South Asia

SOUTH ASIA 2017: MISS YOU, RIVERS & FISH! As Dams and Water sharing dominate

India-Bangladesh-Myanmar face big quake threat A giant fault in the earth’s crust in one of the world’s most densely populated areas could kill tens of millions of people, scientists have warned according to a new paper in the journal Nature Geoscience. Researchers placed hundreds of highly accurate GPS receivers in locations across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar and monitored them over a ten-year period. Now the scientists fear the location is home to a mega-thrust fault which could unleash a 8.2-9.0 magnitude earthquake. More than 140 million people live within a 60-mile area of the potential disaster zone in Bangladesh. The scientists, led by Dr Michael Steckler from Columbia University published their findings in the journal Nature. This is also a warning against major interventions in the North East India. http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/india-bangladesh-and-myanmar-face-big-quake-threat-99557, July 19, 2016, http://thenortheasttoday.com/earthquake-of-9-0-magnitude-could-be-unleashed-anytime-from-a-major-fault-underneath-bangladesh/, July 22, 2016, http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2760.html  Continue reading “SOUTH ASIA 2017: MISS YOU, RIVERS & FISH! As Dams and Water sharing dominate”

Sikkim · Teesta

Retracing Her Path -3: A Journey along the Teesta River in Sikkim

Above: The Teesta valley (photo: Gauri Noolkar-Oak)

Guest Blog by Gauri Noolkar-Oak

A day later, I set out on the last leg of my journey – through Sikkim, to the source. The journey from Kalimpong to Singtam and further to Mangan was breathtaking. The mountains grew taller as I climbed higher, the Teesta keeping me company all the while. It rained breezily and the clouds came down, clinging to the thick cloak of green that draped the mountains. Beauty was all around me and at one point, I just had to put my camera away and take in the splendour of nature.

Continue reading “Retracing Her Path -3: A Journey along the Teesta River in Sikkim”

Bangladesh · brahmaputra · Sikkim · Teesta · West Bengal

Retracing Her Path 1: A Journey along the Teesta River in Bangladesh

Above: A local fisherman fishing upstream of the barrage (Photo: Gauri Noolkar-Oak)

Guest Blog by Gauri Noolkar-Oak

Few journeys take us through a string of experiences that nourish the senses and the soul. A thoroughbred urban, city-lover, I nevertheless knew deep down that my journey of such nourishment would be with a river. I began researching rivers by chance, but with time, I grew to first like and then worship the entity. In early 2017, I acquired a grant from the Joke Waller-Hunter Initiative to study water conflicts in the Teesta basin, and I knew: this was going to be it.

My journey was inspired by the book “Empires of the Indus” written by Alice Albania, a brave woman who travelled the Indus river from mouth to source, and explored her history and cultures. But beyond that, I hardly had a plan; I did not know how long the journey would take, whether I would be able to see the whole river, and when I would return home.  When I landed in Dhaka at the end of April this year, all I knew was that I wanted to see the Teesta right from her confluence with the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh all the way up to her source at Tso Lamo in Sikkim, on the Indo-China border. Continue reading “Retracing Her Path 1: A Journey along the Teesta River in Bangladesh”

Dams · India Rivers Week

North-East India (Excluding-Brahmputra) Rivers Profile

The River system in North East, other than the Brahmaputra, can be classified as the Barak River system and minor Rivers flowing to Bangladesh and Burma. The Barak River, Gumti River, Myntdu River etc are some of the major Rivers flowing to Bangladesh, while the Kaladan River, the Manipur River, Tizu River etc flowing  in the States of Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland are main Rivers flowing to Burma.

The Barak River basin covers parts of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In India it spreads over states of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura and Nagaland having an area of 41,723 Sq.km.

The Barak River originates from the Manipur hills, from Liyai Village in Senapati district in Manipur at an elevation of 2,331 m and flows through Assam and further down to Bangladesh, where it is known by the  name of the Surma and the Kushiyara and later called the Meghna before receiving the combined flow of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. The principal tributaries of Barak joining from north bank are the Jiri, the Chiri, the Modhura, the Jatinga, the Harang, the Kalain and the Gumra whereas the Dhaleswari, the Singla, the Longai, the Sonai and the Katakhal joins from south bank. The Barak sub-basin lies in the States  of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura and Nagaland.

Continue reading “North-East India (Excluding-Brahmputra) Rivers Profile”

Sikkim · Teesta

TEESTA LANDSLIDE DAM IN DZONGU: RIVER OVERFLOWS OVER DAM BUT RISK CONTINUE

Above: Submerged houses in reservoir behind landslide dam. Photo from Darjeeling Chronicle

The Kanaka River is flowing over the dam that was created on Aug 13, 2016, it is confirmed now, but the risk of the dam failure and disaster downstream continues. In the meanwhile, the upstream villages, cut off due to road damaged and bridge submerged, are facing serious problems.[i] Continue reading “TEESTA LANDSLIDE DAM IN DZONGU: RIVER OVERFLOWS OVER DAM BUT RISK CONTINUE”

Sikkim · Teesta

LANDSLIDE DAM BLOCKS TEESTA TRIBUTARY IN NORTH SIKKIM: MAJOR RISK TO TEESTA RIVER BANK COMMUNITIES

(Above: Lower part of the Dzongu Landslide, Photo from  Save the Hills)

According to a number of reports[i], at around 1230 hours on Aug 13, 2016, a massive landslide completely blocked the flow of Kanaka (Rongyoung) River near Mentam village in Dzongu region in North Sikkim. A hillock called “So Bhir” came crashing down, it is reported. The Landslide dam is about 50 m high, about 45 m wide, the landslide top point is about 900 m above the river. Darjeeling Chronicle reports, the river downstream is totally dry as the water has started collecting behind the landslide dam (that situation seems to have changed on 14th Aug morning around 830 am). Continue reading “LANDSLIDE DAM BLOCKS TEESTA TRIBUTARY IN NORTH SIKKIM: MAJOR RISK TO TEESTA RIVER BANK COMMUNITIES”

Himalayas · Hydropower

Himalayas cannot take this Hydro onslaught

MESSAGE ON WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2014:

SAVE HIMALAYAS FROM THIS HYDRO ONSLAUGHT!

