduced to 3.24 lakh trees, the power generation capacity has been reduced by 2.3% and the height of the proposed dam reduced by 10 m. In fact, the FAC rejection of April 2014 was for this 10 m rejection proposal!

The beautiful Dibang valley, that faces the threat of submergence due to the Dibang Multipurpose Project (Photography by Soumya Dasgupta).
The beautiful Dibang valley, that faces the threat of submergence due to the Dibang Multipurpose Project (Photography by Soumya Dasgupta).

NHPC misleadingly and baselessly claimed that they ‘were not in a position to reduce the height of the dam any further, as it would significantly affect the power generation’. The decision to provide clearance to the project seems like a hasty one driven by the blinders of development and the consequences of such projects is evident from the fate of the Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project in the same State, also by NHPC. After 12 years since the LSHP was initiated and after an expenditure of over Rs. 5000 crores, the work has been on a standstill for the last 35 months as a result of India’s biggest anti-dam people’s movement (Dandekar & Thakkar 2014). Considering the economic, ecological, environmental and social costs of the project as well as the geophysical risk it poses, it would be prudent to withdraw the project till a credible, detailed cumulative study covering these aspects is undertaken in a transparent and participatory way. While the rest of the world is recognising the ill-effects of dams, with the largest dam removal project on the Elwha river in the United States completed just three months back, it is paradoxical that we are heading in the other direction; of building the highest dam in the country and largest capacity reservoir of the North East India without even basic studies, credible impact assessment and democratic decision making process.

References:

Bhatnagar, D. (2004) Uprooting Forests, Planting Trees: Success of Compensatory Afforestation Measures Mitigating the Deforestation for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, India. University of California at Berkeley.

Chernaik, M. (2007) Evaluation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report & Environmental Management Plan for the Dibang Multipurpose Project (3000 MW) https://www.elaw.org/system/files/Evaluation+of+the+EIA+report+for+the+proposed+Dibang+dam.doc

Dandekar, P. & Thakkar, H. (2014). Manipulating Environment & Forest Clearances for Dibang Project: Déjà vu: LSHP History repeated: Will it be tragedy or comedy https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/manipulating-environment-forest-clearances-for-dibang-project-deja-vu-lshp-history-repeated-will-it-be-tragedy-or-comedy/

Islam, M. Z. & Rahmani, A. R. (2004) Important bird areas in India: priority sites for conservation. Indian Bird Conservation Network, Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife International (UK).

Misra, D. K. (2009) Litho-tectonic sequence and their regional correlation along the Lohit and Dibang Valleys, Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Journal of the Geological Society of India, 73: 213-219.

Padmalal, D., Maya, K., Sreebha, S. & Sreeja, R. (2008) Environmental effects of river sand mining: a case from the river catchments of Vembanad lake, Southwest coast of India. Environmental Geology, 54(4): 879-889.

Saikia, P. J. (2014). Six years after PM laying the foundation ston: No clearance, no work for 3000 MW Dibang Dam.

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/six-years-after-pm-laying-foundation-stone-no-clearance-no-work-for-3000-mw-dibang-dam/

Sinha, A., Hoque, J., Pradhan, T., Bakshi, M. K., Pulu, J., Singh, A. K. & Ahmed, F. (2012) Sighting record of Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Gruiformes: Otididae) in Lower Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4(14): 3375-3376.

Also see:
https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/insensitivity-analysis-of-dibang-multipurpose-project-fac-recommends-dibang-at-10-mt-height-reduction-will-destroy-4577-hectares-forest/

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/dibang-project-rejected-forest-clearance-for-the-second-time/

Chenab · Cumulative Impact Assessment · Environment Impact Assessment · Expert Appraisal Committee · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropeaking · Hydropower · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Sach Khas Hydro project in Chenab Basin: Another example of WAPCOS’s shoddy EIA

Even after multiple appeals by various experts, organizations and local people, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) set up by Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) has once again chosen to ignore alarms of changing climate such as disaster of Uttarakhand in 2013 and has continued to consider Hydro Power Projects on Chenab Basin for Environmental Clearance (EC) before the Cumulative Impact Assessment of Chenab Basin has been accepted by MoEF. While on one hand the State Government of Himachal Pradesh has promptly appointed a committee headed by Chief Secretary to supervise and monitor all the progress and to “sort out” problems of getting various clearances “without delay in single window system”[i], on the other hand overall transparency of the Environmental Clearance Process has been steadily decreasing.

Sach Khas HEP (260 + 7 MW) (located in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh) was considered by EAC in its 76th meeting held on August 11, 2014. Even though the project was considered for EC, no documents were uploaded on the website. Website does not even list the project under “Awaiting EC” category. This is in clear violation with MoEF norms, basic norms of transparency and Central Information Commission (CIC) orders. There are no fixed guidelines for documents to the uploaded, the time by when they should be uploaded and rules that project cannot be considered if the documents are not uploaded.

SANDRP recently sent a detailed submission to EAC pointing out several irregularities of the project. The comments were based on reading of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report available on the HP Pollution Control Board Website (which cannot be substitute for putting up the documents on EAC website). Environmental Management Plan (EMP) of the project is not accessible at all! Non availability of EMP on the HP Pollution Control Board website too is a violation of EIA notification 2006.

The EIA report which is prepared by WAPCOS is another example of a poorly conducted EIA with generic impact prediction and no detailed assessment or quantification of the impacts. Moreover since EMP is not available in the public domain, there is no way to assess how effectively the impacts have been translated into mitigation measures. Violations of Terms of Reference (TOR) issued by EAC at the time of scoping clearance is a serious concern.

Project Profile

Sach Khas HEP is a Dam-toe powerhouse scheme. The project has a Concrete Dam & Spillway with Gross storage of 25.24 MCM, Live Storage of 8.69 MCM and Reservoir Stretch at FRL of 8.2 km (approx.) Three intakes each leading to 5.8m diameter penstocks are planned to be located on three of the right bank non-overflow blocks. Three penstocks offtaking from the intakes are proposed to direct the flows to an underground powerhouse on the right bank of the Chenab river housing 3 units of 86.67 MW turbines with a total installed capacity of 260 MW. The project also proposes to construct 2 units of 7 MW each to be installed to utilize the mandatory environmental releases. The EIA mentions (p 2.19) that the HP government has allocated 3.5 MW Hydropower project on Chhou Nala in the project area to the project authority, so this is integral part of the project.

Sach Khas Dam Site

Sach Khas Hydro Electric Project was considered before completion of Cumulative Impact Assessment of Chenab Basin

Chenab basin may have one of the highest concentrations of hydropower projects among all basins in India[i]. The basin has over 60 HEPs under various stages of planning, construction and commissioning in states of Himachal Pradesh (HP) and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). 49 of these projects are planned or under construction in Chenab in HP and of which 28 projects of combined generation capacity of 5,800 MW are at an advanced stage of obtaining (Environment Ministry) clearances[ii]. MoEF sanctioned TORs for Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of the HEPs on Chenab in HP in February 2012 however the project specific ECs were delinked from the CIAs[iii].

MoEFs Office Memorandum dated May 28 2013 states, “While, first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative impact study, for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin, it should be incumbent on the developer of second/ other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impacts of the other project (s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.”

We had pointed out in our submission against Kiru & Kwar projects in Jammu & Kashmir that CIA of all the proposed, under construction and operational projects and carrying capacity assessment (CCA) of the Chenab River basin to see if it can support the massive number of HEPs in safe and sustainable way is one of the first steps before considering clearances to HEPs in this region. Looking at the fragility of the Himalayan ecosystem, considering any hydropower project in the basin without these studies will be an invitation to disaster[iv]. This fact has been repeatedly highlighted by multiple organizations and experts including SANDRP.

Sach Khas EIA Study: Gross violation of TOR

The EIA violates several stipulations of TOR issued on Feb 22, 2013, which also included the stipulations of EAC in Sept 2012 and Nov 2012 meetings where the project TOR was considered and also Annexure attached with the TOR. This has severely affected the overall quality of the EIA report.

About assessing the impacts of the project on wild life the TOR said: “Reaching conclusion about the absence of such (Rare, Endangered & Threatened) species in the study area, based on such (conventional sampling) methodology is misleading” as such “species are usually secretive in behavior”, “species specific methodologies should be adopted to ascertain their presence in the study area”, “If the need be, modern methods like camera trapping can be resorted to”. None of this is shown to be done in any credible way in EIA.

