(Above: Protest in Bharuch on Oct 8, 2017 when Prime Minister laid foundation stone for Bhadbhut Dam on Narmada)
“Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe” is these days a super hit song in Gujarati, which literally means “Development has gone mad”. In the just concluded Garba (form of traditional social dance in Gujarat) festival, this was hugely popular this year through out Gujarat. The song became popular, even before Prime Minister of India celebrated his birthday on Sept 7 by declaring completion of an incomplete Sardar Sarovar Project, heaping totally unnecessary, unjustified and unjust displacement on 40 000 families of Narmada Valley and killing the largest west flowing river of India. So much for the river rejuvenation claims his government has been making since May 2014. As if to complete the process, they have started another dam on Narmada, few kilometers downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam, at Garudeshwar, even without any environmental impact assessment. Continue reading “India’s Dam Mania gives acche din for Dam lobby and Gando Vikas”→
Sept 17, happens to be birthday for India’s Prime Minister Naredrabhai Modi. We join the Nation in wishing him Happy Birthday.
But the Prime Minister has also decided to celebrate his 2017 birthday by declaring completion of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), as several media reports announced[i]. To achieve this, the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam are closed. The reservoir behind the dam is being filled up to raise water level that was so far at maximum of 121.92 m, to Full Reservoir Level of 138.68 m. This will lead to submergence and displacement of habitat of over 40 000 families of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when their rehabilitation, as required by law, has not happened. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Narendrabhai. But why drown the Narmada Valley this day?”→
On June 17, 2017, a PIB Press Release from Union Ministry of Water Resources announced, “Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared the final raising of Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in Gujarat by lowering of gates and impounding of water in the reservoir upto its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of EL 138.68 mts. The NCA which met here yesterday under the Chairmanship of Dr. Amarjit Singh, Secretary (WR, RD & GR) considered all aspects of environmental and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues.”
A PIL under Article 32 was filed by the NGO, Swaraj Abhiyan praying for directions for declaration of drought and relief in affected areas. The apex court came out with a 3 part judgment earlier this month – the first one dealt with the issue of drought and the latter judgments took up the poor implementation of the National Food Security Act, 200513 (NFSA) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA). These directions largely signify the failure of the governance in tackling drought and suggest actions to be taken hence, we need to be thankful to the petitioners and apex court for this. We also hope the apex court continues to monitor the implementation of the directions.
At least six of the 34 Meteorological divisions of India seems to be facing the prospects of crop failure and drought, if we look at the rainfall in these divisions in last 18 prime monsoon days from June 25, 2015 (monsoon had set in almost all over India by that date) to July 13, 2015, the latest date for which division wise rainfall are available. In these six sub-divisions, the rainfall during these 18 prime monsoon days has been between 0.1 mm to 12.8 mm. Continue reading “Six regions of India facing prospects of crop failure and drought?”→
Above: Just a few hundred meters upstream the proposed Jhari Dam, a tribal woman struggles to find water in the dry Par river bed Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Village of Jhari at the northern most corner of Western Ghats has some of the loveliest houses I have seen. Appreciation for the evolved vernacular architecture goes beyond the obvious urban romanticisng of anything tribal. Homes in this region of tribes like Kokani, Warli, Thakurs, etc, are unique in their architecture, building materials, craftsmanship and the seamless mix of beauty and functionality. The tiled roof of our host Haribhau had intricate wooden trimmings, the mudfloor was cool and the door frame was carved in exquisite motifs. Vines arched and spread in disarray over courtyards. We were assembled under a passion fruit or ‘Rasna’ vine, bursting with white flowers. Inside, cane baskets creaked under the weight of Ragi, Udid and Rice filled to the brim: This year’s harvest has been good, though that’s not always the case. The hosts, both men and women, were busy with lunch preparations. Continue reading “Par-Tapi-Narmada Link: Divided States, United Tribals”→
Above: A girl from the Par Basin. With drinking water problems plaguing her village and the impending diversion project either from Gujarat or Maharashtra, her hardships will only increase. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Even as the second meeting of the Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers was held on the 6th January 2015[i], the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti sought “co-operation of various States in this project” and said that “States can discuss their apprehensions if any, in the next meeting of the committee.” She informed the meeting that on 07 January 2015, she will meet Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri. Devendra Fadnavis to discuss Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada link projects.
Pungent fishy smell is the first thing that grabs your attention in Bhadbhut village in Bharuch District of Gujarat, which lies on the estuary of the mighty Narmada River, as it meets the Arabian Sea. Every alternate shop in every small lane sells fresh fish and by 11 in the morning, first lot of fresh fish is ice packed in thermocol boxes, all set for far off places like Kolkata and Delhi. Before I was told, I saw for myself that fishing in the Narmada Estuary is the backbone of coastal Bharuch district.
Just 5.15 kilometers from here is the planned Bhabhut Barrage on the Narmada River. What will happen to Bharuch if barrage is constructed? This is the reason why I am here. To understand the implications of this barrage on lives of thousands of fisherfolk from this estuary and on the famed Hilsa fish, that mysterious silver river migrant, on which the fishing economy depends nearly exclusively.