It is close to a year after the worst ever Himalayan flood disaster that Uttarakhand or possibly the entire Indian Himalayas experienced in June 2013[1]. While there is no doubt that the trigger for this disaster was the untimely and unseasonal rain, the way in which this rain translated  into a massive disaster had a lot to do with how we have been treating the Himalayas in recent years and today. It’s a pity that we still do not have a comprehensive report of this biggest tragedy to tell us what happened during this period, who played what role and what lessons we can learn from this experience.

Floods in Uttarakhand Courtesy: Times of India
Floods in Uttarakhand Courtesy: Times of India

One of the relatively positive steps in the aftermath of the disaster came from the Supreme Court of India, when on Aug 13, 2013, a bench of the apex court directed Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)[2] to set up a committee to investigate into the role of under-construction and completed hydropower projects. One would have expected our regulatory system to automatically initiate such investigations, which alas is not the case. Knowing this, some us wrote to MoEF on July 20, 2013[3], to exactly do such an investigation, but again MoEF played deaf and blind to such letters.

The SC mandated committee was set up through an MoEF order dated Oct 16 2013[4] and MoEF submitted the report on April 16, 2014.

5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti
5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti

The committee report, signed by 11 members[5], makes it clear that construction and operation of hydropower projects played a significant role in the disaster. The committee has made detailed recommendations, which includes recommendation to drop at least 23 hydropower projects, to change parameters of some others. The committee also recommended how the post disaster rehabilitation should happen, today we have no policy or regulation about it. While the Supreme Court of India is looking into the recommendations of the committee, the MoEF, instead of setting up a credible body to ensure timely and proper implementation of recommendations of the committee has asked the Court to appoint another committee on the flimsy ground that CWC-CEA have submitted a separate report advocating more hydropower projects! The functioning of the MoEF continues to strengthen the impression that it is working like a lobby for projects rather than an independent environmental regulator. We hope the apex court see through this.

Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan
Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan

Let us turn our attention to hydropower projects in Himalayas[6]. Indian Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand[7], Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and rest of North East) already has operating large hydropower capacity of 17561 MW. This capacity has leaped by 68% in last decade, the growth rate of National Hydro capacity was much lower at 40%. If you look at Central Electricity Authority’s (CEA is Government of India’s premier technical organisation in power sector) list of under construction hydropower projects in India, you will find that 90% of projects and 95% of under construction capacity is from the Himalayan region. Already 14210 MW hydropower capacity is under construction. In fact CEA has now planned to add unbelievable 65000 MW capacity in 10 years (2017 to 2027) between 13th and 14th Five Year Plans.

Meanwhile, the Expert Appraisal Committee of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on River Valley Projects has been clearing projects at a break-neck speed with almost zero rejection rate. Between April 2007 and Dec 2013[8], this committee recommended final environment clearance to 18030.5 MW capacity, most of which has not entered the implementation stage. Moreover, this committee has recommended 1st stage Environment clearance (what is technically called Terms of Reference Clearance) for a capacity of unimaginable 57702 MW in the same period. This is indicative of the onslaught of hydropower projects which we are likely to see in the coming years. Here again an overwhelming majority of these cleared projects are in Himalayan region.

Agitation Against Lower Subansiri Dam in Assam Source: SANDRP
Agitation Against Lower Subansiri Dam in Assam
Source: SANDRP

What does all this mean for the Himalayas, the people, the rivers, the forests, the biodiversity rich area? We have not even fully studied the biodiversity of the area. The Himalayas is also very landslide prone, flood prone, geologically fragile and seismically active area. It is also the water tower of much of India (& Asia). We could be putting that water security also at risk, increasing the flood risks for the plains. The Uttarakhand disaster and changing climate have added new unknowns to this equation.

We all know how poor are our project-specific and river basin-wise cumulative social and environmental impact assessments. We know how compromised and flawed our appraisals and regulations are. We know how non-existent is our compliance system. The increasing judicial interventions are indicators of these failures. But court orders cannot replace institutions or make our governance more democratic or accountable. The polity needs to fundamentally change, and we are still far away from that change.

Peoples protests against Large dams on Ganga. Photo: Matu Jansangathan
Peoples protests against Large dams on Ganga. Photo: Matu Jansangathan

The government that is likely to take over post 2014 parliamentary elections has an opportunity to start afresh, but available indicators do not provide such hope. While UPA’s failure is visible in what happened before, during and after the Uttarakhand disaster, the main political opposition that is predicted to take over has not shown any different approach. In fact NDA’s prime ministerial candidate has said that North East India is the heaven for hydropower development. He seems to have no idea about the brewing anger over such projects in Assam and other North Eastern states. That anger is manifest most clearly in the fact that India’s largest capacity under-construction hydropower project, namely the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP has remained stalled for the last 29 months after spending over Rs 5000 crores. The NDA’s PM candidate also has Inter Linking of Rivers (ILR) on agenda. Perhaps we have forgotten as to why the NDA lost the 2004 Parliamentary elections.  The arrogant and mindless pursuit of projects like ILR and launching of 50 000 MW hydropower campaign by the then NDA government had played a role in sowing the seeds of people’s anger with that government.

In this context we also need to understand what benefits these hydropower projects are actually providing, as against what the promises and propaganda are telling us. In fact our analysis shows that the benefits are far below the claims and impacts and costs are far higher than the projections. The disaster shows that hydropower projects are also at huge risk in these regions. Due to the June 2013 flood disaster large no of hydropower projects were damaged and generation from the large hydro projects alone dropped by 3730 million units. In monetary terms this would mean just the generation loss at Rs 1119 crores assuming conservative tariff of Rs 3 per unit. The loss in subsequent year and from small hydro would be additional.