TOR also recommends intense study of available fish species in the river particularly during summer (lean) months with help of experimental fishing with the help of different types of cast and grill nets. There is no evidence in EIA of any such intensive efforts detailed here. In fact the field survey in summer moths was done in May June 2010, years before the EAC stipulation.

TOR (EAC minutes of Sept 2012) state “Chenab river in this stretch has good fish species diversity & their sustenance has to be studied by a reputed institute.” This is entirely missing. TOR (EAC minutes of Sept 2012) states “During the day, the adequacy of this discharge (12 cumecs) from aquatic biodiversity consideration needs to be substantiated”. This again is missing. TOR said 10 MW secondary station may be a more desirable option. This is not even assessed. TOR said Impacts of abrupt peaking need to be assessed. This is also not done. Site specific E-Flow studies and peaking studies stipulated by TOR are missing. TOR states that Public Hearing / consultations should be addressed & incorporated in the EIA-EMP. However there is no evidence of this in the report.

TOR also required following to be included in EIA, but many of them found to be missing: L section of ALL upstream, downstream projects; Project layout showing all components with A-3 scale of clarity and 1: 50000 scale; drainage pattern map of river upto project; critically degraded areas delineated; Demarcation of snowfed/ rainfed areas; different riverine habitats like rapids, pools, side pools, variations, etc;

Contradictions in basic project parameters

The EIA report provides contradictions in even in basic parameters of the project components: So section 2.1 on page 2.1 says, “The envisaged tail water level upstream of the Saichu Nala confluence is 2150 m.” This i s when the TWL is supposed to 2149 m as per diagram on next page from the EIA. Section 2.3 says: “River bed elevation at the proposed dam axis is 2145m.” At the same time, the tail water level is 2149 m. How can Tail water level of hydropower project be higher than the river bed level at the dam site? This means that the project is occupying the river elevation beyond what HPPCL has allocated to it. Page 23 of EIA says: “…the centerline of the machines in the powerhouse is proposed at 2138.00m…” So the Centre line o the power house is full 11 m BELOW the tail water level of 2149 m? How will the water from power house CLIMB 11 m to reach TWL level?

EIA report unacceptable on many fronts

Dam ht of 70 m was stated in TOR, however the report states it to be 74 from river bed. The submergence area, consequently has gone up from 70 ha at TOR stage to 82.16 ha, as mentioned in Table 2.2 of EIA. Total land requirement which was 102.48 ha as per TOR ha has now increased to 125.62 ha, with forest land requirement going up to 118.22 ha. This is a significant departure from TOR that should be requiring fresh scoping clearance. Part of the field study has been done for the project more than four years ago and rest too more than three years ago. There are not details as to exactly what was done in field study. EAC had noted in their meeting in Sept 2012, while considering fresh scoping clearance for the project, “EIA and EMP should be carried out afresh keeping in view the drastic changes in the features due to increase in installed capacity of the power house.” (Emphasis added.) The EIA report is thus unacceptable on multiple fronts.

No cognizance of Cumulative Impacts

CIA of the entire Chenab basin including HP and J&K is not being considered, which itself is violating MoEFs Office Memorandum dated May 28 2013. The OM states that all states were to initiate carrying capacity studies within three months from the date of the OM No. J-11013/I/2013-IA-I. Since this has not happened in case of Chanab basin in J&K, considering any more projects in the basin for Environmental clearance will be in violation of the MoEF OM.

On Cumulative Impact Assessment, the OM said, “While, first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative impact study, for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin, it should be incumbent on the developer of second/ other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impacts of the other project (s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.” The EIA of both the projects does not include the cumulative impacts.

The project is located between Purthi HEP upstream and Duggar HEP downstream. Elevation difference between TWL of Purthi (2220m) and FRL of Sach Khas (2219m) is barely 1 m. The horizontal distance between them is as less as 117m. This is clearly unacceptable and in violation of the minimalist EAC-MoEF norms.

Elevation difference between TWL of Sach Khas (2149m) and the FRL of Duggar (2105 m) is 44 m and the horizontal distance is 6 km. This is thus a cascade of three among many other projects in the basin.

Cascade of three projects

Purthi HEP Site

Dugar HEP Site

Even so the report does not even mention the other two projects. EIA study is project specific and no cumulative impacts are assessed along with the other two projects. The EIA does not provide a list of all the HEP projects taken up in the Chenab basin in HP state[i]. The MoEF sanctioned TORs for conducting Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of Chenab In February 2012. EAC considering any further project in Chenab basin before completion of the CIA study of the basin by a credible agency (not WAPCOS) and finalised in a participatory way will be in violation of the MoEF order of May 2013.

EIA report completely misses out on the detailed analysis of cumulative impacts in terms of disaster potential of the area and how the project will increase that; impacts on flora, fauna, carrying capacity, livelihoods; cumulative downstream impact, cumulative impact of hydro peaking. impacts on springs and drainage pattern; impacts of forest diversion on environment, hydrology and society and implementation of the Forest Rights Act; changing silt flow pattern in different phases, impacts of mining, tunneling, blasting etc. Impact of reduction in adaptive capacity of the people and area to disasters in normal circumstance AND with climate change has not been assessed. Project makes no assessment of impact of climate change on the project even when over 60% of the catchment area of the project is snow-fed and glacier fed. Options assessment in terms of non dam options as required under EIA manual and National Water Policy are missing.

Generic impact prediction

Impact prediction is too generic with no detailed assessment, which is what EIA is supposed to do. Impacts have not been quantified at all. The EIA report merely states the likely impacts in 2 or 3 sentences. Several important impacts have gone missing. None of the serious impacts have been quantified. For an informed decision making and effective mitigation and EMP quantification of impacts is essentially a pre requisite. Following are some such incidences:

Impacts of blasting & tunneling: TOR for the impacts on “Socio-economic aspects” says, “Impacts of Blasting activity during project construction which generally destabilize the land mass and leads to landslides, damage to properties and drying up of natural springs and cause noise pollution will be studied.”(p.196 of EIA Report). The total area required for Underground Works is 2.44 Ha. The project proposes underground power house with an installed capacity of (260+7). There are three TRTs proposed of length 99.75m, 113.13m, and 132.35m. Even so the impacts of blasting for such huge construction are simply disregarded in the EIA report by stating that “The overall impact due to blasting operations will be restricted well below the surface and no major impacts are envisaged at the ground level.” (p.165). While assessing the impacts of blasting on wild life the report states that direct sighting of the animals has not been found in the study area and the possible reason could be habitation of few villages. No attempt has been made to assess impacts of blasting like damage to properties, drying up of springs etc. This is a clear violation of TOR.

Impacts of Peaking & diurnal flow fluctuation: In the lean season during peaking power generation the reservoir will be filled up to FRL. As stated in report, this will result in drying of river stretch downstream of dam site of Sach Khas hydroelectric project for a stretch of 6.0 km, i.e. upto tail end of reservoir of Dugar hydroelectric project. The drying of river stretch to fill the reservoir upto FRL for peaking power will last even upto 23.5 hours, after which there will continuous flow equivalent to rated discharge of 428.1 cumec for 0.5 to 2 hours. Such significant diurnal fluctuation with no free flowing river stretch will have serious impacts on river eco system. There is no assessment of these impacts. Instead the report projects this as a positive impact stating “In such a scenario, significant re-aeration from natural atmosphere takes place, which maintains Dissolved Oxygen in the water body.” This is absurd, not substantiated and unscientific.

International experts have clearly concluded that: “If it is peaking it is not ROR”[ii]. In this case the EIA says the project will be peaking and yet ROR project, which is clear contradiction in terms.

Impacts on wild life: EIA report lists 18 faunal species found in the study area. Out of them 8 species are Schedule I species and 8 Schedule II species. Even so while assessing the impacts of increased accessibility, Chapter 9.6.2 b(I) of the report mentions “Since significant wildlife population is not found in the region, adverse impacts of such interferences are likely to be marginal.” If the project has so many schedule I and II species, the impact of the project on them must be assessed in the EIA. Moreover, massive construction activities, the impacts of long reservoir with fluctuating levels on daily basis, high diurnal fluctuation and dry river stretch of 6km on wild life could be serious. But the report fails to attempt any assessment of the same.

