MOBILE APP FOR RIVER MONITORING: HUGE POTENTIAL FOR CITIZENS IN INDIA? If you added up the length of all the streams around the world, the total would be at least 89 million kilometers [Downing et al., 2012]. More than half of the global stream channel network is likely intermittent (i.e., the streams do not have flow year-round [Datry et al., 2014]), yet most streamflow monitoring stations are located on perennial streams. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 16 April 2018: HOW Citizens can use mobile app to monitor Rivers”
Above: Pipelines which supply water to Pune City from Khadakwasla Dam (Photo: Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP)
Urban narrative of Maharashtra revolves predominantly around cities of Mumbai (along with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region i.e. MMR), Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. Dominance of these large urban centres or the big cities over raw water sources is apparent. These cities have per capita water supply much more than the prescribed norms and continue to seek more water allocations. As Maharashtra gears up to fund more and more dams tapping finances from different sources, big cities with growing footprint of water consumption are all set to claim more water from these dams. Continue reading “Maharashtra Urban water sector in 2016: Big cities eyeing big dams”
Above: Polluted, encroached and neglected water sources of Mumbai Source: visualwhiplash.com
The total dependency of urban areas on dams in faraway regions is a fairly recent phenomenon. Till the middle of nineteenth century, even important urban centers like Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai used local water sources like shallow wells, tanks and rivers to quench the thirst of a concentrated population. British administration pushed dam building and long distance transfers in many cities like Mumbai. While dam building did quench the thirst of a growing population, and some of it spurred from acute water crisis like in the case of Mumbai in 1845, distant water sources and dams were instrumental in cutting the connection of the local residents with their water sources, which were revered and well maintained till then. In no time, wells in Mumbai were reclaimed, tanks in Chennai and Bangalore were encroached and Boalies and wetlands of Delhi disappeared. Urban centres became hopelessly dependent on large dams, away from the cities. Water supply and sanitation became someone else’s responsibility. The vestiges of a more independent water management can still be seen lying defunct and dilapidated in form of wells and tanks like Banganga in Mumbai, water channels of Pune, several tanks of Bangalore, Nugambakkam Lake of Chennai, Baolis of Delhi, etc.
Mumbai: Mumbai currently receives a supply of 3,750 MLD (million litres per day), while its usage is around 2,400 MLD. However, the requirement is projected as 4,200 MLD by officials and media based on an inflated figure of 240 liters per capita per day – used to justify construction of new dams. The requirement is projected to reach 6,680 MLD by 2041.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has proposed 4 dams to increase the water supply to Mumbai. Two of the proposed dams are the Gargai and Pinjal dams which are awaiting clearances. The dams are together expected to submerge 17 villages and 2850 ha forest land in a predominantly tribal region, with many areas falling under Schedule 5 of the Constitution. All the tribals from the affected villages are strongly against the project. More than 12 dams in close proximity are in various stages of construction in the same region and no cumulative impact assessment or even options assessment has been conducted so far. The Gargai and Pinjal dams will cost about Rs 16,000 crore and take 8 years for construction. They are expected to supply 440 and 865 MLD respectively to Mumbai. Read more about the projects here.
The other proposed dams are part of the Damanganga-Pinjal river linking project which is being pushed by the union water resources ministry. The Union water resources minister Uma Bharati announced that the project is to be a national project, making it eligible for 90% funding from the Centre. The project is expected to cost around Rs 800 crore. It includes construction of a dam on the Damanganga River in Nashik district close to the Gujarat border and another dam across Vagh river in Mokhada taluka, Thane district. It proposes to direct surplus water from the Damanganga River in Gujarat via the 2 reservoirs to the Pinjal reservoir which is to be constructed by the BMC. The project is expected to bring 2,450 MLD to Mumbai.
The project has been stalled as of Feb 2016 as the Gujarat government wants a greater share of water from the Tapi River in return for increased share of water to supply to Mumbai. Maharashtra is already facing regional disputes over water in water starved Nashik, Ahmednagar and Marathwada. The Chief Minister had to promise the Assembly in March 2015 that “not a drop of water from Maharashtra will go to Gujarat”. Activists have objected that these regions would be adversely affected by the river linking project. The river linking proposals are already creating new conflicts.
Bangalore: To meet the growing demands of Bangalore city, Karnataka has proposed two dam projects across Cauvery near Mekedatu, in Kanakapura taluka in Ramanagaram district. The project is expected to help the state store 48 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water. Mekedatu is located about 110 km from Bangalore.
In the March 2015 budget of Karnataka, the chief minister proposed preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the project and Rs 25 crore was allotted for the same triggering a new round of conflict over sharing Cauvery water with Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu says that the project is in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. Tamil Nadu adopted a resolution urging the Centre to stop Karnataka from going ahead with the project and a bandh was observed. It has also moved the Supreme Court arguing that the reservoirs would result in ‘impounding of the flows’ of Tamil Nadu.
However Karnataka claims that the dams are within the rights of Karnataka and that the project would act as a balancing reservoir and harness water otherwise flowing into the sea. The CM informed that his government was committed to implementing the Mekedatu dam project and it would face the issue legally. Similar show of political will in preserving wetlands of Bangalore city and implementing steps for water conservation would go far in improving water security of the city.
On June 18, 2015, the Karnataka Water Resources minister said that the Mekedatu project was being expedited and the DPR for the implementation of the project will be readied within three months (as opposed to the usual period of one year). The projects would be right in the middle of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. About 2,500 acres of forest area will be submerged. As the project is for potable purpose, it does not require environment clearance from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).
Hyderabad: Hyderabad is going to draw drinking water from Yellampally barrage in Adilabad district on the Godavari River. It is an ambitious project for the Telangana government bringing approximately 680 MLD of water to the city of Hyderabad. While the Godavari flows toward Eastern Ghats before draining into the Bay of Bengal, Hyderabad is located in another river basin, namely Krishna basin. Such water transfers can have many impacts, including floods and land sliding. A 186 km long pipeline would route the water from the Yellampally barrage.
Delhi: The Renuka dam project was proposed on the Giri River, a tributary of Yamuna, in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh in 2008. The project was expected to supply 1,240 MLD water to Delhi and its surrounding areas.
