Dams · Ministry of Environment and Forests

Open letter to Rahul Gandhi as he lays foundation stone of Parwan Dam: A Dam meant for thermal power projects

Reports[1] indicate that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is to lay foundation stone for the controversial Parwan Irrigation Project in Jhalawar district in Rajasthan (see the map above, taken from Down to Earth), before speaking at public meeting in Baran district on Tuesday, Sept 17, 2013. Detailed analysis of official documents and other reliable accounts indicate that this unnecessary dam is seemingly being pushed to supply water to some of the proposed thermal power projects in Baran and Jhalawar districts.

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The project will require 12248 ha of land including submergence of massive 9810 ha of land as per conservative government estimates, displacing about 100 000 people[2] from at least 67 villages of Baran and Jhalawar districts in Hadauti region of Rajasthan. It will require at least 1835 ha of forest land, and will affect at least 2 lakh trees only on this forest land, lakhs of trees on non forest land will also stand destroyed. Most of the 1.31 lakh Ha of land in Baran, Jhalawar and Kota districts that is supposedly to get irrigation is already irrigated. These districts have average rainfall of 842 mm (Baran[3]), 923.5 mm (Jhalawar[4]) and 804 mm (Kota[5]), which is high by Rajasthan standards. If there is adequate harvesting of this rainwater, groundwater levels would certainly rise and remain sustainable with appropriate cropping pattern. This has happened in neighbouring Alwar and Jaipur districts.

This Rs 2000 crore dam with huge impacts is certainly not required for this purpose.

From all accounts, in reality the dam seems to be pushed for thermal power projects like the 1320 MW Kawai coal based thermal power project of Adani[6], 1320 MW coal based Chhabra[7] thermal power project of Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd and the 330 MW gas based thermal power project of RRVUN at the same location. Very strangely, these projects applied for environmental clearance based on water supply from Parwan dam, even when Parwan dam does  not have all the required statutory clearances, and when work its yet to start. The MoEF should have refused to sanction these thermal power projects before Parwan dam was in place.

This action of the MoEF speaks volumes about poor environmental governance due to which the TPS were cleared based on water from a project that is yet to see even foundation stone or all necessary clearances! The allocation for thermal power projects has increased[8] from earlier 40 Million Cubic meters (MCM) to 79 MCM to 87.8 MCM and this is likely to increase further considering these allocations did not take into account the transmission and evaporation losses.

Manipulated clearance process In fact the Parwan dam still does not have all the necessary statutory clearances. A quick look at the way Parwan got various clearances:

Þ    Environmental Impact Assessment From the minutes of the 40th and 45th meetings of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Committee held in August and December 2010 it is clear that the EIA of the project did not have: Full social impact assessment, Full R&R Plan with Categories of Project affected persons and land for each category, Proper Dam break analysis, proper command area development plan with cropping pattern or necessary irrigation intensity (Only 14% kharif irrigation intensity provided as noted by EAC) and drainage plan, muck disposal plan. The basic facts in the EIA were wrong and the EAC should have rejected the EIA.

Þ    Contradictions in EIA The EIA is full of contradictory information. For example it says the forest land coming under submergence is 1608.59 ha when the FAC form A[9] says that submerging forest land is 1731.48 ha. This is a very big difference by any standards.

Þ    R & R Plan Firstly, there is such huge difference in the figures of displaced and affected people in various documents; it is clear there has been no credible social impact assessment. For example, EAC notes that 2722 houses to be submerged, 3002 (2142 in FAC factsheet in 0413) families to be affected, of which 461 tribal families. No R&R for non tribal families, which is completely unjust. Even for the tribal families there is no adequate provision of agricultural land. FAC sub committee accepts: “Most of these families do not belong to the notified Scheduled Tribes and also do not have any documentary evidence to prove that they are in possession of the forest land for a continuous period of minimum 75 years.” So most of the people will not even be eligible for resettlement or rehabilitation.

Þ    How many people are affected? About 1401 families with population of 8650 persons will be displaced fully while 741 families with 4172 persons will be displaced partially. The ST population comprises 340 families with population of 1524 persons fully displaced and 121 families population 882 persons are partially displaced. However, independent sources are saying that the project will affect more than a lakh of people. This is a huge difference. Track record of past projects shows that official figures are always gross under estimates.

Þ    EAC recommendation However, even when the responses to EAC’s fundamental concerns were not available, EAC recommended clearance to the project in December 2010. This showed how the EAC basically works as a rubber stamp.

Þ    Environment clearance After EAC’s recommendation, the MEF is supposed to issue Environmental clearance. However, a visit to MEF website[10] on September 16, 2013 shows no information about clearance to the project. We learn from other sources that the MEF issued clearance to the project in 2011, but since it is not put up on the MEF website as required under EIA notification and NGT orders, the project will remain open to legal challenge with 30/90 days of MEF putting up the clearance letter on MEF website.

Þ    Wildlife clearance The Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife in its 22nd meeting[11] held on April 25, 2011 considered the project. This was the infamous meeting[12] chaired by the then Union Minister of state (Independent Charge) of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh pushed 59 projects in two hours (average two minutes per project). He reportedly[13] said later that this was done under pressure, but the damage was done.

Þ    Dr M.K. Ranjitsinh[14] and Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda[15] submitted dissent notes, but the minister had predetermined objective and did not listen to any argument. The NBWL decided to clear the project even without knowing if the Shergarh  wildflife sanctuary will be affected, how much water the downstream river will need, what will be the impact of the project on Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary, Rana Pratap Sagar Sanctuary or Chambal River Sanctuary or the project even had done basic options assessment or impact assessment.

