Cloud Burst

Himachal Pradesh Cloud Bursts 2022: Rise in Death, Disaster & Destruction

(Feature Image: मनाली में सोलंग नाला के पास सेरा नाले में बादल फटने से आयी बाढ़ का पानी। -प्रेट्र/ The Tribune)

Here is an analysis of cloud burst incidents in Himachal Pradesh during south west monsoon 2022. The first part of the series highlighted the impact of cloud bursts in Uttarakhand and the third and final part would cover the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. SANDRP has been tracking the cloud bursts in West Himalayan states since 2018 and our previous reports for the Himachal Pradesh can be seen here 2021(30 cloud burst incidents); 2020(3 incidents); 2019(16 incidents); 2018(21 incidents).

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???

(Feature Image: The report also states that the monitoring of the groundwater resources was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Source: Bloomberg/TIE)

This sounds so counter intuitive. The Ministry Jal Shakti on Nov 9, 2022 made some findings of its latest “National Compilation on Dynamic Ground Water Resources of India, 2022 public, strangely, without making the report public. It is not clear why the govt did not make the report public, though the counter intuitive nature of the findings provide some hint. The report claims that at all India macro level, the ministry claimed that the groundwater extraction is the lowest in 2022 since 2004, or 18 years and that the groundwater recharge has gone up.

These are counter intuitive findings, even if at macro level for a number of reasons. It is also unclear what methodology is used to arrive at these conclusions and if there has been any independent scrutiny of the same. Since groundwater extraction has been going up for over six decades now, this reversal will need plausible reasons. There are no indications that there is any reduction in this groundwater use. Secondly, the groundwater recharge mechanisms are under attack all over India, and thus the finding that there is increase in recharge raises questions. Particularly since the efforts at groundwater recharge through rainwater harvesting are far from convincing.

More importantly, the real story is at micro level, since groundwater occurs in decentralised aquifers and any significant reduction in use, increase in recharge has to happen at the aquifer level and the assessment also needs to be done and made available at aquifer level for it to have any impact on future regulation of groundwater. In fact the only regulatory body working for groundwater regulation, the CGWA, works in a centralised way and its work has been far from confidence inspiring. That makes this whole findings questionable. Moreover, it would also be useful to see if the extraction has reduced in over exploited areas and if the recharge has increased where it is required most: in over exploited areas. Too many questions and no answers, unfortunately.

Continue reading DRP NB 14 Nov 2022: Jal Shakti Ministry says: Groundwater extraction down, recharge up???
Hydro Disaster

Repeated Disasters at Subansiri Hydro project in 2022

(Feature Image: Massive landslide at Lower Subansiri hydro project dam site. Source North East Now 28 Oct. 2022)

Over the course of past two years, series of disasters and accidents have taken place at construction site of the controversial 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project resulting in damages to project structure and death of construction workers thus raising questions over its safety and sustainability. Since 2005-06, the largest ever under-construction hydropower project is being developed by NHPLC Ltd (formerly known as the National Hydro Power Corporation Limited), a central government company in geologically fragile, seismically vulnerable and biodiversity rich area in the face of pending judicial case[i] and very strong opposition from people across the Assam.

The latest disaster in form of a massive landslide affected the project site on October 12, 2022 further delaying the repair works which were being carried to recover damages caused by the flash floods, landslips at dam site in last week of September 2022.

Continue reading Repeated Disasters at Subansiri Hydro project in 2022
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 071122: Increasing focus on Urban Rivers; they continue to face destruction

(Feature Image Source: Question of cities)

It is good to see that focus on Urban Rivers is increasing not only in media, but also by the government. The focus of the latest edition of “Question of Cities” is on Urban Rivers, carrying articles on, beside the lead article by SANDRP coordinator, Article “Rivers & Cities”, Sabarmati (Ahmedabad), Mula-Mutha (Pune), on River Centric Urban Planning Guidelines from Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning. In addition, this SANDRP DRP update also carries articles on Dravyawati River of Jaipur, Godavari river in Nasik and a report on Mandakini river in Badrinath.

