DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 17×22: SSP Fails To Provide Promised Water, Rehabilitation: Former Gujarat CM from BJP 

(Feature Image: An aerial view of Narmada river downstream Sardar Sarovar Project in Oct. 2018. Source: CMO Gujarat twitter handle)

With Gujarat state assembly election round the corner, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) the party ruling the state and Centre has been evoking the Sardar Sarovar Project as a big achievement in the face of contrasting ground realities as suggested by no less than former Gujarat Chief Minister of BJP Shri Suresh Mehta. The project has failed to provide promised irrigation water to farmers of Kutch and Saurashtra in whose name the dam was pushed as the canal system remains not fully built. The people of Kutch, in whose name Gujarat got 9 Million Acre Feet of water, disproportionate to its catchment area at SSP, were incidentally last to get the water and not first as it should have been. Kutch canals remains largely unfinished and command area largely unirrigated. Who stopped this area to get the water over a decade after the water started flowing from the dam is a question, Gujarat rulers refuse to answer.

Similarly, thousands of project affected people continue to struggle for rehabilitation and compensation despite court orders. The Gujarat rulers have gone silent over unending and unfolding ecological and hydrological impacts of the dam on Narmada river system downstream from the dam including delta area. Thousands of villagers living in miserable conditions submerged in backwater of the dam but have not been officially recognized as project affected people. At this moment, the timely, just rehabilitation and compensation of these villages and project affected families should be top priority of concerned governments including the Central government.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 April 2022: Ken Betwa Affected people protest land acquisition

The residents of about 15 villages affected by the Ken Betwa link project are opposing the land acquisition process being initiated in violation of all norms have opposed the move. The notices have not been pasted in the affected villages, gram sabhas have not been conducted and the information promised in the notice is not available at the designated places. When question, the Madhya Pradesh officials have responded arrogantly. The history of manipulations and violations that has been the norm every step of the way in Ken Betwa Project continues. In fact the project does not have final forest clearance, its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee and its Environment clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. In absence of the clearances, the land acquisition should not even be started if there is any place for prudent norms in such projects. It would be best if the government stops the process and starts it only if and when it gets all the clearances and after taking all the concerned into confidence through a prudent confidence inspiring process.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 28 Mar 2022: Is Climate Change making big dams MORE dangerous?

That big dams are dangerous, disaster prone is well known, the parliament having passed the Dam Safety Act is just one of the clear evidence of it. However, are big dams becoming even MORE dangerous in changing climate? All the science and also practical evidence seems to suggest that. This is also what the SCROLL report mentioned below concludes.

What is shocking is that the CWC (Central Water Commission), India’s premier technical body on dams and water, when asked about this through an RTI, is in slumber. CWC told the journalist that there are no such cases! This should be worrying for everyone concerned including those in the risk zone of the dams, the beneficiaries of the dams and also the dam operators. This also exposes how weak is the mechanism set up by the Dam Safety Act passed recently by the Parliament is. This is because under the act, CWC Is the main organisation responsible dam safety in India. Can CWC really save us from unsafe dams, structurally unsafe or operationally unsafe? The SCROLL article illustrates through the example of Andhra Pradesh dams that CWC has not. It also quotes the compilation of SANDRP where to the frequency of disasters are only going up and there is again no confidence inspiring role from CWC.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers

The government of India, through joint announcement of Union Ministries of Jal Shakti & Environment and Forests (such joint addresses are rather rare events) this week announced its plans to rejuvenate 13 major rivers of India (excluding Ganga but including some of the key Ganga tributaries!) through the limited activity of plantations is not every convincing on many counts. Firstly it is welcome to see that the government sees a role of forests as a hydrological asset. Unfortunately, this is clearly and completely absent in government’s forest management, both in policy and practice. If we see the forest governance of India through the functioning of the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, we see absolutely no sign of acknowledgement of this reality that forests are major hydrological assets. So for example when a decision is taken to allow diversion of major chunks of existing forests, there is never any discussion, assessment or counting of hydrological eco system services that forests provide. This is apparent in many cases, but most recently in the case of Ken Betwa project where the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee too has acknowledged this reality. So again it seems government’s mind or heard does not seem to know what the tongue is conveying!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 28 Feb 2022: Climate Change intensifying water cycle at double the predicted rate

This should be worrying all water managers, particularly in monsoon driven climate like India. New Research by New South Wales University Science and published in Nature in Feb 2022, based on changes in salinity of sea, a new method, says that the climate change is intensifying the water cycle at more than double the predicted rate. This is also likely to have huge impact on the rainfall pattern and possible increase in frequency of high intensity rainfall events and storms, besides other impacts. This will also have impact on the Probable Maximum Precipitation and Probable Maximum Floods in the dam catchments, and would mean the current spillway capacity of many of our dams wont be adequate. All this also means increased frequency high intensity floods and disasters. Unfortunately, CWC or state dam managers in India are not even looking at these figures. India also needs to urgently take up research into all these aspects for assessing India specific impacts.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 070222: Union Budget provisions for ILR inappropriate, shows disrespect to statutory clearances and processes

