Maharashtra · Mumbai

Water Smart Mumbai is possible without river links and big dams! Open Letter to CM Devendra Fadnavis

Above: Forested Valley, now lost forever for the Middle Vaitarna Dam Photo: Parineeta Dandekar 

Respected Chief Minister,

At the outset we congratulate you for leading some progressive changes in the Water Resources Department of the State. These include decisions about continuing only with those dam projects which are more than 75% complete[1], appointment of independent people with a clean image like Shri. H.T. Mendhegiri as CADA Chief Secretary, changing norms of Economic Survey Report[2], stating that only hoarding water will not be counted towards increase in irrigation potential, etc. Continue reading “Water Smart Mumbai is possible without river links and big dams! Open Letter to CM Devendra Fadnavis”

Mumbai · Narmada · Western Ghats

Crisis in India’s Urban Water Sector

More than 50 people including tribal groups, social activists, water experts, ecologists and wildlife experts, academics came together for a brainstorming workshop about Dams coming up for Mumbai Region. The meeting was organized by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Shramik Mukti Sangathana, and Jalbiradari.

Meeting on Dams round Mumbai Photo: SANDRP
Seetaram Shelar of YUVA at Meeting on Dams round Mumbai Photo: SANDRP

About 12 dams are planned or are under construction to satisfy the increasing thirst of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). All of these dams fall in eco-sensitive region of the Western Ghats. They will together submerge more than 22,000 hectares of land, including nearly 7000 hectares of forests, lakhs of trees and more than 750 hectares of Tansa Sanctuary. They will affect a minimum of 100,000 tribals who depend on the forests and their ancestral lands for livelihoods. These dams include Kalu, Shai, Balganga, Susari, Khargihill, Bhugad, Pinjal, Gargai, Middle Vaitarna, Barvi and Poshir, among others. These are in addition to the dams already constructed for MMR water supply.

Tribals and other affected groups of Thane and Raigad region have been strongly opposing these projects. Most people in Mumbai seem unaware of their struggles or impacts of these projects.

Most of these dams are escaping the social and environmental impact assessments and management plans, environment clearance requirements, environmental monitoring or public consultations due to blunders in environmental impact assessment notification of Sept 2006, which excludes domestic and industrial water supply projects from environmental clearance process. It signifies the environmental illiteracy of the officials and ministers at the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. In spite of repeated letters, and acknowledging that this makes no sense, they have refused to change it.

Local protest against Pinjal Dam near Jawhar which can submereg 11 villages and 2000 hectares fo forests Photo: SANDRP
Local protest against Pinjal Dam near Jawhar which can submereg 11 villages and 2000 hectares of forests Photo: SANDRP

MMR has not done any sort of options assessment before pushing these projects and cursory review show that many options exist. At the city or Region level, there is no shortfall in water supply currently and the existing problems are due to inequitable, non-transparent, non-participatory and wasteful water governance in MMR. Municipal corporations under the MMR which are pushing new dams do not treat even 15% of their sewage. Bhiwandi Nizampur & Vasai Virar Corp do not treat ANY of their sewage. The Mumbai Region has no estimate of its rainwater harvesting potential, and there is little effective action in this direction despite high rainfall. Water supply and distribution losses are over 30%. Local water sources like rivers, lakes and wells are being destroyed by pollution and encroachments. There is no interest in democratizing governance of MMR water sector.

The meeting resolution urged the MMR region to address these issues first, which would lead to sustainable water supply to the city and suburbs. Konkan Irrigation Department which is constructing most of these projects has violated several laws related to tribal and forest rights, environment, forests and resettlement and has been mostly favoring a single contractor, illegally.

The meeting also strongly urged the MMRDA, MCGM, Municipal Corporations of MMR, Maharashtra government, Union Ministry of environment and forests, Maharashtra Forest Department, National Board of Wildlife and all others concerned to ensure that following steps are taken up urgently and in a credible way:

Þ     Undertake thorough options assessment for Mumbai’s (and also for other cities of MMR) water needs which includes groundwater recharge and sustainable use, protect and use local water sources, rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment and reuse, plug leakages, improve water supply efficiency, take up systematic demand side management measures etc.;

Þ     Undertake Environmental and Social impact assessments for all the dams coming up for Mumbai Region;

Þ     Take immediate action against KIDC for violating multiple laws while bulldozing ahead with projects and MMRDA for funding projects in the absence of clearances;

Þ     Respect people’s protests and Gram Sabha resolutions against displacement, deforestation and their refusal to give permission for these projects;

Þ     Take strong penal action against the officers and the contractors who have displaced Adivasis illegally;

Þ     Not resume any work or planning for any project before the above is done, stop work on projects in the meantime;

Þ     Change the EIA notification to ensure that all large dams are included for environment clearance, public hearings and EIA requirements;

Þ     Immediately institute a credible Cumulative Impact Assessment of the projects already constructed and advanced in implementation;

Þ     Institutionalize decentralized, democratic governance of water sector in MMR from bottom to top.

