This photo is possibly the worst advertisement for a hydropower project with landslide rocks sitting on top of the dam. A massive landslide has severely damaged the 55 m high dam of the 510 MW Teesta Hydropower Project of NHPC, at 00.20 hours on June 27, 2020. This is a major blow to NHPC, considered India’s premier hydropower company. It’s also a major blow to the propaganda of International Hydropower Association, falsely pushing this very project as an example under IHA’s Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol[i].
NHPC PR on June 28 afternoon said the landslide happened “at Dam Axis on left abutment hill side from a height of about 40 meter from Dam top NHPC Teesta-V Dam at Dikchu, East Sikkim. The access to Dam Control Room (DCR) as well as electrical connection to Dam top was cut-off due to this slide.” The electricity supply was restored about 9 hours later. (https://www.facebook.com/1764846020501239/posts/2689927154659783/)
As can be seen from the news reports from Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Karnataka, among others, the opposition to Large Hydro Projects and Big Dam is growing all over India. These projects are neither economically viable, nor Socially-environmentally sustainable. There are much better options exist and hope the governments takes informed, democratic decisions. Going by the agenda and minutes of the recent Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects and other decisions, this hope seems far fetched at the moment.
With work on NHPC Ltd’s 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro power project restarting after a wait of almost eight years, anti-dam organisations led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) vowed to launch an intense resistance movement to stop further construction of the project. AASU, in a statement, alleged that work on the Lower Subansiri project at Gerukamukh along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border has been started ‘treacherously’, risking the lives and property of people living in the downstream area. AASU said a scientific study on the possible impact of the dam in its downstream areas besides a cumulative impact study must be completed before expediting work at the dam site.
Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.)
In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.
In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.
The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.
The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.
Loktak lake is the largest freshwater lake near Moirang in Manipur state. In local language Loktak means end of stream. The lake is referred as the “lifeline of Manipur” as it is highly productive and provides habitat to biota and livelihoods to people. The lake is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is widely famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floating over it.
In 1990, the lake was included under Ramsar Convention as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’. But over the years, NHPC’s hydropower projects specially Ithai Barrage have led to severe impact on the lake eco-system and serious disturbance in local community. Despite this, NHPC has been pushing more hydro projects on the lake streams. As a result, local people and concerned have univocally and repeatedly started protesting against proposed hydro projects and demanding removal of Ithai barrage. And the demand have only grown louder in 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loktak_Lake
Above: Fabulous view of Rangeet Teesta Confluence (Photo: AJT Johnsingh)
Guest Blog by Gauri Noolkar-Oak
The minute I crossed over the Indo-Bangladesh border into India at Chengrabandha, the atmosphere changed instantly; more briskness, more people and more English and Hindi surrounded me. I also spotted posters of Baahubali 2, and a few flags of Bhartiya Janata Party fluttered at the local bus station of Chengrabandha. I set out for Mainaguri, and through the pitter-patter of a weak drizzle, as the first tea plantations came into view.
For the first time in independent India’s history, hydropower generation from large hydropower projects in India in 2016-17 year fell below 10% of total electricity generation and is likely to go further down in years to come. It is well known that hydropower generation as proportion of total power generation has been going down. However, this proportion is generally seen in terms of installed capacity (measured in Mega Watts), and not actual generation (measured as Million or Billion Units[i]). Continue reading “India’s hydro generation drops to below 10% for the first time”→
CentreGetting forest clearance is not a problem now: NHPC ChairmanIn an interview, taking a dig at its private peers, NHPC chairman KM Singh said that NHPC is the only company in the county that has the capability to execute hydro projects. He also said that in the NDA regime green clearances come easy, while local agitation by NGOs is the biggest threat. He further stated that there has been no negative impact of building a dam, not just in India, but anywhere in the world.
What does it mean when landscapes, riverscapes, ways of life are altered forever? When a mighty, flowing river is plugged and made to stop, flow in tunnel and released as per our whims? For most of us, life and environment are so fundamentally modified that we would hardly question it. But as our worldview and our politics is set to dam some of the last free flowing rivers in the North East India into Hydro-Electricity Banks, what is at stake? Continue reading “India’s Free Flowing Frontier Part I: Dibang at Nizamghat”→