After a prolonged controversy, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Feb 2, 2016 passed judgement in a case challenging the environmental clearance to the Renuka project, basically since Supreme Court in an earlier case had made some remarks about the project, as one can see from reading of the NGT order. The tribunal took grounds of national importance of the project and amount already spent on the project to allow it. Under the UPA government, the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh denied forest clearance to the project saying that the national capital should first fix its water distribution losses of over 45 %. “Delhi must learn to use the tougher options that are available. It cannot be a parasite on the rest of the country”, he said. The project is yet to receive forest clearance.
The NGT declined to stall the land acquisition proceedings for the dam by the State government since the Centre had declared the project as one of “national importance”. To execute the project, Himachal has acquired about 2,950 ha, including private agricultural and forest land despite protests of the locals. The state claimed that until Oct 2015, the Centre had not released any money to compensate farmers whose plots were taken over. 90% of the funding of the project is to be borne by the Centre as the project was declared a national project.
The project has been delayed for lack of clearances, support and funds. The total project cost which was initially estimated at Rs 3498.86 crore as in March, 2009 is likely to go beyond Rs 5,200 crore with delay in the execution of the project. In Nov 2015, Delhi Water Minister declared at India Rivers Day function that Delhi does not need water from Renuka dam, but very strangely, neither Delhi govt filed an affidavit to that effect before NGT, nor did NGT take cognizance of this public stand of Delhi Government.
Srinagar: Protests erupted in Chadoora area of Kashmir’s Budgam district on Dec 18, 2015 against a proposed water supply scheme sourced from Doodh Ganga River for Srinagar. People from twin constituencies of Chrar-e-Sharief and Chadoora fear the scheme will dry up half-a-dozen water supply schemes, already fed on Doodh Ganga. The protestors were worried that the projects would deprive them of irrigation and drinking water and also put them under risk of flooding. The protesters alleged that they had approached the officials to put forth their reservations, but nobody heeded their concerns.
The executive agency, Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) claimed that the scheme will benefit 3.5 lakh people and that there are no risks associated with it. The ERA said that more than Rs. 10 crore had been invested by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and that the state would lose out future investment from ADB if Dhoodhganga water scheme were stopped.
Hundreds of protestors held demonstrations for a week. The protesters allegedly clashed with government forces while the forces retaliated by firing teargas shells and pepper gas. After days of massive protests and clashes, on Dec 24, 2015, the Jammu and Kashmir Government ordered temporary suspension of the work on the scheme.
Big dams come at a huge social and environmental cost. Recurring costs of repair and maintenance are so much that they far outweigh the benefits. Urban areas can and should explore low cost local solutions and conserve water than solely rely on dams. Recent happenings bear witness to the drawbacks of building dams to supply water to cities.
Drought of 2015-16: As of Jan 2016, water levels are already very low in dams at many places across the country because of deficient rains in 2015. Water usage has to be rationed until the monsoons. Even in such times, urban usage is often not regulated and urban water supply is prioritized and comes at the cost of irrigation water for agriculture.
As of Jan 2016, reservoir levels in Gujarat are at a 10 year low. Rains last year were 23% less than normal and the state’s 202 reservoirs have only 24% usable water as compared to the usual 48% around this time of the year. The CM has declared that the water would only be used for drinking purposes for the next 5 months and no water would be spared for agriculture until monsoons. In Porbandar town, water is provided once a week in several areas. Two main reservoirs that provide water to the area may go dry in a month. Drinking water crisis is expected to hit Saurashtra and Kutch badly.
The depletion of water table at the Lower Manair Dam on the Godavari basin in Karimanagar district, Telangana raised alarm in Jan 2016 as the reservoir provides drinking water to Karimnagar, Warangal and other places located close to the reservoir. The drought in the region has cast concerns over availability of drinking water for the coming summer season.
Water levels, as of late Feb 2016 have hit a record low in reservoirs on Krishna and Cauvery Rivers threatening drinking water supply to Bengaluru and other places in Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Reservoirs in the Krishna basin have never been in such bad shape. The worst hit is Tungabhadra dam which has a storage capacity of 100.86 TMC while the available water at present is a mere 9.23 TMC. Cities like Hubli-Dharwad are getting water once in eight days, owing to the alarmingly low level in Malaprabha dam in Krishna basin. Farmers have been alerted in both Krishna and Cauvery basins that there will be no water release for irrigation, this summer. Despite the austerity measure, meeting drinking water needs will be difficult until monsoons fill up the reservoirs. Storage as of late Feb 2016 in the KRS reservoir supplying water from the Cauvery River is only 18.69 TMC compared to last year’s level of 32.84 TMC. While 2 TMC is dead storage (water which cannot be utilised), another 2 TMC of water will be lost due to evaporation over the next five months. Bengaluru alone requires 1.5 TMC water every month.
With no rainfall in the latter part of Jan 2016 and release of water for irrigation, storage in the Vaigai reservoir in Theni district, Tamil Nadu is fast depleting and has slipped below 50 feet (maximum level is 71 feet). The Vaigai dam provides drinking water to Madurai and it is anticipated that shortages might be experienced during April-May 2016.
Prior to the monsoons in 2015, it was reported that Panvel was facing massive water cuts for 4 months, until rains came in the end of June 2015, as the Dehrang dam, the city’s primary source of water had dried up. The dam was constructed in 1964 and at present the city has a population over 1.11 lakh.
Reliance of urban areas solely on dam based water supply exposes them to seasonal shortages. As the summers are becoming hotter, longer and drier, dams lose greater amount of water to evaporation. Climate change is changing the rainfall pattern and has increased occurrences of intensely heavy rainfall and prolonged periods of drought. Dams also increase risk of flooding during heavy rains.
Flooding: More than 1,500 people, including 500 people from Ahmedabad city, were evacuated due to sudden floods in the Sabarmati River after water was released from the Dharoi dam in Mehsana district, Gujarat, on July 30, 2015. Sabarmati water level dramatically rose after huge volume of water was released into the river from the dam due to heavy rainfall in the catchment.
