Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands

( Feature Image:- Satish Acharya’s illustration on Bengaluru floods: Whose land is it anyway? 07 Sept. 2022)

The wetlands reports tell us a lot, but the key point is that decisive judicial action is necessary if our wetlands are to have any future. The directions of the Tamil Nadu High Court to geo reference all wetlands of Tamil Nadu, including small (Less than 2.25 ha area) is good beginning, but the court will need to ensure continuous monitoring and ensure implementation. Because the past shows that the government and other stakeholders have collectively failed to take any decisive action to save our wetlands. The disastrous results are evident at so many places, this week it is most clear from the flooding of Bangalore, mainly due to encroachment of lakes, wetlands, water channels and their catchments.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 290822: MP’s Dam safety mess: Publish the Karam inquiry report

(Feature Image: Karam dam after breach. Source: Patrika)

Every week we get more evidence of the massive Dam safety mess in Madhya Pradesh. The Karam dam disaster that started on the eve of independence day is still unfolding. The inquiry committee report has been submitted, but it has not been made public. This is totally wrong and shocking. Dam Safety is a public interest issue and all information related to dam safety has to be in public domain. The inquiry committee report should be immediately put in public domain. More importantly an independent inquiry should be set up as the inquiry set up earlier was more of an in-house inquiry.

Close on heals of Karam dam disaster comes the news of risks due to unattended Maheshwar dam, a massive dam on Narmada river that remains unfinished and unattended, with one of the gates damaged and story of stolen motors, wires and other spare parts and power cut, which means the hydraulic system for gates is non-functional. Again the report of the NVDA-MWR officials after visit to the dam site should be in out in public domain, as also the reports of the dam safety committee reportedly set up the MP govt for assessing safety of all the dams of MP.

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DRP NB 080822: Why is Centre not taking action against violations, defects of Kaleshwaram Project of Telangana?

(Feature image source: Pratidin News)

Union Water Resources or what is now called Jal Shakti minister Shri Gajendra Shekhawat made a rare and rather interesting statement this week about Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project of Telangana, supposed to be the world’s biggest lift irrigation project, India’s most expensive ever irrigation project. The Union Minister publicly said that the Kaleshwaram project did not have all the clearances, project thus involved violations, and had defects, leading to submergence of three barrages and a massive power house last month. It is not clear if the Union Minister has also written to this effect to the Telangana state government and also taken action against the project. This is because the allegations made by the Union Minister are about such a huge project and are serious in nature.

If the Union Minister has done neither, as seems to be the case, he hope he is doing something on these lines soon. We do not expect a responsible Union Minister not take any action on such an important matter and is only making such statements for public consumption (incidentally, he seems to have made these statements in Karnataka, not in Telangana). Questions will be raised if the Union Minister fails to take such an action.

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DRP NB 1 Aug 2022: Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion

(Feature image: Delta Land Loss Mechanisms. Source Wikimedia Commons)

A new study this week has reminded us what has been known for long. Dams not only store water but also trap the sediment flowing in the river. Whatever smaller quantity of water flow from dams to downstream areas, has much lower or no silt. A lot of that silt was supposed to reach the coast, helping fight against the erosion of the coast due to sea tides and waves. With drastically lower sediment reaching the coasts, higher coastal erosion is the result. While climate change is definitely contributing to the increased coast erosion due to more frequent and higher intensity storms from the sea, the role of dams tend to work as force multiplier in increasing the coastal erosion due to less sediment reaching the coasts from river.

While a new study by a Pune University has highlighted this phenomena in case of Godavari river, peninsular India’s biggest river, this is also happening at most other rivers and where they meet the coasts. As in case of Farakka, closer the terminal dam is to the coast, greater is its effectiveness to trap the river sediment and higher is its contribution likely to be to the increase in coastal erosion.

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DRP NB 180722: Polavaram, Kaleshwaram projects damaged, Kadam dam overflowed

(Feature image: An aerial view of the flood-affected areas in Godavari districts on July 15. Photo by arrangement/Deccan Chronicle)

One of the noteworthy feature of the floods in ongoing on monsoon so far has been what is happening around large dam projects, particularly in Central India, Eastern India and Southern India. The Polavaram dam on Godavari river, the largest under construction dam in India, again suffered damage this monsoon as confessed by the Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister Ambati Rambabu after his frequent visits to the dam. The dam had suffered damage in 2019 floods and it is still not clear what is way forward and the dam has again suffered damage. This will make the unviable project even more unviable, but the government will continue to sink good money after the massive sunk funds.

The Kaleshwaram project in Godavari basin, the largest lift irrigation projects of India has also faced damages with at least two pump houses with large number of massive capacity pumps getting submerged, and third one partially flooded. The full impact of this damage will only be known after assessment once the floods recede.

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DRP NB 040722: Stalled, delayed, cancelled Hydro in Bhutan

(Feature Image: Stretch of Punatsangchu River that will be diverted through the tunnel when the dam is commissioned Photo: SANDRP)

Puncturing the prevalent notion about India Bhutan Cooperation on hydropower projects, there is news this week (in fact the news on this score has been coming for more than a couple of years, but Indian media seems to be practicing a self-imposed ban on putting out such stories – but that is another story as they say) that hydropower projects have been stalled, delayed, reconfigured, and even cancelled in Bhutan. This is broadly in line with the increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects.

Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, has reported about such projects quoting the National Council recommendation to the government of Bhutan to expedite the decisions about the stalled projects like the massive Punatasanchchu-I HEP and the Kholongchu HEP. It has also reported that the government of India conveying to Bhutan that India has sufficient electricity supplies, suggesting that the proposed Nu 200 Billion Sunkosh Hydropower project may not have any definite dateline and hence likely to not go forward. The happenings at the geologically unstable site selection for Punatsanchchu project involving India’s Central Water Commission, Wapcos and Geological Survey of India among others is in fact major scandal and how the whole issue has been dealt with so far. The happenings at the Kolongchu HEP being executed by the SJVN (erstwhile Sutlej Jal Vidhyut Nigam Ltd) as the first ever joint venture project in Bhutan in terms SJVN not giving the promised contracts to Bhutanese companies also does not bode well for Joint Venture projects in future. Both Punatsanchchu and Kholongchu HEPs are stalled and delayed for long, increasing the cost of the projects and power from the projects. While all this is broadly in line with increasing economic non viability of hydropower projects, a lot of this can be avoided by increasing transparency and accountability in governance of these projects.

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DRP NB 270622: There are many man made factors behind Assam Floods, Mr CM

(Feature Image:- DDMA, UNICEF and Oxfam have innovated boat-mounted water treatment units to provide life-saving water to the people in need within Silchar & its peripheral areas. Source:- Assam State Disaster Management Authority )

The Assam Chief Minister has called the unprecedented floods in Silchar town along Barak river in South Assam as man-made floods. The reason given is that the breach of embankment along the Barak river in the town was created by some people. It is good to see that the Assam CM Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma has recognised that some of the floods can be due to man made factors. And indeed, investigation followed by action is required in all such cases. But the CM should not limit this to just the breach of Barak embankment or the role of some of the people who may have breached the embankment earlier in May to provide outlet to one of the lakes. The investigation must also look into the role of the water resources department as to why they did not swing into action earlier, both in terms of repair and investigation. .

In fact, according to reports so far, no less than 297 embankments have breached during this monsoon so far already. Many or rather most of them have happened due to systematic neglect and lack of proper maintenance by the water resources department and needs proper investigation and action. There is also an urgent need for assessment of cost benefit and efficacy of the embankments in Assam.

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DRP NB 2 May 2022: Sand a strategic resource like water, rethink its exploitation: UN

A United Nations report released this week on Apr 26, 2022 has recommended that river sand needs to be considered by the governments as a strategic resource like water for its multiple roles in the environment and its extraction and use needs to be rethought. The UNEP report says sand is the second most exploited resource. And yet there are no credible governance guidelines or policies for the exploitation and use of this report, nor assessment of impact of unsustainable exploitation.

The report says: “Extracting sand where it plays an active role, such as rivers, and coastal or marine ecosystems, can lead to erosion, salination of aquifers, loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity, which pose a threat to livelihoods through, among other things, water supply, food production, fisheries, or to the tourism industry.”

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DRP NB 25 April 2022: Bad news for dams: Vyasi, Renuka, Parbati, Betwa, Ken Betwa, Ganga waterways, Hydropower false climate solutions…

This week seems to have brought rather too many bad news for big dams in India, it seems. The Vyasi hydropower project on Yamuna river in Uttarakhand, inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shri Modi in Dec 2021, is facing plethora of problems even before its formal commissioning, including scarcity of water, mass fish death, displacement without rehabilitation of people, among others.

In Himachal Pradesh, the stage-1 forest clearance of the Renuka dam, whose foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister Shri Modi on Dec 28, 2021, has lapsed, 12.5 years after it was given. Now the project need to restart the whole clearance process. There is also news of massive leakage of water and silt collapse in Parbati 2 project in HP.

In Betwa basin, an exasperated Jal Shakti Minister has ordered n inquiry into the Dam project. This, while the Ken Betwa project that the Union Govt has been desperate in pushing, still does not have crucial clearances.

A well researched article by Avli Verma shows that the Ganga waterways project does not have environment clearance, nor environment impact assessment even as the National Green Tribunal has adjourned the hearing demanding that for FOURTEEN times even as Union Environment Ministry quietly sits on the issue.

And finally, sound analysis by international experts lists ten reasons why hydropower is a false climate solution. It may be good idea to take a pause on these big dams, hydropower projects and other river affecting projects and rather take stoke of the way we are governing our rivers and these projects?

Continue reading “DRP NB 25 April 2022: Bad news for dams: Vyasi, Renuka, Parbati, Betwa, Ken Betwa, Ganga waterways, Hydropower false climate solutions…”
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 18 April 2022: Clean Hydro does not make much sense in India: Experts

(Feature image:- Following massive landslides in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh sees growing protests against hydropower projects. DTE)

As the following report from Energy Monitor this week says, according to international experts, the idea that hydro is clean does not make sense. They say that for a number of reasons including for the social risks, environmental risks and the increased emissions of methane due to rotting of organic matter flowing in the river and settling in the reservoirs. In spite of some apparent inherent misconceptions, this part of the report is sound and should be a wakeup call for the supporters of big hydro in India. As the report suggests this is particularly true in the context of climate change. Indeed, this has been our own experience in India with increasing disasters related to hydro projects and the increasing unviability of the hydro projects in India.

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