DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 May 2022: Forensic Team report: Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable

A Forensic engineering Team appointed by the USA’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission post the May 19, 2020 failure of Edinville and Sanford Dams in Michigan state of USA has published a 502 page comprehensive report on the dam failure within less than two years of the disaster. The full report published on May 4, 2022 is in public domain and has concluded that the dam failures were foreseeable and preventable.

There are a number of things we can learn from this. Firstly that there are such credible independent assessment of dam failures, we have none in India even after multiple dam failures each year. Secondly, such assessments are promptly in public domain. Thirdly, the reports are completed in less then two years. We have none of these. Even the Dam Safety Act passed by the parliament does not have provisions for any of these.

There are a lot of implications for India here. It means for example that we will never know the real reasons for the dam related disasters. Secondly, we won’t be able to learn any lessons. Thirdly we will never be able to improve the governance of our dams and rivers. Fourthly, we won’t be able to fix accountability.

There is so much at stake related to governance of our dams, but we seem completely unconcerned about it. There is a lot we can learn from others here.

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Groundwater

World Water Day 2022: India’s Positive Groundwater Stories

(Feature image: Suranga: Tunnelling the earth for water https://www.deccanherald.com/spectrum/suranga-tunnelling-the-earth-for-water-1080713.html (12 Feb. 2022)

March 22 is celebrated as World Water Day (WWD) since 1993 to underline the significance of freshwater resources. The theme for 2022 WWD is Groundwater which has become India’s water lifeline at least for the last four decades for most of urban and rural areas, be it supply of potable, irrigation or industrial use. The large scale unsustainable extraction and pollution of this invisible finite resource has been causing grave concern.

However, there are several indigenous viable alternatives and governance mechanism which can reverse the groundwater depletion trend and fulfil water requirements. We here compile top 10 positive groundwater stories of last one year. Similarly, the second part covers urban water options and the third part highlights positive water stories. It is worth mentioning that most of these remarkable efforts are result of MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Authority) scheme.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 March 2022: 25th Anniversary of International Day of Action for Rivers!

14th March is celebrated as International Day of Action for Rivers since 1997 after the resolution at the 1st International meeting of People Affected by Dams in Curitiba, Brazil. At this meeting of Dam affected people from 20 countries (including India) it was decided to celebrate this day as the International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life. It is thrilling to see the celebration continuing and spreading on 25th anniversary of that meeting. The focus this years is on Rivers for Biodiversity. To illustrate how the celebration of this day has spread, in 2021, even during pandemic, the day was celebrated with over 120 events in 32 countries. For details, see: https://www.internationalrivers.org/take-action/international-day-of-action-for-rivers/.

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Ramganga

Uttarakhand: Ensure safe disposal of Rural Road debris

Road connectivity is essential in accessing basic amenities and better life in remote hills of Uttarakhand. Particularly during medical emergencies when each and every minute counts, timely access to nearest road turns decisive factor for survival of grieving persons. For these reasons, many see road construction and connectivity as single point development agenda in rural Uttarakhand.

Syunsal village in Thailisain block of Pauri district is no exception and after years of struggle a 7 km long road is under construction here since first week of December 2021. The village is located in buffer zone of Dudhatoli reserve forest in Chauthan Patti which shares its border with Almora and Chamoli districts. The region is also birth place of several perennial streams forming Binnu river a tributary of Ramganga river.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 Feb 2022: Climate Change intensifying water cycle at double the predicted rate

This should be worrying all water managers, particularly in monsoon driven climate like India. New Research by New South Wales University Science and published in Nature in Feb 2022, based on changes in salinity of sea, a new method, says that the climate change is intensifying the water cycle at more than double the predicted rate. This is also likely to have huge impact on the rainfall pattern and possible increase in frequency of high intensity rainfall events and storms, besides other impacts. This will also have impact on the Probable Maximum Precipitation and Probable Maximum Floods in the dam catchments, and would mean the current spillway capacity of many of our dams wont be adequate. All this also means increased frequency high intensity floods and disasters. Unfortunately, CWC or state dam managers in India are not even looking at these figures. India also needs to urgently take up research into all these aspects for assessing India specific impacts.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Feb 2022: Wake up call: Chairman of Supreme Court HPC Chopra Resigns

(Feature Image: Pillars of elevated road eating into Ganga’s actual riverbed at Rishikesh. Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP, 08 Oct. 2021)

The resignation of Shri Ravi Chopra, chairman of the Supreme Court appointed High Powered Committed to report about the implications and dimensions of the Char Dham Highway in fragile Himalayan region is yet another wake up call for all concerned, including the Supreme Court. Chopra has said that following the Dec 14, 2021 order of the Supreme Court in the Char Dham case, the panel “has been shattered”. Chopra’s resignation letter dated Jan 27, 2022 has only now being made public. The order of Dec 14, 2021 was not only contrary to the order of Sept 8, 2020, but also limited the HPC’s role even in monitoring to less than 30% of the road, that too when the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways have consistently ignored the recommendations of the HPC. Will the resignation have any impact on the apex court of the project or the MoRTH?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 24 Jan 2022: MoEF’s complete surrender: Rating SEIAA on faster clearances

If rating of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA) of various states were to be done, it has to be based on how rigorous, how transparent, how participatory, how well defined, how consistent, how comprehensive, how rules following has been the functioning of the various SEIAA. Such an exercise has to be done by a panel of independent experts, who are experienced and knowledgeable about the various aspects of environmental governance and functioning of these authorities. In fact the exercise should also include the National EIAA too and the various Expert Appraisal Committees under it. It clearly cannot be what the MoEF has now proposed. What MoEF has proposed is completely against all basic norms of environmental governance and is part of MoEF’s complete surrender to the vested interests and not is not in the interest of environment governance. As the Tribune editorial noted, such blatant disregard of the environment is completely unacceptable. Similarly as the TOI editorial said, SEIAAs need to be independent of both business and governments. They should put the environment first, and last. There is a role of judiciary to step in here and ensure that MoEF does not go down this path.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 03 Jan 2022: Are we any safer from Dam Disasters?

In the 2021 year-end review by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Ministry of Water Resources), the passage of the Dam Safety Bill by the parliament figures in headlines. The question is are we any safer from dam disasters due to this? If we take a quick review of the numerous dam disasters just this year and also look at the dam disasters mentioned in this Bulletin that happened just in the last week of the passing year, the answer is clear no. Such disasters include ones in Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Brazil.

There is also the news here of the Uttarakhand agency report about the Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster, about which the official govt agency has said failure of Early Warning System was a factor in the disaster. The bigger disaster is that the state govt has promptly issued show cause notice to the authors of the paper blaming the lack of EWS!

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Dam Safety

Tamil Nadu: Thalavanur check dam collapsed twice within a year

Thalavanur check dam collapsed[i] in morning hours of November 9, 2021. This is the second time the check dam has faced significant damages within a year of its construction. Before this, the same check dam broke down in January, 2021. The first collapse took place 5 months after its inauguration on September 19, 2020. Its construction was started in April 2019.

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