As per Counter View report, a well-informed Gujarat government source has told it that a major reason why the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) recently declared there would be “no water” from the multi-purpose irrigation scheme, Sardar Sarovar dam, to Gujarat farmers starting March 15, 2018, is Madhya Pradesh elections, scheduled for this year-end.
The source, refusing to be identified, said, “Already, massive preparations are on in Madhya Pradesh to provide as much Narmada water to the state’s farmers by storing as much water as possible. The idea is to appease the farmers with Narmada waters in the same way as it was done last year before the elections took place in Gujarat.”
The minutes of expert appraisal committee (EAC) shows that Environmental Clearance (EC) for the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project has been deferred. The minutes were uploaded after 16 days of EAC meeting conducted on Oct 24, 2017. http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/Form-1A/Minutes/09112017PCU6UH80Finalminutesof9thEACmeeting1.pdf
In the minutes, the EAC said that it would require to study the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Nepal portion of the project to get a holistic view. It also directed the project proponent to obtain wildlife clearance as the project was located 300 metres from the Ascot Wildlife Sanctuary.
It is worth to mention that the Pancheshwar dam with a height of 315 meters is world’s second tallest dam proposed in ecologically sensitive region. Scores of media reports have underlined the unfair and politically influenced Environment Public Hearing (EPH) process, conducted during peak monsoon month in landslide ridden and disaster prone region. The venue of the EPH was also several kms away from villages going to be affected thus depriving the local people participation in essential decision making process. As a result the concerns and voices of villagers to have their voices heard. The EIA report of the project has also not mentioned several grave environmental issues of GOLFs events, cloud bursts, earthquakes etc in the catchment of the dam let alone the question of impact on endangered wildlife like Mahseer fish.
This Sunday (October 08) has been a sad day for Narmada River and thousands of fisherfolk families who will further suffer due to the Rs 4350 Cr Bhadbhut dam of which PM Modi has laid the foundation Stone. The PM seems to love dams so much!
However, the project is facing opposition because it would adversely affect over 12000 fisherfolk families and their livelihoods. Neither they have been consulted, nor there have been any impact assessment, nor any question of compensation or rehabilitation.
The new dam is claimed to mitigate the impacts of upstream dams! It will actually store polluted water from urban and industrial areas and further destroy the estuarine ecosystems.
Raising these concerns, over 100 fishermen took out a boat protest with black flags against the PM laying foundation stone of the dam. They all were arrested and released only after PM left. Similarly, 250 women who were silently marching were arrested. They were denied permission to hold protest walk. Indeed, fishermen have amazing courage. But the national media unfortunately seems happy to ignore this.
SARDAR SAROVAR DAMMedha Patkar asks a lot of uncomfortable questions In an Indian Express Op-Ed she writes that in fact, there are several clues that can help us decide exactly what was dedicated to the nation — the project or the dam wall. For a project to be dedicated to the nation, shouldn’t it be completed in the first place? When the project in question pertains to a dam, is it enough to raise a wall to its envisaged height or should canals be constructed as well? Only 33 per cent of the canals in Gujarat have been constructed. Can the one dedicating the project and the one receiving the project — the nation — be satisfied if the enormous impacts of the 138.68 metre-high wall on communities upstream and the downstream, about 10 lakh people, and the ecosystem are not taken into account? The nation may not be aware of what has been gifted to it, but will soon realise the betrayal. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/drowned-by-the-dam-sardar-sarovar-narmada-narendra-modi-4878153/
Meanwhile, it looks like Andhra CM is trying to hoodwink the central leaders by showcasing Pattiseema project as the major part of the Polavaram project works to seek more funds. Even during the visit of Parliamentary Committee, too, he had played the same trick and the team members were all praise for him for completing the Pattiseema project, ignoring the actual Polavaram project. This is interesting to see that this club of Naidu and Gadkari, one trying to hoodwink and the other acting to be hoodwinked will be able to hoodwink everyone else how long. http://www.greatandhra.com/politics/gossip/naidu-hoodwinks-gadkari-with-pattiseema-84723.html
