DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 090123: Atal Bhujal Yojana just chaff without any wheat?

According to this detailed report, possibly the first independent review of the Atal Bhujal Yojana, a 5-year program of the Union govt for management of groundwater, India’s water lifeline, with over half of the project period completed, seems bereft of the fundamental aspects that the scheme itself says are necessary for any sound foundation of the scheme. The review describes it as a dish full of chaff, without almost any kernels of wheat for some sound reasons. It says hardly 18% of allocated money has been spent on Gram Panchayat level community-led Water Security Plan. Only 4% of the planned Gram Panchayat level trainings have been held, with Gujarat and Haryana holding none. Only 27% of money allocated for Gram Panchayat level Hydrogeological monitoring network has been spent. The data gathering instruments that were required from the beginning of the program have not been installed in over half the planned locations. On Information, Education and Communication activities, only 16% of allocated amount is spent.

More detailed independent review of the program implementation will help, but from the available information so far, the signs do not look particularly promising. Is it due to ineptness or lack of intention? Only time will tell.

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Dam Disaster

2022: When Polavaram project further unraveled

(Feature Image: Flood water discharging from Polavaram Project to the downstream, in West Godavari district, on Jyly 12, 2022. The Hindu)

Polavaram is the largest and costliest big dam project under construction in India currently, though not much has been written about this projects and its impacts in mainstream in India. The project was given various clearances through a manipulated process, basic studies were not done before clearing it. Several petitions are pending before the various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, but the project is allowed to go ahead without resolving them or the inter-state issues. A number of issues related to the project has been unravelling over the years and in 2022, the project further unraveled as the news reports compiled here reveal.

A snapshot of the status at Polavaram Project: The downstream coffer dam is damaged, the Gap 1 and Gap 2 of the Dam are yet to be constructed, the 1.7 km long Diaphragm wall of the ECRF dam is submerged in flood waters, it was earlier damaged (scoured at two places over an an area of 200 m X 200 m) in 2019 floods implying additional expenditure of Rs 600 cr, the water flow at the dam site on July 15, 2022 was highest since 1920 for July, the assessment of the earlier damage to the diaphragm wall and future options that was underway when the floods struck in the second week of July 2022, had to be stopped while still incomplete, the rehabilitation colonies have been submerged as the engineers assessment proved wrong about their elevation. There is an uncertainty on the structural stability of the other facilities of the irrigation project due to incomplete construction of the main dam, as it is receiving an unprecedented inflow. The height of the upper Coffer dam was increased by 1 m to 44 m between 17 and 19 July, 2022, in the middle of high floods, but that had impact on upstream Telangana and they opposed that this was done without consulting them.

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Dam floods

Dam Floods, Failures and Disasters in 2022

This annual overview highlights the dam induced flood disasters, dam failure incidents in India during 2022. This year, the massive floods in Godavari have exposed the flood vulnerability of giant projects like Polavaram and Kaleshwaram. Also there have been multiple dam failures and dam induced floods in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In absence of coordination and data sharing Hirakud induced floods in Mahanadi basin have affected several villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. There have been several instances of unscientific operations of dams and the operators continue to hide behind TINA (There Is No Alternative) excuse. The functioning of CWC as key flood forecasting and management agency has not shown any significant improvement. However, now it has accepted that faulty dam operations can lead to flood in downstream areas. Please see links to our 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 annual compilations on the subject.    

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 211122: IRF focus on Rivers as waterways as the World celebrates Fisheries Day

As the World Celebrates Fisheries day today, the India Rivers Forum (IRF) focusses this week on use of Rivers as waterways in its annual program. Spread over five sessions, the online event on Nov 26-27, 2022 is co-organised by Manthan Adhyayan Kendra and IRF. Riverine fisheries and fisherfolk are adversely affected by the current waterways program of the government, and as usual, the government does not even find it necessary to assess the impact of the program on these poorest, weakest, most neglected and most vulnerable section of our population, leave aside the question of compensating them or involving them in the program. The IRF program “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?” will highlight this and many other aspects of the waterways initiative of the government, which aims to include 111 rivers across the length and breadth of the countries.

The five sessions of the IRF program will be titled: “Overview of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Viability of Indian Inland Waterways”, “Impacts of Indian Waterways”, “Governance of Indian Waterways” and “Rivers as Waterways in India: Bane or Boon?”. The two event will have more than 25 speakers. The final session will be chaired by former judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice (Retired) Madan Lokur. Justice Lokur will also give away the Bhagirath Prayas Samman awards of 2022 and Anupam Mishra Medal 2022, the names of the recipients this year will be shared in that final session on Nov 27, 2022.

Continue reading DRP NB 211122: IRF focus on Rivers as waterways as the World celebrates Fisheries Day
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 31×22: Unviable Hydro Projects rejected in Himachal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam

(Feature Image: Group photo during No Means No campaign in April 2022 against destructive hydro power projects in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. Source: The Pahari Zone, You Tube)

A number of developments this week once again show how unviable large hydropower projects are facing rejection in a number of states. In Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh) the local youth are demanding that the candidates in the state assembly elections to be held in November 2022 promise to work against the hydropower projects in the district.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the state government has told that High Court that they have cancelled all the 44 large hydropower projects proposed in Siang basin when locals alleged in the petition “the projects have been initiated in a reckless manner without any regard to the consequences of the same and without following any scientific research”.

In Assam with new accidents, the commissioning of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP has been pushed back further, making the over Rs 20000 crore project even more unviable. In J&K, the landslides killing 4 people at the under construction Ratel Hydropower project in Kishtwar district on Chenab River has again rung a warning as to what is in store for future if proper appraisal studies are not done. In Uttarakhand, the bid to take over the Lanco Hydropower project on Mandakini river, now undergoing bankruptcy case in the court have been rejected and same is likely to be the fate for the revised bid.