It is nobody’s case that no hydropower projects be built in Himalayas or that no roads, townships, tourism and other infrastructure be built in the Himalayan states. But we need to study the impact of these massive interventions (along with all other available options in a participatory way) in what is already a hugely vulnerable area, made worse by what we have done so far in these regions and what climate change is threatening to unleash. In such a situation, such onslaught of hydropower projects on Himalayas is likely to be an invitation to even greater disasters across the Himalayas. Himalayas cannot sustain this onslaught.

It is in this context, that the ongoing Supreme Court case on Uttarakhand provides a glimmer of hope. It is not just hydropower projects or other infrastructure projects in Uttarakhand, or for that matter in other Himalayan states that will need to take guidance from the outcome of this case, but it could provide guidance for all kinds of interventions all across Indian Himalayas. Our Himalayan neighbors can also learn from this process. Let us end on that hopeful note here!

Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[1] For SANDRP blogs on Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/?s=Uttarakhand

[2] For details of Supreme Court order, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/uttarakhand-flood-disaster-supreme-courts-directions-on-uttarakhand-hydropower-projects/

[3] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/uttarakhand-disaster-moef-should-suspect-clearances-to-hydropower-projects-and-institute-enquiry-in-the-role-of-heps/

[4] For Details of MoEF order, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/expert-committee-following-sc-order-of-13-aug-13-on-uttarakhand-needs-full-mandate-and-trimming-down/

[5] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/report-of-expert-committee-on-uttarakhand-flood-disaster-role-of-heps-welcome-recommendations/

[6] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/massive-hydropower-capacity-being-developed-by-india-himalayas-cannot-take-this-onslought/

[7] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/uttarakhand-existing-under-construction-and-proposed-hydropower-projects-how-do-they-add-to-the-disaster-potential-in-uttarakhand/

[8] For details of projects cleared during April 2007 to Dec 2012, see: https://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf and https://sandrp.in/env_governance/EAC_meetings_Decisions_All_India_Apr_2007_to_Dec_2012.pdf

[9] An edited version of this published in June 2014 issue of CIVIL SOCIETY: http://www.civilsocietyonline.com/pages/Details.aspx?551

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources

Analysis MoWR’s Advisory Committee’s Decisions for Northeast – January 2009 to Dec 2013

This is analysis of the decisions of the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) for North East India[1] from 95th meeting of January 2009 to 122nd meeting held in December 2013. In our last analysis of TAC minutes we have covered the decision taken for NE states from July 2011 to December 2013 which  is available at – https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lack-of-transparency-and-accountability-remains-the-norm-of-functioning-for-mowrs-advisory-committee/. In this analysis, we have covered the same for an extended period. In these five years TAC has accepted project proposals worth of 5515.46 crores. In calculating the total cost of the projects considered we have considered only the projects whose proposals were given clearance by TAC. In these five years, some of the projects also made two appearances with revised costs. In such cases the higher revised cost has been taken into consideration, e.g. Khuga Multipurpose Project and Dolaithabi Barrage Project, both located in Manipur were accepted by the committee in its 100th meeting (held on 9th October 2009) with revised cost of Rs 381.28 crore and 251.52 crore respectively. In the 115th meeting (held on 24th July 2012) of the TAC, these two projects were considered again where the cost for Khuga Project was Rs. 433.91 cr and for Dolaithabi Project it was Rs. 360.05 Cr. The same is the case for the Thoubal Multipurpose Project which appeared in 101st and 115th meeting of the TAC.

Within these five years, TAC has given financial clearance to 26 flood and erosion control projects and majority of these projects are from Assam. The committee gave the clearance to 6 irrigation projects, 3 barrage projects and 3 multipurpose projects.[2] The committee also gave clearance to a strom water drainage improvement project below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong in Sikkim within this period.

In this period, largest no of considered (25) and approved (20) projects were from Assam. Assam also has the maximum cost of projects among all states (Rs. 2631.99 Cr). Highest number of projects were considered (16) and approved (14) in the year 2009, with total cost of Rs 2321 Crores, which too was highest among all the years.

As found in our previous analysis, in the last five year from 2009 to 2013 TAC has not rejected a single project. Five projects had been deferred but were approved in the subsequent meetings within the same period. In the 108th meeting (held on 4th January 2011), the TAC did not discuss two projects on the Brahmaputra river stating “It was observed that the flood control and anti erosion scheme of Brahmaputra Board are implemented through Central Fund, which do not require investment clearance from the Planning Commission. Therefore, these schemes need not be put up to the Advisory Committee. However, the technical aspect of such project may be looked into by Central Water Commission as per past practice.”  But both these projects were reconsidered in the 110th meeting of TAC (held on 20th July 2011) and were cleared by the committee.

So this seems like a rubber stamping committee, clearing everything that comes to it. Reading of the minutes of the meetings also reveals that there are hardly any critical questions asked on merits of the questions for the massive delay and cost escalations that most of the projects suffer. Nor is there an discussion about the performance of the projects.

As we noted earlier, this committee functions in most non transparent, non participatory and unaccountable way. Neither the minutes nor the agenda notes of the meetings are in public domain. Following our letters along with TAC analysis in April 2011, addressed to Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Central Water Commission and members of the National Advisory Council, for the first time, TAC minutes were put up on CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.gov.in/main/webpages/TAC%20minutes.html). However, the last uploaded minutes were for the 115th meeting held in July 2012, after which minutes have stopped being uploaded. Secondly, some of the links are not working and all the files are unnecessarily large PDF files since only scanned pages of the minutes are put up, in place of the PDFs of normal word files, which would be of much smaller size. The TAC also has no independent, non government members, all the members are government officials. As we wrote to MoWR and Planning Commission in April 2011 and again in March 2014, there is urgent need for TAC to have  such members so that they provide objective perspective about the projects that come up before TAC.