Amidst reports of reconciliation between UP and MP, concerned and to be affected in Panna have started protesting. It may become an election issue in Panna during the assembly polls in the state. Opposing the project for “undermining the interests of the backward district of Bundelkhand”, the ‘rajmata’ of Panna has decided to take up cudgels against it. Indeed people of Panna needs to rise up united and unequivocally against the project in collaboration with other Ken Basin district and also downstream Banda in UP. There is still hope to stop this nonsense.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/rajmata-of-panna-against-ken-betwa-linking-project/articleshow/60931188.cms
In one more significant related development National Tiger Conservation Authority reports of death of 17 tigers in MP state during past one year. Indeed, with Panna Tiger Reserve slated to lose huge chunk of over 200 sq km to the Ken Betwa link, I have been told that the management of PTR is totally incompetent. NTCA itself is to be blamed for meekly allowing such decisions. Destruction of Panna will give a signal that there is no hope for tigers in India.http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/mp-loses-17-tigers-in-2017-ntca/article9890231.ece
Foundation for NW-4 laid In the presence of Nitin Gadkari and Andhra CM the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has laid foundation stone for the development of Muktyala to Vijayawada stretch of Krishna River (National Waterways – 4) in Vijayawada. National Waterway No.4 was declared in November, 2008 for a total length of 1078 km. This length was extended to 2890 km by NW Act-2016. The following stretches are included in this :
a) River Godavari (Bhadrachalam to Rajahmundry) = 171 km
b) River Krishna (Wazirabad to Vijayawada) = 157 km
c) Kakinada Canal (Kakinada to Rajahmundry) = 50 km
d) Eluru Canal (Rajahmundry to Vijayawada) = 139 Km
e) Commamur Canal (Vijayawada to Pedaganjam) = 113 km
f) North Buckingham Canal (Pedaganjam to Chennai) = 316 km
g) South Buckingham Canal (Chennai to Merkanam) = 110 km
h) Kaluvelly Tank (Markanam to Puducherry) = 22 km
River Krishna from Wazirabad to Galagali (628 Km)
River Godavari from Bhadrachalam to Nasik (1184Km)
A proposal for Phase-II has been recommended by IWAI board for PIB/Cabinet. Also, a proposal for formation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for implementation of the project is under consideration for the approval of Cabinet. The SPV is expected to be formed by November 2017. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=171321
Study Negative rainfall in 8 out of 14 normal monsoons in 18 years Data from the IMD revealed majority of monsoons over the past 18 years had been below average like 2017, which ended on a below average note at -5% departure. From 2000, the country has seen as many as 12 monsoons with less rain than the long period average, more so from 2014 to 2017— a period marked by consecutive monsoons ending on a negative note.
– “There have been 268 reported flooding events in India over 1950-2015 affecting about 825 million people, leaving 17 million homeless and killing 69,000 people (according to the International Disaster Data Base),” the study said. According to lead author Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, a premium research body under the Ministry of Earth Science (MoES), extreme rainfall is defined as more than 15 cm of rain in a day and “spread over a large region, enough to cause floods”. “These widespread extremes were two per year in central India during 1950s. Now, it’s six per year,” Koll told PTI.
– “As the atmosphere and the oceans are getting warmer due to increasing carbon dioxide, a result of human activities, atmosphere holds more moisture. This results in two factors. The first is that warm moist air is lighter than cold dry air and hence makes the atmosphere unstable as it rises up,” Koll explained.
– The second factor, Koll added, is that since the atmosphere holds more moisture, it dumps it all together – a heavy rainfall event. But why is central India the focal point of erratic and extreme rain events? “The low pressure areas (circulation) that brings rains move around this region. Cloud formation also forms around this area,” Rajeevan told PTI.
– The fact that this intensification is against the background of a declining monsoon rainfall, which has been observed in previous studies, makes it catastrophic, as it puts several millions of lives, property and agriculture at risk, experts say. According to the paper, floods alone lead to losses amounting to $3 billion in India, 10 per cent of global economic losses.