Þ    Location with respect to Shergarh WLS One of the key issues about this project is the location of the project with respect to Shergarh Wild Life Sanctuary. As noted by the FAC sub committee, the Parwan Doob Kshetra Hitkari and Jangal Bachao Samiti has been saying that the dam site is right inside the Sanctuary. However, if the project were to affect the WLS, it would require a Supreme Court clearance. To avoid this, manipulations have been going on.

The Site Inspection Report[16] of Forest Advisory Committee noted this issue and conducted a joint inspection in June 2012. The SIR said after this exercise that the proposed dam is 150 m in the upstream of the boundary of the WLS. However, the Parwan Doob Kshetra Hitkari and Jangal Bachao Samiti have contested this conclusion and said there was manipulation in this exercise.

But the EIA of the project, as noted by the 40th and 45th EAC meeting said that the project is five km away from the Shergarh WLS (this itself shows how poor is the EIA and how poor is the appraisal by EAC. Shockingly, even the Environment Clearance letter of 2011 also reportedly says that the project is 5 km away from the WLS, another reason why the EC will remain open to legal challenge.) In June 2013 there was another attempt at resolving this dispute, but again due to heavy rains could not be resolved. Funnily, the NBWL, which should be most concerned about this issue, has shown no concern. Until this issue is satisfactorily resolved, the project cannot go ahead, it will remain open to legal challenge.

Þ    Recommendation of 25 cusecs release The NBWL condition that 25 cusecs (cubic feet per second) water should be released for the environment is not based on any assessment of water requirement for the river and biodiversity in the downstream, since such an assessment has never been done. It seems like another manipulation, based on the fact that Shergarh weir, 10 km downstream from the dam site, has storage capacity of 16 MCM, which is equal to release of 25 cusecs water!

Þ    Gram Sabha resolutions The FAC factsheet[17] agrees that there are contradictory gram sabha resolutions, one set against the project and another submitted by the project authorities in favour of the project. The resolutions submitted by the opposing committee, which is without vested interests, is likely to be correct. There should be an inquiry about the correctness of the gramsabha resolutions by an independent body.

Þ    Forest Advisory Committee The FAC considered the project in its meetings in Sept 2012 and April 2013 and recommended clearance in April 2013 meeting when all the fundamental issues remained unresolved.

Þ    FAC sub-committee A sub committee of FAC visited the project in March 2013. Their report accepts a number of serious anomalies. For example, it says: “FAC sub committee report says: “It (is) a fact that a major part of the command area of the project is presently irrigated by using tube wells… Though there is no mention in the EIA report and other documents, about 79 MCM water from the dam is proposed to be utilized for 1,200 MW and 2,520 MW thermal power plants being constructed at Kawai and Chhabra respectively, in Baran district… It has been accepted by the project proponent that approach road to the historic Kakoni temple will be submerged. Submergence of the approach road will hinder free movement of devotees to the said temple, which may result in public resentment.”

Þ    Forest Clearance After the FAC recommended forest clearance for the project in April 2013 in questionable circumstances, the MEF is supposed to issue in principle forest clearance and than after fulfillment of conditions in the in-principle clearance, it can issue final clearance. A perusal of the MoEF FC website[18] on Sept 16, 2013 shows that the site does not display any of the clearance letters. Our letter to the concerned MoEF officers on Sept 15, 2013 remains unanswered. We came to know through independent sources that in principle forest clearance has been issued in middle of August 2013, final forest clearance will take a long time.

Þ    Compensatory Afforestation Plan Full plan and maps of CAP have not been submitted, says FAC factsheet. It is not even known if the land for CA is free of encroachment, the DFO says it will be ensured when the possession taken, as reported in Factsheet in April 2013. CA land is in 32 villages in at least 32 pieces, the DFO has not even visited all the lands to ascertain if it is suitable for CA and yet DFO has given certificate that it is suitable for CA. This seems like typical case where CA has no chance of success as noted by CAG audit report on CA in Sept 2013. It is completely illegal of CCF, PCCF, state forest department, FAC or MoEF to consider the project without full CAP with all the required details verified on ground.

Þ    CWC clearance The Central Water Commission’s Technical Advisory Committee is supposed to clear all major irrigation projects. This TAC appraisal is supposed to happen only after all the final clearances are given as TAC recommendation is the basis for Planning Commission’s investment clearance. Since the Parwan project does not have the final forest clearance, it cannot be considered by the TAC of CWC. However, we learn that on Friday, Sept 13, 2013, TAC met and cleared the project.

Þ    Planning Commission Investment clearance Project cannot have the Planning Commission Investment Clearance since it does not have all other clearances in place. Without this clearance no funds can be allocated for the project from state or central plans.

Þ    Big irrigation projects not delivering As even Planning Commission and CAG has noted and as SANDRP has been showing through analysis for so many years, since 1992-93, net irrigated area by Major and Medium Irrigation Projects at National level has not seen any increase. There is little sense in spending massive amounts on such projects without understanding this reality. We hope Planning Commission, CWC, Rajasthan government and people concerned with this issue will take heed of this. Unless of course, if the intention is to create reliable reservoirs of water for thermal power projects, as seems to be case here, while pushing projects in the name of irrigation for Rajasthan farmers.