Impacts on geophysical environment are missing: The project involves Underground Works of 2.44 Ha. This involves construction of underground powerhouse, three headrace tunnels and several other structures. This will have serious impacts on the geophysical environment of the region and may activate old and new landslides in the vicinity of the project. The report makes no detailed assessment of this. Generic comments like “Removal of trees on slopes and re-working of the slopes in the immediate vicinity of roads can encourage landslides, erosion gullies, etc.” (p.176) have been made throughout the report. Such generic statements can be found in every WAPCOS report. Such statements render the whole EIA exercise as a farce. Project specific, site specific impact assessment has to be done by the EIA. Considering that the project is situated between Purthi HEP upstream and Duggar HEP downstream, a detailed assessment of the geophysical environment and impact of all the project activities is necessary. Further since the EMP is not at all available in public domain, it is difficult to assess what measures are suggested and how effective measures to arrest possible landslides have been suggested.

Downstream view of Sach Khas

Right Bank Drift at Sach Khas

No assessment for Environmental Flow Releases

TOR states that the minimum environmental flow shall be 20% of the flow of four consecutive lean months of 90% dependable year, 30% of the average monsoon flow. The flow for remaining months shall be in between 20-30%, depending on the site specific requirements (p.192). Further the TOR specifically states that a site specific study shall be carried out by an expert organization (p.193).

The TOR also mandated, “A site specific study shall be carried out by an expert organisation.” However completely violating the TOR, the EIA report makes no attempt for the site specific study to establish environmental flows. Instead it proposes to construct 2 units of 7 MW each to be installed to utilize the mandatory environmental releases. This completely defeats the basic purpose of the environmental flow releases. Such flows will help neither the riverine biodiversity, nor fish migration nor provide upstream downstream connectivity.

Socio-economic profile of the study area and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Plan are missing

TOR specifies a detailed assessment of socio-economic profile within 10 km of the study area including demographic profile, economic structure, developmental profile, agricultural practices, ethnographic structure etc. It also specifies documentation sensitive habitats (in terms of historical, cultural, religious and economic importance) of dependence of the local people on minor forest produce and their cattle grazing rights in the forest land. As per the TOR the EIA report is required to list details of all the project affected families.

Report however excludes assessment of socio economic impact of the study area. The total land required for the project is 125.62 ha, of which about 118.22 ha is forest land and the balance land 7.4 ha is private land. There are cursory mentions of habitations in the study area. Chapter 8.7 ‘Economically Important plant species’ states that in study area the local people are dependent on the forest produce such as fruits, timber, fuel wood, dyes and fodder for their livelihood. However the EIA report does not even estimate the population displaced due to land acquisition and impact of the various components of the project on livelihood of the people. Further detailed study is then out of question. This is again gross violation of TOR.

Indus Water Treaty

Chenab basin is international basin as per the Indus Water Treaty. A recent order of the international court has debarred India from operating any projects below MDDL and has disallowed provision for facility to achieve drawdown below MDDL in any future project[i] (for details, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/international-court-asks-india-to-release-more-water-and-rejects-plea-to-re-interpret-february-verdict-on-kishanganga/). The EIA described gate opening in this project for silt removal, which stands debarred by international court. The EIA thus is in violation of the verdict of international Court.

The EIA says (p. 21 bottom), “Five low level sluices with crest at 2167m of size 7.5m width and 12.3m height are proposed for flood passage. Drawdown flushing of the reservoir shall be carried out through these sluices for flushing out of the sediment entrapped in the reservoir. Detailed studies on sedimentation and reservoir flushing can be taken up at detailed planning stage.” The MDDL of the project is 2209.3 m as mentioned in the same para. This means the project envisages sediment flushing by drawdown to 2167 m (sluice crest level, the sluice bottom level wll be 12.3 m below that), about 42.3 m below the MDDL. This is clearly not allowed under PCA order cited above on Indus Treaty.

Impact of 3.5 MW Chhou Nala HEP to be constructed for the project not assessed

The EIA mentions (p 2.19) that the HP government has allocated 3.5 MW Hydropower project on Chhou Nala in the project area to the project authority, so this is integral part of the project. But the EIA does not contain any impacts of the SHP. The stream on which this is planned is extremely important for the people as drinking water schemes, irrigation Kuhls and gharats of Rai, Chhou and Thandal villages are located on this stream in the proposed project area. Thus the project will have huge impacts, but there is no assessment of these impacts. This is another glaring omission of EIA. It was shocking to read that the resident commissioner said at the public hearing that this question is not part of Environmental Public hearing, when it is very much part of it.

Public hearing report

At several places either no information is given or misleading information has been presented. For example the project representatives mis-informed the people at PH that 15-20% water will be released, when minimum water they need to release is above 20%. DFO said that soil will be spread over the muck disposal site for tree planting over it, but there is no provision of this in EIA-EMP. Many questions were provided with vague answers or no answers at all. No clear answer was given when asked if the muck dumping sites have been decided in consultation with the local people, implied answer is clearly that local people have NOT be consulted. When asked about agreements to ensure that the company implements EMP and Social Management Plan as required, there was no promise that such an agreement will be signed with the village gram sabhas. The affected people raised the issue of erosion impact of diversion tunnel, but no specific response was provided in response to this issue. When a resident of Chhou village raised the issue of vulnerability of the village to the landslides, no clear answer was given by the project developer. When the same person asked that our cremation ground is going under submergence, what is the company planning about it, the project developer replied that IF the cremation ground goes under submergence, we will think about this. This only shows that the project developer and EIA consultant have not even done an assessment of such basic aspects. The PH report accepts that close to 100 workers are already working without even basic sanitation facilities, this is clear violation of EIA notification further the EIA Agency fails to mention this.

EIA is full of cut and paste, generic statements, no actual assessments

Out of nine chapters of EIA, only the last chapter is about impacts assessments! So out of 170 pages of nine chapters, only 31 pages of chapter 9 is supposedly about impact assessment and there too mostly there is no real impact assessment, mostly only generic statements that can be included in any EIA. There are several unnecessary sections in the EIA like chapter 3 on “Construction Methodology” which is unnecessary in EIA. In most other sections too, the information is just cut and paste from DPR. By way of impact prediction, the EIA report is only listing them doing absolutely NO ASSESSMENT and no quantification of impacts is attempted. Further since the EMP is not available in the public domain, it is impossible to assess if the measures provided in the EMP are effective. Such EIA is definitely not acceptable.

No proper referencing The EIA does not provide references to the specific information, without this it is difficult to cross check which information is from which secondary sources and how credible it is and which information is from primary survey.

Conclusion

This is another most shoddy piece of EIA by WAPCOS.

Moreover, as we can see the EIA has not done several impact assessments, has violated large no of TORs on several counts, the EIA-EMP are not available on EAC website, the project parameters have undergone changes necessitating fresh scoping clearance as mentioned in TOR but that has not happened, baseline study is 3-4 years old, EAC stipulation of fresh EIA-EMP has been violated, Project is using larger riverine stretch than given by HP govt, there is no proper referencing, hydrology is weak, EMP is not available on HPPCB website in violation of EIA notification, among several other issues listed above. Every conceivable serious problem can be found in this EIA of WAPCOS.

It is full of generic statements that can be pasted in any EIA without any attempt at project specific impact assessment. SANDRP has been pointing to EAC and MoEF about such unacceptable EIA by WAPCOS for several years, but neither EAC, nor MoEF has taken any action in this regard. SANDRP has once again urged to EAC and MoEF to reject this EIA and recommend blacklisting of WAPCOS and to issue fresh scoping clearance for the project as mentioned in the TOR since the project parameters (dam height, submergence area, land requirement, etc) have gone through significant changes.

We sincerely hope the EAC will not only take serious cognition of these and not recommend clearance to the project, but also direct the project proponent and EIA consultant to implement other recommendations made above.

 Amruta Pradhan (amrutapradhan@gmail.com), Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

[i] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/international-court-asks-india-to-release-more-water-and-rejects-plea-to-re-interpret-february-verdict-on-kishanganga/

[ii] See for example https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydro_%20Electric_Projects_in_Chenab_River_Basin.pdf

[iii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/if-its-peaking-its-not-an-ror-interview-with-dr-thomas-hardy-iahr-and-texas-state-university/

[iv] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[v] https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

[vii] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[viii] Refer to SANDRP studies on Chenab

– https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

– https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

– https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/massive-hydropower-capacity-being-developed-by-india-himalayas-cannot-take-this-onslought/

[ix] http://northgazette.com/news/2013/04/25/special-committee-to-monitor-hydro-projects-in-hp-cm/

Chenab · Jammu and Kashmir

Massive Kwar and Kiru HEPs on Chenab, J and K : Poor quality & cut paste EIAs, flawed public hearing

It seems we do not want to learn any lessons from the massive Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013. Two more huge capacity hydropower projects have been submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) for grant of Environmental Clearance (EC) with very poor quality Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (EIA) reports.

