Bihar · Floods

Thanks to Bagmati Project, They Are on Roads for Forty Years

Guest blog by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra[1] (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

“We went to meet the collector to ask him whether we were the citizens of this country or not? If, because of the Bagmati Project, our citizenship is terminated, he should issue orders to us to leave the country and get settled in Nepal and we will go there” says the Mukhia of Masaha Alam of a village that was in the Bairgania block of Sitamarhi district of Bihar prior to the construction of the embankments on the Bagmati in 1971-72. The village had an area of 150 acres and 420 families according to 1971 census. Only 104 families have been settled till date[2] and the remaining 316 families in the village are still awaiting rehabilitation as they were trapped within the river and its right embankment then forty years ago and are literally on roads since the river was jacketed to prevent flooding of the plains in the river basin. Continue reading “Thanks to Bagmati Project, They Are on Roads for Forty Years”

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

Analysis MoWR’s Advisory Committee’s Decisions for Northeast – January 2009 to Dec 2013

This is analysis of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India[1] from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting held in December 2013. In our last analysis of TAC minutes we have covered the decision taken for NE states from July 2011 to December 2013 which  is available at – https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/. In this analysis, we have covered the same for an extended period. In these five years TAC has accepted project proposals worth of 5515.46 crores. In calculating the total cost of the projects considered we have considered only the projects whose proposals were given clearance by TAC. In these five years, some of the projects also made two appearances with revised costs. In such cases the higher revised cost has been taken into consideration, e.g. Khuga Multipurpose Project and Dolaithabi Barrage Project, both located in Manipur were accepted by the committee in its 100th meeting (held on 9th October 2009) with revised cost of Rs 381.28 crore and 251.52 crore respectively. In the 115th meeting (held on 24th July 2012) of the TAC, these two projects were considered again where the cost for Khuga Project was Rs. 433.91 cr and for Dolaithabi Project it was Rs. 360.05 Cr. The same is the case for the Thoubal Multipurpose Project which appeared in 101st and 115th meeting of the TAC.

Within these five years, TAC has given financial clearance to 26 flood and erosion control projects and majority of these projects are from Assam. The committee gave the clearance to 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects.[2] The committee also gave clearance to a strom water drainage improvement project below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong in Sikkim within this period.

In this period, largest no of considered (25) and approved (20) projects were from Assam. Assam also has the maximum cost of projects among all states (Rs. 2631.99 Cr). Highest number of projects were considered (16) and approved (14) in the year 2009, with total cost of Rs 2321 Crores, which too was highest among all the years.

As found in our previous analysis, in the last five year from 2009 to 2013 TAC has not rejected a single project. Five projects had been deferred but were approved in the subsequent meetings within the same period. In the 108th meeting (held on 4th January 2011), the TAC did not discuss two projects on the Brahmaputra river stating “It was observed that the flood control and anti erosion scheme of Brahmaputra Board are implemented through Central Fund, which do not require investment clearance from the Planning Commission. Therefore, these schemes need not be put up to the Advisory Committee. However, the technical aspect of such project may be looked into by Central Water Commission as per past practice.”  But both these projects were reconsidered in the 110th meeting of TAC (held on 20th July 2011) and were cleared by the committee.

So this seems like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. Reading of the minutes of the meetings also reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the questions for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the projects suffer. Nor is there an discussion about the performance of the projects.

As we noted earlier, this committee functions in most non transparent, non participatory and unaccountable way. Neither the minutes nor the agenda notes of the meetings are in public domain. Following our letters along with TAC analysis in April 2011, addressed to Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission and members of the National Advisory Council, for the first time, TAC minutes were put up on CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.gov.in/main/webpages/TAC%20minutes.html). However, the last uploaded minutes were for the 115th meeting held in July 2012, after which minutes have stopped being uploaded. Secondly, some of the links are not working and all the files are unnecessarily large PDF files since only scanned pages of the minutes are put up, in place of the PDFs of normal word files, which would be of much smaller size. The TAC also has no independent, non government members, all the members are government officials. As we wrote to MoWR and Planning Commission in April 2011 and again in March 2014, there is urgent need for TAC to have  such members so that they provide objective perspective about the projects that come up before TAC.

The importance of functioning of this committee cannot be over emphasised. As we  wrote  in our letter to MoWR and Planning Commission, TAC “considers dozens of such projects with huge economic, social, environmental and other implications for the country in every one of its meetings. All of these projects are supposed to be public purpose projects, and are taken up using public resources. The Planning Commission accords investment clearance to the projects only after the TAC clearance. This Committee’s decisions are perhaps the ones which impact on India as a whole the most – as they relate to land and water – which are the basic life sustaining and livelihood providing resources for the people.”