Flooding is frequently seen during heavy rains when the rivers are already overflowing and surplus water also has to be released from dams. During 2015 monsoons, flooding also occurred in West Bengal after release of water from the Damodar Valley project and in Punjab after authorities opened the flood gates of the Pong dam in Himachal Pradesh.
The floods in Chennai in Dec 2015 were made worse by negligent operation of the Chembarambakkam reservoir in the outskirts of the city. Meteorological agencies had predicted heavy rains and advised the PWD and other bureaucrats to bring down the water level in the reservoir. However the proposal to release water was caught in bureaucratic red tape. From Nov 24 to Nov 30, when the city experienced little rainfall, outflow from the reservoir was limited, while storage levels were maintained at 85-88%. Orders to open the Chembarambakkam sluice gates were received only after the city was pounded with rain and the reservoir started overflowing. On Dec 1, following heavy rainfall, approximately 29,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) was released in a short span of time into the already constricted Adyar River and into the waterlogged city. Much of the flooding and subsequent waterlogging was a consequence of these outflows and water level in many areas went up even after the rains stopped.
Accumulation of silt is another recurring problem with dams. The dam’s storage capacity reduces with silt accumulation. Removal of silt is economically unviable – desilting a dam might be as expensive as constructing multiple new dams. However, the structure itself is endangered due to silt accumulation – necessitating removal or increasing the storage level of the dam. Deterioration over time of material used to build the dam also necessitates repair.
Khadakwasla dam which had 4 TMC storage capacity and supplied water to 80,000 Punekars when it was constructed, was left with 2 TMC water storage capacity as of June 2015.
Environmental NGOs and socially aware groups have been working on desilting the dam removing a lakh truckloads of silt in the last 3 years. The Temghar, Panshet dams in Pune are also prone to loss of capacity from silting. While periodic silting by civic agencies is called for, it is also observed that the reason behind increased silting is deforestation and catchment destruction. An environmentalist working on Khadakwasla explained that over time the area around the dam has lost its green cover leading to a rise in the rate of silting.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) with assistance from the World Bank has initiated the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) at an estimated cost of Rs. 2100 crore and progress was reviewed on Feb 10, 2016. The project across seven states of India (Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand) targets rehabilitation of about 225 dam projects and preparatory activities have been completed for 207 dams in collaboration with states.
Land acquisition and rehabilitation: The Thumbe vented dam on the Nethravati River is the primary source of water for Mangalore city. A new dam is being constructed at Thumbe to increase the height of stored water from present 4m to 7m. An estimated 386 acre of additional land would be submerged if water is stored up to that level. The construction of the new dam has been almost completed and the process of land acquisition would be initiated soon. Strangely, the process of land acquisition is being initiated when the dam is almost completed.
In Jan. 2016, it was reported that Pune district has at least 800 pending cases of rehabilitation for the dam-affected that the district aims to clear during the year. The district has 25 dams. Besides rehabilitation and compensation, provision of civic amenities and basic infrastructure is also pending.
The rehabilitation process is often fraught with corruption. For instance, in the case of rehabilitation of Narmada dam oustees, activists have claimed that thousands of oustees have faced serious corruption in the rehabilitation process, thereby depriving them of their rights and rehabilitation benefits. The soon to be released report of the Jha Commission set up by the Madhya Pradesh HC to investigate corruption in the rehabilitation process is expected to reveal misappropriation to the tune of Rs 1,000 to 1,500 crore.
The recently reported issues related to dams reveal that they are an inefficient approach to urban water supply. Dams come at a high cost and the final expenditure is almost always in excess of what is predicted at the outset. Dam building also offers potential for embezzlement of huge amounts of money. Maintenance is again an expensive affair and is indispensable as they could otherwise lead to major disasters. They come at a huge social and environmental cost submerging agricultural lands, villages, forests and habitats of other species often against the will of the people they displace whose livelihoods are lost and life is altered permanently. Diversion of water is also at the cost of competing local demands for irrigation and domestic use. The burdens and benefits of such projects are distributed inequitably and cleave along the urban-rural, rich-poor social divide.
There is little appreciation of the huge costs involved and there is no incentive to conserve water among urban residents who are beneficiaries of the project. Often there is also lack of information regarding shortages on the supply side. Urban water supply can benefit more at lower costs and greater reliability from developing better water managing techniques such as rainwater harvesting, conserving and developing aquifers, protecting local water bodies and rivers, treated and recycling sewage and recharging groundwater. Groundwater is a much better storage option in times of drought, as it is not lost by evaporation. These require way less infrastructure and work along with nature than destroy it. However making sustainable use of groundwater requires disciplined planning and might not present chances for corruption that major dam projects do. It is sincerely hoped that the planners make this paradigm shift sooner than later.
Unless all available low cost and low impact options are exhausted, Dams are not water smart, climate smart or economically smart option for urban areas. Such projects should not be part of smart cities scheme.
Anuradha firstname.lastname@example.org, SANDRP
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A slightly edited version of this has appeared in Civil Society http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/pages/Details.aspx?480
SANDRP made the following submissions on Pinjal and Gargai Dam proposals which will be considered for First Satge Environmental Clearance ( Terms of References or TORs) by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the 20th and 21st of January.
As is clear from the submissions below, there are major issues with these projects: Pinjal Dam will submerge 2100 hectares of forest land in 11 villages in Western Ghats, it falls under the Schdeule 5 of Indian Constituion: a special schedule for tribal areas. Local tribal communities are opposing the dam, but need support.
Gargai Dam will submerge 6 villages and 750 hectares of Tansa Sanctuary. Tansa Sanctuary is already scarred by many developments, including the Middle Vaitarna Dam. Putting more pressure on a protected area which also provides ecological services to Mumbai region is not justified.
Finally, these dams are for supply drinking and industrial water to Mumbai. But is the Mumbai Metropolitan region using its available water wisely? Has it explored any options like recycling and reuse of sewage water, the way Singapore or Chennai has? Is it serious about Rainwater harvesting? Has it taken accountable steps against the 1000+ MLD water that is wasted every day through leakages?
If answeres to the above are negative, is the region justified in asking for more dams, affecting people and nature? (SANDRP’s detailed (draft) report on the many dams coming up around Mumbai can be found here:https://sandrp.in/Mumbai_Dams_Draft_Report_Dec_2013.pdf)
If you agree with the points in the submission below, please consider making a similar submission to the MoEF.