Hilsa is a marine fish that arrives in the brackish water of estuary for spawning normally inhabiting the lower region of the estuaries and the foreshore areas of the sea. For India the peak upstream migration of hilsa in most of the rivers is generally in the monsoon months of July and August and continues upto October or November.
Bhadbhut barrage will be constructed at 5.15 km downstream of village Bhadbhut and 25 km upstream of river mouth. It is part of a gargantuan Kalpasar project pushed by the State Government. Kalpasar (pragmatic critics hold that Kalpasar is in fact an abbreviation of Kalpanic Sarovar, an imaginary reservoir) project which is supposed to be one of the biggest in the world proposes to construct a 30 km long dam (one of the longest in the world) across the Gulf of Khambhat between Bharuch and Bhavnagar districts[i]. The reservoir is supposed to trap the water of twelve rivers that empty their water in the gulf, including Narmada, Mahi, Sabarmati, Dhadar and some Saurashtra rivers. It is expected to create a reservoir of 2000 sq km area, over five times the area of Sardar Sarovar, the reservoir capacity is expected to be over 10 billion cubic meters, that is larger than the SSP reservoir capacity. The project is being pushed ignoring serious issues like hydrological-geological-structural feasibility and needless to say, it’s impacts on environment and fisherfolk. The project will destroy the coastal and deltaic fisheries and wetlands.
As SANDRP has been highlighting for some time now, riverine fisherfolk are one of the most disadvantaged and deprived sections in the dam debate throughout the country. It is no different in Narmada. Livelihood of the fisherfolk from Narmada Estuary has been threatened by several industrial estates established across the district and is now on the verge of being destroyed. Yield of Hilsa has been steadily decreasing (from 15319 tonnes to 4866 tonnes during 1993 to 2004[ii]) since commissioning of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) canal and power house in 2006. SSP is built on the Narmada River about 130 km upstream from the estuary. Another dam, Garudeshwar Dam, is under construction downstream from SSP.
Are people here in the estuary aware of the scale of the Kalpasar project? What do these local fisherfolk have to say about this? How have they been coping with the impacts of SSP?
On the lack of study of the downstream environment, the first paragraph from the chapter on this issue from the report of the Independent Review of the Sardar Sarovar Project instituted by the World Bank is worth quoting in full [iii]:
“From the Sardar Sarovar dam to the ocean, the Narmada River runs for 180 kilometers through a rich lowland region which represents about 10% of its catchment area. In the course of our environmental review we sought information that described the ecology of this lower reach of the river, the estuary, and near shore region in the Gulf of Cambay. We hoped to find a description of the aquatic ecosystem, including parameters indicating the quality and quantity of water and its seasonal changes, biological species, processes, and resource linkages. We looked forward to finding a systematic treatment of flow regimes and geomorphology. We expected to find systematic documentation of resource use, from drinking water to fisheries. We thought there would be documents establishing the kinds of physical, biological and socioeconomic changes to be expected as the Sardar Sarovar Projects are brought on stream and more and more of the natural flow is stored, used or diverted out of the river. We looked for a set of ameliorative measures that would be implemented to mitigate impacts. We thought these measures would be scheduled to begin with phased development of the Sardar Sarovar Projects. We hoped they would also be related to the cumulative effects of other developments on the Narmada further upstream, in particular the Narmada Sagar Projects, and to the expansion of industrial activity in the downstream rive basin in Gujarat itself.
In all our expectations we have been disappointed.” (Emphasis Added.)
The paragraph speaks eloquently and what it says it true even till date.
Eager to find answers to these questions, I along with Bhupat Solanki a volunteer from Paryavaran Mitra, an Ahmedabad based NGO, first met Praveen Madhiwala, a fish trader and exporter. As I explain the purpose of my visit to him, his first reaction is “if the dam at Bhadbhut comes up, Hilsa will be finished. Not only that, but the dam will prove to be destructive to the entire estuary.” He explains, “Tidal flow of water spreads 60 KM from sea shore to upstream of the estuary. They are planning to build the barrage just 25 KM upstream of the sea shore. What will happen then to the incoming salt water during high tide? It is bound to spread laterally along the barrage spreading in the coastal region and will be destructive to the settlements along the coastline. Calculating all these numbers on paper is very different than experiencing the destructive power of sea. We know what the sea can do.”