EIA reports of Kiru Hydro Electric Project (HEP) (660MW) and Kwar HEP (560 MW) proposed in Kishtwar district, Jammu and Kashmir by Chenab Valley Power Projects Ltd. (CVPP) were submitted to the EAC for River for its 74th meeting held on 5-6 May, 2014 for grant of EC. The projects are run-of-river schemes proposed on river Chenab as a part of cascade development of Chenab basin.

Vicinity Map

Vicinity Map (Source Kiru EIA Report)

 Partial map of Hydro Electric Projects on Chenab river basin

Partial Map of Commissioned and Proposed HEPs in Chenab River Basin (Map by SANDRP)

 

Chenab basin may have one of the highest concentrations of hydropower projects among all basins in India[1]. The basin has over 60 HEPs under various stages of planning, construction and commissioning in states of Himachal Pradesh (HP) and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

While 49 of these projects are planned or under construction in Chenab in HP, 28 projects of combined generation capacity of 5,800 MW are at an advanced stage of obtaining (Environment Ministry) clearances[2]. State of J&K has 13 projects planned of total capacity 8,623 to 8,923 MW. These consist of at least four operational projects (of total 1563.8 MW), three under construction projects (of 1450.5 MW) and six proposed projects (of 5608.7 MW).

Table 1: Cascade Development of Chenab Basin

Source: EIA report of Kiru & Kwar

Sr. No. Scheme River Capacity
1 Salal (Stage- I & II) Chenab 690 MW
2 Sawalkot Chenab 1856 MW
3 Baglhar (Stage-I & II) Chenab 900 MW
4 Shamnot Chenab 370 MW
5 Ratle Chenab 850 MW
6 Dulhasti Chenab 390 MW
7 Kwar Chenab 560 MW
8 Kiru Chenab 660 MW
9 Kirthai-I Chenab 350 MW
10 Kirthai-II Chenab 990 MW
11 Barinium Chenab 240 MW

Himalayan ecosystem, of which the Chenab river basin is a part, is known to be geologically fragile. Cascade of hydel projects proposed on the river basins of this region would make the region even more vulnerable to extreme and erratic weather events, which will increase in changing climate. This has already been witnessed during Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013. Expert Body (EB) headed by Dr Ravi Chopra recently has officially acknowledged this connection in the report submitted to MoEF[3]. In light of this, a thorough impact assessment of all the proposed hydro power projects in this region is thus of critical importance. Various organizations and experts including SANDRP have repeatedly highlighted the fact that Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of all the proposed, under construction and operational projects and carrying capacity assessment (CCA) of the river basin to see if it can support the massive number of HEPs in safe and sustainable way is one of the first steps before considering clearances to HEPs in this region. Without such a study, considering any hydropower project in the basin will be an invitation to disaster[4].

Even though the MoEF sanctioned TORs for cumulative impact assessments of the HEPs on Chenab in HP in February 2012, this critical task was entrusted to the Directorate of Energy, Government of Himachal Pradesh. This is a clear case of conflict of interest. Further the project specific ECs were delinked from the CIAs[5].

More importantly, no such study has been initiated in Chenab basin in J&K or in the Chenab basin as a whole. State of Jammu and Kashmir is not even considering CIA of HEPs on Chenab in the state as MoEF has not asked for it yet. CIA of the entire Chenab basin including HP and J&K is not being considered, which itself is violating MoEFs Office Memorandum dated May 28 2013. The OM states that all states were to initiate carrying capacity studies within three months from the date of the OM No. J-11013/I/2013-IA-I. Since this has not happened in case of Chanab basin in J&K, considering any more projects in the basin for Environmental clearance will be in violation of the MoEF OM.

On Cumulative Impact Assessment, the OM said, “While, first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative impact study, for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin, it should be incumbent on the developer of second/ other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impacts of the other project (s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.” The EIA of both the projects does not include the cumulative impacts.

MoEF continues to give clearances to individual HEP projects despite of poor quality Project Feasibility Reports (PFRs) and EIA reports submitted for appraisal. Kiru & Kwar EIA reports are a classic example of such poorly conducted EIAs. The EIAs demonstrate several serious issues across various stages from TOR non-compliance, non assessment of impacts, cut and paste job, lack of any references, faulty public hearings, the issued raised at public hearings have not been addressed in EIAs, as statutorily required. SANDRP recently made detailed submissions to EAC highlighting these issues for both the projects. Some highlights below:

Copy paste job while preparing EIA reports Both the reports are prepared by a consortium of RS Envirolink Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Gurgaon) and Jammu University. Kiru EIA report demonstrates a casual approach towards impact prediction and proposing mitigation measures in EMP. The report also misses out on a number of important aspects of EIA like impact of construction activities on geology, flora fauna, impact of climate change, cumulative impacts of cascade development in Chenab basin etc. While Kiru EIA is inadequate on several fronts it was utterly shocking to discover that Kwar EIA report is a complete replica of the Kiru EIA Report. Entire text, save project specific numbers, remains the same in both reports, to the extent that the Kwar EIA report mentions Kiru instead of Kwar at several places!! The impact prediction for both the cases is so vague and generic that the changes in numbers for project-specific details like proposed installed capacity, submergence of reservoir, FRL, head race tunnels etc. do not reflect at all in the reports!

Brief Project Profiles Kiru H.E. Project and Kwar H.E. Project are run-of-river schemes proposed on river Chenab located in the district Kishtwar of J&K.

Kiru HEP envisages the construction of a 193 m long and 123 m high concrete gravity dam above the river bed across river Chenab at village Kiru with four intake, four pressure shafts, an underground powerhouse of 4 units of 165 MW each. Impoundment will cover an area of 1.03 Km extending 6.5 km upstream of dam. The average river bed level at the dam site is about EL 1394 m corresponding to an FRL of 1515 m, the gross storage of the reservoir is 41.50 Mcum and area under submergence is 1.03 Km.

Proposed dam site for Kiru HEP

Proposed dam site for Kiru HEP(Source Kiru EIA Report)

 Kwar HEP envisages construction of a concrete gravity dam 101 m high from river bed across river Chenab at village Padyarna, four number intakes, four pressure shafts, an underground powerhouse to accommodate 4 units of 140 MW each and two number tail race tunnel. FRL of reservoir is proposed at EI 1385M. Gross storage of the reservoir at FRL is 27.167 Mcum. The reservoir will submerge an area of about 0.8 Sq. Km at FRL.

Proposed dam site for Kwar HEP

Proposed dam site for Kwar HEP (Source Kwar EIA Report)

 TOR non-compliance First and foremost glaring issue about the proposed projects is the non-compliance with the TORs (Terms of Reference) laid down for conducting the EIA. These TORs were granted by MoEF. We have listed here only an indicative list of non compliance below, not an exhaustive one.

Kiru HEP The TOR clearance letter was issued for Kiru project on Sept 9, 2008, the TORs are valid for a period of 3 years, but the project developer never came back for extension of the TOR on expiry of 3 year period and has come now for EC over 5.5 years after the TOR clearance. Thus the TOR clearance is no longer valid for Kiru HEP as per the law. Also originally the TOR clearance for Kiru was given for 600 MW installed capacity. The EIA however has been conducted for 660 MW capacity. No permission was sought by the PP for this increased capacity.

Kwar project has undergone several changes since the grant of TOR on 17 March 2010. Table given below compares some of these changes. First and foremost alteration has been in the proposed total power generation. While the TORs were granted for 520 MW the EIA has been conducted for 560 MW. Number of affected families goes up by 160% and project cost escalates by 29%. The TORs were granted for over four years back and the project authority never got back to EAC/MoEF for renewal of the TOR as other projects do. Thus the TORs granted originally do not remain valid in this case too.

