DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 2 Aug 2021: Disappointing UKD HC order on Chamoli disaster: Will SC intervene please?

( Feature image:- Women members of Raini village’s gram sabha, Source: Atul Sati/ Facebook/The Quint)

The July 14, 2021 order of Uttarakhand HC, dismissing the petition of those affected by the Chamoli disaster of Feb 2021 and asking that NTPC, developer of the Tapovan Vishnugad project be accountable, is most distressing. While Indian judiciary is rightly credited with doing a lot for the cause of environment and people in general, in the unequal battle of the communities and activists against injustice and negligence of giant projects and their developers, the judiciary has more often failed to ensure that the developers are held accountable and are not allowed to bulldoze ahead using their might, supported by the state, to crush attempts to achieve just and democratic results. In the Chamoli disaster, there are many many questions that remained unanswered and one expected the HC to use the petition to seek those answers. But in stead, the HC has chose to question and fine the petitioners. One hopes the higher judiciary will correct this and stay the order and in stead seek answers from the developers of the hydro projects in such fragile, disaster prone areas and those that sanctioned such projects, including the environment ministry, the state government, the CWC, the CEA, the Geological Survey of India and also the project developers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 May 2021: Velcan Holdings provide another evidence of unviable large hydro in India

Velcan Holdings Group is developing Heo and Tato-1 Hydropower projects with total installed capacity of 426 MW in Siang basin in Arunachal Pradesh since 2007. The international company with deep pockets and access to international capital markets has not been able to start work even in 2021. It obtained a number clearances, some of the like the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) techno-economic clearance has lapsed. No significant progress is seen in Land Acquisition as local people are rightly opposing. It is unable to find any buyers for the power to be generated, no one is ready to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The company questions if the low allocation to hydropower purchase obligations will at all help in making the projects bankable (clearly implying that the projects are not bankable currently). This is the state what it describes its Siang basin hydropower projects as the “the only hydropower projects of such size in India owned and developed by a foreign investor”, which “are amongst the most advanced private projects and present competitive techno-economic and environmental features”. The state of the rest of the large hydro projects will clearly be much worse. Why is the government pushing such unviable, destructive projects?

Read the excerpts from the company’s statutory filing in Europe on Apr 30, 2021 below.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 19 Apr 2021: Hydro lobby at work, but it won’t help forget the WCD guidelines

The Hydropower lobby continues to push unsustainable, unviable, destructive hydropower projects. They want everyone to forget about the World Commission on Dams report and guidelines and the lobby keeps bringing out its own guidelines which has zero credibility. They are looking for new voices to sing their song, and have appointed Ashok Khosla, as the Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council but Ashok Khosla already stands discredited. He or his organisation is not known to be doing any credible work in the area of hydropower projects. He or his organisation Development Alternatives has never taken a stand on any public spirited campaign against destructive hydropower projects in India. So that voice is neither independent nor credible. So this new move by the hydro lobby is not going to help the cause of the lobby either in India or beyond. The write up below, as expected does not mention the WCD report or guidelines. Mr Khosla possibly does not even know about the existence of the WCD report or guidelines because he had no credible role to play there or in any hydropower related work in the past. The write up has loads of misleading and wrong statements too. But all these attempts are not going to help forget people about WCD guidelines as the only globally credible and accepted guidelines on dams and hydropower projects.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 Apr 2021: Meghalaya, Himachal, MP people oppose Dam & Hydro projects

(Feature image: Locals protest against the proposed mega dam project on the Umngot river. Shillong Times)

From the news this week we can see news reports of strong protests to dam and hydro projects from North East India (protests against the proposed 240 MW Umngot hydropower project), North India (protests against the Jangi Thopan power project in Himachal Pradesh) and Central India (protests against the Ken Betwa Link Project and Basania Dam on Narmada, both in Madhya Pradesh), among others. These protests underline not only the protests against the social and environmental destruction such projects bring, but also the abysmally poor environmental governance and decision making processes, the shoddy Environment Impact Assessments, the Public Hearings and over all undemocratic decision making process. One hopes the government realises the underlying issues and addresses them urgently rather than ignoring the messages and messengers.

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Dam Safety

Uttarakhand: Aging Bhimtal Dam Raising Serious Safety Concerns

(Feature image: Arial view of Bhimtal Lake and dam. Source:- Postoast.com)

All is not well with Bhimtal dam in Nainital district, Uttarakhand. On March 8, 2021 morning, the fillers from its protection wall wobbled out. It sparked panic among local residents living near the largest lake of Kumaon region. For past couple of years they have been concerned about the structural safety of the aging dam. The 138 years old dam has already been in news for vertical cracks and recurring seepages.

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Water Options

World Water Day 2021: Positive Water Stories-2

The second part of positive water developments of India on WWD 2021 highlight water conservation efforts by villagers, farmers, citizens, state governments. The first part with ten most remarkable stories can be seen here.  

This compilation has four sections. The first one covers zone wise the efforts by communities, organizations. The second section has Inspiring Individual Initiatives. Third part has stories related to efforts of returned migrants during lockdown, under the MNAREGA. The Fourth Section has some steps taken by state governments in exploring local alternatives to meet potable and irrigation water demands. Some additional water reports in the same context are given at the end.

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Water Options

World Water Day 2021: Ten Positive Water Stories from India

The annual World Water Day (WWD) event has been taking place since 1993 on March 22. The theme for 2021 WWD is Valuing Water. The limited fresh water sources and associated eco-system are increasingly being exploited and threatened on the planet.

While big, centralized projects have been failing in every respect including meeting the growing demand apart from causing bigger ecological crisis, there are small but significant and successful efforts by communities and individuals making a difference by restoring, conserving, efficiently utilizing the available water sources thus valuing the water in true sense. This compilation presents the ten such remarkable stories from India to celebrate the WWD2021.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 15 March 2021: MoEFCC & NMCG join March 14 celebrations on the Day of Action for Rivers

The International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life,  or in short, “International Day of Action for Rivers” as used now, was adopted by the participants of some 20 countrties, at the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams in March 1997 in Curitiba Brazil. Representatives from 20 countries including India, USA, Brazil & other countries from Asia, Americas, Europe, Africa decided that the International Day of Action would take place on March 14. Thus, the celebration started from 1997. The aim on this International Day of Action for Rivers is to raise voices against destructive water development projects, reclaim the health of our watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of our rivers.

This year, among many other events happening on this day in South Asia, we have reported in this weekly bulletin, besides the blog from SANDRP highlighting the resistence against destructive hydro and dam projects in India in last one year, the online discussion by the Endangered Himalayas on “Extinct Rivers or free flowing rivers: The future of Himalayan Rivers”, Official launch of Right of Rivers South Asia Alliance and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s 14-days long campaign Rights of the River and personhood rights to Indus River and Indus delta.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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