Chairperson and Members,
Expert Appraisal Committee, River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Subject: Urgent, multiple concerns about considering Pinjal Multipurpose Project for TORs
Respected Chairperson and members,
We are writing to you as Pinjal Multipurpose Project is on agenda of EAC for TORs for the 71st meeting to be held in January 2014.
This is a second submission we are making about Pinjal Multipurpose Project. The project was on Agenda for the 70th EAC meeting, but was dropped without stating any reasons.
We had organized a meeting on dams coming up around Mumbai on the 18th December 2013 and were also a part of farmers meeting at Pinjal Dam site. This submission draws on both these events. (Please see a Background Report on Dams around Mumbai here:https://sandrp.in/Mumbai_Dams_Draft_Report_Dec_2013.pdf)
At these meetings, there was unanimous conclusion that:
1. No dams should be considered for Mumbai Metro Region (which includes MCGM) before cumulative impact assessment of the dams and developments in the region:
More than 12 dams in close proximity are in various stages of completion, construction and planning for supplying drinking and industrial water to Mumbai Metropolitan region (MMR). The affected region is home to various tribes and majority area id under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
As per cursory account of the current (unassessed) cumulative impacts, these dams will result in submergence of more than 22000 hectares of this region, including 7000 hectares of forest land and will affect more than 100,000 tribals.
Looking at these massive impacts, Forest Advisory Committee, MoEF, while giving stage I clearance to Kalu Dam (also in Thane district), has recommended “A cumulative Impact Assessment of all drinking water projects in the region on the flora and fauna of the area will be undertaken by the state government at the cost of the User Agency and mitigative measures and other conditions suggested in the study will be binding on the User Agency.” This has been reiterated in the Stage I clearance letter of the MoEF dated 31st May 2013 (attached).
Even according to MoEF’s May 28, 2013 notification, cumulative impacts of multiple projects should be done before considering clearances for the next project. Hence, per MoEFs instructions itself, TORs should be issued only in light of the Cumulative Impact Assessment Study.
Hence, TORs should not be recommended to Pinjal Project without such an assessment is completed and public consultations on the same conducted.
2. Strong opposition to the project:
Pinjal Project will be submerging 11 villages in Jawhar and Mokhada talukas in Thane district. This is predominantly a tribal region, with many areas falling under Schedule 5 of the Constitution and tribal sub plan. All the tribals from affected villages are strongly against the project. They have convened many meetings and have also passed Gram Sabha resolutions against the project. Considering the strong local opposition, Pinjal Dam should not be recommended TORs because:
a. Violation of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996:
As the entire affected region falls under the fifth schedule of the constitution, it comes under the PESA Act. PESA mandates that Gram Sabha consent is a mandatory pre requisite for any project being considered in scheduled region. In addition, PESA lays stress on local self-governance of tribal regions by tribals. Considering this and unanimous opposition to Pinjal Dam project, it should not be considered for TORs by the MoEF.
b. Forest Rights as per the Forest Rights Act 2006 are not settled:
Lives of the tribals in this region an inextricably linked with their forests. However, their community and individual Forest Rights on their forests have not yet been recorded or settled. In the absence of this, no project should be considered from this region that will affect their forests, as per the Forest Rights Act 2006.
c. Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013), section 42 (i)says: “As far as possible no land acquisition shall be made in scheduled areas”.
It also says: Section 42 (3) prior informed consent of gram sabhas is mandatory in Schedule 5 regions.
Considering the above legal issues and current local opposition, Pinjal Dam should not be considered by the MoEF.
3. Ecosensitive Zone of the Western Ghats world Heritage Site:
Almost all of the affected villages by Pinjal Dam fall under Ecosensitive Area as per HLWG (High Level Working Group) on Western Ghats report and Eco-sensitive Zone I By WGEEP (Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel) Report. While The HLWG mandates Gram Sabha consent prior to any developmental activity in Eco-sensitive Region, WGEEP bans large dams in ESZ I. Hence, looking at both these reports as well as extremely rich local biodiversity, TORs should not be recommended for Pinjal Dam Project.
4. Serious misrepresentation of Clearance from NBWL:
Form I ( Table 3, Page 10) submitted by the project developer to MoEF says: “Permission from National Wild Life Board, New Delhi, Government of India for geo-technical investigations.”
To the best of our knowledge and from the minutes of the NBWL meetings, Pinjal project has never been considered by the NBWL for any clearance. If this is indeed the case, we ask the EAC to take strong action against the user agency for providing false and misleading information.
5. Contradictions in PFR, Form I and additional information:
There are several serious errors in the Form I and the PFR uploaded on MoEF website. For example:
Form I states that the Gross Storage Capacity of the dam will be 421.6 MCM (Table 1, Section 5). But, PFR states that gross Storage Capacity of the dam will be 483 MCM (Page 8, PFR)
Additional information sheet says that annual yield at Pinjal dam site at 95% dependability is 421.6 MCM, while PFR states the same as 524 MCM.
PFR states 865 MLD water from Pinjal is earmarked for Mumbai, while the Additional information letter puts the same value at 1073 MLD!
Looking at these serious contradictions, the PFR, Form I and the letter about additional information needs to be reworked and the project should not be considered for TORs on the basis of such fundamentally misleading information.
6. Form I says ‘No cumulative impacts”:
Form I says that there are no cumulative impacts envisaged (Section 9.4). However, there are very serious cumulative impacts of dams planned and under construction in the region, in addition to the existing projects. As states above, even the FAC and the MoEF has asked for a Cumulative Impact Assessment study of all dams in the region. Hence, the information provided in the Form I is wrong and the project should not be recommended TORs based on such misleading information.
7. Serious errors in the Prefeasibility Report
The prefeasibility Report prepared by Mott Macdonald who is also the contractor for MCGM) has many errors. Some examples:
· 2011 Report gives MCGMs population as 14.5 million. (Page 1). According to Census of India Reports, population of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) in 2011 was in fact 12.4 million.