Destruction of Hilsa and other fish by Sardar Sarovar
Kamalesh Madhiwala, an advocate from Bhadbhut adds further. “Yield of Hilsa has drastically reduced after Sardar Sarowar Dam has been built. There has been a reduction of 65 to 70%. Overall water level of the estuary has gone down. Post monsoon the river becomes so dry that we can walk across the riverbed. This had never happened in the past before Sardar Sarovar.” When asked about the claim by Narmada Control Authority that it constantly releases 600 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the dam[iii] to maintain the health of the river and the estuary, he says “We don’t think water is released from the SSP. There is no mechanism to monitor this. If you approach government they will show you on paper that they release 600 cusecs of water every day. But no one maintains the on ground data.” According to him the SSP has affected overall fish variety of the estuary as well. “A decade ago there used to be 70 to 80 types of fish varieties available in the estuary. Now we get only about 10 to 12 fish varieties. Earlier along with Hilsa many other riverine species like Prawns, Mahseer etc. have been commercially equally important which Sardar Sarovar has vanquished. Now the fisher people’s income is solely dependent on Hilsa which is very sensitive species. Reduction of water flow in the river immediately affects the yield of Hilsa. Even though Hilsa is available only for about 4 months of the year, 70% of the income of fisherfolk at present is from sale of Hilsa alone.”
Farcical EIA of proposed Bhadbhut barrage by NEERI
Kamalesh Bhai also points out several lacunae in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has prepared for Bhadbhut Barrage. “The entire study has been an absolute farce. First of all none of the local people were aware of any such study going on. It also grossly underestimates the total population of fisherfolk that will be affected by the Bhadbhut dam.” The report considers the total number of fisherfolk residing in 21 villages to be 12,638 based on more than a decade old data from Census 2001.[iv] According to Kamlesh bhai the actual population residing in the estuary region whose livelihood will be affected by barrage is close to 35 to 40 thousand!
SANDRP had sent detailed critique of the EIA to the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authority before the public hearing for the project held on July 19, 2013. An excerpt from the critique:
“Unclear objectives of the project The objectives of the project stated in the EIA of the project are:
Protection of water quality of Narmada river from salinity due to tidal influence and checking the problems of salinity ingress and deterioration of ground water quality in the upper reaches of Narmada river;
Storage of the regulated release of water from SSP and runoff from free catchment for irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply;
Flood protection of about 400 sq km low lying area covering 17 villages on the left bank of river Narmada;
and Road connectivity between left and right banks, shortening route from Surat/Hajira to Dahej region.
The EIA agency has uncritically accepted these objectives, without assessing if the barrage with low water storage can really fulfill the second the third objective and considering the low salinity level reported by the EIA (mainly based on data provided by the project authorities, again uncritically accepted by NEERI), is the first objective relevant. The fact that the Kalpsar department played such an important role and the fact that it is public knowledge that the barrage is part of the propose Kalpsar project should have been taken note by NEERI. NEERI should have also questioned as to why is this small part of the larger Kalpsar project applying for such piecemeal clearances which is actually in violation of the Supreme Court orders. It should be added here that the Kalpsar project had applied for the TOR clearance from Union Ministry of Env and Forests. The project came up before the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects. SANDRP had then sent a letter to the EAC, saying that based on information provided, the project should not be considered for clearance. In its 41st meeting in Sept 2010, the EAC declined to give TOR clearance to the project, saying that the documentation provided are highly inadequate and need to be more holistic and uptodate pre-feasibility report needs to be provided. The project there after has not gone back to EAC.
However, a small part of that same project, the Bhadbhut barrage is now proposed before the Gujarat State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (http://seiaa.gujarat.gov.in/).”
An edited version of letter about the inadequacies of the EIA report sent from Paryavaran Mitra director to Gujarat Pollution Control Board which has been published by Counterview states that the report fails to assess severity of impact on Hilsa and other migratory fishes and instead tries to imply that fishing activity is only a part time employment for fisher community, which is entirely incorrect.[v] The report proposes fish ladder as a mitigation measure with no specific details. Fisherfolk are not impressed. “Tell me madam, have you ever seen a fish climb a ladder?” asks Kamlesh bhai laughing.
While a fish ladder may or may not work (it is not likely to work for Hilsa and other important fish species, it has not worked anywhere in India so far), the fisher folk are not wrong in ridiculing it. Fish ladders have never been taken seriously by the proponents who put them in. Case in point is Farakka Barrage in West Bengal, where too, a fish lock was supposedly made for Hilsa. It has not been operated for over a decade and current officials have no idea that such a thing exists.
“The NEERI EIA is a complete copy paste job. It has several incidences of plagiarism. It mentions names of places that are found nowhere in this region. This region also comes under PCPIR[vi] project. The PCPIR EIA report does not talk about impact on Hilsa at all!”- Bhupat Bhai adds. “That’s true” says Kamlesh Bhai. “Even after the NEERI completed the report none of the local people had any idea about the project and its impacts. Now we are raising awareness. On 7th July 2014 local fisherfolk organized a protest rally at the District Magistrate office and more than 4000 fisher people were a part of this. This is our fourth rally opposing the project.” When asked if any compensation is being offered for those getting affected by the barrage, I am told none. According to them in the entire argument about the barrage, its impacts etc. there is absolutely no talk about compensating the fisherfolk. They also raised their voices in the public hearing of the project. 1500 farmers and fisherfolk attended the public hearing on July 19 and walked out soon after sharply registering their protest against the proposed project and naming it as “anti-people”.[vii]
When we arrive at Praveen Macchi’s house, his door is adorned with images of Silvery Hilsa. His family has been involved in fishing from generations. When asked about estuary’s overall condition after SSP he confirms the facts stated earlier by Praveen Bhai and Kamalesh Bhai. “We don’t think water is released from SSP and even if it is, it is so meagre that it is nearly useless. The estuary receives water only when the dam overflows. In 2014 the dam overflowed only once which was as late as September. Other than dam overflow only other source of water is releases from River Bed Power House of SSP, leakage from below the dam wall and some water from downstream streams.” Fish yield of this year is about 30% lower than last year when the estuary received water from dam overflow 4 to 5 times in year. “Now water from SSP has been diverted for hydropower generation. After power generation at Canal Head Power House water is released into Narmada canal instead of river/ estuary.”