What all this means is that Rs 2332.52 crore project with Rajasthan’s fourth largest reservoir (after Bisalpur, Rana Pratap Sagar and Mahi Bajaj Sagar) is being planned without a proper appraisal or legally supportable clearances. Bull dozing ahead with such a  project which has huge social, environmental and economic costs is not only bound to keep it open to agitations, legal challenges and delays, but is also not likely to have justification in public eye. It can even be politically counter productive. Nehruvian era of trying to win elections through such so called temples of modern era is gone, and our politicians need to learn this fast.

It is hoped that better sense prevails and Mr Rahul Gandhi will ask the project to go through due process rather than laying foundation stone of this controversial project that has more questions than answers.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (https://sandrp.in/)

END NOTES:


[12] http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-30/india/30229554_1_clearance-process-nature-conservation-foundation-nbwl: ““The NBWL members note that in their last meeting during Jairam Ramesh’s tenure as environment minister they were forced to clear most of the 59 proposals to start projects in protected areas – wildlife sanctuaries and national parks – in only two hours… Yet another fact of the same meeting was that 39 clearance proposals were received only two days prior to the meeting leaving very little time, and no working day, for the members to even glance through the proposals.” The NBWL members who have signed the letter include Biswajit Mohanty from the Wildlife Society of Orissa, Asad Rahmani of the Bombay Natural History Society, T R Shankar Raman of the Nature Conservation Foundation, Bivabh Talukdar of Aranyaak, M K Ranjit Sinh, Divyabhanusinh Chavda, Brijendra Singh, Valmik Thapar, Prerna Bindra, Bittu Sehgal, Mitali Kakkar and Uma Ramakrishnan.”

[13] http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/commentary/5903-condemned-by-government-policy.html#sthash.otGYIc9L.dpuf: “Jairam Ramesh later made public the fact that such clearances were “under pressure”.”

[14] “The Parvan major irrigation project, Rajasthan, which will submerge 81.67 sq.km. of the Shergarh Wildlife Sanctuary and what is more, will result in the destruction of approximately 186443 trees, in a tree deficit State like Rajasthan. Furthermore, even though 25cusecs of water is proposed to be continuously released into the Chambal from the proposed dam, this project will result in a major diversion of water from the Chambal, which has already been identified as deficient in water flow to support the last viable populations of the endangered Gharial and the Dolphin, in the April 2011 report prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India at the instance of the MoEF. The report specifically recommends that no further diversion of water from the Chambal should take place if the future survival of the endangered aquatic species mentioned above, is to be secured. There is also no EIA of the project, with regard to the impact upon the aquatic life and ecology of the downstream Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary, Rana Pratap Sagar Sanctuary and the National Chambal Sanctuary”.

[15] “With regard to Parvan major irrigation project in Rajasthan, please record that I had pointed out at the meeting that nearly 2 lac trees need to be inundated/chopped for the purpose. Though I did not mention it then, I feel very strongly that proper EIA of the project must be done.”

Forest Advisory Committee

Can an unjustified dam submerging 1000 ha. be encouraged only because its claimed to be a drinking water project?

Submission to the Forest Advisory Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests urging them not to grant Forest Clearance to Kikvi Drinking water supply Dam coming up in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik,  in the absence of relevant studies and justifications. The project  will submerge  nearly 1000 heactres of agricultural and forest land in Western Ghats, and there is no justification provided that Nashik needs a new source. The city already takes water from 4 dams, is building a fifth weir and is allegedly supplying more drinking water to help  India Bulls Thermal Power Project.

 

To,

Chairperson and members,

Forest Advisory Committee

Ministry of Environment and Forests

Delhi

 Subject: Concerns about Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Project, Brahmanwade, Nashik

 Respected Chairperson and Members,

We see from the agenda uploaded on MoEF Website that the FAC will be considering proposal of Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Dam in BrahmanwadeVillage in Nashik, Maharashtra diverting 172.46 hectares of Forest in its upcoming meeting on 11th and 12th July 2013. The entire submergence of the project is a massive 933.98 hectares in the Northern Western Ghats. Partners from SANDRP visited the site on the 7th July 2013, studied the ecology and talked with the local farmers to be affected by the project. Based on the visit and analysis of Site Inspection report (SIR), FormIA and Factsheet uploaded on MoEF Website, we would like to highlight some strong concerns about this proposal:

  1. No evidence that Nashik needs a new source of drinking water: The Site Inspection Report of the Additional Principal Chief Secretary of Forest Department in June 2013 simply says “The project should be encouraged as it is a drinking water project”.

This is a strange statement coming from Forest Department, entrusted with protecting the dwindling forests of the country. There has been no supporting evidence provided by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone that Nashik actually needs this project for its drinking water supply needs.

In fact, there is no information provided in the Site Inspection Report, FormIA or the Fact sheet justifying the need for this project.

There is no estimation of Nashik’s current water demand, existing drinking water sources, future water demand, options assessment, demand management explored, etc.

In the absence of any such studies, how can Forest Department simply “encourage” a project to divert 172.47 hectares of forest (it will also submerge 776.52 hectares of agricultural land) only because it is a drinking water supply project? This is unacceptable and FAC should ask all the concerned officials to apply their mind before accepting to such proposals, including looking at the justifiability of the proposal and assessment that given project is the best option. This is important for all projects, but particularly so for a project that does even have environmental and social impact assessment.