· Pre-feasibility report has not relied on census, but on projections, which have proved wrong. Its water demand calculation based on these incorrect predictions are also wrong,
· It assumes that in 2011, the slum population is 40% and planned is 60%, in fact according to census as well as Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai, it is exactly opposite ( slum population is 60% and planned is 40%) Thus, again changing the water demand projections.
· Further water demand projects are based on exuberant figures like 240 lpcd. This is unjustified and no dam development should happen at a huge social and ecological cost for lavish water usage.
8. Current water demand of Mumbai is misrepresented
· The PFR as well as Municipal Commissioner’s note state that current water demand in Mumbai is 4240 MLD and there is a shortfall in supply currently.
· This is completely wrong. According to Census 2011, population of Mumbai is 12.4 million, with a majority population living in the slums. According to Deputy Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, slum population gets 100 lpcd (liters per capita per day) and non-slum population gets 200 lpcd water. Consumption is 686 MLD (Million Liters per Day) for slum and 1297 MLD for non-slum population, which comes to a total of 1983 MLD. It should be added here that slums constructed post 1995 are currently not entitled to any water from BMC.
· Total water supply to MCGM at source is 3520 MLD. According to the Deputy Commissioner, per capita water availability currently is greater than 180 lpcd, which is still higher than water supplied to London (150 lpcd), Singapore (160 lpcd) and Paris (150 lpcd). It is clear that there is NO current shortfall of water in Mumbai.
· At the same time, if supply at source is 3520 MLD and the use is 1983 MLD for drinking water, 260 MLD for commercial and industrial uses and 120 MLD en route supply, there is an additional 1157 MLD water that is available. That is 32.86% of the current water supplied at source is unaccounted for. It is assumed that leakages are to the tune of 25% supply at the source (which is very high), we still have 7.86% water supplied that is unaccounted for. This means 880 MLD of water! Nearly equal to two large dams Mumbai is planning to build!
· But MCGM and PFR is stating that current demand is 4240 MLD and that there is a current shortfall of at least 720 MLD. Where does this 4240 MLD figure come from? This is assuming 240 lpcd water supply which is extremely high and unjustified even by international standards!
This indicates that the PFR and Additional Information letter are misrepresenting and exaggerating the water demand of Mumbai, to justify an ecologically and socially destructive dam projects in the Western Ghats. MoEF should not recommend TORs for Pinjal Dam in this case.
9. No options Assessment about Mumbai’s Water supply options
Before exploring options like new dams, Mumbai needs to explore and exploit its existing options. Some of these include:
Inequitable water supply: parts of MCGM get less than 40 lpcd water, some slum areas receive no water, while affluent addresses get over 300 lpcd water. Equitable, metered water supply will reduce the misleading water demand.
Fixing leakages and wastage: As per the PFR itself, MCGM wastes an unbelievable 1208 MLD water every day in leakages, which is more than the capacity of Pinjal and more than twice the capacity of Middle Vaitarna Dam which is completed this year for water supply to MCGM. There is no transparent program for fixing leakages and wastages in the system.
Rainwater harvesting: MMR receives average rainfall upto 2500 mm annually and thus has a huge potential of rainwater harvesting. MCGM has made rainwater harvesting compulsory for buildings above 300 sq. meters since 2007. However, MCGM needs to make RWH compulsory for all government buildings, all institutional buildings, all commercial buildings, all colleges, schools, parks, stations, flyovers, malls, multiplexes and give them one year time limit after which consequences should follow. This should be accompanied by credible monitoring and compliance systems. MCGM has not done this.
There are several examples where residents themselves have set up RWH plants either to recharge bore wells or to store water. Examples of Sea Line Apartments in Khar, Jago Mumbai Movement, or Shivaji Park in the heart of the city indicate the potential and benefits of Rain water harvesting. In Khotwadi slum, a public toilet with washrooms is managed by Triratna Prerna Mandal and does not use a drop of water from MCGM. The facility is used by nearly 1400 people daily and needs approx. 8000 liters of water per day. An ingenuous rainwater harvesting and ring well facility with a storage tank supplies all water needed. (Dhaval Desai, Time is Running out: Does Mumbai have enough water? Observer Research Foundation, 2012). Observer Research Foundation’s report “Why is there a drought of Rainwater harvesting in Mumbai” indicated MCGM’s Rainwater harvesting Cell is functioning dismally and does not even have data on number of building that have functioning rainwater harvesting systems or the status of RWH in government buildings. “The condition of the cell is pathetic and it functions in a small room, with leakages, no place for paperwork and severely limited manpower”. This indicates how non-serious Mumbai administration.
Reuse and recycle sewage MCGM also needs to ensure that as much reuse and recycle of the sewage is affected in the city as possible. MCGM needs to make such systems compulsory for all government buildings, all institutional buildings, all commercial buildings, all colleges, schools, parks, stations, flyovers, malls, multiplexes and give them one year time limit after which consequences should follow. This should be accompanied by credible monitoring and compliance systems. MCGM has not done this.
Protection of local water systems Mumbai Metro Region also needs to protect all local water bodies including tanks, rivers, forests and wetlands that help harvest and recharge water. There is again no effective step in this direction.
Demand Side Management In addition to above there are many other demand side management measures can be adopting, including use and incentives for water conserving flushes and such other appliances, among others.
No new projects for exogenous water supply sources should be considered until all these options have not been explored by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and MMR bodies through credible policies and programmes.
10. Contradicts the 12th Five Year Plan:
The 12th Five Year Plan Working Group Report on Urban Water states: “cities must only get funds for water projects, when they have accounted for the water supply from local water bodies and have protected these water bodies and their catchments. This precondition will force protection and build the infrastructure, which will supply locally and then take back sewage also locally”. And that rather than focussing only on supply management, Investments in water supply must focus on demand management, reducing intra-city inequity and on quality of water supplied.
We hope that the EAC considers this roadmap laid out by the 12th Five Year Plan, Working Group on Urban and Industrial Water Supply and Sanitation.
Conclusion Looking at all the serious issues above, we are sure that the EAC will not recommend TORs for Pinjal Dam and will respect the ecological integrity of the region as well as the protests from tribals who are entirely dependent on their forests for survival. These forests are also the lungs of Mumbai Metro Region and Western Ghats.
