In an effort to assess the situation of Rivers in 2017, SANDRP is presenting the compilation of key rivers related development in the country. The first part of this Rivers Review 2017 includes Northern States including Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The following parts will present separate accounts for Rivers in North East, West, East and South Zones. There will also be separate review reports on Ganga & Yamuna rivers.
It is getting increasingly clear that days of large hydro power projects are coming to an end. While in India large numbers of big hydro power projects are stalled, this week there was news from Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and rest of North East India of cancellation or stoppage of hydro power projects. http://www.sentinelassam.com/story/main-news/0/subansiri-project-not-to-see-light-for-4-years/2017-11-12/1/325720#.WgpysVuCzIV
Pancheshwar project on India Nepal border continues to face opposition. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/traders-oppose-pancheshwar-dam/articleshow/61705308.cms
Nepal this week cancelled the agreement for 1200 MW Budhi Gandaki hydropower project. In Bhutan, the Prime Minister declared that they are in no hurry to go ahead with new hydropower projects. http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-11-13/govt-scraps-budhigandaki-project-with-chinese-company.html
In Pakistan, the agreement for the massive 4500 MW Diamer Bhasha hydropower company with China has fallen through. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/chinas-strict-conditions-force-pakistan-not-to-include-diamer-bhasha-dam-in-cpec-officials/articleshow/61660935.cms
In Mynmar, too the agreement with China for massive hydropower project stands cancelled. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-myanmar-energy/china-says-will-keep-talking-to-myanmar-over-stalled-dam-scheme-idUSKBN1D80X4?il=0
This is further reinforced by study by Dr. Luke Gibson, Honorary Assistant Professor of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, which concludes that among so called green energy sources, hydropower is most dangerous. https://phys.org/news/2017-10-green-energy-hydropower-dangerous.html#jCp
In a remarkable development, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on October 24 has suspended the clearances given to the 1750-megawatt (MW) Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project (HEP) planned on the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh.
In its detailed order, released on October 27, the NGT ruled that the Environment Minister as Chairperson of the National Board for Wildlife (NWBL), a statutory body constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, could not “just brush aside” the views of the majority of NBWL standing committee members.
Suspending the clearances given by the Centre and the state govt, the NGT order added that “the decision taken by the Standing Committee is not in accordance with established principles of law and hence the Standing Committee shall reconsider the issue and pass appropriate orders within a period of six months from the date of the judgment”.
Environmental clearance for the project was given by the Union environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects back in 2009. An in-principle forest clearance for the Lower project was given in February 2012 and agreed upon in 2013.
However, the in-principle clearance of the project was opposed by a majority of the Standing Committee of the NBWL but subsequently cleared by the then-environment minister of state (independent charge), Jayanthi Natarajan, who was also the chairperson of the Standing Committee.
Natarajan is currently under the CBI’s scanner for alleged anomalies in clearance given for diversion of land in Saranda forest in Singhbhum district, Jharkhand to mining company Electrosteel during the previous UPA regime.
The NGT said that it is “of the view that either the Chairperson (Natarajan) should have given a proper reason for rejecting the objection of the majority of the non-official members or the decision ought to have been arrived at based on the opinion of the majority of the members. Even though the Standing Committee is a recommendatory body, the same being a statutory committee, is bound by the laudable principles of justice and fair play”.
In a most significant event, some 85 river and dam activists from 40 countries and all continents gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia (on border between Asia and Europe, between Black and Caspian Sea) during March 27-31, 2017 to share experiences about their efforts to protect the world’s rivers and join their struggles against destructive hydropower projects. The meeting was organized by CEE BankWatch Network (active in 12 countries in Eastern and Central Europe) and International Rivers.
Eight persons from South Asia, including those from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh joined the meeting to share experiences from the region. Indian participant included SANDRP coordinator (who was also in steering committee of the meeting) and Associate Coordinator Parineeta Dandekar. A number of participants from neighboring and nearby countries like China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Russia also participated. Issues related to trans-boundary rivers, small hydropower projects and multiple projects on the same rivers, decommissioning of the dams, how to achieve free flowing rivers and importance of rivers in changing climate were some of the key issues discussed at the meeting.
SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-link The official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.
The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.