Pressures on Narmada estuary and livelihoods of thousands
When asked as to how does the Hilsa survive without freshwater water released in the estuary, Praveen Bhai explains “As of now Hilsa arrive at least during monsoon as the river stretch of 130 KM holds rain water. If Bhadbhut barrage is built there will be no free flowing river stretch to support fish breeding. Yield of Hilsa will be hard hit and so will be the fishing industry. Entire population dependent on fishing will lose its livelihood.”
Praveen Bhai told me that the fisher people’s cooperative ‘Bhadbhut Matsya Udyog Sahakari Mandali’ is preparing to file a Public Interest Litigation challenging the barrage project. Is livelihood of more than 30000 people getting affected reason enough to argue for stoppage of the project? Will the courts understand this implication? They did not when impact of SSP on fisher people was argued earlier. Let us hope judiciary is more sensitive to the fisher people’s issue this time.
Praveen Bhai further informs that the overall salinity of the estuary has gone up due to severely restricted freshwater flow into the estuary. Fish diversity has reduced and riverine fish movement is obstructed due to SSP (Sardar Sarovar Project). Hilsa which would be available till December – January is now seen hardly till September as the salinity levels rise rapidly after monsoon. Says Praveen Bhai: “Narmada has been Hilsa’s favoured habitat. Earlier Hilsa was found in Tapi estuary near Surat as well. But after the Ukai dam was constructed only 2 to 5% of Hilsa arrive at the Tapi estuary. Lives of fisherfolk in the estuary have been devastated. The problem of livelihood of these people became so serious that there are instances where women of the community had to get into prostitution.”
The Narmada estuary is already facing growing pressures from industrial estates. Bharuch District has 13 industrial estates with 137 medium and large scale units of chemicals, textiles, plastics, fertiliser related industries etc. Industrial estate of Dahej which is in close proximity to Bhadbhut releases its untreated effluent in the sea near Bharuch. This is affecting the overall water quality of the estuary. Praveen Bhai points out to a very peculiar phenomenon. A completely different genre of crime has evolved in the industrial estates near Bharuch where youth blackmail the companies when the companies discharge untreated effluent into the sea. The companies, hand in glove with police, bribe the blackmailers for keeping quite. Effluents meanwhile go untreated in the river and sea. This is also true of effluents from Ankaleshwar and other industrial estates. The SSP has worsened this situation due to drastic reduction in freshwater flow that earlier used to dilute the industrial, urban and other effluents.
Concerns of fisherfolk We now move towards the banks of Narmada to meet artisanal fisher people there. Boats which can contain upto 5 to 6 people are parked along the banks. Since it is a noon time, hurry burry of fish packing is settling down. One by one tempos from the market are arriving and picking up the packed fish. As we talk with a bunch of fisher people, their worries and concerns tumble out. Several issues emerge while talking to them.
“Government is all set to build a dam destroying our livelihood. As it is government is not extending any kind of support to us river fisherfolk. No bank provides us with loans” one of them speaks.
“Yield of fish has also reduced due to reduced water level of the estuary. Sea water gets contaminated by the untreated effluent that Dahej & other Industrial estates disposes in the sea. This sea water that is highly contaminated with chemicals and heavy metals enters estuary during high tide. This polluted water has also affected the overall fish quality and there is hardly any freshwater from upstream to dilute it because of the dam.Earlier single Hilsa fish used to weigh more than two kilograms. Now it hardly weighs one to 1.25 kgs” says another one.
“With all this polluted water how will the fish grow? It naturally starves” says yet other.
“If Bhadbhut Barrage comes up, Hilsa will no more come here. Our livelihood will be destroyed. Government is not even offering any compensation. No one has been compensated for the impact we have already felt due to the SSP.” They all keep talking anxiously.
They further inform that several farmers in Bharuch who have lost their land in PCPIR project or other industrial estates have shifted to fishing creating more stress in the industry that is already facing a steep decline. Farmers, who are new fisherfolk lack the traditional skills or patience and often fence the estuary and sea with fishing nets in hope of catching Hilsa, which prevents the fishermen’s traditionally used small boats from entering the sea. As they speak, every concern raised is met by a nod by the entire group.