Forests in the Western Ghats are Mumbai’s and MMR’s lungs. They are the watersheds of rivers and water sources like Tansa and Bhatsa and naturally purify Mumbai’s & MMR’s drinking water. Rich tribal culture of Thane and Raigad is a shared heritage of Mumbai and we have no right to displace the tribals or destroy their livelihoods. This destruction in Mumbai’s backyard must be stopped.

Submergence of Gargai Dam Photo: SANDRP
Submergence of Gargai Dam Photo: SANDRP

However, Mumbai and MMR are not the only urban areas guilty of destroying the environment, forests, biodiversity and livelihoods of lakhs of poor people. Delhi, already having more per capita water than European cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Bonn, is asking for Renuka, Lakhwar and Kishau dams in upstream Yamuna basin, while destroying the YamunaRiver for all downstream areas. Ahmedabad is using water from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam that was meant for the people of Kutch and Saurashtra and which has led to displacement of over two lakh people. Jaipur is taking water from Bisalpur dam. Farmers for whom it was made are not getting the water and some lost their lives in police firing, while demanding that water. Massive diversion of Nethrawathi water is proposed for Bangalore and other areas, destroying the pristine Western Ghats forests. 3 farmers died in police firing near Pune when a huge farmers rally was protesting against diversion of water from Pawna Dam to the Corporation of Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Headwaters of Netravathi and Gundia threatened by Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
Headwaters of Netravathi and Gundia threatened by Yettinahole Diversion Photo: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

As Planning Commission member Dr Mihir Shah recently wrote, the 12th Five Year Plan proposes paradigm shift in Urban sector sector: “Each city must consider, as the first source of supply, its local waterbodies. Therefore, cities must only get funds for water projects, when they have accounted for the water supply from local waterbodies and have protected these waterbodies and their catchments. This precondition will force protection and build the infrastructure, which will supply locally and then take back sewage also locally.”

The trouble with this urban water sector reform agenda is that close to two years into the 12th Plan, we still do not see it being implemented anywhere. We do not see any roadmap for its implementation. And yet the UPA government continues to fund solutions catering to only long distance supply-side measures like big dam projects for urban areas under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. In fact, of the first Rs 60 000 crores sanctioned for JNNURM, about 70% was for urban water sector, but do we see any progress in democratisation or even improvement of Urban Water Governance?

The hope lies with clean, transparent and participatory governance. Let us hope we see some change in this direction.

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com), Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com), SANDRP

A slightly edited version of this has appeared in Civil Society http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/pages/Details.aspx?480

Maharashtra · Mumbai · Western Ghats

Pathetic state of rehabilitation at the “State-of-the-Art” Middle Vaitarna Dam

Middle Vaitarna Dam across the west flowing Vaitarna River near Mumbai is supposed to be a state-of-the-art technological feat. It’s a 102 meters tall concrete dam, the second tallest in Maharashtra. It was built with an what is claimed to be innovative mix of cement and fly ash from Eklahere Thermal Power Plant. The dam is also claimed to be completed in a record time. Additional Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Mr. Jalota claims that Middle Vaitarna was completed in 15.5 months out of the total project duration of 42 months.  This speed is supposed to be ninth fastest globally for RCC Dams[i].

Middle Vaitarna Project Photo with thanks from mmmhydropower.blogspot.com
Middle Vaitarna Project Photo with thanks from mmmhydropower.blogspot.com

The project was partly funded by the Jawarharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). When fully functional, the dam will be supplying 455 MLD (Million Liters per Day) water to MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), one of the biggest Municipal Corporations of the world.

So many exceptional performances claimed for one dam!

One would expect the similar concern for efficiency and speed while dealing with rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected population.

The project submerged over 3473 hectares of land (8581 acres land) including over 634 hectares forests (1566 acres forest). It also affected about 8 villages and several adivasi padas in the region. Of these, only 35 families who lost their homes were rehabilitated in a colony near the project site of Kochale village.

