CWC - Central Water Commission

Chamoli Disaster: CWC needs functioning, forecasting beyond monsoon

Feature image: CWC’s flow diagram map showing movement of flash flood in Alaknanda valley, Chamoli after landslide induced deluge on Feb. 7, 2021.

The landslide induced[i] flash flood disaster has left long-lasting trail of destruction along the Rishiganga-Dhauliganga-Alaknanda rivers. The flood sludge has filled up the riverbed after damaging infrastructures along the rivers. The rescue work still is underway.

The episode has reignited discussion on vulnerabilities of Uttarakhand, role of hydropower projects and climate change threats. Questions are being raised on destructive projects involving use of blasting, heavy machinery, tree felling challenging the resilience limits of fragile ecology of the region.

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Dams, Rivers & People

DRP NB 8 Feb. 2021: Will NITI Aayog study the costs of overturning the Radhakrishnan Judgement on Uttarakhand?

NITI Aayog, we learn, has started studies of implications of the Supreme Court and NGT orders on environment issues. In the context of the massive Chamoli disaster now unfolding in Uttarakhand, NITI needs to urgently institute an inquiry as to who all are responsible for overturning the Justice Radhakrishnan led verdict of Aug 13, 2013 about the June 2013 Uttarakhand disaster and role of hydropower projects in the disaster and the costs of overturning that verdict. In fact if the Justice Radhakrishnan verdict were to have been sincerely and honestly implemented to its logical conclusion, the proportions of the current Chamoli disaster and others would have been majorly reduced. So the costs are no doubt huge and mounting. Will NITI Aayog institute such an independent inquiry urgently?

Continue reading “DRP NB 8 Feb. 2021: Will NITI Aayog study the costs of overturning the Radhakrishnan Judgement on Uttarakhand?”
Cloud Burst · Dams

Cloud Bursts in Indian Himalayan Region in Pre-monsoon & Monsoon 2020

The Indian Himalayan region has been facing increased cloud burst incidents for past many years. These events are followed by flash floods, landslides causing widespread damages to human lives and properties. However the forecasting, monitoring and management efforts are lagging far behind. This state wise overview attempts to understand the trend and resultant losses from such incidents during the pre-monsoon (Apr-May) southwest monsoon season (June-Sept) 2020.

SANDRP has been highlighting the issue since 2018. The details of these can be seen by exploring the hyperlink of Uttarakhand in 2018 and 2019, Himachal Pradesh 2019, Jammu and Kashmir and North East 2019.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 July 2020: “Rainwater harvesting is key to solving India’s water woes”

INDEED. With all the emphasis available at our command. We are in the midst of the rainiest season and such a statement is indeed music. It would become even more melodious if one knows who said it: it was none other than Mr G. Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Water Mission, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India who said it. Speaking on July 8, 2020, he said: “Rainwater harvesting has become inevitable in the current scenario of water scarcity across the country… The idea is to save the rainwater be it on the rooftop, compounds, and premises.” Mr Kumar also emphasised the importance of groundwater recharge. 

We can pass it as run-of-the-mill statement from the government, but one is tempted to think there is more to it than that. One wishes if there was a way to hold these officials accountable for such statements and ask as to how this translates into policies, projects and practices. There is no evidence of any of these, unfortunately. Unless we were to interpret it cynically the way Central Water Commission ideologues do: Dams are also rain water harvesting structures! By that definition, even river linking is also rain water harvesting structure!! But Mr Kumar do not seem to suggest that. So let us hold on to this statement optimistically and push the water resources establishment to implement through right policies, practices and projects. Since that is where solution to India’s water problem indeed is. Unfortunately so far there is no sign that this wisdom is accepted in any serious way by the water resources establishment.

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Dams · Landslide

JAJRED perennial landslide in Yamuna basin, Uttarakhand

Banner image Jajred landslide zone which just reactivated with commencement of monsoon rains. (Nishant Panwar, July 07, 2020) 

Come monsoon and the Jajred mountain in Kalsi tehsil, Dehradun district in Uttarakhand starts falling apart. Located about 11 km away from Kalsi town, the landslide site near Amraha village blocks the vehicular movement on Kalsi-Chakrata state highway running through the zone for weeks sometimes for months.

This is a routine affair during monsoon for past many years damaging about 250 metre road stretch frequently thus cutting off the hundreds of villages in Jonsar-Bawar area from tehsil and state capital.

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Hydropower · Landslide · Sikkim

Landslide in Sikkim damages NHPC’s Teesta V Dam Project

This photo is possibly the worst advertisement for a hydropower project with landslide rocks sitting on top of the dam. A massive landslide has severely damaged the 55 m high dam of the 510 MW Teesta Hydropower Project of NHPC, at 00.20 hours on June 27, 2020. This is a major blow to NHPC, considered India’s premier hydropower company. It’s also a major blow to the propaganda of International Hydropower Association, falsely pushing this very project as an example under IHA’s Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol[i].

NHPC PR on June 28 afternoon said the landslide happened “at Dam Axis on left abutment hill side from a height of about 40 meter from Dam top NHPC Teesta-V Dam at Dikchu, East Sikkim. The access to Dam Control Room (DCR) as well as electrical connection to Dam top was cut-off due to this slide.”  The electricity supply was restored about 9 hours later.  (https://www.facebook.com/1764846020501239/posts/2689927154659783/)

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 April 2020: Solutions to Covid 19 & Climate change are same?

This proposition clearly sounds simplistic and seems devoid of science or logic. But the case studies of the epidemics since 1980 and loss of forests, biodiversity and sustainability shows that this is not to be dismissed that easily. In fact the following interview with Dr Aaron Bernstein makes a powerful case to show why this indeed has a lot of science and logic behind it. It also hence makes a case that yesterday (our “normal”), is no longer a good model for better tomorrow.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 6 April 2020: Ganga-Yamuna-Cauvery flow cleaner in lockdown: What can we learn?

A number of reports have appeared that show that the state of a number of rivers of India, including Hindon, Yamuna, Ganga and Cauvery has improved during the current lockdown due to Covid 19 crisis. That is indeed great news. At Kanpur and Varanasi there are reports that suggest the dissolved oxygen level has gone above 8 ppm and BOD level has gone down below 3 ppm at a number of places. While lack of industrial effluents entering the rivers due to closure of industrial units is a major reason, there are other reasons that has led to this situation, including above average winter rainfall, high snowfall now melting with onset of summer, reduction of irrigation water demand and also stoppage of sand mining along the rivers. The reduction of cultural activities including puja, bathing and cremations have also contributed to this situation.

The biggest lesson we can learn from this cleaner rivers after so many decades is that if our pollution control boards at the state and central level were doing their duty to ensure that no untreated effluents from the industries and also urban sewage enter the rivers, it is not that difficult to achieve cleaner rivers. But unfortunately there is no political will to achieve this simple and legally enforceable objective.

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Cloud Burst

Uttarakhand Cloud Bursts in Monsoon 2019: No Doppler Radars Six Years Since 2013 Disaster

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.

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Yamuna River

Lakhwar & Vyasi Dam: Different reality before the window dressing for EAC

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. 

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