It is high time that first effective steps are taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable.

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

State No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 106.6
Assam 25 20 2631.99
Manipur 10 10 2268.99
Meghalaya 1 1 5.63
Sikkim 1 1 48.55
Tripura 6 6 453.7

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 5 years period.

Year-wise List of Projects Cleared by TAC

Year No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
2009 16 14 2321
2010 5 5 663.67
2011 12 9 497.33
2012 5 5 2208.81
2013 9 9 1439.45

Meeting-wise List Projects Cleared by TAC January 2009 to December 2013

Sl. No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
95th 20.01.2009 4 3 1 0 196.07
96th 16.02.2009 2 2 0 0 168.14
100th 09.10.2009 6 5 1 0 264.73
101st 30.11.2009 4 4 0 0 77.26
102nd 28.01.2010 1 1 0 0 59.91
103rd 11.03.2010 1 1 0 0 302.22
106th 16.09.2010 3 3 0 0 301.54
108th 04.01.2011 2 0 2 0 0
109th 04.03.2011 3 3 0 0 70.13
110th 20.07.2011 5 4 1 0 211.56
111th 17.08.2011 1 1 0 0 167.09
112th 14.09.2011 1 1 0 0 48.55
115th 24.07.2012 5 5 0 0 2208.81
117th 21.03.2013 1 1 0 0 155.87
118th 30.07.2013 2 2 0 0 467.38
119th 29.08.2013 2 2 0 0 601.67
120th 13.09.2013 1 1 0 0 42.96
121st 08.10.2013 2 2 0 0 146.01
122nd 20.12.2013 1 1 0 0 25.56
Total   47 42 5 0 5515.46

95th meeting (20.01.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 196.07 crores (revised costs have been taken into consideration)

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Protection of Sialmari Area Morigaon/ AS 2002 B’putra 14.29 (25.73) Accepted
2 Protection of Bhojaikhati, Doligaon and Ulubari AS 2002 B’putra 14.52 (27.92) Accepted
3 Protection of Majuli Island Ph II-III AS New B’putra 116.02 Deferred the proposal with suggestion to prepare the cost at current prices.
4 Raising & strengthening Dyke from from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti erosion measures AS New B’putra 142.42 Accepted

96th meeting (16.02.2009): Accepted Total – Rs 168.14 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Flood protection of Majuli Island Ph-II & III AS New B’putra 115.03 Accepted
2 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New B’putra 23.32(53.11) Accepted partially & suggested that proposal of coffer dam, pilot channel, etc. may be put up to the Standing Committee for expert opinion

100th meeting (09.10.2009): Accepted: TOTAL – Rs 897.53 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Borolia Irrigation Project AS 1980 Brahmaputra 92 m 6.775 (135.93) 9717 15,000 Ha Deferred due to non-submission of State Finance Concurrence
2 Khuga Multipurpose (Major- Revised) Manipur 1980 Khuga/ Imphal 230 m 15 (381.28) 9575 14,755 Ha Accepted
3 Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Med Revised) Manipur 1992 Iril/ Manipur 79 m 18.86 (251.52) 5,500 7,545 Ha
4 Gumti Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1979 Gumti 96 m 5.88 (83.01) 4,486 9,800 ha Accepted
5 Khowai Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1980 Khowai 96 m 7.10 (83.01) 4,515 9,320 Ha Accepted
6 Manu Irrigation Project Tripura 1981 Manu 82 m 8.18 (98.71) 4,198 7,600 Ha Accepted

101st meeting (30.11.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 1059.26 crores

SN Project State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA/ flood prot. Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Raising & strengthening to Puthimari embankment Assam New B’putra NA 30.23 15000 Ha NA Accepted
2 Anti Erosion measures to protect left B’putra Dyke Assam New B’putra NA 27.97 5000 Ha NA Accepted
3 Protection of Gakhirkhitee and its adjoining areas Assam New B’putra NA 19.06 20,000 Ha NA Accepted
4 Thoubal Multipurpose Project (revised) Manipur 1980 Thoubal/ Imphal 1074 m 47.25 (982) 21,862 ha 33,449 Ha Accepted

102nd meeting (28.01.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 59.91 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original Cost-CrRs Benefit-flood protsn Decision
1 Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Dist Assam New Brahmaputra 59.91 18,000 Ha Accepted

103rd meeting (11.03.2010): Accepted: TOTAL Cost of approved projects: Rs 302.22 crores

Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs CCA (Ha) Annual Irrigation (Ha) Decision
Champamati Irrigation Project Chirag/AS 1980 Champamati/B’putra 258.5 m 15.32 (309.22) 17,414 24,994 Accepted

106th meeting (16.09.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 301.54 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Raising & strengthening of tributary dyke on both banks of Kopili River Assam New Kopilli/ B’putra 110.72 Accepted
2 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Dibrugarh/ Assam New Brahmaputra 61.33 Accepted
3 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Palasbari/ Assam New Brahmaputra 129.49 Accepted

108th meeting (04.01.2011): Accepted TOTAL- Rs 0

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New Brahmaputra 23.32(53.11) The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.
2 Protection of Majuli Island from flood & erosion, Ph II-III AS New Brahmaputra 116.02 The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.