Contrary to this scenario the EIA report summary by NEERI states “… the fresh water storage in upstream of the barrage will provide a favourable environment for intensive fresh water fishery and provision of fish ladder with shiplocks would enhance the fishery activities and fetch greater economic benefits to the people.”[viii] Fisherfolk when asked about this conclusion show the other side of the argument. Fisheries department floats tender for fishing in the dam reservoir. Only big contractors can afford to obtain the contracts. “It’s not a job for small fishermen like us. If the dam comes up all these small boats you see will vanish” they say.
Other than the threatened livelihood, the fisher families in the estuary are also facing several other issues. Wells of fresh water now contain saline water. Many of them used to rely on Narmada River for drinking water. Since the river has gone dry after SSP, they no more receive drinking water from Narmada River. As the water from the estuary has reduced, the wells which have traditionally been an important source of drinking water are now dry or saline. Villages which are closer to the sea are experiencing saline water and also polluted chemical water ingress. “Many of us are having skin problems because we have to go in the chemical water.” I wonder with fishing industry plagued with so many problems if younger generation is at all willing to continue in the same occupation. When asked about this they tell me that for now the traditional skills is the only real education the younger generation has.
Many of them have protested the project at the public hearing. “We all are opposing the dam. Building dams might to do good for contractors, but what about us? Are we not people?” they ask.
The proposed Garudeshwar Dam on Narmada immediate downstream of SSP will further stop the water flow to estuary as it is designed to pump back to SSP the water released from River Bed Power House. The fisherfolk here do not know about this, nor has the government bothered to tell them or do any impact assessment or prepare any rehabilitation or management plan. The only hope is the petition lying before the National Green Tribunal against the Garudeshwar Dam.
I come back with more questions than answers. Praveen Bhai’s home, with his welcoming door adorned with the silvery Hilsa remains in my thoughts for a long while.
An analysis of the available information on water levels and live storage % during February and March 2014 raises questions marks about the reasons for depletion of water levels in these dams when there was no apparent need. It prime facie seems to indicate that this has been done to generate more electricity in view of impending elections. However, this is likely to threaten water security of the people of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat during coming summer months. It could also raise difficulties in post summer period if monsoon is deficit as seems to be indicated by the rapidly developing El Nino conditions. In table below we have given these figures for the Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar Dams, the biggest dams on Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Level change in SSP and NSP between Feb 6 and April 9, 2014
% live storage
% live storage
Note: figures in bracket with those % live storage levels are the figures for % live storage same date last year.
It is clear from the above figures that level and % live storage of water in Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP, on Narmada River in Gujarat, considered Gujarat’s lifeline by Gujarat politicians and government) has drastically reduced from 95% on Feb 6, 2014 to just 22% on March 27, to rise slightly to 31% on April 9. The level last year remained almost constant between 58% and 53% during the same period.
In case of upstream Indira Sagar Project (ISP) in upstream on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh too the level has been drastically reduced from 47% on Feb 6, 2014 to 26% on April 9, 2014. There was no need for this depletion and water stored could have been of use during summer. Here too it seems level has been reduced to generate more power, again at the cost of water security for people of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
It should be noted here that the storage gets depleted to the extent water is released from dams for hydropower generation and when water is released from 1200 MW River Bed Power House (RBPH) of SSP, it is not even useful for irrigation. Only water released through the 250 MW Canal Head Power House (CHPH) of SSP goes into canals and can be used for irrigation or water supply.
There was no need for this depletion and considering the impending summer and likelihood of deficit monsoon in view of developing El Nino conditions. It seems the level has been depleted for generating extra electricity in view of ongoing elections, risking the water security for the Gujarat’s drought prone areas in coming summer. It should be disturbing that water level in SSP should reach such low level of 22% by March 27 this year when the monsoon was above average and water level at SSP reached its highest level till date in the monsoon. This mismanagement also punctures the hole in the oft repeated claim of the Gujarat government that Gujarat is suffering as it is not allowed to increase the dam height. If Gujarat cannot use water available at current dam height in optimal way, where is the case for increasing dam height?
Hydropower Generation The figures of electricity generation from these projects (and also Omkareshwar also on Narmada in Madhya Pradesh between ISP and SSP) from the official website of Central Electricity Authority (http://cea.nic.in/monthly_gen.html) for Feb and March 2014 and 2013 are given below.
Note: All figures in Million Units (One Unit is one Kilowatt hour). All figures from Central Electricity Authority Website. The figures for March 2014 are tentative, but the final figures do not change much as past experience shows. RBPH: River Bed Power House; CHPH: Canal Head Power House; OSP: Omareshwar Hydropower Project; NHDC: Earlier known as Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation (http://www.nhdcindia.com/ a joint venture of Govt of Madhya Pradesh and NHPC Ltd)
It is clear from these figures that electricity figures at SSP and NHDC hydropower stations have certainly been much higher during Feb-March 2014 compared to the same months the previous year. For SSP, the total power generation during Feb March 2014 was 735.35 Million Units, compared to 271.64 MU during the same period last year, the increasing being huge 171% in 2014 compared to the same in 2013. In case of NHDC stations, the generation during Feb Mar 2014 was 689.11 MU, compared to 528.71 in Feb Mar 2013, increase in 2014 period being 30.33% higher in 2014. Thus it is clear that much higher amount of power has been generated during Feb Mar 2014 at SSP and NHDC stations compared to same period previous month, at the cost of depletion of water level in the SSP and ISP. The power benefits from SSP are shared in the ratio of 57: 27: 16 % for MP: Maharashtra: Gujarat.