The importance of functioning of this committee cannot be over emphasised. As we  wrote  in our letter to MoWR and Planning Commission, TAC “considers dozens of such projects with huge economic, social, environmental and other implications for the country in every one of its meetings. All of these projects are supposed to be public purpose projects, and are taken up using public resources. The Planning Commission accords investment clearance to the projects only after the TAC clearance. This Committee’s decisions are perhaps the ones which impact on India as a whole the most – as they relate to land and water – which are the basic life sustaining and livelihood providing resources for the people.”

It is high time that first effective steps are taken to ensure that the functioning of this committee becomes more transparent, participatory and accountable.

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

State No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 106.6
Assam 25 20 2631.99
Manipur 10 10 2268.99
Meghalaya 1 1 5.63
Sikkim 1 1 48.55
Tripura 6 6 453.7

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 5 years period.

Year-wise List of Projects Cleared by TAC

Year No of Projects Considered No of projects approved Total cost of the projects
2009 16 14 2321
2010 5 5 663.67
2011 12 9 497.33
2012 5 5 2208.81
2013 9 9 1439.45

Meeting-wise List Projects Cleared by TAC January 2009 to December 2013

Sl. No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
95th 20.01.2009 4 3 1 0 196.07
96th 16.02.2009 2 2 0 0 168.14
100th 09.10.2009 6 5 1 0 264.73
101st 30.11.2009 4 4 0 0 77.26
102nd 28.01.2010 1 1 0 0 59.91
103rd 11.03.2010 1 1 0 0 302.22
106th 16.09.2010 3 3 0 0 301.54
108th 04.01.2011 2 0 2 0 0
109th 04.03.2011 3 3 0 0 70.13
110th 20.07.2011 5 4 1 0 211.56
111th 17.08.2011 1 1 0 0 167.09
112th 14.09.2011 1 1 0 0 48.55
115th 24.07.2012 5 5 0 0 2208.81
117th 21.03.2013 1 1 0 0 155.87
118th 30.07.2013 2 2 0 0 467.38
119th 29.08.2013 2 2 0 0 601.67
120th 13.09.2013 1 1 0 0 42.96
121st 08.10.2013 2 2 0 0 146.01
122nd 20.12.2013 1 1 0 0 25.56
Total   47 42 5 0 5515.46

95th meeting (20.01.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 196.07 crores (revised costs have been taken into consideration)

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Protection of Sialmari Area Morigaon/ AS 2002 B’putra 14.29 (25.73) Accepted
2 Protection of Bhojaikhati, Doligaon and Ulubari AS 2002 B’putra 14.52 (27.92) Accepted
3 Protection of Majuli Island Ph II-III AS New B’putra 116.02 Deferred the proposal with suggestion to prepare the cost at current prices.
4 Raising & strengthening Dyke from from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti erosion measures AS New B’putra 142.42 Accepted

96th meeting (16.02.2009): Accepted Total – Rs 168.14 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Flood protection of Majuli Island Ph-II & III AS New B’putra 115.03 Accepted
2 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New B’putra 23.32(53.11) Accepted partially & suggested that proposal of coffer dam, pilot channel, etc. may be put up to the Standing Committee for expert opinion

100th meeting (09.10.2009): Accepted: TOTAL – Rs 897.53 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Borolia Irrigation Project AS 1980 Brahmaputra 92 m 6.775 (135.93) 9717 15,000 Ha Deferred due to non-submission of State Finance Concurrence
2 Khuga Multipurpose (Major- Revised) Manipur 1980 Khuga/ Imphal 230 m 15 (381.28) 9575 14,755 Ha Accepted
3 Dolaithabi Barrage Project (Med Revised) Manipur 1992 Iril/ Manipur 79 m 18.86 (251.52) 5,500 7,545 Ha
4 Gumti Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1979 Gumti 96 m 5.88 (83.01) 4,486 9,800 ha Accepted
5 Khowai Irrigation Project (Revised) Tripura 1980 Khowai 96 m 7.10 (83.01) 4,515 9,320 Ha Accepted
6 Manu Irrigation Project Tripura 1981 Manu 82 m 8.18 (98.71) 4,198 7,600 Ha Accepted

101st meeting (30.11.2009): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 1059.26 crores

SN Project State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Benefit Irri CCA/ flood prot. Annual Irrigation Decision
1 Raising & strengthening to Puthimari embankment Assam New B’putra NA 30.23 15000 Ha NA Accepted
2 Anti Erosion measures to protect left B’putra Dyke Assam New B’putra NA 27.97 5000 Ha NA Accepted
3 Protection of Gakhirkhitee and its adjoining areas Assam New B’putra NA 19.06 20,000 Ha NA Accepted
4 Thoubal Multipurpose Project (revised) Manipur 1980 Thoubal/ Imphal 1074 m 47.25 (982) 21,862 ha 33,449 Ha Accepted

102nd meeting (28.01.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 59.91 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original Cost-CrRs Benefit-flood protsn Decision
1 Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria in Dibrugarh Dist Assam New Brahmaputra 59.91 18,000 Ha Accepted

103rd meeting (11.03.2010): Accepted: TOTAL Cost of approved projects: Rs 302.22 crores

Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin L of Dam Original (revised) Cost-CrRs CCA (Ha) Annual Irrigation (Ha) Decision
Champamati Irrigation Project Chirag/AS 1980 Champamati/B’putra 258.5 m 15.32 (309.22) 17,414 24,994 Accepted

106th meeting (16.09.2010): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 301.54 crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Raising & strengthening of tributary dyke on both banks of Kopili River Assam New Kopilli/ B’putra 110.72 Accepted
2 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Dibrugarh/ Assam New Brahmaputra 61.33 Accepted
3 Assam Integrated Flood River Bank Erosion Risk Management Project Palasbari/ Assam New Brahmaputra 129.49 Accepted

108th meeting (04.01.2011): Accepted TOTAL- Rs 0

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Restoration of Dibang & Lohit rivers to their original courses at Dholla Hattiguli AS New Brahmaputra 23.32(53.11) The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.
2 Protection of Majuli Island from flood & erosion, Ph II-III AS New Brahmaputra 116.02 The technical aspect pf this type of project may be looked in to by CWC as per past Practices.