Table 2: Changes in the scope of Kwar project after grant of TOR on 17 March 2010
Sr. No. Parameter Scope at the time of TOR clearance Current scope of the Proposed Project
1 Total power Generation 520MW 560 MW
2 Land requirement 5 Ha Government land 93.66 Ha Government land
3 Power House Units 4 x 130 MW (4 x 140MW)
4 Affected families 35 91
5 Project Cost Rs 3386.11 Cr Rs. 4375.50 Crores at Jan’2012 PL

Casual approach towards impact prediction

 Kwar EIA copy pasted from Kiru EIA report: It is evident that the EIA consultants have done nothing but copy paste job while preparing Kwar EIA report. At certain places Kwar report mentions ‘Kiru’ instead of Kwar. See for example point number 1.7 in Index of Kwar EIA mentions ‘Need of the Kiru HE project’ instead of Kwar and point number 4.4 mentions ‘Basin characteristics of free draining area of Kiru HEP’ (p.3 & p.6 of the document). Page 28 of Kwar EIA states that “The case for forest clearance of Kiru HE Project for diversion of 29.75 ha of forest land has been approved in the 81st meeting of J&K State Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) held on 09.12.2013…”

Other than very project specific figures, the entire text for both the reports is exactly the same. Impact prediction is the heart of an EIA study. However in Kwar EIA report an important chapter like Chapter 8- “Identification, Prediction and Evaluation of Environmental Impacts” is also copy pasted. The text of the chapter is same as that of Chapter 8 from Kiru EIA report save the project specific numbers and their description. The impacts predicted are vague and are conveniently kept the same in both the reports. It is clear that no real field work or application of mind is done. Such an EIA study defeats the basic purpose of conducting an EIA.

Impact of construction activities: The Kiru project involves a reservoir of live storage 10.5 MCM, a concrete dam on height (from river bed) 123.0 M & length 193 M, construction of 4 head race tunnels (of 7 m dia and 165 to 190 m length each) for discharging the water to an underground powerhouse of 4 units of 165 MW each. The project also envisages 33.4 Lakh CuM of construction material required from the project site.

The Kwar project involves construction of 101 m (above river bed)/ 109 m (above deepest foundation) high concrete gravity dam, Underground power house complex of four units of 140 MW each, Two concrete lined 9.5 m internal diameter main tailrace tunnels (having length of 2676 m and 2883 m) amongst several other features like four 5.65 m internal diameter main pressure shafts (each with a length of 108-182 m), etc. The project also envisages 38.36 Lakh CuM of construction material required from the project site.

View of Naigarh Nala Rock Quarry at Kwar Dam site

View of Naigarh Nala Rock Quarry at Kwar Dam site (Source Kwar EIA Report)

 All these activities will have significant impact on the geology and hydrology of the region. However no significant assessment or quantification of these impacts in terms of change in drainage patterns, springs in the project area, increased thereat of landslides, seismic activities has been carried out.

While talking about the impact of construction activities, the only impact of these two EIAs discussed in the chapter is ‘muck generation’. It does not mention impacts of tunneling and blasting involved in construction and also does not talk about its impact on fragile geology and hydrology of Himalayan region at all[6]. While talking about quarrying activities in the same chapter it states only two impacts viz. visual impacts and noise generation[7]. Impacts on landslides have been randomly dismissed stating that the sliding activity may not be significantly induced by project construction activities[8]. The reports trivialize the impacts on migratory fish Mahseer by stating that the upstream migration of this fish from the lower reached of the Chenab River have already been blocked by Salal and Baglihar, Dul Hasti dams. Thus they conclude that impact of this project on this fish species is not expected to be significant[9]. Option for fish ladder and fish lift has been ruled out for both the projects stating that it is not techno-economically feasible at the project site. Development of a hatchery at the project site has been proposed instead. The impact of the project on all the fish available in the river should have been assessed based on baseline assessment of the fisheries in Chenab River, which is not done. Secondly, there is no credible evidence to show that hatchery as a management option is useful or effective.

Left Bank slide for Kiru Project downstream of Ludrari Nala

Left Bank slide for Kiru Project downstream of Ludrari Nala (Source Kiru EIA Report)

 Right Bank slide for Kiru Project about 16 km downstream of Gulab Gargh

Right Bank slide for Kiru Project about 16 km downstream of Gulab Gargh (Source Kiru EIA Report)

 

The southern boundary of the Kishtwar National Park is approximately at an aerial distance of 11 km away from the proposed project, it is claimed, but this needs to be independently assessed. Also, just because it lies outside the boundary of study area which is radius of 10 KM, the EIA does not consider the impacts on this national park at all! EIA reports for both Kiru and Kwar HEPs simply state that the proposed activities shall have no impact on the National park[10].

Biodiversity at Kishwar National Park I

Biodiversity at Kishtwar National Park (Photo: Travel Places[11] & Beauty Spots of India[12])

 Several Important aspects of EIA are missing

No mention of free flowing river stretch: There is no mention of what is the flowing river stretch upstream and downstream of the project. As is clear from the EIA, the elevation difference between FRL of Kiru HEP (1515 m) and TWL of upstream Kirthan II (1526.5 m) is just 11.5 m. The elevation difference between TWL of Kiru HEP (1388 m) and FRL of downstream Kwar HEP (1385 m) is just 3 m. Similarly the elevation difference between TWL of Kwar HEP (1270 m) and FRL of downstream Hasti HEP (1264 m) is just 6 m. However, it is not clear what the flowing river lengths in all these locations are. Unless this length is assessed and is found to be adequate for river to regain its vitality, the project should not be considered and it should be asked to change the parameters.

Environmental Flows: The Kiru EIA report states that significant downstream impacts related to the water quality, fisheries, socio-economic and aquatic biodiversity are not foreseen since toe power house is proposed downstream of the dam and tail water level is EL 1388.52 m, discharge will be less only in a “very small stretch of about 800 m”. This seems to show the ignorance of the EIA consultants about how biodiversity in a flowing, lively river like Chenab survives.

Kwar EIA report states that the water entering the reservoir will be released back to river at a distance of 2.6 KM downstream. The report claims that though there in no human activity in this stretch of 2.6 KM the aquatic life will be definitely affected, as also terrestrial biodiversity, groundwater recharge, use of river and silt flow pattern.

10% of average of lean season discharge has been prescribed to be released through the dam gates as environmental flow for both the projects. This quantity has been calculated as 9.0 cumecs based on discharge data of the river. There is no mention of environmental flows in EMP. Firstly, this is even below the norms being followed by EAC and MoEF (30% in monsoon, 20% in lean season and 25% in rest, each at 90% dependability). Secondly, the amount of E-flow required needs to be arrived at based on actual assessment, but no such assessment has been done.

Impact of peaking generation not assessed: The reports talk about advantage of hydropower in terms of ability to providing peaking power. However, when a project operates as peaking station, there are severe impacts in the downstream and also upstream (rim stability). These impacts have not been assessed, nor is it assessed how the project will perform in the cascade development it is in.

Some other important aspects of impact assessment that report misses out on are:

  • Impact of the project on disaster potential in the project area as well in the downstream due to construction and also operation at various stages, say on landslides, flash floods, etc.
  • Social and Environmental Impacts of construction and operation of the coffer dams and diversion tunnels during construction phase are not included.
  • The reports do not even mention Climate Change.Impact of climate change on the project and impact of the project on the local climate has not been assessed. No mention or attempt has been made about or to assess the impact of green house gas emissions from the project.
  • Impacts on the flood characters of the river due to this dam, what will be the changes and how these will impact downstream areas.
  • Impact of changing silt flows downstream from desilting chamber and from silt flushing in monsoon on the downstream areas not analyzed. A detail account of how the silt from the dam would be flushed out annually and what would be the impact of this in the downstream as well as on the geo morphology, erosion, stability of structures etc was not done.
  • Options Assessment is missing, this is crucial part of the EIA to establish that among all options, including non project option, the given option is the least cost and best option.

Cumulative Impacts not assessed The EIA report gives list of Major hydroelectric projects executed /under execution/ under investigation so far in the basin in J&K which are a part of Cascade Development. Kirthan HE Project (990MW with proposed FRL at 1764 m and TWL at 1526.50m) which is yet to be commissioned is proposed upstream of Kiru (660 MW with FRL at 1515M). Downstream of Kiru is Kwar HE Project (560 MW with FRL at 1385 m and TWL at 1270 m) which is yet to be appraised and Dul Hasti HE Project (390 MW with FRL at 1264 m) which is commissioned.

Impoundment of Chenab at Dul Site

Impoundment of Chenab at Dul Site (Source: Kwar EIA Report)

 Moreover, the EIA does not provide the list of hydropower projects being taken up in Chenab basin in upstream Himachal Pradesh[13]. The cumulative impacts of all such projects will be huge.