(Feature image source Money Control:- https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/economy/union-budget-2022-live-updates-nirmala-sitharaman-crypto-bill-rail-itr-pf-contribution-cryptocurrency-income-tax-news-custom-duty-relief-gold-etf-8006461.html)

The Union Finance Minister (FM) Smt. Nirmala Seetharaman in her budget for 2022-23 presented in the parliament on Feb 1, 2022 provided Rs 4300 Cr for the controversial Ken Betwa Project in Revised Estimates for 2021-22 and Rs 1400 Cr in Budget estimates for 2022-23. The KBP has not received the final forest clearance. In fact its stage I forest clearance conditions cannot be implemented without changing the project and its cost benefits and impacts. Its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court of India and the comprehensive scathing report of the CEC Is yet to be heard by the SC. Its environmental clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. The hydrological figures that are supposed to provide the scientific basis for the project are neither in public domain, nor has it gone through any independent scrutiny. In this situation, the allocation of the funds for the project in the Union Budget and inclusion of a statement about the project in the speech of the President of India before the Joint Session of Parliament on Jan 31, 2022 are inappropriate. They seem to be timed in view of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 Jan 2022: Positive Groundwater stories from TN, Haryana

It’s rather rare that we have some positive stories related to groundwater. This week we have two: One each from Tamil Nadu and Haryana. A recent performance audit report, the CAG has lauded the Tamil Nadu Govt for regulating industry’s groundwater extraction. The CAG has also lauded TN for adopting ‘firka’(which are smaller than blocks and encompasses 10-15 villages) as the assessment unit in 2011 because this is expected to help in identification of pockets of groundwater potential within the over- exploited and critical blocks.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 03 Jan 2022: Are we any safer from Dam Disasters?

In the 2021 year-end review by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Ministry of Water Resources), the passage of the Dam Safety Bill by the parliament figures in headlines. The question is are we any safer from dam disasters due to this? If we take a quick review of the numerous dam disasters just this year and also look at the dam disasters mentioned in this Bulletin that happened just in the last week of the passing year, the answer is clear no. Such disasters include ones in Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Brazil.

There is also the news here of the Uttarakhand agency report about the Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster, about which the official govt agency has said failure of Early Warning System was a factor in the disaster. The bigger disaster is that the state govt has promptly issued show cause notice to the authors of the paper blaming the lack of EWS!

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 27 Dec 2021: PM pushes unviable, destructive Hydro projects in HP

Feature Image: Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti members take out a protest march at Dadahu in Sirmaur district on Dec. 19, 2021. Tribune photo

What will be the realistic cost of power from hydropower projects being pushed by the Prime Minister during this visit today to Himachal Pradesh? One indication of that comes from the 111 MW Sawra Kuddu HEP that he inaugurates during his visit. The cost of this project is already over Rs 2080 Crores, likely to go up further. Which means per MW installed capacity, the cost is around Rs 20 Crores. At this cost, the cost of power from the project is likely to be over Rs 8 per unit even without factoring in the social, environmental and increased disaster vulnerability costs that such projects impose on the fragile Himalayan Mountains. As if to also remind the active seismic zone, on the eve of his visit, there were tremors, even if mild, in Mandi.

The Renuka dam that he lays the foundation for does not even have all the statutory clearances. Its EIA has been the most dishonest exercise, as came out in the NGT hearings. What signal is the government sending by laying foundation stone for such a project? Similar are the issues with Luhri I and Dhaulasidh HEPs. The government seems to be pushing such outdated, unviable, costly and destructive projects in fragile Himalayan regions, purely on political arithmetic assumptions, but possibly need to realise that these projects are not even popular and they are also most inappropriate in the climate change context. Or is it the lure of spending such huge sums of unaccountable public money that provide opportunities for getting election funds for the party that is driving such undemocratic decisions?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 20 Dec 2021: Judiciary fails the environment AGAIN

By allowing the Char Dham Highway to go ahead, putting aside all the environment, safety, disaster vulnerability and even norms and affidavits of the Ministry of Highways and the Defence Ministry, as well as the report of the expert panel set up by the apex court, the Judiciary has again failed the Environment, among other things. This is contrary to the generally held belief that Judiciary stands up for the cause of the environment. That belief has no real basis, as can be seen again. This is also failure of the governance, experts and environmental groups, besides also the failure of the media too.

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