2. Nashik has a number of existing drinking water supply projects There are already three dams in the upstream of Nashik city on the river Godavari and its tributaries. Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation for drinking water in each of these dams. These include the Gangapur Dam, Kashyapi Dam and Gautami Dam. Kashyapi and Gautami Dams were built to supplement Gangapur Dams water storage because it was silting up[1]. Kikvi project is also being pushed stating the same reason that Gangapur dam is silting up.

In addition, Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation of 350 million cubic feet on the Darna Dam, 28 kms downstream Nashik.

Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) is also building one more weir on DarnaRiver with a capacity of 144 million cubic feet. [2] There is no study to show that Nashik has been using all these available resources efficiently and that it is taking necessary steps to reduce the siltation of the Gangapur dam effectively and also considering the desilting of the reservoir.

It is clear that NMC already has many sources to supply drinking water. With efficient water supply, demand management, effective use of rainwater harvesting and gray water recycling (which have been compulsory since 2009, but which are yet not implemented effectively) the water demand of NMC may come down. These options should be explored first rather than a new dam project that is ecological, economically and socially costly. Forest Clearance to such projects should not be given in the absence of supportive studies.

3. The City Development Plan prepared by Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) under the JNNURM does not consider a new drinking water source in its Phase I work till 2016. Why then is there a hurry to divert forests and submerge agricultural lands? (http://nashikcorporation.gov.in/pagedetail.aspx?id=22&mid=69). Even for the phase beyond 2016, unless there is credible study that shows that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently and has exhausted all available options, there should not be any consideration for the current project.

4. No exploration of desilting Gangapur Dam While the Form IA and Factsheet claim that the project is needed as capacity of Gangapur Dam is decreasing due to siltation, it logically follows that the first attempt should be to arrest siltation and desilting of the reservoir. Gangapur Dam also provides irrigation water. Hence, desilting should be explored seriously. During the current 2012-13 drought, Government had undertaken desilting of some reservoirs in Maharashtra. In fact, the Chief Minister himself said that a capacity of 8 TMC has been added in Pune division due to desilting projects.[3] Thus, desilting should be carried out even before discussing new costly sources.

5. Wrong representation in Form IA FormIA states that there is no dependence on forests of the communities and the project does not involve any rehabilitation. This is incorrect.

The entire project involves submergence of 933.98 hectares of land, with 761.52 hectares of agricultural land. This also includes farm shelters and temporary houses of farmers. Farmers and tribals in this region depend heavily on the forests for a number of produce. Hence, the claim in FormIA that there is no dependence on forests is incorrect and should not be accepted.

In fact, there is a strong opposition to the project by villagers of nine villages which are losing agricultural lands to this project.

6. Fact sheet claims lands under submergence and not irrigated: As our partners witnesses this is a misleading statement. Large proportion of land under submergence is irrigated by groundwater through private shallow wells sunk by farmers. This irrigated area will also be submerged, along with the wells.

7. Over developed region The SIR, Form I and Fact sheet mention that there is no alternative alignment of Kikvi project possible due to existing projects in the upstream and downstream. This gives an idea of the overdeveloped region in terms of projects. One more project in this area will add to the cumulative impacts of the existing projects on ecology as well as sociology, but there is no cumulative impact assessment available.

8. Violation of Forest Rights Act: While it is clearly stated by the State Government in the Fact Sheet that: “10. The project authority has partially fulfilled the compliance under the Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Right) Act, 2006.  The compliance is not in proper format.” (emphasis added), it is surprising to see that the Form IA mentions that the project authority has fulfilled the compliance under Forest Rights Act 2006!

Thus, Forest Clearance should not be recommended unless the status of FRA compliance is known clearly.

9. Restoration of Forests needed, not further diversion The SIR by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone, notes that submergence of 1960 trees “ will have no ill effect on the area, in fact it will have positive impact due to water body”. This is a shocking statement to be coming from the Forest Department. How can loss of 1960 trees have no ill effect? As for the positive impact due to water bodies, this is a baseless claim for a region that has many water bodies and receives 2600-3000 mm rainfall annually.

The further justification given to divert forests is that the forest is pruned and lopped with low density. When partners of SANDRP visited the site on the 7th of July 2013, they found that the region is poorly managed by the Forest Department, with no security. This has encouraged encroachment and lopping. Instead of addressing these problems and restoring the forests under their control, Forest Department is using this as a justification to further divert forests. This argument is not acceptable.

10. No Environment Impact Assessment, Public Hearing or Environmental Clearance process: Due to an unsound and arbitrary exclusion in the EIA Notification 2006, drinking water supply projects are excluded from the ambit of EIA, Public hearing, Environmental Clearance and hence, Environment Management Plan and environment monitoring. The current project will submerge a total of 933.98 hectares of land without these checks and balances and hence, the FAC needs to consider this project very seriously. Not only will this affect the forest, it will also affect the agrarian economy of the region. FAC should first demand a project specific EIA, SIA and also cumulative impact assessment before even considering this project.

11. No mention of environmental flows: The proposed project will be entirely diverting the water of River Kikvi for drinking water use through Gangapur Dam in Nashik. Such a complete diversion of river has a profound ecological and social impact on the downstream. The issue is serious here as this region forms part of the Western Ghats. Hence, there has to be a study of the environmental flows that should be released from the project in the downstream for social and ecological needs.

As the project will not be applying for an Environmental Clearance, FAC needs to pay serious attention to these aspects.

