With the beginning of south west monsoon season 2019, many Himalayan states started witnessing exceptional rainfall events known as Cloud Bursts. The extreme weather event – like previous years- caused large scale destruction in ecologically sensitive and remotely located vulnerable hilly areas. This account compiles the available information about such incidents in Uttarakhand in 2019 SW monsoon.
Field Observation Report, 20-21 April 2019 at Lakhwar Multipurpose Dam Project, Lohari and Vyasi Hydro Electric Project, Juddo. This author, also an applicant in NGT petition, visited the Lakhwar and Vyasi project area before the sub committee of MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley Projects visited the site on Apr 22, 2019.
The proposed site of Multipurpose Lakhwar dam project was seen affected with multiple landslides. One such fresh landslide was seen right at the site where the 204 meter high dam is supposed to be built. Locals revealed that many of the landslides in and around the location have become perennial.
Following death of Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand (Prof G D Agarwal) while on fast unto death on Oct 11, 2018 and disappearance of Swami Gopal Das ji from AIIMS-Delhi, Swami Aatmabodhanand ji has been on fast unto death at Matri Sadan, Haridwar since Oct 24, 2019. In a letter to the Prime Minister on April 19, 2019 he has said that if the government does respond by April 25, 2019 to the four demands for which the fast undo death is undertaken, he will leave water from April 27, 2019. The four demands are well known:
- Cancel all under construction and proposed dams on Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and their tributaries.
- Prohibit all mining and tree cutting in the Ganga flood plains, particularly in Haridwar
- Enact Ganga Act for the preservation of River Ganga, the draft of which has been sent to the govt.
- Constitute an autonomous Ganga Council
Good to see NGT rejecting the flawed Groundwater notification dated Dec 12, 2018 from CGWA that was also critiqued by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/2018/12/31/groundwater-governance-why-dec-12-2018-cgwa-notification-would-be-disastrous/. However, NGT should have asked an independent panel to formulate the policy for sustainable groundwater use, rather than a committee of the same government persons. Besides, there is also need for restructuring of currently totally ineffective CGWA and make it COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of government.
Uttrakhand has received 3% below normal rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. Though the figure falls in normal category, however district level rainfall data paints a very different picture. Out of total 13 districts in the Himalayan state, four districts namely Almora, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal and Udham Singh Nagar have received deficit rains, whereas three districts which includes Bageshwar, Chamoli and Haridwar have got rainfall in excess. Out of the rest six districts four are on marginally positive side and two are on marginally negative side.
In a mountain village in southwest China’s Sichuan province, authorities have demolished seven small dam projects this year along a river to clear illegal developments in a new nature reserve. The demolition is part of a nationwide programme to close hundreds of tiny and often ramshackle dams and turbines and bring order to China’s massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction.
The dams sat on an unnamed tributary of the fierce and flood-prone Dadu river, which feeds into the Yangtze, Asia’s largest and longest river, where the government says the “irregular development” of thousands of small hydropower projects has wrecked the ecology. But green groups say the campaign will not necessarily save the environment because it will not affect big state hydropower stations, which they say have caused the most damage.
On the 48 km Zhougong, authorities have already demolished small projects built in nature reserves or encroaching upon new “ecological red lines” drawn up to shield a quarter of China’s territory from development.
The government says small dams have disrupted the habitats and breeding patterns of many rare species of fish, although green groups argue the damage wrought by bigger dams is more severe, with entire towns and ecosystems submerged in water, which they say increases the risk of earthquakes, landslides and even climate change.
The various aspects of tragic Dam Disaster in Mekong Basin in Laos are still unfolding. But it is clear from many accounts that it was an avoidable, man-made disaster due to neglect of contractors, decision makers, consultants and supervising agencies. There is a lot we can learn from this if we want to avoid such disasters in India. We still do not have credible Dam Safety Law or institution, CWC is clearly not the right agency considering the conflict of interest with the various other roles of CWC. But for now let us look at the reports of Laos Dam Disaster.
Reminding the world of one of the worst dam disasters, the under construction dam Xepian Xe Nam Noy Hydro power project breached releasing 5 billion cubic metres of water in Southern Laos on July 23.
The gushing water current swept the surrounding leading to death of about 26 people and displacing about 6600 residents. As per report hundreds of people are still missing from neighbouring villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, which bore the brunt of flooding. The deluge has reportedly destroyed thousands of homes.
Uttrakhand is a disaster prone State. Earthquakes, Forest Fires, Flash Floods and Landslides keep occurring here round the year. The cloud burst events have also made entry to the disaster list. During past many years, local people have gradually become familiar with the term CLOUD BURST. The freak weather incident seems striking the state in increased number and frequency year after year.
Midway through the 2018 monsoon, there have already been about a dozen cloud burst events across the state.
The NATIONAL PLATFORM FOR SMALL SCALE FISH WORKERS (INLAND) is convening a Consultative Meeting on Livelihood Issues of Inland Small Scale Fish Workers 10thJuly 2018, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi.
The Invitation letter says: “India is gifted with vast and varied inland water bodies bearing rich fish resources.Rivers and canals, reservoirs, ponds and tanks, oxbow lakes, wetlands, backwaters and estuaries yield 7.21 million tonnes of fish which is more than 66% of total fish production of the country. The sector sustains about 4 million fish workers and a total population of around 2 crores.Fish provides good quality animal protein rich in minerals and vitamins. About 800 million Indians eat fish. After milk, fish is the largest source of our animal protein.These huge resources are under severe stress. Rivers are poisoned with heavy pollution. Diversion of water from rivers is harming their ecological flow.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar again has urged the central govt to remove the Farakka barrage in West Bengal and make a countrywide policy on silt management for letting river Ganga to flow freely.
“Siltation is destroying Ganga’s ecology and health. It’s due to heavy deposits of silt on the riverbed that stream of the river is being badly affected,” Kumar said at a two-day national seminar on ‘Obstacles in the Incessant Flow of the Ganga’.
Speaking on the occasion, Swami Avimukteshwara Anand criticised Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati for doing absolutely nothing for the cause of the river Ganga and said she seems more interested in her chair rather than the river. He also criticised Prime Minister Modi for claiming that he is son of Ganga, but doing nothing positive for the river. Swami ji said Nitin Gadkari seems bent on further destroying the river in the name of National Waterway.
Addressing the seminar Nitish Kukar said that Bihar’s demand for the framing of national policy on desiltation of the Ganga and clearance of silt in the state is not a political issue, as the matter is related to larger environmental and biodiversity issues facing the people.
He added, “Concrete steps have to be taken to ensure incessant flow of the Ganga. Otherwise, cleanliness of the river is not possible.” Referring to the need to protect biodiversity, he said conservation of the Ganga dolphins is dependent on the cleanliness of its water. He added the Farakka barrage constructed across the river in West Bengal has led to slow flow of water between Buxar to Bhagalpur, and consequent annual flood and waterlogging during the monsoon.
Nitish recalled the devastating flood that the state had witnessed in the Ganga basin last year and said Bihar had spent Rs 1,058 crore over the last five years to prevent soil erosion. He appealed to the Centre to frame a sound policy on silt management, stressing that it should be prepared by making on the spot survey and assessment of the prevailing situation. Nitish said even the report of the committee headed by Madhav Chitale had accepted the problem of siltation facing the Ganga.