109th meeting (04.03.2011): Accepted TOTAL – Rs 70.13crores

SN Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ Basin Original (revised) Cost-CrRs Decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Dikrong Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Dikrong 23.68 Accepted
2 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Bhareli sub Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Bhareli 16.81 Accepted
3 Anti Erosion & Flood Protection work in Siyom Basin Arunachal Pradesh New Siyom 29.64 Accepted

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection in Tawangchu basin ArP New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood & Erosion Ph II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration of rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in W Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost decision
Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon Sonitpur/Assam New Brahmaputra Rs 167.09 Cr Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below Greenfield Airport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

 

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 155.87 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Protection of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 467.38 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

 

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal W Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

 Parag Jyoti Saikia and Himanshu Thakkar

————————————–

[1]While this article only contains the details of the North East India Projects considered in TAC for the five years, we hope to soon provide details of the projects considered by TAC from all over India.

[2] Sicne Khuga Multipurpose, Thoubal Multipurpose and Dolaithabi barrage project, all from Manipur appears twice in this period, they have calculated only for once here.

[3] Feature image – Khuga Mutipurpose project. Image courtesy – http://manipuronline.com/

Arunachal Pradesh · Assam · brahmaputra · Embankments · Ministry of Water Resources · Sikkim

Lack of Transparency and Accountability Remains the Norm of Functioning for MoWR’s Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for consideration of techno-economic viability of Irrigation, Flood Control and Multi Purpose Project Proposals (TAC in short) is a very important committee. It accords the financial clearance for any irrigation, flood control and multipurpose project. TAC is supposed to discuss the techno-economic viability of projects as per the resolution published in the Union of India Gazette Notification No. 12/5/86-P-II dated Nov 27, 1987. This committee came into being replacing a similar committee that existed earlier in the planning commission. Even now, the guidelines for functioning of the committee are issued by the Planning Commission.

The Gazette notification cited above also said, “The committee may also invite representatives of any other Government organizations, scientific body of experts in the relevant fields to participate in its deliberations.” This seems like a window to appoint credible, independent, non-government persons in the committee, but this window does not seem to have been used. Among the functions of the committee listed in this notification include, “The functions of the Committee will be to examine projects proposed by State Governments, Central Government or other organizations and satisfy itself that the schemes have been prepared after adequate investigations” and “the need of environment conservation and proper rehabilitation of project-affected persons have been taken into account.” However, our perusal of the functioning of the TAC shows that TAC has failed to fulfill both these mandates.

As noted in the Guidelines for Submission, Appraisal and Clearance of Irrigation and Multipurpose Projects, 2010 available on the CWC website (see: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/publications.html), “The project proposal, thereafter, is put up to the Advisory Committee for clearance, which is, by and large, like single window clearance.” The importance of such a single window clearance becomes all the more important. The guidelines further note, “On the basis of examination conducted by the Advisory Committee, decision on techno-economic viability of the projects is taken in the meeting of this Committee. The projects found acceptable by the Advisory Committee shall be recommended for investment clearance by the Planning Commission and inclusion in the Five Year Plan/Annual Plan.” This shows how important is the role of the TAC in judging techno-economic viability of projects and also from the point of view of prudent planning.

No Transparency, independent participation or accountability of TAC Considering the above, there is strong case for clearly defined norms for transparency, participation and accountability in (1) functioning of TAC; (2) The screening process of the projects at initial stages that also happen under these guidelines in the Central Water Commission, based on which approval for DPR preparation is given.

In view of the significance of TAC, this is SANDRP’s third analysis of the decisions taken in TAC meetings. The present analysis covers decisions taken for North East India from 110th to 122nd TAC meeting. In the two previous analysis done by SANDRP, TAC meeting decisions taken from 95th meeting to 109th meeting has been covered. Here it is important to note that lack of transparency has been observed right from the agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings. The agenda and minutes of the TAC meetings should be uploaded on CWC website but CWC website has minutes only till the 115th meeting held on 24th July 2012 and the website has been last updated on 31/08/2012.

In this analysis we have covered 13 TAC meetings held from July 2011 to December 2013. In these 13 meeting, 21 projects from 6 northeastern states have been considered. But out of the 13 meetings held, projects from northeast were considered only in 10 meetings. TAC has accepted the proposals for projects with a total cost of rupees 4075.46 crore. Majority of the projects were given clearance at the first time of consideration. Thus, on an average TAC  had cleared projects worth of 407.55 crores from the North East in each of these 10 meetings. Number of the projects considered by TAC in each meeting along with their total cost is given below. A state-wise and a project-wise list is also provided.

Total Cost of Projects Cleared by TAC July 2012 to December 2013

Sl No Meeting no Date of meeting No of projects considered from NE No projects approved No of projects deferred No of projects rejected Total cost of the accepted projects, Rs Crore
1 110th 20-07-11 5 4 1 0 211.56
2 111th 17-08-11 1 1 0 0 167.09
3 112th 14-09-11 1 1 0 0 48.55
4 115th 24-07-12 5 5 0 0 2208.81
5 117th 21-03-13 1 1 0 0 155.87
6 118th 30-07-13 2 2 0 0 467.38
7 119th 29-08-13 2 2 0 0 601.67
8 120th 13-09-13 1 1 0 0 42.96
9 121st 08-10-13 2 2 0 0 146.01
10 122nd 20-12-13 1 1 0 0 25.56
  Total     20     4075.46

State-wise list of projects cleared by TAC

Sl. No State No of projects approved Total cost of the approved projects, Rs Crore
1 Arunachal 1 36.47
2 Assam 7 1526.85
3 Manipur 7 2268.99
4 Meghalaya 1 5.63
5 Sikkim 1 48.55
6 Tripura 3 188.97

Note: No projects from Mizoram and Nagaland have come to TAC in this 30 month period.

