(Feature image: Breach in Karam dam, MP in Aug. 2022. Dainik Jagran)
This annual overview is focused on issues concerning structural and operational safety of dams that arose in 2022. It includes issues related to how climatic threats and siltation is making the large dams unsustainable. It also highlights the impacts of dams on river eco-system and riverine people amid some corrective measures being taken by the various state and central governments including the formation of National Dam Safety Authority.
(Feature image:- This is the second time in the six months that Rautdih village has become inundated by the breach of ash pond embankment in Bokaro. ToI, Oct. 09, 2022)
Most mining companies make dams to store the semi solid slurry waste from the mines. Similarly most thermal power projects have fly ash dams to store the fly ash slurry. These dams store highly toxic slurries but there is little happening by way of regulation, monitoring or compliance at design, construction or operation level. Many of these dams breach or overflow, leading of release of the toxic slurry in the downstream areas. These dams do not even come under monitoring of Central Water Commission or under the dam safety act passed by the parliament. Despite accidents happening with huge adverse consequences, there is no accountability.
This annual overview highlights the dam induced flood disasters, dam failure incidents in India during 2022. This year, the massive floods in Godavari have exposed the flood vulnerability of giant projects like Polavaram and Kaleshwaram. Also there have been multiple dam failures and dam induced floods in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In absence of coordination and data sharing Hirakud induced floods in Mahanadi basin have affected several villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. There have been several instances of unscientific operations of dams and the operators continue to hide behind TINA (There Is No Alternative) excuse. The functioning of CWC as key flood forecasting and management agency has not shown any significant improvement. However, now it has accepted that faulty dam operations can lead to flood in downstream areas. Please see links to our 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 annual compilations on the subject.
In the leaning golden sun, 65 year old Hari Ganpat Nikam dived like dolphin under a wooden contraption in the Vashishti River. He emerged a whole minute later bearing a beautiful woven basket, his right hand placed firmly on its mouth. As he brought the basket closer, he gradually removed his hand. Inside, tens of small fish and crabs shimmered in the evening light.
(Feature image: Flood water rushing through damaged portion of Lateri stop dam. Source: Hum Samvet)
Portion of a stop dam in Lateri Block of Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh collapsed in morning hours of Monday, August 22, 2022 amidst heavy rains. The earthen dam is located at Islamnagar near Murvas in Lateri block of Vidisha district. The stop dam in Betwa basin is reportedly built a year ago by forest department. The reason behind the collapse is stated to be heavy rainfall.
(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.
In pre-monsoon month of May 2022 and first month of south west monsoon season June 2022, there have been Highest Flood Level (HFL) breach incidents at 5 sites on rivers in North East and North India. The rivers have also touched or missed crossing the HFLs at 6 sites in the region in these two months. This include Kopili river at Kampur Level Forecast (LF) site in Nagaon district of Assam breaching HFL[i] in both May and June 2022 months and Barak river at Fulertal LF site in Cachar district, Assam narrowly missing HFL breach in May 2022 and breaching the extreme flood level in June 2022.
(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.
In the third week of May 2022, River Kopili at Kampur Level Forecast (LF) site in Nagaon district of Assam has witnessed Extreme Flood Situation. The flood level at the site not only crossed the Highest Flood Level (HFL) there after 18 years but also stayed over HFL unusually for about 149 hours.
March 14 marks 25th anniversary of International Day of Actions for Rivers, a unique campaign dedicated to indigenous communities striving to protect and preserve their rivers from a whole range of destructive anthropogenic activities. The Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) are among key threats affecting rivers eco-system and riverine communities greatly, in multiple ways.
The resistance against destructive, unviable HEPs growing stronger in India. Over the past one year there has been several protests against hydro projects across the country particularly in Himalayan states. On the occasion of International Day of Actions for rivers celebrating people’s resistance, SANDRP has compiled top ten stories of such community led opposition during the year, along with relevant additional stories. .