We hope that the Forest Advisory Committee considers this project seriously and not simply as a drinking water supply project. Nashik Municipal Corporation has been reported to be supplying more drinking water to Nashik city than its need. This is allegedly to benefit the India Bulls Thermal Power plant which is based on the treated sewage water from Nashik Municipal Corporation.[4]

In this scenario, FAC should not recommend a forest clearance to this project, with no justification. The points becoming more pertinent considering that this is a project which has a potential to drown nearly 1000 hectares land in the Northern Western Ghats without any project specific EIA, SIA or cumulative impact assessment without any options assessment or study to show that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently.

Looking forward to a point-wise response to the issues raised above.

Thanking You,

Yours sincerely,

Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune

Jui Pethe, Independent Botanist and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik

Amit Tillu , Independent Wildlife Researcher and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik

Environment Impact Assessment · Western Ghats

No Chief Minister Sir, we are not doing social/ecological assessment of large dam projects

Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was the Chief Guest for one day symposium regarding water management in Maharashtra organised by the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune on the 2nd of July 2013.

In his address, the CM raised a number of important topics about water management in Maharashtra. Some of his thoughts were encouraging. He talked about the problems and expense of large irrigation projects, their underperformance and underlined the need for decentralised water management systems. He mentioned that the 2000 crores spent on tankers and animal shelters during 2013 drought was an avoidable expense, if we had developed decentralised water sources. He highlighted the problems of water regulatory authorities like MWRRA. He also mentioned that improper dam operation is a reason behind many disasters like the floods in Surat in 2006 due to Ukai Dam, Sangli floods due to mismanagement of Almatti Dam and stressed that Maharashtra should be concerned about this.

Significantly, he mentioned that while we are assessing the economic costs and efficiency of large dams, we are not looking at their social and ecological and that such assessments should take place. He also said that there should be an in-depth study on the ecological costs of these projects. This is a very welcome statement.

In reality, there has been a huge gap on what he said and what is happening on the ground.

The most blatant example of this is the Kalu Dam where work has stopped currently due to a stay order by the Hon. Bombay High Court. This dam is coming up in the Murbad block of Thane District and falls entirely in the tribal sub plan area and ecologically sensitive region of the Western Ghats. It is set to submerge 1000 hectares of Western Ghats forests and will affect more than 18000 primarily tribal population. The dam, being built by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC,) has not done any Social Impact Assessment as per the National Rehabilitation Policy. Nor has it undertaken an Environmental Impact Assessment or Cumulative Impacts Assessment of its impact on the Forests. The individual and community Forest Rights have not been settled, in violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Despite all this, the construction started illegally, without a Forest Clearance and is halted only because of a petition filed in the High Court by Shramik Mukti Sangathana.

Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011
Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011

The Forest Clearance of this dam was rightfully rejected in 2012 by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). But exactly a year later the Forest Advisory Committee went back on its decision and gave Forest Clearance to this project unjustifiably.

One of the important reasons as, stated by the FAC in in its minutes is that

“(The FAC) also noted that Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharshtra has specifically requested for a review of the decision of the Forest Advisory Committee” (FAC Minutes 3-4th April 2013)

How is it that the CM actually pushed for a Forest Clearance which would destroy over one lakh trees in Western Ghats, without any studies or options assessment?

When we asked this to the CM after this meeting, he replied that there is no law which says that EIA study for a drinking water supply dam is needed. While this is true and attributed to the erroneous omission in the EIA notification 2006, there is no law which says that such studies should not be conducted! Especially for a dam which is going to submerge 1000 hectares of forests and affect 18000 tribals! A Chief Minister with vision would in fact ask for such studies suo motto.

Dams around Mumbai which are mainly for drinking and industrial water supply can together submerge more than 6000 hectares of Forest. Even the State Forest Department under the Chief Minister himself has said that EIA of Kalu Dam is necessary. Chief Conservator of Forests, Central Circle has said that Cumulative impact Assessment of Dams coming up around Mumbai is necessary.

In this scenario, rather than urgently demanding for such a study the CM has in fact pressurised the FAC into giving a Forest Clearance to Kalu Project, WITHOUT any assessments.

Forests in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. 750 hectares of these primer forests will be submerged for the Gargai Dam. Photo: SANDRP
Forests in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. 750 hectares of these primer forests will be submerged for the Gargai Dam. Photo: SANDRP

During his speech, the CM said how important afforestation is. He said that he has asked all departments to undertake afforestation. “The issue is so important that even tanker water should be given for afforestation”. When afforestation is so important, why are we submerging last remaining forests of  Western Ghats without any studies?

Misrepresentation of Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) Report: The CM also said that WGEEP Report has banned all development from Gujarat to Kerala and that the on-going laterite stone mining in Sindhudurga-Ratnagiri districts  is a result of WGEEP which will hamper development in these places. It has laid a blanket ban on development.

CM seems to be entirely misinformed on this count. Firstly the laterite stone mining ban has nothing to do with WGEEP Report, but is in place due to a Supreme Court Order. This point has been reiterated several times and it is surprising to see the CM still claiming this. Secondly the WGEEP has not banned developmental activities, but has said that local communities should be in the driving seat while taking decisions affecting their regions. This is also upheld by several laws including the Forest Rights Act. So CMs statement about the WGEEP is clearly ill informed.

It was great to see the CM mention Climate Change, its impacts, need for advanced weather monitoring, etc. It was also good to hear from him about ecological importance for rivers and their flow. It will be good if environmental flows are released from dams of Maharashtra, as also upheld by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal. This is currently not happening.