Some observations regarding TAC meetings

1. Zero Rejections The TAC did not reject a single project. There was only one project which was deferred in the 110th meeting but it was approved in the next meeting. Rest of the new projects were were approved in the very first meeting of their consideration.

2. Lack of information The TAC minutes provide little information about projects. Specially in case of newer projects, detailed discussions should have happened. The minutes of TAC meetings do not give much of an idea about size, location, benefits of a particular project. In the project- wise list provided towards the end of this analysis, we have provided limited information available in the minutes. Some of the noteworthy missing information is listed below:

– In the 115th meeting, 5 projects from Manipur were considered. Out of these five projects, 2 were multipurpose projects and 3 were barrage projects. Surprisingly, there was no information about where these projects are located, on which river, what the size of these projects. None of the minutes mentioned about whom these projects will actually benefit. Only two projects mentioned about increase in annually irrigated land but no more detail was provided.

– In the 118th meeting, construction of embankments on both banks of river Ranganadi for flood management and river training was considered. But the cost of the project was on the higher side compared to the embankment construction work to be done on the river Dikrong, considered in the same meeting. This cost escalation may be due to the difference in the length of the projects. But this cannot be confirmed since minutes do not mention the length of the proposed embankments.

India's First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
India’s First Geo-tube embankment in Matmora in Dhakuakhana sub-division of Lakhimpur district in Assam. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

But the increased costs may also be due to the use of Geo bag technology for construction of Ranganadi embankments. Use of Geo-bag technology is a costly affair but nothing has been mentioned about the use of this technology in the minutes of 118th meeting. This is stated in the annexure (Annex VI as mentioned in the document) of the meeting. Interestingly this annexure too has been mentioned only as a corrigendum.

3. No Detailed Discussion on Projects Considered This was very evident in the two previous analysis done by SANDRP and situation remains the same this time as well. In case of all the projects, including the ones considered for the first time, there was no detailed information or any detailed discussion. There is no discussion on technical viability of the project. Reading through the minutes gives an impression that approval for any project considered by TAC is fait accompli. There is no discussion about whether the project is a desirable project, if there are other options available, if this is the best option and so on. Under the mandate given to it, TAC is supposed to discuss all these issues. TAC accepted projects proposals with huge cost and time overruns but little enquiry has been made why such escalation happened.

Dhansiri irrigation project This is a glaring example of cost escalation. The project was discussed in the 119th meeting on 29.08.2013 for consideration of cost of Rs 567.05 crores. But, it was surprising to find that original cost of the project in 1975 was Rs 15.83 crores as according to the information available in Assam State Irrigation Department website.[1] The same website states that project started in 1975 and supposed to be completed 35 years later in 2010. In the TAC meeting a new time schedule of March 2015 was stated. The cost of the project has increased by 35.82 times over a period of 40 years but the advisory committee accepts proposal without much scrutiny or enquiry. There was no detailed assessment of the reasons for time and cost over runs (there is no question of delay due to clearances or agitations here) or whether this project which will take 40 years just to complete will be viable or not. On the contrary, the planning commission representatives said, “the benefit cost ratio of the project was 1.2 and any further escalation in cost would result in the project becoming techno-economic unviable.”

The TAC should have done a detailed assessment why the project took so long time to complete. But it seemed to be contended with the rational that the project authorities provided which was that due land acquisition and law and order problem the project has not been completed. But in the meantime minutes of the meeting also showed that that major components of the project are in advanced stages of construction with 93% of barrage work, 99% of the canal works and about 83% of works in the distribution system were reported to have been completed. There has been no detailed assessment in to any of these aspects.

Imphal Barrage project In this project, the cost of the project mentioned in the minutes of the 115th meeting contradicted with the cost provided in the annexure. The cost of Extension, Renovation and Modernization (ERM) of the Imphal barrage project as mentioned in the minutes is Rs 16.80 crores. But a letter from the Under Secretary, Govt. of Manipur to the Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Manipur dated 21.07.2012 stated the cost of the project as 23.41 crores. This reflects the lack of serious discussion over projects in TAC. It is also surprising that TAC, being the committee which gives the techno economic clearance to projects, does not have clarity about even the cost of the project.

4. No Discussion over Social, Environmental and Other impacts of the Projects The projects cleared by TAC have serious social, environmental and other impacts but the committee never discussed these impacts. TAC does not at all take into account the impacts a project would have on the environment.

In the 118th meeting (30.07.2013), while considering the proposal for flood management of Dikrong along with river training works on both banks, the minutes stated “Effectiveness of existing embankments of river Dikrong has been deteriorating due to lack of repair, siltation of river bed and consequential change in river behaviour, change in flow pattern due to release of Ranga Nadi hydel project etc.” But this is one of the rare instances when TAC mentioned about the environmental impacts on embankments. But rather than asking for more details on these impacts or to see whether embankment would really be a viable option or not, the TAC accepted the proposal. On the other hand nowhere the committee discussed what impacts an embankment has on river bed, siltation or downstream stretches of a river.

Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong Power Station at Hoz where water from Ranganadi HEP is released in Dikrong/Pare. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
River Dikrong at Dikronghat in Lakhimpur district of Assam where it erodes rapidly. The impacts of change is water flow is clearly visible. Due to release of water in upstream water at night covers the lower portion of the bank. This photo was taken around 8am in the morning when the water receded. The lower bank portion was wet in the morning. According to the local the water further recedes by the evening and again increases at night. Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

It is also important to note here TAC also does not take into consideration impacts of the hydropower projects on the embankments in the downstream of the river. In the above mentioned case, the increased costs of Dikrong embankment should have been charged on the Ranga Nadi HEP, but there is no discussion on this. The Pare hydropower project (110 MW) in Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh is currently under construction on Dikong / PareRiver. Moreover there are at least 10 hydropower projects at various stages in the combined Ranganadi-Dikrong basin in Arunachal Pradesh, including one operating, three TOR approvals given and five additional MoA signed (in addition to a proposed project). There is no provision to assess the impacts of these projects on the embankments downstream of DikrongRiver in Assam. In fact there is no provision for any impact assessment study for embankments even though studies show the disastrous impacts of embankments on environment, floods and on the lives of the people living close to the river.

