DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 200323: Time to Focus on Natural Water Storages

(Feature Image: Cover page of World Bank report titled What the Future Has in Store: A New Paradigm for Water Storage)

On the occasion of World Water Day 2023, the United Nation will be organizing a conference (March 22-24) in New York, USA. In its latest report the World Bank has also raised concern over decline in fresh water storages and underlined the need of a new approach for integration of built and natural water storages as a measure to adapt to climate change related water challenges and better management of water resources.

There is no doubt that large parts of the world are facing water scarcity and insecurity from existing and looming threats both from man made reasons and changing climates. Given the omnipresent & increasing shortages of cumulative storage capacity and adverse impacts of built water storages especially big reservoirs and dams; it is time global bodies like UN, World Bank, policy makers and governments at large must focus on conservation and replenishment of natural water storages, which are far better, cost effective options available to address and mitigate ever increasing and evolving climatic threats on human water security and sources.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 060323: India’s regulators blind to increasing threats in Himalayas

This week the weekly DRP bulletin brings news of increasing threats from changing climate in inherently disaster prone Himalayas. The news come from Ladakh in the NW to Nagaland in the NE, and includes Uttarakhand among others. The news is about retreating glaciers, increasing threats of Glacial Lake Outburst floods and landslides. The news also notes that factors like indiscriminate infrastructure development and lack of drainage are worsening the disaster potential of the Himalayan states. Most importantly, implicitly more than explicitly, the news reports highlight complete inattention of the regulators to these increasing threats and risks in inherently vulnerable Himalayas while considering new infrastructure projects like Highways, Railways, Hydropower projects, Dams and urbanization and also in terms of disaster management laws and practices.

It underlines that the threats and risks in the Himalayan states is also increasing due to changing rainfall patterns due to changing climate. This trinity of inherent vulnerability, changing climate and inattention to the risks of indiscriminate infrastructure projects is clearly very very dangerous, but there is little hope for any immediate change. One clear indication is the handling of the Joshimath disaster, a clear case of how not to handle communication as Dave Petley has noted. The Prime Minister’s office is sitting on the report submitted by the investigating agencies several weeks ago. Why should this report be a secret or will we get a negotiated report?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 031022: Great Victory of People: MP govt scraps all contracts related to Maheshwar Dam

(Feature image: A protest by Narmada Bachao Andolan in Nov. 2006. Source: @Sripadmanthan)

On Sept 27, 2022, the Madhya Pradesh Government cancelled all contracts related to the Maheshwar Dam Project on Narmada. This massive dam on Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh upstream of Sardar Sarovar Project and downstream of the Omkareshwar Project was to be a multi-purpose project with a 400 MW hydropower component and water supply component among others. It was opposed by the people’s movement lead by Narmada Bachao Andolan for over two decades now. The project being implemented by the private textile company S Kumars showed no will or intention of taking care of the social or environment impacts of the project. Madhya Pradesh government so far was trying to push ahead with the project by hook or by crook, but finally had the sense to realise that this is going to be a massively costly affair at estimated Rs 42000 crores and the state and the people of state are only going to suffer costs and adverse impacts. The cancellation of all the contracts for the project signals a major victory of the people’s movement.

While congratulating the state government for cancelling the contracts, we would also suggest that the government needs to quickly decide about decommissioning of the dam, so that it does not pose safety risk to the people upstream and downstream and also perpetuates unnecessary adverse social and environment impacts. Earlier the dam is decommissioned, quicker will be the relief from these impacts. Moreover, the MP government should also not let the private company go scot free and all attempts should be made to recover the money spent and also penalise them for breach of the contracts. The private company should also be made to pay for the decommissioning costs.

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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 17 Jan. 2022: Urban Water Mess visible in advocacy for Renuka and Mekedatu dams

This week brings heightened advocacy for major dams in the name of Urban Water supplies for cities that have no water policy, no worthwhile good water governance, but are happy demanding more and more water projects from further off places to cater to its unjustifiable demands. This is the underlying theme both in case of Renuka dam for Delhi and Mekedatu dam for Bangalore.