A visit to the rehabilitation colony in 2012 and in January 2014 where the project affected families moved in last year reveals:

Extremely poor construction quality. Just one year after families moved in, roofs of one of the houses collapsed. Human injury was narrowly avoided.

Resettlement Colony of the Middle Vaitarna Dam. Photo: Amit Tillu
Resettlement Colony of the Middle Vaitarna Dam. Photo: Amit Tillu

Almost all of the homes are chronically leaking.

There is no drinking water supply to this colony. The main supply tank does not get water. So no taps are working.

Middle Vaitarna Colony Photo: Amit Tillu
Middle Vaitarna Colony Photo: Amit Tillu
  • There is no water in the toilets. Site-in-charge and contractor orders a tanker when they feel like.
  • Common electric connections are defunct: Contractor took away the meters. No electricity at Hospital, Temple and Community Hall.
  • No Doctor has been appointed at the hospital. It’s an empty building.
Middle Vaitarna resettlement colony Photo: Amit Tillu
Middle Vaitarna resettlement colony Photo: Amit Tillu

Completely disillusioned by these houses, many affected people have built separate mud and thatch houses next to the ‘Sarkari’ homes.

Middle Vaitarna Resettlement Colony Photo: Amit Tillu
Middle Vaitarna Resettlement Colony Photo: Amit Tillu

What is the state of other Project affected people?

The affected people from Kochale, Karegaon, Vihigaon have received paltry compensation sums at Rs. 28000 per hectare for cultivated land. This is much lower than per hectare compensation given to the Forest Department for trees lost.

Smr Sangeeta Vare from Kochale village, struggling to get a project affected certificate Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Smt. Sangeeta Vare from Kochale village, struggling to get a project affected certificate Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

Project affected were told that one member from each affected family will get a government job. Land acquisition for Middle Vaitarna has been done under the article 52 A of the Maharashtra Land Acquisition Act, which includes provisions for ‘Urgent’ land acquisition. Special Land Acquisition officer promised that action will be taken about securing some jobs. After a long follow up, none of the project affected have received jobs. Requests for recommendations for temporary jobs at the dam site have also been denied.

Regarding “Project Affected” Certificate (Government Resolution 21 Jan 1980):  According to the Maharashtra Project Affected Persons Rehabilitation Act 1999, it is the duty of the Collector “to issue a certificate to a person who is nominated by the project affected person for being employed against the quota reserved for the nominees of the affected persons”.

None of the PAs from Middle Vaitarna have received these Certificates, even after repeated and expensive follow up with a number of agencies.

When they contacted the Tahasildar, they were given a list of 12 documents that they have to compile in order to get this Certificate.

These documents include certificates from 4 other officials.

Considering the fact that all the Project affected persons of Middle Vaitarna Project are financially vulnerable tribals, with minimum education and considering that this small number of population is bearing the brunt of displacement and loss of livelihood for a mega city, they could have been helped with in this task.

In the case of Bhatsa Dam near Middle Vaitarna, the same conditions prevails for over 35 years. Project affected have not received full compensation, have not been given project affected certificates or any jobs.

The state of rehabilitation and resettlement for the claimed state of art dam seems dismal to say the least. More than 12 dams are coming up around Mumbai Metropolitan Region for drinking water supply. These will together affect more than one lakh tribals and over 7000 hectares of forest.

(https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/dams-in-tribal-areas-of-western-ghats-for-water-supply-to-mumbai-why-are-they-unjustified/)

Rehabilitation and resettlement at Middle Vaitarna is a sign of how these issues will be treated in these dams. We hope this is proved wrong.

– Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com) and Amit Tillu (amittillu@gmail.com), Nashik

Women fetching water from far off sources even as Middle Vaitarna is close by. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Women fetching water from far off sources even as Middle Vaitarna is close by. Photo: Parineeta Dandekar
Dams · Maharashtra

Multiple Dams for Mumbai Region have Severe Impacts and are Unjustifiable

Press Release                                                                                                                                                  18.12.13                           

Multiple Dams for Mumbai Region have severe impacts and are unjustifiable

More than 50 people including tribal groups, social activists, water experts, ecologists and wildlife experts, academics came together for a brainstorming workshop about Dams coming up for Mumbai Region. The meeting was organized by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Shramik Mukti Sangathana, Jalbiradari and Keystone Foundation.