5. Clearing Same Embankment Projects over Years In terms of embankments, it is observed that the TAC had cleared same projects over the years. Not emphasizing on the environmental impacts of embankment projects is one of the major reasons for this. In the 117th TAC meeting held on 21.03.2013 the proposal for “Protection of Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta at different reaches from Lotasur to Tekeliphuta from the erosion of river Brahmaputra Assam” was considered. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 155.87 crore. But on the same embankment, a project titled “Raising and Strengthening to Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta including closing of breach by retirement and anti-erosion measures (to protect Majuli and Dhakukhana areas against flood devastation by the Brahmaputra, Lakhimpur district, Assam) was accepted in the 95th TAC meeting held on 20.01.2009. The estimated cost of the earlier project was 142.42 crore.

A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.  Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia
A Hoarding on the way to Geo-tube embankment in Matmora, describing the project.
Photo: Parag Jyoti Saikia

The minutes of the 117th meeting, about the previous scheme said that it “was taken up primarily for closure of breach in the then existing embankment including raising of embankment around the breach area only.” But the minutes of the 95th TAC meeting had said something totally different about the project. The minutes stated that project proposal envisaged – (i) Raising and strengthening of embankment for a length of 13.9 km, (ii) Construction of retirement bund with geo-textile tubes of length 5000 m. This shows how the discussion on the Brahmaputra dyke Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta is 117th meeting is completely misleading. TAC does on even take into account its previous meeting discussions before clearing a project. This possibly gives a hint of a scam.

The Brahmaputra dyke from Sissikalghar to Tekeliphuta has a long history of facing severe erosions. The first geo-tube embankment was constructed on this dyke in Dec 2010. Crores have been spent for the protection of this embankment. But even after that the Dhakukhana sub-division always remained in the headlines during the flood season in Assam. There is need for area specific detailed study assessing the impact on and of the embankment, but little has been done in this regard. Besides, the Bogibeel Bridge, the fourth one on the BrahmaputraRiver, is coming up in the upstream of this embankment. Construction of this bridge would make this dyke even more prone to erosion since the length of this bridge will be 4.94 km, shrinking the wide river to great extent. In a personal visit to the area, one of the government officials informed that as a result of this “funneling action”, the force of water will increase and it will directly hit the embankment leading to more erosion. But TAC has never dealt with these issues in its meetings but cleared all the proposals that it considered.
Short History Brahmaputra Dyke from Sissikalghae to Tekeliphuta[2]

box text

6. There is no independent, critical voice in the meetings. The agenda, proceedings, or decisions of the meetings are not even in public domain.
7. There is no mechanism to hold the TAC accountable for any wrong decisions taken.
8. The TAC is clearly not fulfilling the mandate given to it in the guidelines for TAC meetings. The guidelines themselves need revision from several points.
9. There is no attempt to assess the justifiability of the kinds of projects that are being accepted and if they are indeed delivering the promised benefits.

Parag Jyoti Saikia (meandering1800@gmail.com)

Project-wise Detailed List of TAC decisions

110th meeting (20.07.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 211.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti Erosion & Flood protection work Arunachal Pradesh New Tawangchu 36.47 Accepted
2 Protection of Majuli from Flood and Erosion Phase II & III Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 115.03 Accepted
3 Restoration fo rivers Dibang and Lohit to their original courses at Dholla Hatighuli Assam 2011 Brahmaputra 54.43 Accepted
4 Protection of Balat village from flood and erosion of river Umngi in West Khasi hill district West Khasi hill/Meghalaya  New Brahmaputra 5.63 Accepted

111th meeting (17.08.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 167.09 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Protection of Biswanath Panpur including areas of upstream Silamari and Far downstream Bhumuraguri to Borgaon against erosion of the river Brahmaputra Sonitpur/Assam  New Brahmaputra 167.09 Accepted

112th meeting (14.09.2011): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 48.55 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Improvement of Strom Water Drainage below GreenfieldAirport at Pakyong Sikkim  New 48.55 Accepted

115th meeting (24.07.2012): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 2208.81 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State Appr. year basin original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Thoubal Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 1387.85 Accepted
2 Khuga Multipurpose project Manipur 1980 Brahmaputra 433.91 Accepted
3 Dolathabi Barrage Project Manipur 1992 Brahmaputra 360.05 Accepted
4 ERM of Imphal Barrage Project Manipur New Brahmaputra 16.8 Accepted
5 ERM of Sekmai Barrage Project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 10.2 Accepted

117th meeting (21.03.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year basin Ht / L of Dam/Embnk. original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Protecion of Sissi-Tekeliphuta dyke from erosion – Lotasur to Tekeliphuta Assam New Brahmaputra 153 km 155.87 10117 Accepted

1188h meeting (30.07.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 623.25 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Flood management of Dikrong and river training works on both banks embankment Lakhimpur/ Assam New Dikrong/ Brahmaputra 105.96 9998 Accepted
2 Flood management of Ranganadi and river training works on both bank embankments Lakhimpur/ Assam  New Ranganadi/ Brahmaputra 361.42  21056 Accepted

119th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 601.67 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State Appr. year River/ basin original cost (Rs. Cr) annual irrigation decision
1 Dhansiri Irrigation project Assam 1975 Dhansiri/ B’putra 567.05 Accepted
2 ERM of Singda multipurpose project Manipur  New Brahmaputra 34.62 3000 Accepted

120th meeting (29.08.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 42.96 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Haora from Champakpur to Baldakhal West Tripura Haora 42.96 Accepted

121st meeting (08.10.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 146.01 crores