While people in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are likely to suffer in coming summer and monsoon due to this unjustifiable depletion of these reservoirs, some people are already suffering. For example, as reported by newspapers, Badwani city water supply in Madhya Pradesh has already suffered as the water level in the river has gone the lowest intake level. The report says that Badwani does not even get regular electricity to lift water from the river for city water supply. So even as SSP and NHDC power stations are generating extra power, it is not being made available to such small towns. Worse days are in store, it seems. With electricity demand and rates in Feb and March being lower than in summer, it also raises the question as to how prudent it was to generate this power in winter and not in summer when demands and rates of electricity are higher.
As Energylineindia.com reported on April 14, 2014, “in February 2014, the PLF of thermal power plants was at 68.44% against the target of 71.3% on account of weak off-take of power… reason for lower thermal PLF is higher hydro generation. Hydel plants in February 2014 reported a 7.70% higher generation than what was programmed for the month. Hydel power generation is up by a whopping 25.98% in February 2014 as compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.” This also seems to be the case for March 2014. Thus, higher hydro generation during Feb-March 2014 actually led to backing down of thermal power plants, thus the Plant Load Factor of thermal power plans was lower in these winter months when electricity demands are not at peak. However, when electricity demand will be at peak in coming summer, these projects wont have water to generate power! Who will hold the operators of these projects accountable for this questionable decisions?
Reservoir storage at all India level At all India level, Central Water Commission provides storage situation for 85 reservoirs (37 of these reservoirs have hydropower component with installed capacity over 60 MW and total live storage capacity of 111.73 BCM) in its weekly bulletins, these reservoirs have total live storage capacity of 155.05 BCM (Billion Cubic Meters). On Feb 6, 2014, these reservoirs had a healthy 88.934 BCM in live storage, amounting to 57% of live storage capacity. By April 9, 2014 (the latest CWC bulletin), the storage in these reservoirs had dwindled to 59.581 BCM, just about 38% of live storage capacity. We hope these reservoirs are not further depleted in view of ongoing elections.
Not for the first time This is not happening for the first time in India. During 2004 and 2009 elections too reservoir levels were unjustifiably depleted for additional electricity generation and people suffered in following monsoon when there were deficit monsoons. While in case of Narmada dams, the responsible agencies for reservoir operation decisions are state governments, Narmada Control Authority and Union Ministry of Water Resources in case of other dams, Central Water Commission is also responsible.
This again raises the recurring issue of more transparent, accountable and participatory reservoir management, which is completely absent in India. Without such a regime, politicians are likely to use the reservoir water as per their own agendas, to the detriment of the people and economy.
ARTICLE IN HINDI TRANSLATED BY REHMAT OF MANTHAN ADHYAYAN KENDRA:
