DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study

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

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fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study.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

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands

( Feature Image:- Satish Acharya’s illustration on Bengaluru floods: Whose land is it anyway? 07 Sept. 2022)

The wetlands reports tell us a lot, but the key point is that decisive judicial action is necessary if our wetlands are to have any future. The directions of the Tamil Nadu High Court to geo reference all wetlands of Tamil Nadu, including small (Less than 2.25 ha area) is good beginning, but the court will need to ensure continuous monitoring and ensure implementation. Because the past shows that the government and other stakeholders have collectively failed to take any decisive action to save our wetlands. The disastrous results are evident at so many places, this week it is most clear from the flooding of Bangalore, mainly due to encroachment of lakes, wetlands, water channels and their catchments.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 290822: MP’s Dam safety mess: Publish the Karam inquiry report

(Feature Image: Karam dam after breach. Source: Patrika)

Every week we get more evidence of the massive Dam safety mess in Madhya Pradesh. The Karam dam disaster that started on the eve of independence day is still unfolding. The inquiry committee report has been submitted, but it has not been made public. This is totally wrong and shocking. Dam Safety is a public interest issue and all information related to dam safety has to be in public domain. The inquiry committee report should be immediately put in public domain. More importantly an independent inquiry should be set up as the inquiry set up earlier was more of an in-house inquiry.

Close on heals of Karam dam disaster comes the news of risks due to unattended Maheshwar dam, a massive dam on Narmada river that remains unfinished and unattended, with one of the gates damaged and story of stolen motors, wires and other spare parts and power cut, which means the hydraulic system for gates is non-functional. Again the report of the NVDA-MWR officials after visit to the dam site should be in out in public domain, as also the reports of the dam safety committee reportedly set up the MP govt for assessing safety of all the dams of MP.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 1 Aug 2022: Dams reduce sediment load in rivers leading to higher coastal erosion

(Feature image: Delta Land Loss Mechanisms. Source Wikimedia Commons)

A new study this week has reminded us what has been known for long. Dams not only store water but also trap the sediment flowing in the river. Whatever smaller quantity of water flow from dams to downstream areas, has much lower or no silt. A lot of that silt was supposed to reach the coast, helping fight against the erosion of the coast due to sea tides and waves. With drastically lower sediment reaching the coasts, higher coastal erosion is the result. While climate change is definitely contributing to the increased coast erosion due to more frequent and higher intensity storms from the sea, the role of dams tend to work as force multiplier in increasing the coastal erosion due to less sediment reaching the coasts from river.

While a new study by a Pune University has highlighted this phenomena in case of Godavari river, peninsular India’s biggest river, this is also happening at most other rivers and where they meet the coasts. As in case of Farakka, closer the terminal dam is to the coast, greater is its effectiveness to trap the river sediment and higher is its contribution likely to be to the increase in coastal erosion.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 16 May 2022: Welcome effort at Groundwater monitoring in India’s villages

(Feature Image: Women use an open source groundwater monitoring tool that enables collection of water level data of wells and its collation on a web platform for easy access by all. Source: FES/IWP)

The Groundwater (its closer to dug well monitoring than full GW monitoring) Monitoring Campaign using the Groundwater Monitoring Tool (an App) across the villages in India started two years ago by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) as reported by the India Water Portal seems like a much needed kind of campaign to monitor groundwater levels (& quality where that is also being monitored) across the villages in India. The presentation on the India Observatory (an initiative of FES) website lists some 40 very highly credible organisations from across India in 2020 when the GWM campaign started. This is certainly very welcome initiative that has huge potential to improve India’s groundwater management.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 May 2022: Forensic Team report: Michigan 2020 Dams failures were preventable

A Forensic engineering Team appointed by the USA’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission post the May 19, 2020 failure of Edinville and Sanford Dams in Michigan state of USA has published a 502 page comprehensive report on the dam failure within less than two years of the disaster. The full report published on May 4, 2022 is in public domain and has concluded that the dam failures were foreseeable and preventable.

There are a number of things we can learn from this. Firstly that there are such credible independent assessment of dam failures, we have none in India even after multiple dam failures each year. Secondly, such assessments are promptly in public domain. Thirdly, the reports are completed in less then two years. We have none of these. Even the Dam Safety Act passed by the parliament does not have provisions for any of these.

There are a lot of implications for India here. It means for example that we will never know the real reasons for the dam related disasters. Secondly, we won’t be able to learn any lessons. Thirdly we will never be able to improve the governance of our dams and rivers. Fourthly, we won’t be able to fix accountability.

There is so much at stake related to governance of our dams, but we seem completely unconcerned about it. There is a lot we can learn from others here.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 April 2022: Ken Betwa Affected people protest land acquisition

The residents of about 15 villages affected by the Ken Betwa link project are opposing the land acquisition process being initiated in violation of all norms have opposed the move. The notices have not been pasted in the affected villages, gram sabhas have not been conducted and the information promised in the notice is not available at the designated places. When question, the Madhya Pradesh officials have responded arrogantly. The history of manipulations and violations that has been the norm every step of the way in Ken Betwa Project continues. In fact the project does not have final forest clearance, its wildlife clearance has been questioned by the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee and its Environment clearance is under challenge before the National Green Tribunal. In absence of the clearances, the land acquisition should not even be started if there is any place for prudent norms in such projects. It would be best if the government stops the process and starts it only if and when it gets all the clearances and after taking all the concerned into confidence through a prudent confidence inspiring process.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 March 2022: 25th Anniversary of International Day of Action for Rivers!

14th March is celebrated as International Day of Action for Rivers since 1997 after the resolution at the 1st International meeting of People Affected by Dams in Curitiba, Brazil. At this meeting of Dam affected people from 20 countries (including India) it was decided to celebrate this day as the International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life. It is thrilling to see the celebration continuing and spreading on 25th anniversary of that meeting. The focus this years is on Rivers for Biodiversity. To illustrate how the celebration of this day has spread, in 2021, even during pandemic, the day was celebrated with over 120 events in 32 countries. For details, see: https://www.internationalrivers.org/take-action/international-day-of-action-for-rivers/.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 070322: As Tata celebrates century of Bhivpuri HEP operation, time to return the project to government and review it?

On March 5, 2022, Tata Power celebrated 100 years of operation of the Bhivpuri hydropower project in Raigad district of Maharashtra. It is possibly right time to consider by the government to ask Tata Power to return all the hydropower projects of Tata Power in that region to the government. Tatas got the right to develop these projects under a colonial agreement that handed over the public resources of land, river and rights over the project benefits to a private company like Tatas almost for free, for the company to profit from these public resources. This arrangement should have been reviewed long back, but possibly it is right time to review it now. Possibly it will be a good move in the year when India celebrates Azadi ka Amrutmahotsav!

The project transfers water from drought prone, water deficit Krishna basin to high rainfall area of Konkan. And such disastrous transfer continues even in drought years. It is high time this is reversed and the water is allowed to flow in the Krishna basin. From this perspective, the project also needs to be reviewed if at all it should continue to operate and if so under what terms and conditions.

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