We and the affected tribals of Pinjal are looking forward to a wise decision by the EAC considering all the issues mentioned above and reject the Pinjal Dam proposal.
Submission on Gargai Dam:
It is based on the same lines as above. Additional points:
Serious misrepresentation of Clearance from NBWL in case of Gargai Dam:
Form I (Table 3, Page 10) submitted by the project developer to MoEF says: “Permission from National Wild Life Board, New Delhi, Government of India for geo-technical investigations.” This is completely false information.
The project was considered by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife in its 28th meeting (minutes attached) which states:
- “At the time of approval for the Shahi project, the project authority had given a written undertaking that “It is not necessary to construct any new source for water supply up to year 2031”. He (Kishor Rithe, NBWL) also mentioned that the former Chief Wildlife Warden himself had rejected this proposal as this dam will destroy 750 ha of good forest area of Tansa sanctuary and hence he would not support this proposal.”
- “The committee, after discussions, decided to have a site inspection by Dr Asad Rahmani and take a view based on the site inspection report.”
However, in the 29th meeting, (See here: http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/NBWL-29th-MOM-06-06-13.pdf)non-official member Kishore Rithe writes: “The Proposal for survey and investigation for Gargai project in Tansa Sanctuary for Gargai River Project, Maharashtra which requires 750 ha forest from Tansa Sanctuary, was rejected by all the non-official members and not suggested any site inspection. However the final minutes has recorded that the “The committee, after discussions, decided to have a site inspection by Dr Asad Rahmani and take a view based on the site inspection report.”
Considering the above, it is clear that not only does the project not have ANY clearance from NBWL, but ALL non-official members have rejected the project. When this is clearly stated in NBWL minutes, it is shocking to read the false information being provided by the user agency. We urge the EAC to take strong action against such misleading information being provided to the MoEF.
Selected media reports about dams around Mumbai:
1. Front page report in Hindustan Times on 18th Dec
2. Report in Times of India
3. News report about the meeting on ABP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpGPcEpL9eI
2013 will remain a memorable year for Maharashtra’s water sector in many ways. The year saw several remarkable events, including country’s the biggest dam scam, a severe drought followed by floods, unprecedented intrastate water conflicts, court rulings in many hues, disaster management preparedness, push for urban and industrial water, etc. These issues have raised a question mark over institutions and governance mechanisms around water in the state. 2013 year has been a crucible of sorts through which the flaws and strengths of prevailing water management in Maharashtra can possibly be assessed. This is an attempt to give an overview of the important water happenings in Maharashtra during this year.
As the year 2012 ended, a White Paper on Irrigation Projects[i] was published by the Water Resources Department (WRD) Government of Maharashtra after much pressure from civil society and media following colossal corruption charges[ii] against the WRD, and also against the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) which held the portfolio for more than 11 years. This was looked at primarily as a political move in the ongoing tussle between NCP and Congress. Immediately after its publication, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar who had resigned over corruption charges in WRD was reinstated, without clearing his name. Modus operandi of the dam scam included pushing and initiating multiple projects, incomplete works, unbelievable and irregular cost escalations post tendering: some to the tune of 300%, favoring a cartel of contractors, poor quality of construction, absence of essential studies like water availability, detailed designs, DPRs, absence of canal networks, etc. All this culminated into the fact that after spending Rs 70000 crores on irrigation projects in the past 10 years, the actual increase in irrigated area was extremely low.
The white paper provided a status report of projects under the WRD, the money spent, cost escalations and reasons, status of clearances, etc. As was predicted by many, the white paper has been a white wash. Not only has it presented false information about many projects, it has chosen not to report many controversial projects, and has not given any convincing reasons for delay and cost hikes. It nonchalantly reported illegalities like the on-going work without mandatory Forest and Environmental clearances.
One of the remarkable features of the dam scam and white paper has been that both issues were highlighted and pushed by the civil society and the media and also the CAG report. Parts of the Dam scam was unearthed after organizations like IAC (India Against Corruption), Shramik Mukti Sangathan, SANDRP, etc. which worked on individual projects, mainly of the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), strung together evidence to understand the scope and scale of the scam. One of the eloquent voices in this group has been that of Ms Anjali Damaniya, now with the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party), who joined the dots across Maharashtra and collected a body of evidence which irrefutably indicated the massive corruption and problems in the WRD. Equally remarkable was Chief Engineer Vijay Pandhare’s unshaking stand against the functioning of his own department. Not surprisingly, he was deemed as being mentally imbalanced by the Ministers.[iii]
In this entire episode, Chief Minister of Maharashtra and his government succumbed to the pressures of vested interests in the pro dam lobby, losing a golden opportunity to purge the irrigation sector of its collective corruption.
The White paper was followed by the constitution of a Special investigation Team (SIT) in December 2012 under the chairpersonship of Dr. Madhav Chitale, to investigate the corruption charges and to recommend further action to the WRD. Unfortunately, not only did the constitution of the SIT interfere with taking the WRD into the court, the members, including Chitale, are all known for toeing the government line. Chitale is also known for his pro-dam stance. On top of this, the SIT refused to accept any evidence about the scam from anyone outside the WRD. This move was criticized by many, after which the SIT started accepting such submissions. However, many view the constitution only for buying time and diluting and delaying actual strong action which is deserved by the WRD. [iv] This again shows how the Maharashtra government led by Chavan did not understand the issue and did not have the courage to provide transparent governance.