ज्यादा बिजली बनाकर नर्मदा का जलस्तर घटाया
मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात में पेयजल सुरक्षा खतरे में
सरदार सरोवर और नर्मदा सागर बाँधों के जलस्तर और उनके उपयोगी भण्डारण (प्रतिशत में) के फरवरी और मार्च 2014 के आँकड़ों के विश्लेषण से इन बाँधों का जलस्तर घटाने पर गंभीर सवाल खड़े हुए हैं क्योकि जाहिर तौर पर ऐसी कोई जरूरत नहीं है। प्रथमदृष्टया यह आम चुनाव के मद्देनज़र ज्यादा बिजली उत्पादन के लिए किया जाना प्रतीत होता है। जलस्तर कम किए जाने से आगामी गर्मी में नर्मदा किनारे स्थित मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात की शहरी आबादियों की जल सुरक्षा खतरे में पड़ने की संभावना है। यदि अल नीनो प्रभाव के कारण बारिश में कमी हुई तो गर्मी के बाद भी जलसंकट बना रह सकता है। इस स्थिति को स्पष्ट करने के लिए नीचे की तालिका में नर्मदा पर गुजरात और मध्यप्रदेश में बने सबसे बड़े बाँधों क्रमशः सरदार सरोवर और इंदिरा सागर के आँकड़े दिए गए हैं।
6 फरवरी से 9 अप्रैल 2014 के मध्य जलाशयों के जलस्तर में बदलाव
परियोजना का नाम
जलस्तर, मीटर में
उपयोगी जल भण्डार, प्रतिशत में
जलस्तर, मीटर में
उपयोगी जल भण्डार, प्रतिशत में
नोट – उपयोगी जल भण्डार के प्रतिशत वाली पक्ति में कोष्ठक में दिए गए आँकड़े पिछले वर्ष के इन्हीं तारीखों के हैं। इन आँकड़ों का स्रोत केन्द्रीय जल आयोग द्वारा साप्ताहिक जारी किए जाने वाले जलाशयों के स्तर संबंधी अपडेट है। आश्चर्यजनक रूप से 3 अप्रैल 2014 को जारी बुलेटिन में जलाशयों के कोई आँकड़े नहीं दिए गए हैं। इन बुलेटिनों को यहाँ देखा जा सकता है –https://docs.google.com/folderview?usp=sharing&id=0B2IHafYlWNipTm1wVXhXelV4RDg
उपरोक्त आँकड़ों से स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर जलाशय (नर्मदा पर बने इस बाँध को गुजरात के राजनेता और सरकार गुजरात की जीवनरेखा बताते हैं) का उपयोगी जलभण्डारण 6 फरवरी से 27 मार्च 2014के मध्य 95% से घटकर मात्र 22% रह गया था जो 9 अप्रैल को हल्का सा बढ़कर 31% हुआ है। पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में ये आँकड़े 58 से 53% के मध्य स्थिर थे।
नर्मदा के ऊपरी क्षेत्र मध्यप्रदेश में बने इंदिरा सागर जलाशय में भी 6 फरवरी से 27 मार्च 2014 के मध्य जलभण्डारण 47% से घटाकर मात्र 27% कर दिया गया है। इस उपलब्ध जलभण्डारण को गर्मी के दिनों के लिए सुरक्षित रखने के बजाय अनावश्यक रूप से कम किया जा रहा है। ऐसा लगता है कि चुनावी फायदे के लिए अधिक बिजली उत्पादन कर जल भण्डारण में कमी कर मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात के लोगों की जल सुरक्षा को दाँव पर लगा दिया गया है।
आसन्न ग्रीष्म ऋतु और अलनीनो प्रभाव के कारण अगले मानसून में कमी[i] की आशंका के मद्देनज़र भण्डारित जल में कमी करना उचित नहीं है। ऐसा लगता है कि वर्तमान में जारी लोकसभा चुनाव के कारण अतिरिक्त बिजली पैदा करने हेतु जलाशयों को खाली किया जा रहा है जिससे गुजरात के सूखा प्रभावित क्षेत्रों की जल सुरक्षा खतरे में पड़ गई है। आगामी मानसून में बारिश में कमी या देरी से नर्मदा जल पर आश्रित भोपाल और इंदौर जैसे शहरों में भी जल उपलब्धता प्रभावित हो सकती हैं। हाल ही में जोरशोर से प्रारंभ की गई नर्मदा-क्षिप्रा पाईप लाईन योजना भी नर्मदा में पानी की कमी के कारण अनुपयोगी हो सकती है। यह दुःखद है कि गर्मी का मौसम शुरू होने के पहले 27 मार्च को ही सरदार सरोवर में जलभण्डारण घटाकर मात्र 22% कर दिया गया था जबकि पिछले वर्ष पूरे देश में औसत से अधिक बारिश हुई है और मानसून में सरदार सरोवर जलाशय अपने उच्चतम स्तर तक भर गया था।
गुजरात सरकार दावा करती है कि सरदार सरोवर की ऊँचाई नहीं बढ़ाए जाने के कारण उनका राज्य पीड़ित है। लेकिन सरदार सरोवर के पानी के इस कुप्रबंधन से इस दावे की हवा निकल गई है। यदि गुजरात सरकार बाँध की वर्तमान ऊँचाई पर उपलब्ध जलभण्डार का ही महत्तम उपयोग करने में ही सक्षम नहीं है तो फिर बाँध की ऊँचाई बढ़ाने का सवाल ही कहाँ उठता है?
