A number of welcome developments around dams appear in this week’s DRP News Bulletin from SANDRP. The prominent is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declaring that it may not need Pinjal Dam, which SANDRP had said in its report way back in 2012-13 and the then BMC commissioner had agreed to in an interview to NDTV. This should also lead to cancellation of the Damanganga Pinjal River Link proposal. The Maharashtra govt decision to review the need for Human dam is also welcome. The Kerala State Information Commissioner’s decision to direct that the Dam Break Analysis should be in public domain is also a useful precedent that all states and CWC need to follow immediately and also amend the proposed Dam Safety Act to include a provision that all Dam Safety related information, including meeting minutes, agenda, decisions, status reports etc will be in public domain.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has possibly inadvertently, started a debate that really needs to be honestly looked at: ARE BIG DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS? He may have raised the issue only in the context of Polavaram Dam and Andhra Government, but the question is equally valid for all big dams across the country. Including for Sardar Sarovar Dam, as Andhra Water Resource Minister has possibly only rhetorically asked.
As analysis by SANDRP and others including by numerous CAG reports have shown, dams are not adding to Net National Irrigated area since over 25 years. They in fact worsen the groundwater recharge and sustainability situation, directly and indirectly. And groundwater remains our water lifeline since several decades and will remain so. And yet, thousands of crores get spent on big dam every year, while such resources are not available for sustenance of groundwater, India’s water lifeline. This election, we wont have that honest debate, since both the initiator and responder are not particularly serious about it. Nor the media seems to have the stomach for such a debate. WHEN WILL WE HAVE AN HONEST DEBATE THAT WILL ANSWER THIS QUESTION: ARE DAMS ATM MACHINES FOR POLITICIANS?
PM Modi inaugurated the first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river in Varanasi on Nov. 12 under a project aimed at promoting inland waterways as a cheaper and more environment-friendly means of transport. The multi-modal terminals are being built as part of the central government’s Jal Marg Vikas Project that aims to develop the stretch of the river Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1,500-2,000 tonnes. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pm-modi-to-inaugurate-1st-multi-modal-terminal-on-ganga-river-in-varanasi-1944924 (9 Nov. 2018)
Explaining the negative impact of waterways projects on Ganga River, Shripad Dharmadhikary in Hindi report titled जलमार्ग परियोजना बदहाल नदियों पर एक हमला writes that the projects lack public consultation “गंभीर बात है कि जलमार्ग विकास से सबसे ज्यादा प्रभावित होने की सम्भावना स्थानीय जनता को है। इसके बावजूद जलमार्ग के विकास से संबंधित ज्यादातर कामों के आयोजन और क्रियान्वयन के लिए न तो इनकी सलाह ली गई है, और न ही इनके बारे में जनता को जानकारी दी गई है। कुल मिलाकर इन जलमार्गों के सामाजिक और पर्यावरणीय प्रभावों का ठीक से आकलन नहीं हुआ है, ऊपर से इन्हें पर्यावरणीय मंजूरी के दायरे से बाहर रखा गया है और सारी प्रक्रिया में लोगों की सहभागिता का भी पूरा अभाव है। ऐसे में जलमार्गों के रूप में इतना बड़ा हस्तक्षेप हमारी नदियों पर एक और बड़ा हमला है जो पहले से बुरी हालत में हैं। https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/%E0%A4%A8%E0%A4%A6%E0%A5%80%E0%A4%B9%E0%A4%82%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%BE-%E0%A4%AA%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%B8-62034 (5 Nov. 2018)