The report summarizes cumulative impacts in single sentence: “The increased pressure will include uncontrolled logging, hunting of wildlife, non-timber forest product collection, livestock husbandry, the cultivation in forest areas and forest fires.”[14]

EIA report completely misses out on the detailed analysis of cumulative impacts in terms of

  • Impacts on flora, fauna, carrying capacity, livelihoods
  • Impact of reduction in adaptive capacity of the people and area to disasters in normal circumstance AND with climate change
  • Impacts on springs and drainage pattern
  • Disaster potential of the area
  • Tunneling and blasting
  • Geological disturbance caused
  • Seismic impacts
  • Carrying capacity

Inadequate Dam Break AnalysisThe Dam break analysis does not take into account the cumulative disaster potential including existing and proposed upstream and downstream projects. The EIA report also does not include cumulative disaster management plan.

Improper Public Hearing Public hearing conducted for both the projects were flawed. Excerpts from the speeches made by the officials from J&K State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and CVPP that are noted in the public hearing report show that what these persons spoke was inappropriate, misleading and intimidating[15]. Also point wise responses to the issues raised by people at the Public Hearing are not provided in the EIA, as statutorily required. Hence even when people ask for Resettlement and Rehabilitation as per latest Act of 2013 (made effective from Jan 1, 2014), the EIA talks about National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy of 2007. The public hearing report strangely end for both projects with the officials asking those who are for the projects to raise their hands. There is no formal provision for voting for or against the project. Such public hearing should be declared null and void and fresh public hearing should be conducted.

Poor quality EIA reports that reflect pro hydro bias of the consultant EIA is the most effective tool to ensure environmental compliance in India. Needless to state that it is of critical importance. Casually predicted, unaddressed impacts and copy paste job of the Kiru and Kwar EIA reports once again highlights the poor quality of EIA reports submitted to the ministry for grant of EC. These reports decide fate of the project, of the people and environment surrounding the project site. Such quality of the report is most definitely not acceptable.

Further, an EIA report is an attempt to understand what are the adverse social and environmental impacts of a project and weather the impacts are acceptable, if the project is viable, optimal and desirable. The answer to this exercise can also include the answer that the project is not viable or desirable or acceptable. In view of this, the EIA consultant needs to be completely unbiased and should be ready to even conclude that the project is unacceptable. However, in case of the EIA consultant for the Kiru & Kwar HEP, EIA starts in very 1st chapter with a shockingly unscientific and biased statement: “Hydropower projects are dependable, renewable, economic, environmentally benign sources of energy with ability to stop and start instantaneously.” This statement is factually wrong on many counts (e.g. hydropower project is renewable or dependable or environmentally benign source of energy). It, along with whole para 1.2 also reflects the bias of the EIA consultants RS Envirolink Technologies Pvt Ltd (with Jammu University) and we urge the EAC and MoEF to reject such poor quality and biased EIAs and take other necessary steps to debar such agencies from doing any EIA or environmental studies in future.

CONCLUSION Looking at serious issues above, based on merit of the EIA reports, as well as complete cut-paste jobs, we are hopeful that the MoEF will not recommend EC for these projects. This case also highlights the importance of cumulative impact assessment in an over developed Himalayan basin. When the experience with Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013 is fresh, we hope that MoEF will not commit another blunder.

Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP

END NOTES:

 

[1]https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[2]https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

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

[4] Refer to SANDRP studies on Chenab

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

https://sandrp.in/hydropower/Dams_on_Chenab_How_many_are_too_many_Dec2012.pdf

https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/massive-hydropower-capacity-being-developed-by-india-himalayas-cannot-take-this-onslought/

[5]https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/

[6]p.291 of Kiru EIA Report & p.288 of Kwar EIA report

[7]p.293 of Kiru EIA Report & p.289 of Kwar EIA report

[8]p.298 of Kiru EIA Report & p.294 of Kwar EIA report

[9]p.307 of Kiru EIA Report & p.303 of Kwar EIA report

[10]p.221 of Kiru EIA Report & p.223 of Kwar EIA report

[11]http://www.4to40.com/travel/index.asp?p=Kishtwar_National_Park&state=Jammu_and_Kashmir

[12]http://beautyspotsofindia.com/kishtwar-national-park-jammu-kashmir/

[13] See for example: https://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydro_%20Electric_Projects_in_Chenab_River_Basin.pdf

[14]P. 306 of Kiru EIA

[15]The Public hearing report of Kiru says that Shri Sajjad Mufti, Regional Director of J&K SPCB said at the public hearing, “Construction of project should not deteriorate the environment….” This is a very strange, untruthful and inappropriate statement from J&K SPCB official. Why should the official be speaking at all at the public hearing and that too make such a statement that would also affect the atmosphere of the public hearing? Similarly the statement of GM of CVPP at the public hearing, “The most viable and cleanest of all (sources of power) is hydro power” was again, wrong, intimidating and inappropriate. The statement of Shri Khursheed Ahmed Butt of CVPP, “forest clearance has already been granted to the proposed project” is incorrect since the proposal for forest clearance for the project has not even come before FAC. Such public hearing should be declared null and void and fresh public hearing should be conducted.

The Public hearing report of Kwar says that the GM of CVPP said at the public hearing, “The best source of power generation is hydro power” was wrong, intimidating and inappropriate. The statement, “forest clearance has already been granted to the proposed project” is incorrect since the proposal for forest clearance for the project has not even come before FAC.

[16] See for details and link to PCA orders: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/international-court-asks-india-to-release-more-water-and-rejects-plea-to-re-interpret-february-verdict-on-kishanganga/

Disasters · Floods · Uttarakhand

Report of Expert Committee on Uttarakhand Flood Disaster & Role of HEPs: Welcome recommendations:


Drop 23 projects, do cumulative assessments & improve governance

In a significant development on role of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013, the Expert Body (EB) headed by Dr Ravi Chopra has recommended that at least 23 hydropower projects should be dropped, that hydropower projects played significant role in the Uttarakhand disaster and that there is urgent need to improve the environment governance of hydropower projects. The Report “Assessment of Environmental Degradation and Impact of Hydroelectric Projects During The June 2013 Disaster in Uttarakhand” dated April 2014 has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on April 16, 2014 and was made public following hearing in the Supreme Court on April 28, 2014. The committee was appointed by a reluctant Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in October 2013, following the Supreme Court’s suo motto order of August 13 2013.

Source: MATU Jansangathan
Damaged Vishnuprayag Dam in Uttarakhand floods of June 2013: Source: MATU Jansangathan

Uttarakhand floods of June 2013[1],[2]: The committee report endorses the stand taken in a letter[3] that was written to MoEF on July 20, 2013, endorsed by over 20 individuals and groups including from Uttarakhand on the role of existing and under  construction hydropower projects in the Uttarakhand floods  of June 2013. MoEF did not take any action on this letter, but it was Supreme Court order next month that pushed MoEF to take necessary action.

SC order of Aug 13, 2013[4]: On Aug 13, 2013, while disposing off the petition on Srinagar HEP in Uttarakhand, the Supreme Court, suo motto, made an order that asked, MoEF and Uttarakhand governments not to provide any further clearances to any more hydropower projects anywhere in Uttarakhand till further orders. Both MoEF and Uttarakhand governments have been violating this order. However, one of the fall outs of this order was formulation of Expert Body appointed by MoEF more than two months latter, through an order on Oct 15, 2013, whose report now is available in public domain.

Limited TOR[5]: The Supreme Court order of Aug 13, 2013 pertained to whole of Uttarakhand, as was the disaster of June 2013. However, the MoEF order and subsequently CWC tried to restrict the field of work of the committee to Alaknanda and Bhagirathi sub basins rather than whole of Uttarakhand.

Problematic constitution: The constitution of the Expert body was also problematic from a number of aspects. There was clear conflict of interest with respect to some of the members like Dr BP Das, former member and Vice Chair of the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, as explained below. The committee also included chairman of Central Water Commission and Central Electricity Authority, which unfortunately act like lobbies for hydropower projects. These persons were in the committee to bring in respective expertise, but in stead used their presence in the committee to discredit evidence which suggested clear role of hydropower projects, some members also advocated for more hydropower projects, in stead of adhering to the mandate given by the Supreme Court, thus raising the issue of contempt of court.