Some media reports are talking about need for additional storages, but in this advocacy there is no place for either efficient use of existing water storages, nor place for decentralised water storage options or underground water storage options, leave aside inclusion of soil moisture, which is a major storage option too.

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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 NB 03 Jan 2022: Are we any safer from Dam Disasters?

In the 2021 year-end review by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Ministry of Water Resources), the passage of the Dam Safety Bill by the parliament figures in headlines. The question is are we any safer from dam disasters due to this? If we take a quick review of the numerous dam disasters just this year and also look at the dam disasters mentioned in this Bulletin that happened just in the last week of the passing year, the answer is clear no. Such disasters include ones in Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Brazil.

There is also the news here of the Uttarakhand agency report about the Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster, about which the official govt agency has said failure of Early Warning System was a factor in the disaster. The bigger disaster is that the state govt has promptly issued show cause notice to the authors of the paper blaming the lack of EWS!

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DRP NB 27 Dec 2021: PM pushes unviable, destructive Hydro projects in HP

Feature Image: Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti members take out a protest march at Dadahu in Sirmaur district on Dec. 19, 2021. Tribune photo

What will be the realistic cost of power from hydropower projects being pushed by the Prime Minister during this visit today to Himachal Pradesh? One indication of that comes from the 111 MW Sawra Kuddu HEP that he inaugurates during his visit. The cost of this project is already over Rs 2080 Crores, likely to go up further. Which means per MW installed capacity, the cost is around Rs 20 Crores. At this cost, the cost of power from the project is likely to be over Rs 8 per unit even without factoring in the social, environmental and increased disaster vulnerability costs that such projects impose on the fragile Himalayan Mountains. As if to also remind the active seismic zone, on the eve of his visit, there were tremors, even if mild, in Mandi.

The Renuka dam that he lays the foundation for does not even have all the statutory clearances. Its EIA has been the most dishonest exercise, as came out in the NGT hearings. What signal is the government sending by laying foundation stone for such a project? Similar are the issues with Luhri I and Dhaulasidh HEPs. The government seems to be pushing such outdated, unviable, costly and destructive projects in fragile Himalayan regions, purely on political arithmetic assumptions, but possibly need to realise that these projects are not even popular and they are also most inappropriate in the climate change context. Or is it the lure of spending such huge sums of unaccountable public money that provide opportunities for getting election funds for the party that is driving such undemocratic decisions?

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 Dec. 2021: Gargai Dam Scrapped; Wise Move by BMC to Go for Alternatives

In a wise move, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled Gargai dam project. In its January 2014, submission to Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), SANDRP had highlighted the adverse impacts of this project on tribal people and Tansa Sanctuary stressing on alternatives including recycling of sewage and rain water harvesting. Finally, now the BMC has scrapped the unjustified project which would have caused felling of 4.5 lakh trees which BMC chief Iqbal Chahal rightly finds pointless in the wake of increasing climate change threats.

It is worth to mention that in February 2020 BMC was learnt reconsidering its Pinjal dam project and exploring other options including waste water recycling. Indeed the BMC is taking right steps. Dams are costly, destructive projects impacting rivers, forests and local people in multiple ways. The demand side management, efficient use of existing water supplies, rain water harvesting and recycling of waste water are among far better alternatives to meet urban water demands.

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DRP NB 13 Sept 2021: Misleading claim of Water Plus cities

Recently, when the government of India certified that cities like Indore, Surat, Hyderabad, Vizag, etc are Water Plus, it raised a number of questions including the credibility of the claim, lack of credit worthy independent assessment, how sustainable are the claims, etc. The author of the following article rightly raises the question if the cities are at all Water Plus. They are clearly not. While recycling and reuse of 30% of treated sewage and full treatment of waste water is welcome in view of the current pathetic status of city water management in cities, this achievement, if it is real as assessed by credit worthy independent assessment & judged against a set of well-defined criteria of sustainability among others, is worth appreciating, but it certainly does not deserve Water Plus City label. To achieve that label, a lot more and a lot different kind of achievements will be required.

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