DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study

(Feature Image:- The construction of the Polavaram dam across the Godavari river has posed a big threat to the Pulasa fish, as its movement to the upstream of the river could be curtailed. HT PHOTO).

Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned.

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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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Monsoon · Rainfall

High Rainfall days in India’s districts in August 2022

An analysis of the daily district wise rainfall data from India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the month of Aug 2021, 3rd month of India’s South West Monsoon 2021 shows that there were 667 (much higher than 431 in Aug 2021) instances when district rainfall of a day in a district was above 50 mm. The normal monthly rainfall of India Aug is 258.2 mm and actual rainfall was 3.5% above normal at 263.8 mm[i]. Such high rainfall instances included 553 (371 in Aug 2021) instances when rainfall was 50-100 mm, 98 (48 in Aug 2021) instances when it was 100-150 mm, 13 (11) times it was 150-200 mm and 3 (1 in Aug 2021) above 200 mm. Interestingly, in June 2022[ii] and July 2022[iii] there were 462 and 809 instances when rainfall in a district was above 50 mm. The July 2022[iv] and June 2022[v] rainfall all over India was 16.8% above normal and 8% below normal respectively.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 050922: Corruption in Large Dams & pro dam media Mughals

(Feature Image: Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river. Source: Central Water Commission 30.08.2022)

As this article on corruption in large dams in India shows, it is open secret that large dams involve massive corruption, kickbacks and political funding. But the politicians from PM downwards across the party lines have understandably no interest in this issue.

But unfortunately, the large dams-corruption is not limited to politicians. The corruption in various forms plague even the media Mughals like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyer and Shekhar Gupta, both known for their fundamentalist pro dam views. They too have no  interest in corruption in large dams. In fact some of them have no qualms accepting sponsorships of dam contractors for their media awards! They are however, ever ready to criticize Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar, though they have no clue about the issues they are talking about and keep using some flawed study whose reply (by Nandini Oza and Shripad Dharmadhikary) is already out in public domain. It is interesting that they have launched this fresh attack on dam critics just when Gujarat Chief Minister and country’s Home Minister have also launched attack on the NBA. Neither Gujarat CM, PM or HM is replying as to why Kutch, the main justification for Gujarat getting disproportionate share of Narmada waters, were the last to get their share of the water (even now not fully as the canal distribution system is still incomplete), almost two decades after the water rich Central Gujarat started getting Narmada waters. Nor are the pro dam media Mughals bothered about this.

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Monsoon · Rainfall

June Aug 2022: District wise rainfall in India’s SW Monsoon

In the just concluded month of Aug 2022, the third month of India’s South West 2022 monsoon, India received 263.8 mm rainfall, 3.5% above the normal Aug rainfall of 254.9 mm as per India Meteorological department (IMD). In Aug 2021, the rainfall was 195.9 mm[i], about 24.13% below normal and  in Aug 2020, the rainfall was 327 mm[ii], or about 26.6% above normal.

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CWC - Central Water Commission

Monsoon 2022: CWC Changing HFLs in Ad-hock Manner

(Feature Image: Pillar with flood level marked on the bank of Yamuna river at Old Railway Bridge level forecast site in Delhi. Source:- Sanchit Khanna/HT Photos)

During monsoon season, Centre Water Commission’s (CWC) carries flood monitoring and forecast work through a network of 332 stations[i] covering 20 major river basins. The stations are comprised of Level Forecast (LF), Level Monitoring (LM) and Inflow Forecast (IF) sites. The LF sites have Warning Level (WL), Danger Level (DL), Highest Flood Level (HFL), date of HFL information while LM sites maintain HFL and HFL date records. At IF sites flood level for respective dams/ barrages with inflow, out flow figures are measured and forecast is issued accordingly.

However, there are plenty of concerns plaguing CWC’s flood forecast and monitoring work across country for years. In this 2022 SW monsoon season, the agency has exhibited one more problematic tendency which exhibits not only its careless approach vis-a-vis keeping accurate information of HFL breach events, but it also seems strange that it realises it has giving wrong HFL level and date information mostly only after crossing the HFL now. 

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Dam floods

Madhya Pradesh: Collapse of Lateri Stop Dam in Vidisha

(Feature image: Flood water rushing through damaged portion of Lateri stop dam. Source: Hum Samvet)

Portion of a stop dam in Lateri Block of Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh collapsed in morning hours of Monday, August 22, 2022 amidst heavy rains. The earthen dam is located at Islamnagar near Murvas in Lateri block of Vidisha district. The stop dam in Betwa basin is reportedly built a year ago by forest department. The reason behind the collapse is stated to be heavy rainfall.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 220822: Salutes to Vimalbhai

(Feature Image:- Vimal Bhai with a group of villagers in Uttarakhand. Photo: Matu Jansangathan/ The Wire)

It’s very sad occasion. Vimalbhai, who has been tirelessly active on issues related to dams, rivers and environment in Uttarakhand in particular and India in general, left us on Aug 15, 2022 for his journey beyond this world. He was a remarkably dedicated, committed and yet always smiling, simple man with simple needs. His loss is already being felt. May his soul rest in peace and may his friends and family get the strength to bear the loss.

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Dams · Yamuna River

August 2022: Yamuna flood reclaims encroached floodplains in Delhi

(Feature Image: RMC plants located in active floodplain of Yamuna at Noida More submerged in flood water on Aug. 13, 2022. Image Credit:- Vikrant Tongad, SAFE)

A much awaited flood spell has flowed through Delhi during August 13-14, 2022. It came after more than two months of south west monsoon. Usually by this time, Yamuna river would have witnessed two or three flood spells in national capital lending a fresh lease of life to one of the most polluted rivers of India.

The small scale flood spell in the river has invaded parts of floodplains under abuse and encroachment by government agencies in open defiance of National Green Tribunal (NGT) January 13, 2015 judgement[i]. Apart from this flood, Delhi stretch of the river has witnessed few more abnormal events in this monsoon season so far.

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