109th meeting (04.03.2011): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 70.13crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Dikrong Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Dikrong 23.68 Accepted
2 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Bhareli sub Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Bhareli 16.81 Accepted
3 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Siyom Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Siyom 29.64 Accepted

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

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

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

Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost decision
Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon Sonitpur/Assam New Brahmaputra Rs 167.09 Cr Accepted

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

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

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

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

 

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 155.87 crores

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

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 467.38 crores

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

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

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

 

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

Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal W Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

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

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

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

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

 Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar

————————————–

[1]While this article only contains the details of the North East India Projects considered in TAC for the five years, we hope to soon provide details of the projects considered by TAC from all over India.

[2] Sicne Khuga Multipurpose, Thoubal Multipurpose and Dolaithabi barrage project, all from Manipur appears twice in this period, they have calculated only for once here.

[3] Feature image – Khuga Mutipurpose project. Image courtesy – http://manipuronline.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

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

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

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

box text

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

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dams

Dam’ned: A Film on Polavaram Dam Give Voice to the Unheard

At a time when the creation of separate Telengana state from Andhra Pradesh is making headlines in the national media, the issue Polavaram dam seems to have been sidelined in media. But Polavaram dam holds huge significance in this situation since construction of this dam is one of the condition laid down by the center in order to create state of Telengana bifurcating the state of Andhra Pradesh. The dam though has no legally tenable clearance, Odisha and Chhattisgarh continue to oppose it and there are cases pending against the project in the Supreme Court. 

Location map of Polavaram with the Submergence area
Location map of Polavaram with the Submergence area

Now a 2013 film by social activist and filmmaker Saraswati Kavula “Dam’ned” documents plight of the people being affected by the Polavaram dam. The film also brings out the critical issues associated with the construction of this mega dam which were rarely covered by any media. The film is available in four parts on youtube, see: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb4JjIYab5w_dFkHwkmkrHQ?feature=g-user-u.

The 71 minutes film is a brilliant documentation of peoples sentiments associated with the river, land and a project which will submerge all of these. Within these 71 minutes the film brings to light the multitude and complexity of issues associated with this mega project. But before getting into that, a brief about this gigantic project has been provided, as given in the film. 

The Polavaram Project Polavaram is one of the most controversial dam projects in India. It is also the largest dam in India in terms of the number of people it would displace. The dam will be located near Polavaram village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, an area bordering Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The dam aims to irrigate 7,21,000 acres of land in four districts of Andhra Pradesh i.e. West Godavari, East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam and Krishna districts. The project proponent claims that this project will also provide drinking water to 540 villages of Vishakhapatnam district along with the city of Vizag and to provide water to industries located in Vishakhapatnam district. The project also aims to transfer 80 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Godavari to Krishna river basin.

The cost of mega plan will be majorly born by the ethnic tribal people of Andhra as well Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The dam will submerge 300 villages displacing 2,00,000 people. The submergence area will be so huge that the back waters of the dam go all upto Sabari river in Chattisgarh and Sileru river in Odisha. This submergence area will cover 10,000 acres of biodiversity rich forest and also partially submerge the Papikundulum wildlife sanctuary. The people living in these areas are predominantly ‘adivasis’ belonging to Koya and Konda Reddy tribes. There is a substantial number of no-tribal people, majority of the belonging to Dalits and backward classes. In numbers nearly 200 out of the 300 submerged villages are adivasi villages.   

Why this Film is Important The film is threaded around people’s strong links with the land, forest, biodiversity and river. Throughout the film how people have associated themselves with the natural resources and how breaking this association is inviting havoc for the economic conditions and social relations have been depicted brilliantly.

This is a land where our ancestors have been living for ages and we won’t leave it at any cost” such sentiments have been echoed throughout the history in most cases of displacement caused due to dams or any other project displacing people. This film on Polavaram documents with videos why and how this is such a crucial case against such projects. The film shows how displacing people from one place and giving them compensation either in terms of money or in rare cases some land has done little to improve  the conditions of the people and has in fact impoverished and disempowered the people. This, as the film very clearly shows, has thrown them in to a life of poverty and uncertainty.