The CM seems to have progressive opinions about water and natural resource management. Hence, we are sure that the CM will demand for an Environment Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment and Cumulative Impact Assessment of dams coming up around Mumbai, especially Kalu Dam and will take a critical look at dams coming up across Western Ghats in Konkan being undertaken by KIDC, breaking laws like Forest Conservation Act, Forest Rights Act, Environment Protection Act, National Rehabilitation Policy with impunity. In fact he should see that KIDC and contractors which started work illegally are brought to the books.

We hope that the CM walks his talk about decentralised water management and valuing ecology.

-Parineeta Dandekar and Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

Indavi Tulpule, Shramik Mukti Sangathana

Suhas Kolhekar, Convener, NAPM Maharashtra

Cumulative Impact Assessment · Environment Impact Assessment · Forest Advisory Committee · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Western Ghats

Kalu Dam in Western Ghats: FAC goes back on its word without any justification

Through an unfortunate and short sighted decision, the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has gone back on its decision of rejecting Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam that it took on 2nd April 2012. It reconsidered the project and in its last meeting on 3rd-4th April 2013, and has actually recommended the Kalu Dam project for FC, involving 1000 hecatres of Forests in the Western Ghats. It has done this when all the illegalities and irregularities from the proponent still stand today, entirely unaddressed.

We have sent a submission condemning this decision on behalf of Shramik Mukti Sangathana as well as villagers to be affected by Kalu Dam to the Forest Advisory Committee and Minister of Env and Forests Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan. (see below)
You can support the communities and Forests in Kalu by sending similar letters to MoEF Minister and Forest Advisory Commitee.

Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011
Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011

 

To,

Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan,

Minister of State (IC) for Environment and Forests,

Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi

 

Subject: Request not to grant Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam in Maharashtra due to several procedural and legal irregularities on the part of the Project Proponent and also the Forest Advisory Committee.

 

Respected Madame Minister,

This is to express our utter shock and dismay at FAC’s decision of recommending Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam falling in Western Ghats area in Murbad, Thane District, Maharashtra as seen in the minutes of the FAC meeting of April 3-4, 2013.

Just one year ago on the 2nd of April 2012, the Forest Advisory Committee had rejected this proposal, raising substantial points against the proposal and closed the file. This was a respite for the communities facing displacement, community groups working on the issue, for the Western Ghats ecology and the forests. We had then thanked FAC for this decision of April 2012.

On 4th of April 2013, the same Forest Advisory Committee (now with a changed constitution) went back on its decision and recommended Forest Clearance (FC) to Kalu Dam even when nothing has changed on ground and all of the objections based on which FC was rejected in the first place still stand todayThe Project Proponent (PP): KIDC, Maharashtra Water Resource Department, has not been able to respond in credible way to any of the points raised by the FAC, Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), State Forest Department, affected villagers or civil society organisations.

We strongly condemn this decision by the FAC of recommending Forest Clearance for diverting nearly 1000 hectares of Forests in the Western Ghats. We urge you (i) not to recommend FC for Kalu Dam; (ii) request you to take steps to make Forest Advisory Committee more transparent, responsive and accountable to issues of communities and forests; specifically, all the documents from the project proponent, including all the annexures of the Form A and gram sabha resolutions for the projects on FAC agenda must be on FAC website at least ten days in advance as per CIC orders and as also assured by you in public; (iii) We also urge you to direct action against those responsible for illegal construction of the Kalu dam as noted by the FAC minutes; (iv) urge you ask FAC to hence forth recommend strict action against such violations.

 Major issues about recommending FC to Kalu Dam:

Non-transparent decision making in violation of CIC Orders: None of the documents submitted by the project proponent about the Kalu Project were available in full with all the annexures on the MoEF website even a week before FAC meeting on the 3rd and 4th of April. This is a blatant violation of the CIC orders and we had pointed this out to the FAC through our letter dated March 25, 2013, but the FAC chose to ignore this. As a Minister, you had taken a strong stand against this and had said in October 2012 “These actions and decisions of the officials are unacceptable to me. The forthcoming meeting of the FAC will be postponed, and I shall resolve these (violation of CIC orders and non-compliance of FRA) issues.”[1]

Considering that the lives and livelihoods of about 18000 people will be affected by this project, and when they have the first and foremost right to have all the information on decision making around this project, such irresponsibility on the part of FAC is unacceptable and it is also bad in law. Petition against Kalu Dam is in the High Court of Bombay currently and this point will be raised there.

Complete reliance on Project Proponent’s (PP) claims While recommending FC, the FAC has relied entirely on claims of the proponent, without checking the veracity of the claims or applying its mind. FAC has not even mentioned the numerous submissions made by communities and community-based organisations raising pertinent points against PP’s claims. The FAC needed to keep in mind that the same proponent has gone against its word many times earlier and each time, it has been pointed out to the FAC. It has wilfully violated the Forest Act by starting construction of the project in the absence of FC when the project is to submerge nearly 1000 hectares of land in a biodiversity hotspot, it has gone against its written word when it said that ‘no new project will be required for Mumbai until 2031”, in the process of seeking Stage I Forest Clearance for Shai Project, barely 20 kilometres from Kalu Project.

But the FAC, instead of taking any strict action against the proponent in this regard, has simply accepted its claims, which are again misleading and false.