About 12 dams are planned or are under construction to satisfy the increasing thirst of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). All of these dams fall in eco-sensitive region of the Western Ghats. They will together submerge more than 22,000 hectares of land, including nearly 7000 hectares of forests, lakhs of trees and more than 750 hectares of Tansa Sanctuary. They will affect a minimum of 100,000 tribals who depend on the forests and their ancestral lands for livelihoods. These dams include Kalu, Shai, Balganga, Susari, Khargihill, Bhugad, Pinjal, Gargai, Middle Vaitarna, Barvi and Poshir, among others. These are in addition to the dams already constructed for MMR water supply.

Tribals and other affected groups of Thane and Raigad region have been strongly opposing these projects. Most people in Mumbai seems unaware of their struggles or impacts of these projects.

Most of these dams are escaping the social and environmental impact assessments and management plans, environment clearance requirements, environmental monitoring or public consultations due  to blunders in environmental impact assessment notification of Sept 2006, which excludes domestic and industrial water supply projects from environmental clearance process.

MMR has not done any sort of options assessment before pushing these projects and cursory review show that many options exist. At the city or Region level, there is no shortfall in water supply currently and the existing problems are due to inequitable, non-transparent, non-participatory and wasteful water governance in MMR. Municipal corporations under the MMR which are pushing new dams do not treat even 15% of their sewage. Bhiwandi Nizampur & Vasai Virar Corp do not treat ANY of their sewage. The Mumbai Region has no estimate of its rainwater harvesting potential, and there is little effective action in this direction despite high rainfall. Water supply and distribution losses are over 30%. Local water sources like rivers, lakes and wells are being destroyed by pollution and encroachments. There is no interest in democratizing governance of MMR water sector.

We urge the MMR region to address these issues first, which would lead to sustainable water supply to the city and suburbs. Konkan Irrigation Department which is constructing most of these projects has violated several laws related to tribal and forest rights, environment, forests and resettlement and has been mostly favoring a single contractor, illegally.

We strongly urge the MMRDA, MCGM, Municipal Corporations of MMR, Maharashtra government, Union Ministry of environment and forests, Maharashtra Forest Department, National Board of Wildlife and all others concerned to ensure that following steps are taken up urgently and in a credible way:

  1. Undertake thorough options assessment for Mumbai’s (and also same for other cities of MMR) water needs which includes groundwater use, local water sources, rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment and reuse, water supply efficiency, etc.,
  2. Undertake Environmental and Social impact assessments for all the dams coming up for Mumbai Region
  3. Take immediate action against KIDC for violating multiple laws while bulldozing ahead with projects and MMRDA for funding projects in the absence of clearances
  4. Respect peoples protests and Gram Sabha resolutions against displacement, deforestation and their refusal to give permission for these projects
  5. Take strong penal action against the officers and the contractors who have displaced Adivasis illegally
  6. Not to resume any work or planning for any project before the above is done, stop work on projects in the meantime.
  7. Change the EIA notification to ensure that all large dams are included for environment clearance, public hearings and EIA requirements.
  8. Immediately institute a credible Cumulative Impact Assessment of the projects already constructed and advanced in implementation.
  9. Institutionalize decentralized, democratic governance of water sector in MMR from bottom to top.

 

Forests in the Western Ghats are Mumbai’s and MMR’s lungs. They are the watersheds of rivers and water sources like Tansa and Bhatsa and naturally purify Mumbai’s & MMR’s drinking water.

Rich tribal culture of Thane and Raigad is a shared heritage of Mumbai and we have no right to displace the tribals or destroy their livelihoods.

Stop this destruction in Mumbai’s backyard.

Indavi Tulpule (indavi62@gmail.com), Shramik Mukti Sangathana, Thane;

Surekha Dalvi, (surekhadalavi@yahoo.com) Shramik Kranti Sangathana: Raigad;

Brian Lobo, (brianlobo6@gmail.com) Shramik Kashtakari Sanagthana: Dahanu;

Prashant Sarkhot, (loksangramsamiti@gmail.com)Shai Dharan Viroddhi Samiti,

Sitaram Shelar (sitaram.shelar@yuvaindia.org) YUVA, Mumbai;

Janak Daftari (daffy@jalsangrah.org), Jal Biradari, Mumbai

Shripad Dharmadhikary (manthan.shripad@gmail.com), Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com, 09860030472), SANDRP, Pune