The film is packed with interviews of the people affected by the dam either due to submergence or due to other project components like canal construction. The filmmaker also interviewed experts from the field to show how the construction of Polavaram dam violates legal norms, is technically not feasible and takes no lesson from the experiences of construction of similar project in other parts of the country and how better options exist.

The personal interviews done brings to light how the people have little information about the project in Andhra Pradesh and have literally no information in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. In Andhra Pradesh, the government is also building infrastructure such as roads and buildings in areas which have been identified as submergence areas. This rather than helping people is creating confusions. There has been no environment or social impact assessment or public consultations in Chhattisgarh or Odisha, nor any plans for rehabilitation or environmental management. The Polavaram project got environment clearance in Oct 2005 but till 2013, in Andhra Pradesh out of the 276 submergence villages only 30 to 40 villages have been receiving compensation and that too only partly for their land only.

Complexities with Compensation: Monetary The film also brings out what is actually happening with the money given as compensation. The compensation that was given to one affected family, loosing 1.5 acres of land, was Rs. 1,68,000. When asked what did they do with the money, the head of the family said that they distributed the money among the family members where each person got around Rs. 10,000. People from Khammam district narrated the story of how they have been looted in the process of getting the compensation cheques from the government officials and lawyers.  People were also cheated by insurance companies which came to these areas in large numbers posing as banks after people received their cheques.  People also believed that after the project compensation was given the social relations in villages have deteriorated. One of the ladies from an affected family said “Many people died since the money came… drinking heavily and died… People are fighting among themselves since the money came.” clip 3

The Bone of Contention: Land The film shows that even in case of the compensation received in the form of land, why the result is equally distressful.  In a rehabilitation colony in East Godavari district few males are to be found since they have migrated to the cities to find work. People said that there is no farmland for them to work nor there is any work under MGNREGA. In Kuruturu in West Godavari district, the conflict over land between tribal and non-tribal people have intensified since displaced people were given disputed land as part of their rehabilitation plan. Many people who were given such land returned to their original villages due to these conflicts. They now conclude: “we have decided that its better we die in the Godavari, rather then go over there.” Some of the affected people (e.g. in Kunta block in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh) face double displacement. The people of this area were forced to shift to Salwa Judum camps due to the conflict between Maoist and Salwa Judum since 2005. But at a time when they were returning to their villages to resume their lives, they were told that they will again had to leave their villages as they will be submerged by the Polavaram dam.

Canals Completed without any work on the Dam The film also throws light on drawback of the construction plan of the Polavaram dam. The films shows that the construction work of the irrigation canals of the project is almost complete at a time when no progress has been made in the construction of the main dam. This project, as Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP points out in the film, resembles the Rs 75,000 crore Maharastra irrigation scam where canals were constructed to fulfill the interests of the construction lobby without doing any work on the main dam. The massive Andhra Irrigation Scam is only beginning to surface, as pointed out in a recent CAG report[i]

Embankments as Huge as ‘China Walls’ The film shows that the proposal to construct embankments as huge as the ‘China wall’ on Sabari and Sileru rivers of Chhattisgarh and Odisha to prevent submergence of the areas in these states can only be possible on paper. The plan to construct embankment came as response to Orissa High Court order which said that Polavram project cannot submerge the areas of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. However, embankments were not a part of the original construction plan which received clearance from Environment Ministry. Nor has there been any environment or social impact assessment or feasibility study based on ground realities of the embankment proposal. There has also been no public consultations in these affected areas.

Experts say construction of such embankments would be a huge blunder of the Polavaram project. In the film Prof. T. Shivaji Rao of Center of Environment Studies in GITAM Univeristy, Vizag opined that with embankments there will be greater damage for Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Andhra Pradesh has also made a plan to put 16 lifts at different points on the embankments on Sabari and Sileru rivers to lift the water from the tributaries to the main river during flooding season. During rains these lifts are to lift and pump the water over the embankment walls and pour it in the river. This is doomed right from the beginning. The film shows this by bringing a detailed account of the experience of similar sluice gate scheme on the Godavari embankment in Bhadrachalam where it failed miserably. The sluices got closed up leading to waterlogging and inundation of houses.

There is no doubt that this film is a very detailed documentation of the issues related with Polavaram dam. The filmmaker could have added some voices from the government or project authorities to give a complete picture. In the film serious concerns were raised against how the government has handled the whole issue of Polavaram. I would recommend all concerned must watch this film. For a copy, either see the youtube link given above or write to the film maker: skavula09@gmail.com, the price of a copy of the film is Rs 350/- including postage charges of Rs 50/-. Do watch and spread the word!

Parag Jyoti Saikia