Report India fails to manage flood As per the report 14 percent of India’s landmass is vulnerable to flooding and more than 15 percent of this area gets flooded every year. Since 1953, almost 1,600 lives have been lost every year on an average due to floods.Yet, the central govt has not released 61 percent of the funds promised for flood management between April 2007 and March 2016, and 43 percent of the 517 projects approved have not been completed, a recent report by the CAG revealed. Indeed, India’s flood management has failed due to the failure of institutions like CWC, CAG and media needs to focus on that. https://www.thequint.com/news/india/flood-related-deaths-in-india
Urban FloodHighest Oct day rainfall in Hyderabad since 1903 The rainfall in Hyderabad on Oct 2, 2017 seems to have broken the highest one day rainfall of Oct since 1903. The 13.2 cm of rain at Mir Alam was the highest Hyderabad is believed to have witnessed in October ever. According to data with the India Meteorological Department, Hyderabad received 11.7 cm of rain on October 6, 1903, recorded at Begumpet. That number paled in comparison with the rainfall recorded near Mir Alam on Monday. In fact, two other areas, Rajendra Nagar and Amberpet, recorded more than the all-time record in about four hours.” http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/record-set-for-rainfall/article19787029.ece
Indeed, haphazard construction blocking the natural course of water, slow drainage due to choked storm water drains, and insufficiency of the existing drains were apparently the reasons behind the heavy inundation at the Biodiverstiy Junction, Gachibowli.
Jammu & KashmirIncreased siltation raises flood threat Kashmir’s deforested hills have been the prime cause of the heavy siltation of its water bodies. This is now being aggravated by changes in land use due to water scarcity in the catchments of the Jhelum – caused partially by climate change – adding to the siltation load in the river that feeds the Wular Lake, Kashmir’s largest flood basin.
Interesting: “silt load of nearly one million cubic meters stands removed at a cost of INR 600 million… An estimated 20 million cubic meters of slit load, Wani said, is yet to be dredged out of the lake. He added that WUCMA will soon start work to de-silt the remaining amount with the help of a INR 4 billion (USD 60 million) project… In Jhelum River, a project for de-silting an estimated 1.6 million cubic meters of sediment is going on. Close to one million cubic meters of silt has been dredged out so far.”
Where is the silt going? How far it is taken and how it is disposed off?
MeghalayaFlash floods destroy fisheries Due to incessant rains in the Meghalaya hills for the past few days, a devastating flash flood occurred in the entire Kalapani area under Mankachar revenue circle of South Salmara-Mankachar district and caused huge damages to agricultural fields and fisheries. The rush of flood water, while it came down from the hills, was so fast that within a few minutes three wooden bridges on Kalo river located at Boisabari, Tokpara and Lakhishari were washed away causing total disruption of road communication in greater Kalapani areas. http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=oct0317/state050
– Farmers participated in the river water parliament, constituted to find amicable solutions to water disputes, which met for the first time in Trichy on Oct 6.
– Rainwater should be harvested and river water should be utilised judiciously only when there is no other option
– the river water parliament was proposed for five rivers including Cauvery, Vaigai, Palaru, Thamirabarani, and Thenpennai by Retrieval of Tamil Nadu Rivers and Water Resources in July 2017. It attempts to emulate the success of efficient water management mechanism of Arvari river parliament in Alwar district of Rajasthan.
– Leading farmers in the state like Mahadhanapuram V Rajaram, C Nallasamy, and Puliyur A Nagarajan were appointed president, general secretary and secretary respectively of Cauvery river parliament on Friday. Further, the farmers have planned to sensitise those in their respective blocks and villages about the functions of water parliament. The second meeting of the river parliament to be attended by farmers from all southern states has been scheduled at Chennai on December 10
As per another report Civic Agencies and Civil Societies in Pune to great extent have achieved success in making citizens aware of pollution by idol immersion and positive results have started appearing.
Jammu & KashmirJhelum faces water pollution in Baramulla townAs per report, the absence of a solid waste plant in Baramulla town is directly impacting the health of the Jhelum here with tons of garbage and waste including human excreta daily finding its way into it. Notably, the drinking water for the town comprising over 80,000 souls is being supplied from the Jhelum. According to locals, the local administration had been in the process of identifying land for solid waste plant for last more than a decade. Surprisingly, the garbage dumping site at Jetty is in violation of the rules as the pollution control department Baramulla has served several notices to the municipal council authorities directing them to stop the use of land for dumping of garbage as the area “is close to the banks of river Jhelum”. http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/kashmir/jhelum-faces-water-pollution-in-baramulla-town/262193.html
Tamil NaduAdyar desilting to stop airport floodAhead of the northeast monsoon, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has started work to prevent a repeat of the 2015 floods which inundated the runway , taxiways and aircraft parking stands at the city airport. A series of checks are being conducted as the airport is located in an area through which rainwater from southern and eastern neighbour hoods flows into the Adyar river via drains crisscrossing the airport. It was these drains along with the river that caused the flooding. The AAI would also be clearing garbage and plastic that had choked the river 500 metres upstream and downstream from the runway bridge. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/adyar-desilting-to-stop-airport-flood/articleshow/60999272.cms
LG Anil Baijal reviewed DDA’s Yamuna rejuvenation and restoration plan on Oct 07 and directed it to finish the first phase by April 2018. DDA has identified 4,885 acres (four land parcels) of land on the Yamuna riverbed which will be taken up for redevelopment. In the first phase, 500 acres of area on western bank of the river — from old railway bridge to ITO barrage — will be taken up. What that DDA is so far doing is beautification of Yamuna banks which has nothing to do with restoration. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/finish-ph-i-revival-of-yamuna-by-april-lg/articleshow/60988706.cms
National80000 water bodies in country unusable for irrigation Shocking, but could be worse? “Pollution, encroachments and urbanization are eating into waterbodies meant for irrigation, even as rain-dependent farmers continue to commit suicide. According to information accessed from the ministry of water resources, 80,128 (15.29%) of the 5.23 lakh waterbodies dedicated for minor irrigation in rural areas have become unusable due to these factors.”