Continue reading DRP NB 31×22: Unviable Hydro Projects rejected in Himachal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam
DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 180722: Polavaram, Kaleshwaram projects damaged, Kadam dam overflowed

(Feature image: An aerial view of the flood-affected areas in Godavari districts on July 15. Photo by arrangement/Deccan Chronicle)

One of the noteworthy feature of the floods in ongoing on monsoon so far has been what is happening around large dam projects, particularly in Central India, Eastern India and Southern India. The Polavaram dam on Godavari river, the largest under construction dam in India, again suffered damage this monsoon as confessed by the Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister Ambati Rambabu after his frequent visits to the dam. The dam had suffered damage in 2019 floods and it is still not clear what is way forward and the dam has again suffered damage. This will make the unviable project even more unviable, but the government will continue to sink good money after the massive sunk funds.

The Kaleshwaram project in Godavari basin, the largest lift irrigation projects of India has also faced damages with at least two pump houses with large number of massive capacity pumps getting submerged, and third one partially flooded. The full impact of this damage will only be known after assessment once the floods recede.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 10 Jan 2022: Positive Groundwater stories from TN, Haryana

It’s rather rare that we have some positive stories related to groundwater. This week we have two: One each from Tamil Nadu and Haryana. A recent performance audit report, the CAG has lauded the Tamil Nadu Govt for regulating industry’s groundwater extraction. The CAG has also lauded TN for adopting ‘firka’(which are smaller than blocks and encompasses 10-15 villages) as the assessment unit in 2011 because this is expected to help in identification of pockets of groundwater potential within the over- exploited and critical blocks.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Oct 2021: Congratulations to LIFE for much deserved Right Livelihood Award 2021

This week brings a heartening development: Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE), headed by lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, are recipients of the Right Livelihood Award 2021, also known as Alternative Nobel Prize for their amazing work on empowerment of the communities through environment defense. This is much deserved recognition for the exemplary work of this group for over 16 years not only through the legal cases in National Green Tribunal (& its predecessor NEAA etc.), High Courts and Supreme Court, but also influencing the government policy and project decisions and also effective training of government officials in environmental matters.

LIFE is one of four organisation to get this award this year. The Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation, which awards the prize, said that in the face of the worsening climate crisis, powerful governmental and corporate interests, and even a terrorist threat, the 2021 Laureates prove that solidarity is key to a better future for all. The 2021 Right Livelihood Laureates are leaders in advancing the rights of women and girls, environmental protection and reclaiming Indigenous rights through mobilising communities and empowering grassroots initiatives. “Hailing from Cameroon, Russia, Canada and India, this year’s change-makers show that lasting change is built on communities banding together,” it said.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 26 July 2021: “Unprecedented rainfall” used to escape responsibility?

(Feature image source: India TV https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/monsoon-mayhem-maharashtra-floods-landslides-death-toll-latest-news-721924)

As Maharashtra faced the worst flood disaster of SW Monsoon 2021 in India, we see the phrases like “unprecedented rainfall”, “record breaking rainfall”, “frequent landslides” etc. with increasing frequency along with phrases like climate change floating around. While these are not entirely incorrect claims, these should not be used to escape the responsibility and accountability for failing to either accurately forecast the rainfall or to manage the proportions of disasters, including operation of dams, encroachments into water bodies and water path, not accurately marking locations vulnerable to landslides in landslide prone areas or taking up inappropriate “development” projects in vulnerable areas. All of these factors can be seen at play in disasters this monsoon in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh among others.

Using such phrases, there is an attempt to escape the accountability or responsibility. This is a culture increasing being propagated by Central Water Commission as they did in Kerala in 2018 and Krishna basin floods in Maharashtra in 2019 as in numerous other occasions. It is known now to everyone that climate change is going to lead to more instances of heavy rainfall that can frequently fall in unprecedented category, but that only means we need to take measures to reduce the damage in such instances, predict them accurately and manage them effectively. That is what the Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Management apparatus needs to work on, but we have clearly failed there so far.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 12 July 2021: Will Bhupender Yadav improve India’s Environment Governance?

It’s rather rare when some of the most well-known environmentalists of India, including Ritwick Dutta and Manoj Misra welcome the arrival of Bhupender Yadav as India’s new Environment Minister. The state of the environment governance under the outgoing minister, Prakash Javadekar has worsened so much, both in perception and substance, that possibly any change would look better. In fact Javadekar may be front runner for the label of India’s worst ever environment minister according to some analysts.

The environment appraisals, the constitution of committees including the various Expert Appraisal Committees, the Forest Advisory Committee and the Standing committee of National Board of Wildlife, the public hearings and consultation processes, the state of pollution and rivers, biodiversity, wetlands, floodplains, sand mining, to name just a few areas, were all seen going downhill on a steep slope during the Javadeker period. The monitoring and compliance remained non existent. Some would argue that was it much different before Javadekar. The point is Javadekar had no pretentions of trying to improve the environment governance. He was out to dilute every available norm and he seemed to have succeded significantly.

Even if Yadav were to genuinely wish to improve matters, how much will he be allowed to do, by the perceived imperatives of the economic fundamentalist agenda, the well-entrenched vested interests and the bureaucracy is a question that only time will tell, but there is little doubt that a lot can and needs to be done rather urgently and none of these perceived obstacles should come in the way if there is will. The climate change is making the improvement in environmental governance rather urgent.

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