पनबिजली उत्पादन – केन्द्रीय विद्युत प्राधिकरण (http://cea.nic.in/monthly_gen.html) द्वारा जारी इन परियोजनाओं (औंकारेश्वर परियोजना सहित) से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 और 2013 के बिजली उत्पादन के आँकड़े निम्नानुसार है –
नोट-आँकड़े मिलियन यूनिट में है (एक यूनिट एक किलोवाट घण्टा के बराबर होता है)। सारे आँकड़े केन्द्रीय विद्युत प्राधिकरण की वेबसाईट से लिए गए हैं। मार्च 2014 के आँकड़े अनंतिम है लेकिन पिछले अनुभवों से स्पष्ट है कि अंतिम आँकड़ों में भी कोई खास बदलाव नहीं होता है। नर्मदा हाईड्रोइलेक्ट्रिक डेवलपमेंट कार्पोरेशन (http://www.nhdcindia.com/ )मध्यप्रदेश सरकार और राष्ट्रीय पनबिजली निगम का संयुक्त उपक्रम है।
उपरोक्त आँकड़ों से स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर और एनएचडीसी (नर्मदा हाईड्रोइलेक्ट्रिक डेवलपमेंट कार्पोरेशन) के पन बिजलीघरों से पिछले वर्ष के फरवरी-मार्च महीनों की अपेक्षा इस वर्ष के फरवरी-मार्च महीनों में विद्युत उत्पादन काफी अधिक था। सरदार सरोवर परियोजना से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 में 735.35 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली का उत्पादन किया गया जबकि पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में 271.64 मिलियन यूनिट था। इस वर्ष बिजली उत्पादन में 171% की भारी वृद्धि की गई है। एनएचडीसी के बिजलीघरों से फरवरी-मार्च 2014 में 689.11 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली उत्पादित की गई जबकि पिछले वर्ष इसी अवधि में 528.71 मिलियन यूनिट बिजली का उत्पादन किया गया था। इस प्रकार पिछले वर्ष की अपेक्षा यहाँ भी 30.33% बिजली उत्पादन बढ़ाया गया है। इस प्रकार स्पष्ट है कि सरदार सरोवर और एनएचडीसी के बिजलीघरों से इस वर्ष फरवरी-मार्च में पानी के भण्डारण की कीमत पर बहुत ज्यादा बिजली उत्पादन बढाया गया है। सरदार सरोवर से उत्पादित बिजली का लाभ मध्यप्रदेश, महाराष्ट्र और गुजरात को क्रमशः 57, 27 और 16% के अनुपात में मिलता है।
हालांकि जलभण्डारण में इस अनुचित कमी के कारण मध्यप्रदेश और गुजरात के लोग तो आगामी गर्मी और मानसून में प्रभावित होने वाले हैं ही लेकिन कुछ तो अभी से प्रभावित हो चुके हैं।[ii] सरदार सरोवर जलाशय के स्तर में अचानक कमी कर दिए जाने से बड़वानी की जलप्रदाय व्यवस्था बुरी तरह प्रभावित हुई है। बिजली की कटौती के कारण वैकल्पिक व्यवस्था में भी परेशानी आ रही है। सरदार सरोवर परियोजना और एनएचडीसी द्वारा भारी मात्रा में उत्पादित बिजली का लाभ भी बड़वानी जैसे छोटे कस्बों को नहीं मिल रहा है। लगता है आगे आने वाले दिन और अधिक मुश्किलों भरे होंगें। फरवरी-मार्च महीने में बिजली की माँग और राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर इसकी दरें गर्मी के दिनों के मुकाबले काफी कम होती है। यहाँ यह उल्लेखनीय है कि खेती में बिजली की माँग अभी तक शुरू नहीं हुई है। कपास की अगेती फसल (early crop)की बुआई मई के पहले सप्ताह से शुरू होती है और पानी की उपलब्धता के आधार पर जून के पहले सप्ताह तक चलती है। ऐसे में सवाल उठता है कि माँग और दरों में कमी के दौर में बिजली का भारी उत्पादन कौनसी बुद्धिमानी है?
राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर जलाशयों में भण्डारण – केन्द्रीय जल आयोग अपने साप्ताहिक बुलेटिन के माध्यम से राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर 85 जलाशयों (इनमें से 37 जलाशयों, जिनकी भण्डारण क्षमता 111.73 करोड़ घनमीटर है, में 60 मेगावाट से अधिक का पनबिजली घटक भी शामिल है।) के भण्डारण की स्थिति के बारे में जानकारी उपलब्ध करवाता है जिनकी कुल भण्डरण क्षमता 155.05 करोड़ घनमीटर है। 6 मार्च 2014 को इन जलाशयों में 88.934 करोड़ घनमीटर यानी कुल भण्डारण का 57% उपलब्ध था। लेकिन 9 अप्रैल आते तक भण्डरण मात्र 59.581 करोड़ घनमीटर यानी कुल भण्डारण का 38% ही बचा था। उम्मीद है कि ये इन जलाशयों का भण्डारण अब और चुनावी फायदों के लिए घटाया नहीं जाएगा।
ऐसा पहली बार नहीं हुआ – चुनावी लाभ के लिए ऐसा पहली बार नहीं हुआ है।[iii] वर्ष 2004 और 2009 के आम चुनावों के दौरान भी अतिरिक्त बिजली उत्पादन के लिए अनुचित तरीके से जलाशयों को खाली किया गया था और अगले मानसून में कमी के कारण लोगों को इसका खामियाजा भुगतना पड़ा था। नर्मदा पर बने बाँधों के मामले में जलस्तर का नियमन राज्य सरकारें, नर्मदा नियंत्रण प्राधिकरण और केन्द्रीय जल संसाधन मंत्रालय द्वारा किया जाता है। अन्य बाँधों के मामले में केन्द्रीय जल आयोग भी जिम्मेदार होता है।
अधिक पारदर्शी, जवाबदेह और सहभागी जलाशय प्रबंधन, जो भारत में नदारद है, का बारंबार उठने वाला सवाल यहाँ फिर उठता है। जब तक व्यवस्था में सुधार नहीं होता राजनेता जलाशयों के पानी का अपने एजेण्डे के अनुसार उपयोग करते रहेंगें और आम देशवासी और देश की अर्थव्यवस्था इसकी कीमत चुकाने को मजबूर रहेंगें।