Grounds for rejection of Kalu Project in 2nd April 2012 by FAC: The FAC minutes state:

·                    Submergence of 18 villages and their connectivity,

·                    Initiation of construction without Forest Clearance,

·                    Breach of commitment given by the Project Proponent during Stage I clearance of Shai Dam,

·                    Location of the dam within 7 kms of Protected Area

·                    Location of the project in eco sensitive Western Ghats

·         Non-furnishing of:  Rehabilitation Plan, Environment Impact Assessment report, Technical Report on Wildlife Status, Gram Sabha resolutions about compliance of Forest Rights Act

 

NONE of the issues stated above are resolved through the PP’s responses as clarified below:

 

·                    No Gram Sabha Resolutions Passed supporting the project:  Misleading the Forest Advisory Committee:  PP has claimed that it has secured Gram Sabha Resolutions from 8 villages out of the 11 villages that will be fully or partially submerged by the dam. In fact, Shramik Mukti Sangathana has letters from 10 Gram Panchayats out of these 11 that they have not issued any such resolutions at any stage. The last resolution in this regard that they passed was AGAINST the project. These were sent to the FAC on 16.11.11.

If the Project Proponent has the resolutions as claimed, why have they not put these up on the FAC website with the necessary documentation from the PP?

Why did the FAC not see the need to ascertain this even when it was pointed out by us in our letter dated 29.10.12 and again in 25.03.13 that no such resolutions exist?

·                    Clear violation of the Forest Conservation Act (1980): The proponent accepts that it violated the Forest Conservation Act (1980) by starting work before an FC, but states that it stopped AFTER High Court Orders. High Court Orders were in response of a PIL filed by Shramik Mukti Sangathana against the illegal nature of the work. So, stopping AFTER HC orders is no justification for committing the illegality. Before the High Court orders, Shramik Mukti Sangathana had written several letters about this violation to the Collector, Chief Secretary and Forest Department and had also served a notice to the PP. It did not stop work then.

 

Considering this, the Forest Advisory Committee ought to have penalised the project proponent for violation of Forest Conservation Act (1980), not recommend the same project for clearance.This only gives out a signal that no action will be taken by the MoEF even after it knows that violation of Forest Act is happening, that too by a state agency.

·                    Continued violation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) It has been pointed out several times to the FAC that Kalu Project is violating the Forest Rights Act (2006) as community and individual claims are yet to be settled. The Forest Rights Act was passed to safeguard historical injustice on Forest-dependent communities, but the FAC itself is encouraging the PP to violate FRA, PESA, Rehabilitation Policy and Forest Conservation Act. You, as a Minister, had reasserted MoEF’s commitment to implementation of Forest Rights Act.

·                    No Rehabilitation Plan has been submitted at the time of recommending Forest Clearance There is no such plan available in public domain, nor has there been any participatory process of approval of the plan with the affected people. A claim of a rehabilitation package of Rs 68.75 Crore does not constitute a Rehabilitation Plan. This point was raised several times by community organisations, State Forest Department, Chief Conservator of Forests as well as the FAC.  Villages to be affected by Kalu Dam fall in Tribal Subplan and attract PESA. Without any legally mandatory process, just the claim of rehabilitation package of Rs 68.75 crore seems good enough for FAC. It was clearly wrong on the part of the FAC to recommend FC based on such claims.

·                    Konkan Irrigation Development Corporations letter that “it is not necessary to construct any new water source till 2031”:  This was submitted to the MoEF while seeking Stage I Forest Clearance for Shai Dam, less than  25 kms from proposed Kalu dam in 2010-11. FAC recommended Stage I Clearance to Shai Dam based on that assurance. In less than 3 years, the proponent feels that Shai dam, whose clearance was obtained on such a claim, will not be sufficient till 2031. This is unjustifiable and tantamount to misleading the FAC with false assurances.

·                    No Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Conducted The Kalu Dam falls in ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. The Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel had categorised the region in ESZ I where no large dams should be permitted. Even as per the Kasturirangan Committee Report, more than 5 villages affected by Kalu Dam are falling in the ESA.

The State forest Department, Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), community groups have all urged that EIA as well as a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the Project has to be done before granting Forest Clearance. In fact, this was one of the conditions laid by the State Forest Department. Looking at the ecologically sensitive location of Kalu Dam and submergence of nearly 1000 hectares of Western Ghats Forest Land, this was a reasonable expectation.

Despite these clear conditions, the PP argues that EIA is not required. And despite this, the FAC recommends FC to this project!

In this context, Section 2.3 (ii) of FCA (1980) read, “Notwithstanding the above, if in the opinion of the Ministry or the Advisory Committee, any proposal should be examined from the environmental angle, it may be required that the project proponent refer the case to the Environment Wing of the MOEF.” So irrespective of the requirement of EIA notification, the FAC has been provided powers to refer to an such project to the environment wing of MoEF or EAC for examination of the project from the environment angle, but FAC failed to do this just under the claim of the PP that EIA is not required under EIA notification.

FAC recommendation that Cumulative Impact Assessment has to be undertaken for drinking water projects around Mumbai is welcome but again, it could have been done before considering this project for clearance and not after recommending clearance. Similarly their recommendation to the MoEF to amend the EIA notification to ensure that such dams are included for environmental impact assessment is welcome, but they could have waited for MEF response rather than recommending Forest Clearance.

In this regard we urge you: (i) immediately change the EIA notification to include Kalu and all such large dams under the ambit of the EIA notification, irrespective of the purpose of the project; (ii) Direct specifically that Kalu Dam require EIA and Env clearance, using the above mentioned part of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and EPA, 1986; (iii) Order a cumulative impact assessment of all the projects in the western ghats region around Kalu dam, as recommended by FAC and (iv) direct that FC for Kalu will NOT be considered till all these requirements are fulfilled.