Massive Drought: Monsoon of 2012 had been poor in many regions across Maharashtra. End of 2012 itself saw severe water stress in many regions and increasing conflicts. The situation needed quick appraisal and strong, urgent measures. But the MWRRA (Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority), expressly constituted in 2005 to provide equitable water distribution in the state was busy holding meetings about water rates.[v] By December 2012 live storages of many projects, including Ujani, touched zero. Months that followed saw one of the most severe droughts experienced by Maharashtra. This was dubbed as a drought worse that 1972 by political leaders, to underline the “natural disaster” and escape responsibility. However, SANDRP’s analysis proved that rainfall in 2012 had been more than that of 1972 in almost all of the 17worse drought-affected districts in Maharashtra. This proved that 40 years after 1972 and after spending thousands of crores on dams and institutions, the impact of a drought less severe than that of 1972 was more severe, highlighting the mismanagement of water on a large scale.[vi]
Sugarcane concentrated in the worst drought hit regions There were many reasons behind this situation, including inequitable water allocation, pollution, dam scam, etc. One of the major culprits was wide spread cultivation of water intensive sugarcane, promoted by the politicians and the government. The water use efficiency of Maharashtra’s cane farming is dismally low, as compared to other states like Uttar Pradesh.[vii] Solapur region, worse hit by drought has the maximum concentration of sugar factories (28) and maximum area under sugarcane.[viii] It also includes Union Agricultural Minister’s (Shri Sharad Pawar) constituency of Madha. Water required for cultivating sugarcane on 155 864 ha area under sugarcane in Solapur works out to be 2630 Million Cubic Meters (MCM). This is 1.73 times the live storage capacity of Ujani Dam (Live Storage: 1517 MCM), the largest reservoir in Bhima basin and third largest reservoir of Maharashtra.[ix] All this cane was crushed when drought was at its worst. In regions like Osmanabad, all of the cane over 50,000 ha was crushed when all of the dams in the region were at dead storage! The same drought-hit region was also going to host several new (mostly private) sugar factories. SANDRP analysed the impact of sugarcane on drought and highlighted this at multiple fora[x]. Some, like Rural Minister Dhobale, promised that new factories will not come up in drought regions. But this has not been implemented.
Most of the water of Ujani Dam in Solapur was diverted for sugarcane, without any checks from anyone. As it reached dead storage, drinking water to villages was affected. The High Court, while hearing a case filed by Prabhakar Deshmukh of Solapur ordered in April 2013 that dams upstream Ujani should release water immediately for the downstream Ujani Dam and other areas. The rationale behind water releases to Ujani has been questioned. Importantly, even in the village of Prabhakar Deshmukh, sugar industries continued to crush cane using huge quantity of water every day, even when he was on fast.[xi] The government has been completely ineffective in dealing with this issue.
Marathwada was most severely hit by drought and was also at the receiving end of a complex upstream-downstream water conflict. After commissioning the massive Jayakwadi Dam near Aurangabad in this region, several (more than 11) dams have been built in the upstream Godavari Basin in Nashik and Ahmednagar Districts. These dams have reduced the water flow into Jayakwadi.[xii] In keeping with Section 11 and 12 of MWRRA, All dams within a basin should have approximately same percentage of water in October each year. However, in Godavari, upstream dams held upto 90% water, even when Jayakwadi was at Dead storage. Multiple cases were filed in Aurangabad bench of High Court which twice ordered release of water from upstream dams. How much water of it actually reached Jayakwadi remains an unanswered question.
Thus the year also saw complete ineffectiveness of MWRRA as an institution. It was shamed by the High Court. More than 13 posts, including the chairperson and expert members were not filled for several years and the authority was all together nonfunctional. Rules of the Act were not made 8 years after formulating the act. They were hastily made after HC orders and very significantly, tried to delete the same clauses which were significant for equitable water distribution. This again was and is being contested by civil society, especially in Marathwada. Now, the WRD has appointed a committee under the chairpersonship of Mr. Mendhegiri, Director WALMI, specifically tasked with making MWRRA “practicable”. Marathwada groups see this as a clear threat to Jayakwadi and have written to the government as well as Mendhegiri Committee. The road ahead seems long.[xiii]
Drought of 2013 was not without bright sparks, though. Collectors from places like Beed, Jalna and Osmanabad took some strong stands. Notable amongst these was Dr. Nagargoze from Osmanabad. Many of their recommendations were however ignored. Civil society groups became active and vocal about equitable water management. Many villages joined initiated desilting tanks and weirs. Several new watershed structures were erected. All this led to considerable storage in 2013 monsoons.
However, quick fix methods like Shirapur pattern which entail deepening and widening of streams and rivulets, was pushed indiscriminately for all, as was string of cement nallah bunds, but this again was contested for its impacts on groundwater and environment. It is now reported that Government has applied for a Rs 60,000 crores loan for drought proofing works, with support from the World Bank. Before such big ticket expenses, we need to check what happened to the thousands of crores spent on watershed management and specifically minor irrigation projects? Large number of minor irrigation projects are dysfunctional and poorly maintained, like their big counterparts. People’s participation in management is the key, but is entirely absent.[xiv] The year 2013 also saw tragic death of five engineers of the WRD, while inspecting a flawed minor irrigation project, which caved in during the inspection.
Unviable LIS also violate laws At the same time, many Lift Irrigation Schemes (LIS) of Maharashtra applied for TOR clearance or Environmental clearances with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Government. SANDRP was following this closely and we were shocked to find that many projects which applied for clearances were already underway, some were nearly finished. All such work before clearance is in complete violation of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and EIA Notification Sept 2006. All of these projects: Lower Dnyan Ganga, Ar kacheri and Alewadi nalla, Shirpaur Lift Irrigation Scheme and Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation scheme were rejected clearance by the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects after SANDRP wrote to the EAC about the violations. Though White paper stated Forest and Environmental clearances as hurdles to its work, we see that projects do not wait for these processes and WRD pushes on with illegal works.
2013 Monsoon 2013 monsoon (June-Sept) has been satisfactory for most of the state: Vidarbha got 1360.4 mm (43% above average) rainfall, Madhya Maharashtra got 880.1 mm (21% above average) rainfall, Konkan got 3502.6 mm (20% above average) rainfall and Marathawada got 747.3 mm (9% above average) rainfall. Thus Vidarbha, already stressed by water diversions for thermal power plants and farmers plight, faced severe floods this year. Standing crops of cotton and soyabean were destroyed and the impacts of soil erosion continue till date. Same is the case with Dhule and Jalgaon districts. Operation of Dams has been held responsible for compounding the flood losses in places like Wardha and Chandrapur. Compensation announced to the farmers is meager, with some receiving single digit checks.
The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal announced its final verdict in November 2013, disallowing Maharashtra to make any further interbasin transfers, especially through the Krishna Marathwada Lift Irrigation project. The work on this project is already progressed to considerable extent. Mostly, this again will be money down the drain. The project also applied for environment clearance, but was denied that following SANDRP submission that work has already progressed before the clearance.