– Among the worst-affected states are Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, whose farmers’ woes have made national headlines. The three states account for 61% of the 80,128 waterbodies, followed by Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Of the 72,000 waterbodies dedicated for minor irrigation in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, 22,877 are unusable.The numbers stand at 29,481 and 14,918 for Karnataka, and 37,174 and 11,039 for Tamil Nadu.
– Karnataka fares the worst among the three states, with 50.6% of its waterbodies having become unusable compared to 31.6% in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and 29.6% in Tamil Nadu.
– “It is a major crime.” said former environment secretary, Karnataka, A N Yellappa Reddy.
ReportDifference between 2010 & 2017 Wetland rules The report pins down some significant difference between Wetland conservation & Management Rules 2010 & 2017. The 2010 Rules specifically included in the definition of wetlands “all inland waters such as lakes, reservoir, tanks, backwaters, lagoon, creeks, estuaries and man-made wetland and the zone of direct influence on wetlands”. These have not been spelt out in the 2017 Rules. Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) under the 2010 Rules has been replaced by the National Wetland Committee, which has a merely advisory role.
The differences between the old and new Rules are also apparent in their applicability. The 2010 Rules listed six points describing protected wetlands; the new Rules have done away with them, and instead state that wetlands are limited to and do not include wetlands under forest and coastal regulation zones. Under ‘Restrictions of activities in wetlands’, the new Rules say conservation and management would be “in accordance with the principle of ‘wise use’ as determined by the Wetlands Authority”. Environmentalists had criticised this principle when the draft Rules were circulated for comments and suggestions. http://indianexpress.com/article/explained/central-control-out-subjective-aspects-in-why-new-wetlands-rules-are-different-4876406/
India Water PortalStory of degradation of another wetland Ousteri lake is the largest water body in the Puducherry region. Every year, the lake provides irrigation and tourism benefits worth Rs 11.5 million and Rs 5.72 million respectively and plays a crucial role in recharging groundwater aquifers. The lake is also a resting ground for many migratory birds and provides livelihood to thousands of people. It has been recognised as one of the important wetlands of Asia by IUCN. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Puducherry region. The lake, which is 390 hectares in area, supports a variety of fauna and flora. But, in the last one decade, 2800 acres of land around the lake has been converted into commercial non-agricultural purposes. The lake has suffered pressure from land-use changes in the catchment area, encroachment, siltation, pollution from the industry and agriculture.” http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/ousteri-lake-needs-help
HaryanaGroundwater levels sinking in Gurugram Gurgaon ground water level fell 16 metres in 10 years due to Illegal extraction and private water tanker mafia thrives. With an estimate that its current population is 20 lakh, the city requires around 150 MGD (million gallons per day) water but Huda supplies only 75-80 MGD. The rest is met by groundwater extraction through illegal borewells which are more than 20000. The sad part is that the enforcement authorities have sealed not more a dozen such borewells in the past one-and-a-half years, despite a NGT ban on such illegal extraction in Delhi-NCR. Even though a 2012 Punjab and Haryana high court order prohibited extraction of groundwater through borewells, the practice is rampant in the city. There are around 40 water tanker services in the city. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/groundwater-levels-sinking-but-city-does-nothing-to-stop-extraction/articleshow/60931034.cms
India gets Lowest Wind Tariff of Rs. 2.64 per kWh The wind tariff in India touched lowest level of Rs.2.64 per kWh in the second wind auction conducted by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on behalf of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India yesterday. The tariff discovered is much lower than first wind auction concluded at Rs. 3.46 per kWh in February this year. With improving technology and reducing tariffs Ministry is not only confident of achieving the target of 175 GW by 2022 but exceeding it. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=171394
WESTERN GHATSDestruction of India’s green gold Origin of some 58 years, habitat of 50 million people, about 4000 species of flowering plants, 645 species of evergreen trees, about 120 species of mammals, 500 species of birds and many reptiles, butterflies and fishes.
