This multi-media report by Siddharth Agarwal based on a walk along the majestic Ken River in central India, now part of a contentious river-linking project, shows how essential it is to the communities living around it.
The idea of walking along a river has many key reasons, but the most important of them is to interact, discuss with and document the life of the actual stakeholders of this natural system. Traversing flood plains and riverbanks on foot takes us right where the story is, not in a far removed space, where even a few kilometres away from it can be a major shift. Location plays a wonderful role in rejigging memory and helps people imagine past situations. The discussions on the scale of the importance of a river suddenly have a realism and depth.
Uttrakhand has received 3% below normal rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. Though the figure falls in normal category, however district level rainfall data paints a very different picture. Out of total 13 districts in the Himalayan state, four districts namely Almora, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal and Udham Singh Nagar have received deficit rains, whereas three districts which includes Bageshwar, Chamoli and Haridwar have got rainfall in excess. Out of the rest six districts four are on marginally positive side and two are on marginally negative side.
Central Water Commission is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. As per CWC’s Flood Forecasting website[I] the Data Flow Map has information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View, but no flood forecasting is done for these sites.
In order to better understand the CWC’s flood monitoring and forecasting work, in this article we have given an overview of CWC’s flood forecasting and monitoring sites in East India. It includes state wise list of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in East India. Similar report has been published for North India[II] and North East India[III] and we hope to publish reports covering other regions of India too.
Accepting that reservoirs operation and flood management in India lack scientific supports, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, in an interview has revealed that dams and water reservoirs need flood management systems that use scientific methods to understand when the time is right to open the gates.
The release of around 1.31 lakh cusecs of water in Yamuna from Hathnikund barrage at 09:00 hours on July 26, 2018, was certainly first surge of flood this monsoon in the river. But no one expected, most are still in the dark that the release would multiply by over five times in just two days! It is almost a month after the Southwest monsoon arrived. By this time the river usually floods couples of times.
Looking at the lack of significant rainfall in the catchment area over past weeks, the flood is unexpected and has taken many by surprise. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi Government has issued warning for flood plain farmers and human settlements close to river banks, but the warning does not seem to commensurate with the flood peak that is likely to hit the capital in next day or two.
Yamuna has already crossed warning (204 m) and danger level (204.83) at Old Delhi Railway Bridge (ORB), Delhi. The High Flood Level is 207.49 meters, reached on Sept 6,1978 after around 7 lakh cusecs (cubic feet per second) water was released in Yamuna on 3rd Sept 1978 at 04:00 hrs from Tajewala barrage, that was decommissioned and replaced by Hathnikund barrage in early 1990s. The flood monitoring of River Yamuna began in 1963.
Since then, the river has seen high floods in 1988, 1995, 2010 and 2013. The 2010 and 2013 floods also crossed 207 metres mark but fell short of 1978 level.
The fact that most of the civilizations of the world flourished on the river banks is more or less uncontested. The examples of early river valley civilizations range from Indus civilization near Indus River to Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Egypt on the bank of Nile, and Chinese civilization near Yellow River to name some of them. Even today most of the major cities of the world are situated on the banks of rivers viz. London near Thames, Paris near Seine, New York next to Hudson and the list is endless. Coming to the cities in India also, Delhi is on the bank of Yamuna, Kolkata is near Hooghly river, Allahabad at the confluence (popularly known as Sangam) of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, Ahmedabad near Sabarmati and many more. Continue reading “RIVERS AS COMMONS: REALITY OR MYTH?”→
Above: The Bhagirathi valley has a lot of beautiful bends, comparable to the most popular scenic spots across the world. But we’re busy cutting down the mountain to make broader roads in these eco-sensitive areas. Image taken in March 2017. Photo credits: Siddharth Agarwal
Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal
In the initial stages of planning the Moving Upstream project on the Ganga for Veditum, where we were going to walk along the whole length of the river, I had approached a lot of individuals to learn from their experiences about the river and the many connected stories around it. These learnings varied from science and activism to adventure and survival. Of all those who were approached, Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP had been the most generous in extending knowledge resources and sharing contacts from the field. He even entertained a couple of my visits to their office and shared with me a copy of the SANDRP report prepared by Theo, called Headwater Extinctions (February 2014, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/new-publication-headwater-extinctions-impact-of-hydropower-projects-on-fish-and-river-ecosystems-in-upper-ganga-and-beas-basins/, it includes link to full report), along with a few other documents.
Headwater Extinctions looks at the role played by small and large hydropower projects in altering the fish biodiversity and river ecosystems in the Himalayan reaches of the Ganga and Beas basins. It also speaks about the perspective of local people and that of the authorities towards hydropower projects. Theo, who is an adventurer and ecologist, penned down the report with a scientific aptitude, while I will limit myself here in this revisit report to updated observations made on ground while walking along the Ganga in Uttarakhand (March 2017). This comparative observation will hopefully enable a conversation that requires continuity. Continue reading “Walking along Ganga in Uttarakhand in 2017”→
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the amendments in the Mega Power Policy to push 31 GW stuck projects entailing an investment of Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The stuck projects in mega power policy include hydro projects of above 350 Mw in designated states (J&K and eight NE states) and above 500 Mw in other states.
Amid this, New and Renewable Energy Ministry has added over 5400 Mw wind energy capacity in 2016-17 against the target of 4000 Mw. This year’s achievement surpassed the previous higher capacity addition of 3.423 Mw achieved in the previous year. The leading States in the wind power capacity addition during 2016-17 are Andhra 2190 Mw, followed by Gujarat 1275 Mw and Karnataka 882 Mw.
In the last couple of years, India has not only seen record low tariffs for solar power but wind power too has seen a significant drop in tariffs. The onshore wind power potential alone is about 302 Gw. Preliminary estimates show the Gujarat coastline has the potential to generate around 106,000 Mw of offshore wind energy and Tamil Nadu about 60,000 Mw.
SANDRP Blog Little for Bundelkhand, lot for contractors in Ken Betwa river-linkThe official executive summary of the Detailed Project Report of KBLRP on NWDA website says: “The main objective of the Ken-Betwa link project is to make available water to water deficit areas of upper Betwa basin through substitution from the surplus waters of Ken basin.” Upper Betwa basin (Raisen and Vidisha districts of MP) is not in Bundelkhand. So KBLRP is essentially facilitating export of water from drought prone Bundelkhand to area outside Bundelkhand, which, in fact is well endowed with over 900 mm of average annual rainfall.
The DPR further says, a third o the surplus water will be utilized for “enroute irrigation of 0.60 lakh ha. in the districts of Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur of MP and Mahoba & Jhansi of U.P.” The claim in the minutes of Expert Appraisal Committee meeting of Dec 30, 2016 that “It is proposed to provide irrigation facility in 6,35,661 ha of area in Panna, Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba and Jhansi Districts in Uttar Pradesh” needs to be put in context here. Firstly, this claim is far in excess of what the presumed surplus water can irrigate.