In what follows we have given some useful recommendations and conclusions of the EB, followed by some weak recommendations and conclusions of the EB report, based on a quick reading of the report (we got the over 200 page report only on April 29, 2014), following by some remarks on role of vice chair, CWC, CEA, MoEF and our conclusion.

Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2014 (Source: EB report)
Map of Mandakini Valley, epicenter of Uttarakhand floods of June 2013 (Source: EB report)

On 24 projects recommended to be dropped by WII “After considerable discussions and analysis, the Expert Body concluded that of the 24 proposed Hydropower Projects (HEPs) that Wildlife Institute of India (WII) recommended for Review, 23 HEPs would have significant irreversible impacts on biodiversity values.”

“The EB recommends that for the 23 proposed HEPs out of the 24 identified by WII (other than the Kotli Bhel 1A project) that would have irreversible impacts on the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins, the HEPs that fall in any of the following conditions should not be approved for construction.

(a)               Proposed HEPs that fall inside wildlife Protected Areas such  National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

(b)               Proposed HEPs that fall within the Gangotri Eco-sensitive Zone

(c)               Proposed HEPs that fall above 2,500m that encompass critical wildlife habitats, high biological diversity, movement corridors, and fragile in nature due to unpredictable glacial and paraglacial activities.

(d)               Proposed HEPs that fall within 10 km from the boundary of Protected Areas and have not obtained clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.”

It would have been in fitness of things if EB had exclusively asked for stoppage of work on all these 23 projects with immediate effect.

On Kotli Bhel 1A The EB has, we believe, erroneously concluded, over ruling the conclusion of WII and expert review initiated by EB, “that the Kotli Bhel 1A project might not significantly worsen the condition of the river Bhagirathi between Koteshwar and Devprayag – already part of a highly fragmented zone”. However, EB has asked for  “due modifications to its design and operations so that an adequate stretch of the river downstream of the Koteshwar dam just above KB-IA can be maintained in a free flowing state”. This means the project work should stop and it should reapply for clearances after doing the suggested modifications in credible way.

Restoration: “The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.

All projects must undertake river restoration works after prior clearance from MoEF. It was noticed that project developers were engaged in projects’ restoration only. MoEF needs to conduct a formal review of the environmental damages at all the HEPs in Uttarakhand and prepare guidelines for restoration. Till then none of the projects should begin power production.”

HEPs above 2 MW need EC “All projects > 2 MW, shall require prior Environmental Clearances (EC) from MoEF”.

“A multidisciplinary expert body should be constituted with members of proven expertise and experience to review every year the progress/performance of each HEP and its compliance with the sanction conditions. This body will also review the technicalities of disaster preparedness before each monsoon season and examine the impact of monsoon storm and floods on the performance of all the project components. The environmental health of the river will be a critical area for comprehensive examination.”

No projects above winter snow line “Learning from the June 2013 event, the EB believes that the enhanced sediment availability from and in paraglacial zones could be a serious problem for the longevity of the existing, under construction and proposed HEPs in Uttarakhand. Therefore the EB recommends that the terrain above the MCT in general and above the winter snow line in particular (~2200-2500 m) should be kept free from hydropower interventions in Uttarakhand.”

SIA should be carried out for all river systems in Uttarakhand “The WII study has already identified 24 proposed HEPs in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins as likely to cause irreversible impacts. But comprehensive research studies of other basins in Uttarakhand are lacking at this stage… Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) be carried out in other major river basins of Uttarakhand such as the Yamuna and Kali basins.”

Distance between projects in a cascade “Scientific studies by subject experts should be conducted for establishing baseline data on river parameters, diversity and populations of floral and faunal species in different rivers of Uttarakhand at different elevation zones.  Such studies should be used for deciding upon the minimum distances between two consecutive HEPs. Until such scientific studies are completed, no new HEPs (in S&I stage) should be cleared on the rivers of Uttarakhand within a distance that may later be revoked. Minimum distances for projects in the clearance stage should be significantly revised upward from the current consideration of 1 km.”

SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand
SANDRP Map of Bumper to Bumper hydropower projects in Alaknanda basin in Uttarakhand

National Himalayan Policy “Since the Himalaya are our vital source of growth and abundance, a National Himalayan Policy needs to be urgently created and implemented.”

“Therefore, the EB strongly recommends that a detailed study of the impacts of hydropower projects in terms of deforestation/tunneling/ blasting/reservoir formation on the hydrogeology of the area should be carried out.”

A study on the role of large artificial reservoirs on local climate change and precipitation patterns with special reference to the Tehri dam reservoir.”

Sediment transportation studies “Recent studies have highlighted serious concern about the Indian deltas, which are shrinking due to changes in river courses. The Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is also noted in this category. This seems to be a major issue in near future therefore we recommend that the studies should be carried out regarding the impacts on sediment transportation due to projects existing on Himalayan rivers.”

Cultural impacts of HEPs “Therefore EB recommends that the Ministry of Culture along with the local representatives and spiritual leaders should undertake a comprehensive study of the cultural impacts of HEPs in the spiritually rich state of Uttarakhand.”

“The river bed profiles at Phata-Byung, Singoli-Bhatwari, Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs have changed significantly. This requires a fresh analysis of the project hydrology and redesigning them if necessary.”

“River Regulation Zone (R.R.Z.) guidelines should be issued immediately by the Ministry of Environment & Forests and should be executed accordingly.”

Muck Management: “The existing practices of muck management are inadequate to protect the terrain and the people from an eventuality like the June 2013 flood. Therefore, a serious revisit is required towards evolving technically better and ecologically sustainable methods for muck disposal and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand.”

Environmental Flows: “Till such time as a decision is taken on the EFlows recommendations of the IITs-consortium, the EB recommends EFlows of 50% during the lean season and 30% during the remaining non-monsoon months. Sustaining the integrity of Uttarakhand’s rivers and their eco-systems is not negotiable.”

Eco-Sensitive Zones: “It is recommended that legislation be enacted to (i) protect small but significant rivers (as done in Himachal Pradesh and also recommended by the IMG for Uttarakhand) as pristine rivers and (ii) designate Eco-Sensitive Zones for all rivers of Uttarakhand.”

Community based CA and CAT “Community-based CA and CAT plan execution must be done by the State Forest Department within the construction period of the project.” This is to be monitored by a committee that includes two representatives from local communities, a renowned environmentalist, among others.

Forests and Biodiversity Conservation: “Community based CAT programmes have to be systemically implemented for ensuring sustenance of the plantations. This requires training of forest officials to work with the communities through their Van Panchayats.”

“It was brought to the notice of the EB that clearances to start work had been granted recently to the Lakhwar (300 MW) and Vyasi (120 MW) projects. This is in violation of the spirit of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order of August 13, 2013. It is also noticed that these projects were approved more than 25 years ago. Consequently they do not have any EIA/EMP/DMP studies that are mandatory today. Without conducting cumulative impact assessments and disaster management studies of the Yamuna and Kali basins no such projects should be allowed at the risk of fragile ecology, biodiversity and lives of people living in and around the project sites.”[6]

SOME WEAK RECOMMENDATIONS OF EB

“The EB recommends that MoEF strengthens its personnel and procedures for post-sanction monitoring of environmental conditionalities. The MoEF should develop a programme for research studies by reputed organizations on the impacts of HEPs on river water quality (and flows). Pre-construction and post operation long term impacts monitoring studies are required.”

Geology & Social Issues: “Given the massive scale of construction of HEPs in Uttarakhand it may be worthwhile to set up a formal institution or mechanism for investigating and redressing complaints about damages to social infrastructure. The functioning of such an institution can be funded by a small cess imposed on the developers. It is also suggested that to minimize complaints of bias, investigations should be carried out by joint committees of subject experts and the community.”

Disaster Management: “Disaster preparedness is critical because all of Uttarakhand lies either in seismic Zone IV or V. These areas are most vulnerable to strong earthquakes. Disaster Management Plans (DMPs) are critical parts of EIA Reports. They need to be carefully reviewed and approved by local communities in the probable zone of influence.”

“It is necessary to establish an independent authority which may commission EIA Reports…”

CONCLUSIONS OF EB:

On Role of Dams in Uttarakhand disaster:

In Chapter 3 (p 10) chairman of EB notes, “Thus THDC’s inundation analysis results could

not be substantiated by the ground survey in Haridwar city.”