– The results of their findings by a team of IISc and IIT (Mumbai) were astounding. Just one square km of forest in Uttara Kannada provides close to Rs 7.38 million worth of timber, about Rs 1.1 million worth of fuelwood and Rs 3.2 million worth of medicinal plants and fruits. Add to that, the recreational benefits from Dandeli and Anshi protected areas which are part of a tiger reserve are worth about Rs 11.37 billion. If all these benefits come from just ONE SQ KM of forest, then one can imagine the value of over 1,29,000 sq km of the Western Ghats!
Similarly, farmers and fishermen who sued an arm of the World Bank – for funding an Indian power plant they say hurts their livelihoods – have vowed to appeal a U.S. court ruling that the institution has “absolute immunity”. The Indian communities, represented by advocacy Earth Rights International (ERI), had sued the International Finance Corporation over its $450-million loan for a coal-fired plant operated by a Tata Power unit near Mundra, in Gujarat state. http://www.eco-business.com/news/indian-fishermen-vow-to-keep-fighting-devastating-world-bank-project/
The news media is filled with this new kid on the block, trying to wake the nation about the need to save our rivers… amazing to see so many film stars, politicians, governments, and public personalities, many of them rather innocently joining the band wagon… some friends were pleading that see, he is able to take the message of rivers to so many people, including lakhs of children… let us try and see if there is something positive here… may be, may be this is just the entry point, but the guy and his team have bigger vision? May be we need to give him longer rope, be more charitable and not jump to negativity?
We have kept all this in mind while writing this.
We see nothing from the people who are leading the rally, or their websites or messages that they understand the real threats faced by and reasons for the state of our rivers, are ready to even list such causes or protest any further move to destroy our rivers. The website claims it is “a nationwide awareness campaign to revive our rivers”. Can missed call save our rivers?
The drought has extended its grip in the South, with the South-West (S-W) monsoon falling significantly short and the North-East monsoon proving a total failure. Reeling under the impact of failed monsoons, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have declared themselves as drought affected. Kerala and Karnataka, which are the worst affected, are already contemplating actions such as cloud seeding to tide over the situation.
In Kerala, the S-W monsoon deficit stood at -34 per cent, and the North-East monsoon, -61 per cent. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, the deficits were -19 per cent and -62 per cent (North-East monsoon). For Coastal Karnataka, the shortfall stood at -21 per cent and -63 per cent, respectively. Drought-like conditions are also prevailing in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Water levels in key reservoirs in the region are at their lowest. The water tables have declined further even as the civic administration in many cities, small towns and panchayats has been increasingly tapping groundwater to ensure supplies. The situation is so dire that the Kerala govt has directed PepsiCo to cut down drastically on the use of groundwater for its Palakkad plant. Traders in Tamil Nadu are also boycottingthese fizzy after claims that foreign firms are exploiting the country’s water resources.
The latest report of Transparency International reveals that lack of dependable hydrological data, authentic study, action plans giving dual meaning, lack of transparency in the power purchase agreement and a failure to increase the risk-bearing capacity among power developers have remained major hindrances towards the development of hydropower sector in Nepal.
As per the report, the irregularities start from the stages of project selection and identification and this tendency further flourished in the period of a survey and the project implementation, the report states, highlighting a responsible role from the government level to control this practice.
The report also points out that environment standard violations, inadequate compensation in regard to land acquisition, false claims, unreasonable local demands, unwarranted contract variations, bias in selection of top officials like board members and CEOs during the construction, procurement, and implementation phases are working as a catalyst to bring the hydro sector under the grip of corruption.