Western Ghats 2013 also saw a huge upheaval and public discourse surrounding the Western Ghats, following the Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) Report by Prof. Madhav Gadgil and the problematic Kasturirangan Committee report, mainly to dilute WGEEP recommendations[xv]. The affidavit submitted by Principal Secretary Maharashtra on the WGEEP report is extremely flawed. Even when SANDRP and other organizations highlighted the gross violations in KIDC irrigation projects, the Forest and Irrigation department continued to ignore that[xvi]. The affidavit[xvii] says that interbasin water transfers in Western Ghats are necessary in Maharashtra for the water security of the drought affected region in the Deccan plateau, but ironically, all the current water transfers of more than 2000 MCM annually though Koyana HEP and TATA HEPs is transferring water FROM this very drought hit region TO the water surplus region of Konkan And this was not checked even when the 2012-13 drought was at its peak and organizations like SANDRP raised this issue during the drought.[xviii]
The dithering ways of Congress government at the centre and state are epitomsed in a recent event of appointing Veerapa Moily, a completely unsuitable candidate[xix], as the Union Environment Minister. One of the first persons Mr. Moily met after becoming the Minister of Environment was Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, along with Kerala CM, with the CMs advocating putting a hold on the ESAs in Western Ghats recommended by the Kasturirangan committee and Mr. Moily promptly obliging. In earlier meetings, which I attended, Mr. Chavan intentionally depicted WGEEP report in incorrect light. This may have something to do with entrenched interests another congress MLA, Narayan Rane, in mining and destructive activities in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.
Looking at Rahul Gandhi’s absolutely incorrect depiction of Environment and Environmental clearances as hurdles at the FICCI meet, it looks like the congress establishment has just not got the message from the AAP episode in Delhi. People have indicated that they want clean, participatory and responsive governance and not just growth at any cost. The establishment seems to have no clue about the dependence of the poor on the environmental resources.
Dams around Mumbai, in the Western Ghats 2013 saw frenzied activity by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to push more and more drinking water supply dams in the tribal areas of Western Ghats MMR region. Around 12 dams are now in various stages of completion, construction and planning for the MMR Urban areas. They will together affect more than 100,000 tribals and submerge more than 22,000 hectares of land including over 7000 hectares of forests and protected areas. Looking at options that Mumbai has and its current water management, these dams are totally unjustified. Some dams like Kalu started even before statutory Forest clearance. Balganga dam is 90% complete without land acquisition! In Suseri Dam, the contractor secured permission for a farm house and built a site office instead. SANDRP and other organizations held a workshop focusing on these issues in Mumbai on the 18th December 2013.[xx]Here too, the fight for sustainable and equitable water management looks tough as the power equation is skewed in favour of the urban areas.
Significantly, it was at Mr. Chavan’s request letter to Union Environment Minister that Kalu Dam was considered again by the Forest Advisory Committee, MoEF in April 2013 and was given in-principle clearance a month later, after being categorically rejected just one year back. The dam will submerge 1000 hectares of forests in Western Ghats and will affect at least 18000 tribals. Mr. Chavan, in one of his meetings, had said that no project will go ahead without assessing its impact on the environment. I had then publicly reminded him there that no assessment has taken place for Kalu and he himself is pushing it without assessment.
The urban water scenario in Maharashtra is seriously problematic at the moment. Many urban areas are in a hurry to build new dams as the only option to their increasing water supply, but are not ready to harvest rain, or to treat and reuse any sewage they generate or to revive their rivers and other local water sources or achieve any participatory governance. Nashik, which receives additional funds from the National River Conservation Directorate for cleaning up Godavari is converting the river into a drain, while hankering for a new dam called Kikvi. SANDRP raised objections about this proposal and it is yet to receive final Forest Clearance from the MoEF.[xxi] Godavari Gatarikaran Virodhi manch, a civil society group in Nashik has filed 3 petitions against the Municipal Corporation and MIDC for polluting Godavari. The corporation is actually releasing untreated sewage in the river, just a few hundred meters upstream the holy Ramkund in which devotees take a dip and consume teerth, especially during Kumbh Mela.
All in all, 2013 exposed the gaping holes in Maharashtra’s water governance. Events which happened this year are not one-off accidents but underline systemic flaws. Some of the main factors include blind push for big dams, no post facto analysis of existing projects, absence of equitable water distribution, exclusion of communities in decision making and management, absence of transparency and accountability in management and corruption and arrogance linked to powerful vested interests.
As the year 2013 closes, Chief Minister, Union Agriculture Minister and all the dignitaries so very linked with sugar sector again came together at the Vasantdada Sugar Institute’s Annual General Meeting in December 2013. The same leaders had met at the same forum in March 2013 in the middle of the drought, when the Union Agriculture Minister had said that from next year flow irrigation to sugarcane will be stopped and drip will be made compulsory.[xxii] But just after 9 months from the “worse drought in 40 years”, these promises seem to have been forgotten. The same Minister did not even mention drip in his December 2013 address.
In conclusion 2013 ends in India on a historical note, with the Aam Admi Party taking over the reins of the government in Delhi, riding to power on the promise of clean, corruption free, pro-people and hence pro-environment governance. The key operative term here is transparent and democratic governance.
In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan assumed office on a similar promise of clean governance, but the CM and his government has completely lost this claim. It was shocking to see that the Chavan government rejected the Adarsh Scam report hat indicting the ruling Cong and NCP leaders, highlighting the misguided, dishonest and weak governance in the State. Political opposition has also completely failed here. In the dam scam or other episodes described above, neither the BJP, nor the Shiv Sena nor any other party could play an effective pro-people role.
Thus, as far as current political set up in the state is concerned, the writing is clearly on the wall. Rural poor who do not receive irrigation, farmers whose water is stolen by industries, urban poor and the middle class who do not get assured water despite the city spending thousands of crores on water supply projects, rivers which are drying up, they all need alternatives and pro people governance.
Let us hope and work to ensure that 2014 will be a different year. It is a tough road ahead.
Parineeta Dandekar (email@example.com) ,
with inputs from Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)