All this increased focus is welcome, but will be worthwhile only when we see an effective impact of this on rejuvenated Urban rivers. We have yet to see that. In fact, if at all, the movement is hugely in opposite direction, with increasing destruction of Urban Rivers.

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Hydro Disaster

Landslide Disaster at Ratle Hydro Project in Jammu & Kashmir in Oct 2022

(Feature Image:Kishtwar: Rescue operation underway after a landslide at Ratle Power Project site in Kishtwar district, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. At least one person was killed and five are feared trapped, according to officials. Photo: PTI/ TIE)

The landslide incident at Ratle HEP in Chenab basin in Jammu & Kashmir in Oct 2022 has again revealed how hydro projects in geologically vulnerable areas have been increasing disaster potential of the already disaster vulnerable areas, killing and injuring the workers and people. The exact reason for the mishap at project site are still unknown. As usual neither NHPC nor JKSPDC have made public information concerning reasons for the tragedy.

Refusing to learn any lessons from such disasters, the administration has set-up routine internal probe under inspector level official. This only shows sheer lack of intention to make the developers accountable and continue to push financially unviable and environmental unsustainable hydro projects at the cost of human lives and tax payers’ money. 

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Cloud Burst · Dams

Uttarakhand Cloud Burst 2022: Road Debris, Drainage Encroachment Magnify Destruction

For the past many years, cloud bursts have been emerging as a significant and reoccurring disaster in Himalayan region. The highly localized, intensive rainfall spell, consequent flash floods and landslides have been taking a heavy toll on human and infrastructure apart from impacting the landscape. SANDRP has been documenting such incidents particularly in North West Himalayan states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. This first part of 2022 tracks the ‘cloud burst’ incidents reported in Uttarakhand before and during SW monsoon 2022. SANDRP’s previous compilation and analysis on the issue for Uttarakhand can be seen here 2018[i], 2019[ii], 2020[iii], May 2021[iv] and 2021[v].

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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 031022: Great Victory of People: MP govt scraps all contracts related to Maheshwar Dam

(Feature image: A protest by Narmada Bachao Andolan in Nov. 2006. Source: @Sripadmanthan)

On Sept 27, 2022, the Madhya Pradesh Government cancelled all contracts related to the Maheshwar Dam Project on Narmada. This massive dam on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh upstream of Sardar Sarovar Project and downstream of the Omkareshwar Project was to be a multi-purpose project with a 400 MW hydropower component and water supply component among others. It was opposed by the people’s movement lead by Narmada Bachao Andolan for over two decades now. The project being implemented by the private textile company S Kumars showed no will or intention of taking care of the social or environment impacts of the project. Madhya Pradesh government so far was trying to push ahead with the project by hook or by crook, but finally had the sense to realise that this is going to be a massively costly affair at estimated Rs 42000 crores and the state and the people of state are only going to suffer costs and adverse impacts. The cancellation of all the contracts for the project signals a major victory of the people’s movement.

While congratulating the state government for cancelling the contracts, we would also suggest that the government needs to quickly decide about decommissioning of the dam, so that it does not pose safety risk to the people upstream and downstream and also perpetuates unnecessary adverse social and environment impacts. Earlier the dam is decommissioned, quicker will be the relief from these impacts. Moreover, the MP government should also not let the private company go scot free and all attempts should be made to recover the money spent and also penalise them for breach of the contracts. The private company should also be made to pay for the decommissioning costs.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers

A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.

Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands

( Feature Image:- Satish Acharya’s illustration on Bengaluru floods: Whose land is it anyway? 07 Sept. 2022)

The wetlands reports tell us a lot, but the key point is that decisive judicial action is necessary if our wetlands are to have any future. The directions of the Tamil Nadu High Court to geo reference all wetlands of Tamil Nadu, including small (Less than 2.25 ha area) is good beginning, but the court will need to ensure continuous monitoring and ensure implementation. Because the past shows that the government and other stakeholders have collectively failed to take any decisive action to save our wetlands. The disastrous results are evident at so many places, this week it is most clear from the flooding of Bangalore, mainly due to encroachment of lakes, wetlands, water channels and their catchments.

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