Dear S/Shri Lavasa/ Shashi Shekhar/ Jha and Dr Agarwal,
Subject: Financial improprieties and illegalities in the execution of Indirasagar (Polavaram) Project & Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Project in AP- Central government agencies conniving with the State public functionaries in committing serious irregularities- Demand an independent investigation
I refer to my previous letters dated 20-12-2015 & 7-10-2016 addressed to you on the subject.
In my correspondence with you, I had pointed out to you the injustice meted out by the Centre and the State to lakhs of adivasis whose lands are getting submerged under the Polavaram project. There have been serious statutory violations in terms of an outright infringement of both PESA and FRA, as well as bypassing of the requirements of the Environment (Protection) Act. In addition, the State has violated its assurance that each adivasi family displaced in Polavaram should be given an equivalent extent of ayacut land as a precondition to the clearance of the project. Continue reading “Open Letter to Govt: Is there any justification for Polavaram dam? Will Govt probe the irregularities in the project?”→
DRP News Update from SANDRP January 2015: The following news stories are about dams, rivers & people, mostly from India but also some from South Asia and rest of the world. This is for the period Jan 1 to Feb 12, 2015, we hope to publish this more frequently in future. These were put up on daily basis on SANDRP Face book page: https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in. If you want to get it regularly, you can like the FB page.
At a time when the creation of separate Telengana state from Andhra Pradesh is making headlines in the national media, the issue Polavaram dam seems to have been sidelined in media. But Polavaram dam holds huge significance in this situation since construction of this dam is one of the condition laid down by the center in order to create state of Telengana bifurcating the state of Andhra Pradesh. The dam though has no legally tenable clearance, Odisha and Chhattisgarh continue to oppose it and there are cases pending against the project in the Supreme Court.
Now a 2013 film by social activist and filmmaker Saraswati Kavula “Dam’ned” documents plight of the people being affected by the Polavaram dam. The film also brings out the critical issues associated with the construction of this mega dam which were rarely covered by any media. The film is available in four parts on youtube, see: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb4JjIYab5w_dFkHwkmkrHQ?feature=g-user-u.
The 71 minutes film is a brilliant documentation of peoples sentiments associated with the river, land and a project which will submerge all of these. Within these 71 minutes the film brings to light the multitude and complexity of issues associated with this mega project. But before getting into that, a brief about this gigantic project has been provided, as given in the film.
The Polavaram Project Polavaram is one of the most controversial dam projects in India. It is also the largest dam in India in terms of the number of people it would displace. The dam will be located near Polavaram village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, an area bordering Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The dam aims to irrigate 7,21,000 acres of land in four districts of Andhra Pradesh i.e. West Godavari, East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam and Krishna districts. The project proponent claims that this project will also provide drinking water to 540 villages of Vishakhapatnam district along with the city of Vizag and to provide water to industries located in Vishakhapatnam district. The project also aims to transfer 80 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from Godavari to Krishna river basin.
The cost of mega plan will be majorly born by the ethnic tribal people of Andhra as well Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The dam will submerge 300 villages displacing 2,00,000 people. The submergence area will be so huge that the back waters of the dam go all upto Sabari river in Chattisgarh and Sileru river in Odisha. This submergence area will cover 10,000 acres of biodiversity rich forest and also partially submerge the Papikundulum wildlife sanctuary. The people living in these areas are predominantly ‘adivasis’ belonging to Koya and Konda Reddy tribes. There is a substantial number of no-tribal people, majority of the belonging to Dalits and backward classes. In numbers nearly 200 out of the 300 submerged villages are adivasi villages.
Why this Film is Important The film is threaded around people’s strong links with the land, forest, biodiversity and river. Throughout the film how people have associated themselves with the natural resources and how breaking this association is inviting havoc for the economic conditions and social relations have been depicted brilliantly.
“This is a land where our ancestors have been living for ages and we won’t leave it at any cost” such sentiments have been echoed throughout the history in most cases of displacement caused due to dams or any other project displacing people. This film on Polavaram documents with videos why and how this is such a crucial case against such projects. The film shows how displacing people from one place and giving them compensation either in terms of money or in rare cases some land has done little to improve the conditions of the people and has in fact impoverished and disempowered the people. This, as the film very clearly shows, has thrown them in to a life of poverty and uncertainty.
The film is packed with interviews of the people affected by the dam either due to submergence or due to other project components like canal construction. The filmmaker also interviewed experts from the field to show how the construction of Polavaram dam violates legal norms, is technically not feasible and takes no lesson from the experiences of construction of similar project in other parts of the country and how better options exist.