“In September 2010, to retain flood inflows in the face of water levels rising beyond the permitted FRL the (Tehri) dam authorities had to seek the permission of the Supreme Court. It led to inundation of the upstream town of Chinyalisaur and later after draw down fresh landslide zones were created around the reservoir rim.”

“Geo-chemical analysis of sediment samples taken from various locations along the river stretch in Srinagar, however, indicated a significant contribution — varying from 47% near the barrage to about 23% much further downstream (Fig. 3.19, pg 101, Main Report) — from muck eroded from muck disposal sites 6 and 9 located on the concave right bank and consequently experienced an intense current of the order of 7m/sec.

This raises a question that if there was heavy to very heavy rainfall from the glacial reaches of the Alaknanda valley, leading to numerous landslides along the banks, then why was massive damage observed only downstream of the Vishnuprayag and Srinagar HEPs? A detailed investigation is warranted in order to arrive at a scientifically viable explanation.”

“Otters appear to be nearing extinction in the Ganga, Alaknanda sub-basins.”

It is good to see that the EB has effectively rejected the critique of the WII report presented by Dr. Sabyasachi Dasgupta, HNB Garhwal University and consultant to UJVNL, following an independent review of the WII report by Prof. Brij Gopal, an eminent ecological scientist who had worked extensively on river ecosystems. Prof Brij Gopal, while finding some limitations in WII methodology, concluded: “he agreed with WII’s findings that the 24 proposed hydropower projects would impact the biodiversity of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins significantly. Based on his own analysis, Prof Gopal recommended that several more projects be dropped.”

SOME WEAK CONCLUSIONS:

“A ground survey of the inundation analysis carried out by THDC on the basis of which it claimed to have saved Haridwar from drowning raised doubts about the accuracy of the computer generated inundation maps. It is therefore not clear how much of Haridwar would have been affected if the Tehri dam had not been there. The problem at Haridwar, as at other towns and habitations along river banks, is that there has been wide spread encroachment and construction inside the river’s regime. Therefore it is imperative to set up river regulation zones where encroachments are forbidden. (Unscientific sand mining on river beds adds to the problem.)”

“There is some doubt about whether the Vishnuprayag project authorities were able to properly manage the opening and closing of the gates.”

Role of Dr B P Das: Dr B P Das has for close to a decade been member or vice chair or officiating chair of the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF on River Valley project and has in the process been involved in appraising and deciding on clearances for a no of projects and their impacts in Uttarakhand. Hence he was not likely to be in a position to take an independent view on Uttarakhand hydropower projects as there was a conflict of interest involved with respect to his earlier decisions. His biased views were also known through his article in The Hindu earlier. This got reflected in the alternate view on page 27 of chapter 3 and page 16-17 of Chapter 4 of the report authored by Dr Das. In Chapter 3 box, Dr Das’s abiding faith in the project developer could be seen. In Chapter 4 box Dr Das himself mentions that EAC has yet to take a view on WII report, but the he himself is a responsible party for EAC not having taken a view on WII report.

Role of CWC, CEA chairpersons: CWC (Central Water Commission, India’s premier technical body on water resources development under Union Ministry of Water Resources) and CEA (Central Electricity Authority, India’s premier technical body on power sector are largely known to act as lobbies for hydropower projects, in stead of the independent technical and regulatory body that they are expected to work as. In view of that, inclusion of chairperson of CWC and CEA in this committee was wrong step on the part of MoEF. We learn from a letter written by two eminent members of the committee, namely Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani on March 27, 2014, that indeed the chairpersons of CWC and CEA did not really participate in the way they were required to, and rather functioned in violation of the Supreme Court order.

Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB
Scanned version of last part of the letter of 27.03.2014 from Dr Shekhar Pathak and Dr Hemant Dhyani, members of EB

Role of MoEF: One had expected that the EB would take a critical view of the functioning of the MoEF around HEPs and contribution of MoEF’s failures in increasing the disaster proportions. Unfortunately we are disappointed in this. Possibly, with the committee having been appointed by MoEF and member secretary of the committee being MoEF official this was a difficult ask. However, not being able to take a critical stand on the role of MoEF (and other institutions like CWC, CEA, state environment department, state disaster management department etc) imposes a limitation on the EB report and provides a free reign to guilty party. The consequences of this became apparent when on April 28, 2014, during the Supreme Court hearing, we are told, the MoEF presented erroneous picture that there are two reports of the committee, one by 10 members(wrongly called activists) another by Vice Chair B P Das, with CWC and CEA chair persons, when at best the note from these three persons can be considered dissent note, that too in violation of SC orders. We hope the Supreme Court will take strong view of this misleading picture presented by MoEF and reprimand the responsible officials to ensure that this does not happen again.

View of the Committee working through its minutes 

Minutes of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th meeting are available on the MoEF, Lucknow regional office website. Perusal of the minutes shed light of the functioning of the committee, and the biases of some specific members. Some highlights from the minutes:

THDC, Tehri and Muck Disposal Sites: Site visit reports of various members, including Dr. Amit Gupta, Dy Director of MoEF presented that THDC is managing active and non active muck disposal sites ‘poorly’. The sites do not have proper retaining wall, slop or plantations.

THDC hid drift tunnel of Koteshwar dam: Member Hemant Dhyani exposed that THDC officials did not accept the presence of a huge drift tunnel of Koteshwar Project near Payal Gaon, which was suffering from severe subsidence. Only when the local people, including the tunnel construction workers insisted that there is a tunnel that the THDC officials accept this fact!

In the 3rd meeting, the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand told the committee that projects with EC or FC should not be closed or stopped. Note here that this suggestion is unacceptable when the SC itself has asked the committee to investigate the role of projects in the flood damages.

To top this, Additional Chief Secretary unilaterally asserted that HEP did not have any role in the mishap. He emphasised every Environmental CLearance needs an EIA. This indicates his poor knowledge about the quality of EIAs which has been accepted by most experts.

He further stressed that a umber of FC cases were peding before the MoEF. Moef official YK Singh Chauhan rebutted this claim.

In the 4th Meeting, Dr. B.P. Das, Co Chair of the committee categorized June event as a rare natural calamity and attributed the losses only to road construction ( Incidentally, many  roads are being built for hydel projects, and do not even allow access to local communities.)

Dr. Ravi Chopra, Chairperson highlighted the poor data management of THDC. He highlighted that THDC could not provide HFL data, rainfall data, inlet level from Maneri Bhali II and outlet level sought by the committee members.

Conclusion: In spite of certain weaknesses, most of the recommendations of the committee need to be immediately implemented and till they are implemented in letter and spirit, the Supreme Court should order a status quo on any further hydropower projects. The EB headed by Dr Ravi Chopra should be congratulated for this report in spite of difficult circumstances under which the committee operated.

Þ     We also hope the Supreme Court would ask MoEF to order stoppage of work on Lakhwar and Vyasi projects that has been started recently, violating the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit, and also as pointed out by the EB.

Þ     The work on 24 hydropower projects that was part of explicit TOR of the committee should be ordered to stop immediately. The EB should have made this explicit recommendation, but even if they have not done that, it is implicit in its recommendation.

Þ     The Supreme Court should ask MoEF to provide a time bound action plan on implementation of the various recommendations of the EB. The SC an also possibly appoint EB (minus Dr Das, CWC and CEA persons) to oversee the implementation of the action plan and continue to provide independent feedback on adequacy of such implementation.

Þ     The Lessons from Uttarakhand are relevant for all Himalayan states of India from Kashmir to all the North East states and we hope Supreme Court to ask the follow up committee to ensure that these lessons are taken note of and necessary steps flowing there from are implemented in these Himalayan states. These will also provide guidance to our Himalayan neighbouring countries.

Þ     The failure of environmental governance is one of the clearest stark message from this episode and we hope MoEF will put its house in order in this respect, revamping its entire environmental governance.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/?s=Uttarakhand

[2] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/uttarakhand-flood-ravage-and-the-dams-short-film-english/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/uttarakhand-disaster-moef-should-suspect-clearances-to-hydropower-projects-and-institute-enquiry-in-the-role-of-heps/

[4] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-supreme-courts-directions-on-uttarakhand-hydropower-projects/

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

[6] By Dr. Hemant Dhyani, Member, EB

[7] Reuters report on this issue: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/04/29/india-flood-idINL6N0NL0VC20140429

[8] The section “View of the Committee working through its minutes” has been put together by SANDRP colleague Parineeta Dandekar. I am also thankful to her for  other useful suggestions from her.