·                    Forest Conservation Act requires Gram Sabha clearance Moreover, section 2.1(vii)(4) of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 clearly states: “Therefore, whenever any proposal for diversion of forest land is  submitted,  it should be accompanied by a resolution of the ‘Aam Sabha’ of Gram Panchayat/Local Body of the area endorsing the proposal that the project is in the interest of people living in and around the proposed forest land except in cases wherever consent of the local people in one form or  another has been obtained by the State or the project proponents and the same is indicated in the proposal explicitly.  However, it would be required where the project activity on forest land is affecting quality of life of the people residing in nearby areas of the site of diversion; like mining projects, displacement of people in submergence area, etc.” This provision is particularly applicable to a project like Kalu that has not had EIA or public hearing as stated in the same section in FCA, 1980. Recommending FC for Kalu Dam project without fulfilling this requirement is clearly a violation of the FCA, 1980 by the FAC.

We urge you to direct the project proponent to get gram sabha resolutions on the lines mentioned above in FCA Section 2.1(vii)(4) and direct FAC consider the project only after these have been received.

·                    Distance from Protected Area: The submergence of the project is less than 10 kms from Kalsubai Sanctuary. Considering the fact that no EIA is conducted, no report on Wildlife Status exists, this makes ecological impacts of Kalu Dam on Western Ghats ecosystem even more serious. Considering all these issues, FC should have been rejected on this ground alone. In fact the PP goes ahead to say: “No rare or endangered flora or fauna has been reported from this site” How can this be stated when no EIA has been conducted and no wildlife report exists?

·                    The PP states that only “44566” and “44611” that is ‘only’  89177 tress will be felled during and the rest ‘may be’ saved. Ninety thousand trees in Western Ghats is a huge number. But it seems FAC does not see any objection in this. The claim that the rest of the 60 000 trees can be saved is of doubtful credibility. Similarly the claim in the FAC meeting minutes that “No rare or endangered species of flora and fauna has been reported in the area” is also without any credible basis.

 

·                    We would like to reiterate that no options assessment about water supply options to Mumbai has been done. No consideration of rainwater harvesting, using saline water for some uses, grey water recycling, demand management, water use efficiency, and conjunctive groundwater use has been done. The FAC minutes notes this, but from the minutes it seems it has not applied its mind to these issues and recommended FC as a matter of blind support for the project. The mention of the letter from the Chief Minister in the minutes only adds to the suspicion that the FAC has cleared the project without looking into merits of the issue.

·                    Contradictions in FAC conditions? The FAC has recommended FC to the project, with some additional conditions, one of the additional conditions states: “The User agency will abide by all conditions by Regional Office, Bhopal and State Government during inspection of the project.” So the PP has to adhere to all the conditions imposed by the Regional Office, Bhopal and the State forest Department while inspecting the project.

One of the conditions imposed by the Regional office, Bhopal included: “…the State Govt. may be directed to stop all the construction related activities till all the legal formalities and forest, wildlife and environment related studies are completed and a well-considered decision regarding forest diversion is taken based on proper scientific documentation and studies.”

We seem to be in a funny situation now. The FAC, while recommending FC, put a condition that says that decision of FC should not be taken without “proper scientific documentation and studies”, but FAC has done just that! In any case, one implication of this is that the project should not get even first stage FC without the studies recommended by Regional Office, Bhopal, including EIA has been done.

Similarly the State forest department too has asked for (i) Rehabilitation Plan (ii) EIA (iii) technical report from WII on impact of project on wildlife in and around the project area (iv) gram sabha resolutions from all affected villages under FRA. The project should not thus be given even stage I clearance without satisfaction of all these conditions.

Most of these issues have been brought to the attention of the FAC time and again by us, Shramik Mukti Sangathana and other community groups. However, the FAC still went ahead with the incomprehensible decision. Hence, we are writing to you with the hope that after looking at all the points raised above, you will definitely not recommended Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam. We also hope that MoEF will punish violators of FC and FRA Acts to send a strong signal and will take steps to make the present Forest Advisory Committee more transparent, accountable and responsive to issues ailing our forests and forest-dependent communities.

We will look forward to detailed response on this from you. Thanking you for your attention,

Yours Sincerely,

 

Indavi Tulpule: Shramik Mukti Sangathana, Murbad, Thane

 

Affected Villagers of the Kalu Dam:

Anil Kantaram Kawate: Parchonde (Upsarpanch)

Ganpat Deu Mengal: Zadghar (Gram Panchayat Member)

Navsu Shiva Wagh: Shisewadi

Mrs. Sonibai Shiva Wagh

Nama Shankar Shida: Banachi wadi

Maloji Alo Mengal: Bhoirwadi

 Mrs. Tulibai Wakh: Diwanpada

Bhagawan Bhala: Dighephal

Budjhaji Songwan: Wakalwadi

Anil Waman Wakh: Tejwadi  (Phangane)

Shivram Lakhu Hilam: Talegaon

Harbhau Raut: Kasole

Popatrao deshmukh: Jadai

Devram Darwade: Khutal

Ashok Pathare: Khutal

Tulshi Bhau Wagh: Zadghar

Moreshwar Bhala: Zadghar

 

Brian Lobo, Shramik Kashtakari Sanagthana: Dahanu

Surekha Dalawi, Shramik Kranti Sangathana: Raigad

                                                                                                                                                                                                Neema Pathak, Kalpavriksha: Pune 

Parineeta Dandekar, Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams and People: Pune and Delhi