The personal interviews done brings to light how the people have little information about the project in Andhra Pradesh and have literally no information in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. In Andhra Pradesh, the government is also building infrastructure such as roads and buildings in areas which have been identified as submergence areas. This rather than helping people is creating confusions. There has been no environment or social impact assessment or public consultations in Chhattisgarh or Odisha, nor any plans for rehabilitation or environmental management. The Polavaram project got environment clearance in Oct 2005 but till 2013, in Andhra Pradesh out of the 276 submergence villages only 30 to 40 villages have been receiving compensation and that too only partly for their land only.
Complexities with Compensation: Monetary The film also brings out what is actually happening with the money given as compensation. The compensation that was given to one affected family, loosing 1.5 acres of land, was Rs. 1,68,000. When asked what did they do with the money, the head of the family said that they distributed the money among the family members where each person got around Rs. 10,000. People from Khammam district narrated the story of how they have been looted in the process of getting the compensation cheques from the government officials and lawyers. People were also cheated by insurance companies which came to these areas in large numbers posing as banks after people received their cheques. People also believed that after the project compensation was given the social relations in villages have deteriorated. One of the ladies from an affected family said “Many people died since the money came… drinking heavily and died… People are fighting among themselves since the money came.”
The Bone of Contention: Land The film shows that even in case of the compensation received in the form of land, why the result is equally distressful. In a rehabilitation colony in East Godavari district few males are to be found since they have migrated to the cities to find work. People said that there is no farmland for them to work nor there is any work under MGNREGA. In Kuruturu in West Godavari district, the conflict over land between tribal and non-tribal people have intensified since displaced people were given disputed land as part of their rehabilitation plan. Many people who were given such land returned to their original villages due to these conflicts. They now conclude: “we have decided that its better we die in the Godavari, rather then go over there.” Some of the affected people (e.g. in Kunta block in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh) face double displacement. The people of this area were forced to shift to Salwa Judum camps due to the conflict between Maoist and Salwa Judum since 2005. But at a time when they were returning to their villages to resume their lives, they were told that they will again had to leave their villages as they will be submerged by the Polavaram dam.
Canals Completed without any work on the Dam The film also throws light on drawback of the construction plan of the Polavaram dam. The films shows that the construction work of the irrigation canals of the project is almost complete at a time when no progress has been made in the construction of the main dam. This project, as Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP points out in the film, resembles the Rs 75,000 crore Maharastra irrigation scam where canals were constructed to fulfill the interests of the construction lobby without doing any work on the main dam. The massive Andhra Irrigation Scam is only beginning to surface, as pointed out in a recent CAG report[i].
Embankments as Huge as ‘China Walls’ The film shows that the proposal to construct embankments as huge as the ‘China wall’ on Sabari and Sileru rivers of Chhattisgarh and Odisha to prevent submergence of the areas in these states can only be possible on paper. The plan to construct embankment came as response to Orissa High Court order which said that Polavram project cannot submerge the areas of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. However, embankments were not a part of the original construction plan which received clearance from Environment Ministry. Nor has there been any environment or social impact assessment or feasibility study based on ground realities of the embankment proposal. There has also been no public consultations in these affected areas.
Experts say construction of such embankments would be a huge blunder of the Polavaram project. In the film Prof. T. Shivaji Rao of Center of Environment Studies in GITAM Univeristy, Vizag opined that with embankments there will be greater damage for Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Andhra Pradesh has also made a plan to put 16 lifts at different points on the embankments on Sabari and Sileru rivers to lift the water from the tributaries to the main river during flooding season. During rains these lifts are to lift and pump the water over the embankment walls and pour it in the river. This is doomed right from the beginning. The film shows this by bringing a detailed account of the experience of similar sluice gate scheme on the Godavari embankment in Bhadrachalam where it failed miserably. The sluices got closed up leading to waterlogging and inundation of houses.
There is no doubt that this film is a very detailed documentation of the issues related with Polavaram dam. The filmmaker could have added some voices from the government or project authorities to give a complete picture. In the film serious concerns were raised against how the government has handled the whole issue of Polavaram. I would recommend all concerned must watch this film. For a copy, either see the youtube link given above or write to the film maker: email@example.com, the price of a copy of the film is Rs 350/- including postage charges of Rs 50/-. Do watch and spread the word!