DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 230123: Welcome decision of FAC to deny clearance to Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:- Upper Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Source: Wikipedia Commons/IWP)

It’s rather rare that we get a hydropower project related decision from official decision makers that can be welcomed. It has happened this week when the MoEF’s (Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change) Forest Advisory Committee declined to give forest clearance to the controversial 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang sub basin of Brahmaputra basin in Arunachal Pradesh and North East India. The project was under consideration for this clearance since 2014 and finally in the meeting on Dec 27, 2022, FAC conveyed that the current proposal cannot be considered for the clearance and revised proposal may be submitted. It is not a blanket rejection of the project, but considering the history of consideration of this project in FAC, it is closest we can come to that.

It is also welcome to know that the FAC has also looked at the poor track record of compliance of conditions of earlier forest clearances for the hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh among the many reasons why the project is rejected in current form. Arunachal Pradesh may do well to improve its track record before applying for forest clearance to any new projects in the state.

This decision is also a lesson for the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and also for MoEF itself for not even looking at the track record of compliance of the conditions of environment clearances that the EAC and MoEF give to the river valley and hydropower projects. They also never look at the implementation of the Environment Management Plans. Same is the case with the MoEF’s National Board of Wildlife.

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Sand Mining

2022: Riverbed Mining Destroying Indian River Eco-system & Freshwater Species

(Feature image sources: Clock wise (1) Mahseer fish/ Mongabay India, April 2022. (2) Gharials in Chambal/India Today, July 2022. (3) Gangetic dolphin/ECO NE. (4) Smooth-coated Otters in Cauvery/Round Glass, Jan. 2023.)

Indiscriminate mining of riverbeds for sand, gravel, pebbles have been rampant across the country increasingly damaging India’s rivers. The incidents of illegal sand mining, mafias, administrative actions & inactions, govt policies and court cases are routinely covered by the media. However the irreversible impacts of destructive riverbed mining operations on fresh water species and river eco-system are little understood, least explored, rarely covered by media and fails to attract the required attention from govts, judiciary and public at large. 

To some extent, we have been monitoring and highlighting the loop holes in sand mining governance. As part of our annual overview, in 2022 we have complied this separate report underlining the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on rivers and on aquatic life, fresh water species including endangered gharials, dolphins, turtles, fish etc.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 160123: Top Court appeals for EIAs for Urban Development: Welcome, but…

The Supreme Court of India, while disposing of a petition related Chandigarh, in its order on January 10, 2023 has said: “Before we part with this judgement, we observe that it is high time that the legislature, executive, and the policymakers at the centre and state levels take note of the damages to the environment on account of haphazard development and take a call to take necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment… We therefore appeal to the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre as well as at the State levels to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment studies before permitting urban development.”

This is most welcome. And urgently required. That India’s urban development is happening at the cost of life sustaining environment resources including rivers, water bodies, forests, wetlands among others is well known. That the government sees all requirements of environmental scrutiny as road blocks is also well known. The consequences of this are clear for all concerned, not only in case of Bangalore as cited by the Supreme Court Bench, but also in case of Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Ernakulam, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Joshimath, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and so on. So is there a good chance that the apex court suggestion will be followed either in letter or in spirit? Unlikely. So what is clearly required is that the apex court emphatically directs the centre and states in this regard and follows it up with ensuring its implementation.

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Dam Safety

2022: Growing Concerns over Dam Safety, Sustainability & Impacts

(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.

Please see for links to SANDRP’s analysis on the issues in 2022 in India covering: (1) Dam induced floods, (2) Dam safety and related issues of Polavaram project, (3) Disasters and accidents caused by hydro power projects in Himalayan states, (4) Growing and ongoing resistance against destructive dams and hydro projects, (5) Fly ash dam breaches.

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Hydro Disaster

2022: Accidents & Damages related to Hydro projects in India

In this annual review, SANDRP compiles the hydro power related accidents, disasters and damages in North West and North East Himalayan states during 2022. It also covers relevant reports revealing gradual decline in power generation by hydro power projects amid growing concerns over physical and financial viabilities of new projects. There are also reports highlighting the looming climatic and geological threats over these projects. It is good to see that taking lessons from Chamoli disaster in Feb. 2021, NDMA has officially asked central govt not to rely on hydro power.

In previous parts of yearend roundups, we have covered (1) Dam induced floods & damages, (2) Fly ash dam breach incidents, (3) Impact of floods on Polavaram project, (4) People’s resistance against dams and hydro projects. Please see links for reports tracking hydro power projects related accidents and disasters in 2021 and 2020.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 191222: Question marks over viability of pump hydro projects

(Feature Image: 1772 Mw PSHPs Spain. Photo courtesy of Iberdrola/ ENR)

The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.

This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.

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Dam floods

Dam Floods, Failures and Disasters in 2022

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.    

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 121222: Green Hydrogen from Hydropower is false solution

(Feature Image: Reservoir of Vyasi hydro project dam on Yamuna river in Dehradun. Credit: Varsha Singh/The Third Pole.)

A section of the hydro lobby has been trying to push hydropower in the name of producing green hydrogen as an alternative energy source. However, it has been known for a long time that this is a false solution. There cannot be green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower as not only hydropower projects have huge social and environmental footprint, they also have huge carbon footprint as the following article shows. It would be best to out rightly reject any such claim of green hydrogen when sourced from hydropower project.  

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 051222: World Soil Day 2022: Soil where food begins

(Feature Image:-Several practical principles for soil and water conservations are important to be understood and combined. Source Wiki Farmer)

United Nations is celebrating today, i.e. Dec 5, as the World Soil day, the theme this year is “Soils: Where food begins”. The World Soil Day is held on Dec 5 each year since 2014, following the recommendation the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day as a global awareness raising platform.

In the context of climate change, the soil organic content assumes additional huge significance. While the organic content in soils is decreasing globally, it can be reversed. If we can increase the soil organic content, it will not only help in mitigation of climate change by helping reduce the carbon in the atmosphere, it can also help in adaptation as soil with higher organic context has much greater capacity to store soil moisture, which can then be helpful in both flood mitigation (as more of the rain water is stored in the soil), and drought mitigation (soils with most moisture storage will help crops survive longer dry spells).

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Global Water Report

WMO Global Water Report asks for better & shared water data; reduced terrestrial water storage in North India

On Nov 29, 2022, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published its first State of Global Water Resources report to assess the effects of climate, environmental and societal change on the Earth’s water resources. The aim of this annual report is to support monitoring and management of global freshwater resources in an era of growing demand and limited supplies. For report and other related materials, see: https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/water/state-of-global-water-resources

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