Sl No Project Dist/ State River original cost (Rs. Cr) Benefit flood prot. (Ha) decision
1 Anti erosion work along river Gumti from Dlak Samatal Para to Durgapur under Amarpur, Udaipur & Sonamura subdivision S & West Tripura Gumti 54.99 2209 Accepted
2 Anti erosion work along river Khowaii from Netajinagar to Banglahour under Telimura subdivision and from south L. N. Pur to Paharmura bridge under Khowai subvision West Tripura Khowaii 91.02  4256 Accepted

122nd meeting (20.12.2013): Accepted: TOTAL: Rs 25.56 crores

Sl No Project Dist/State River original cost (Rs. Cr) decision
1 Loktak Lift Irrigation Project Manipur 25.56 Accepted

[2] From the brochure published by WRD, Assam at the time of commissioning the geo-tube embankment in Matmora

Sikkim

Mockery of ESAs in Sikkim: When Governments Collude to Violate Laws

In a clever move initiated by the MOEF and assisted by Arunachal Pradesh Government, aimed at bypassing the need of the compulsory clearance from the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), the Environment Ministry has slashed the protective zone around the hill State’s national parks and sanctuaries from the existing 10 km radius to an insignificant 25-meters in most cases (200 mts is for a very small stretch of Khanchengdzonga National Park).

This shocking move underlines Union Minister Veerappa Moily’s penchant for hydropower projects as he has chosen to override the report of the National Board of Wildlife, a constituent of the MOEF, in a bid to let at least six hydropower projects operating in Sikkim in gross violation of the NBWL clearance and orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. In October 2013, SANDRP’s published a blog titled “Hydro Power Projects Violating SC order in the Greenest State of India” on the report by NBWL members and its significance.  Sikkim_nbw_blog_26 feb 14

The notification has drawn tremendous ire of environmentalists and social activists from Sikkim, opposing major dams. “We have been demanding earmarking of the ‘eco-sensitive zone’ up to 10 kilometers radius from the protected areas under Supreme Court order, if the government itself ridicules NBWL’s warning report, manipulates its own laws, what can a citizen of democratic India say?”, said Tseten Tashi Bhutia, convener Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), which is fighting a legal battle against the Tashiding project in Sikkim High Court.“We strongly protest this notification of the MOEF and would respond officially as per the protocol, they can’t bulldoze their vested interest, damaging our fragile environment. Already a lot of damage has been done, we might take appropriate legal recourse after consultations, if the notification is not altered or withdrawn”, added Bhutia, speaking exclusively to this correspondent.

Projects within 10 kms boundary of Protected Areas in Sikkim From NBWL SC Members Report
Projects within 10 kms boundary of Protected Areas in Sikkim From NBWL SC Members Report

SIBLAC along with another apolitical group Save Sikkim on September 28th, 2013 filed FIRs against Shiga Energy Private Ltd, developer of the 97 MW Tashiding hydro power project for alleged cheating, distortion of facts and violation of environmental norms and the SC order. This is in addition to an ongoing PIL at the Sikkim High Court. The proposed site is about 5 Km away from the buffer zone of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, the project also falls within 10 Kms from the Fambongla Wildlife Sanctuary, as such; NBWL clearance needs to be obtained.

Several attempts by this correspondent, to contact the PCCF –cum-Secretary of the Forest and Wildlife Department of Sikkim Mr. Arvind Kumar to get the Sikkim government‘s official version on the controversy, remained unanswered. Under the orders of the Supreme Court(in the Goa foundation case of 2006), any project falling within 10 km radius of a national park or a wildlife sanctuary has to be endorsed by the standing committee of the NBWL unless a different site-specific protection ring is declared for each of these national parks and sanctuaries.

The members of the standing committee of the board had earlier submitted a report in August 2013, to the Ministry warning that at least six dams in the State were coming up without the mandatory clearance and Sikkim faced a Goa-like situation with rampant and illegal development of these dams likely to cause devastation just as unlawful mining had done in the coastal State.

 Construction of the Teesta III project at Chungthang on the edge of  Khangchendzonga National Park proceeding without SC-NBWL clearances. Note the  extensive forest cover and large landslides at the construction site.  From: SC NBWL Members Report
Construction of the Teesta III project at Chungthang on the edge of
Khangchendzonga National Park proceeding without SC-NBWL clearances. Note the
extensive forest cover and large landslides at the construction site. From: SC NBWL Members Report

The report had said that the proposed Teesta V, and the ongoing Teesta III, DikChu, Panan, and the Tashiding hydroelectric projects were coming up without the statutory NBWL clearance.

Other hydropower projects of Sikkim that are being considered by the MoEF for clearances, and are operating in abeyance of the NBWL clearance, and are also close to the protected areas include: 63 MW Rolep HEP on Rangpo river in East Sikkim (5-6 km from Pangolakha and Kyongnosla WLS), 126 MW Ralong HEP (4.05 km from Kangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve and 1.8 km from Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary), 96 MW Chakung Chu HEP in North Sikkim (1.8 km from Kangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve), 71 MW Sada Mangder, 40 MW Suntaley Tar HEP, within 10 kms from Pangolakha Sanctuary) and 60 MW Rangit III.

Shockingly, the Ministry has now come up with a way to bypass the wildlife board by sticking to the apex court orders merely technically but not in real terms. The court order has said the 10 km protective zone (technically called the Ecosensitive Zone) would be enforced unless the Centre and the State government notified a different perimeter based on scientific assessment. The MOEF has discreetly put out draft notification to reduce these protective zones around four sanctuaries and Sikkim’s lone national park from the existing 10 km to a negligible 25-200 metres, to be effective from April 2014.

Protests against dams in sacred Dzongu region, which is excluded from the ESA Notifications Photo: http://savedzongu.wordpress.com/background/
Protests against dams in sacred Dzongu region, which is excluded from the ESA Notifications Photo: http://savedzongu.wordpress.com/background/

The ministry of environment and forest sought public opinion on this move within 60 days so that the ministry can look into suggestions and complaints, if any, relating to extent of the eco-sensitive zone during the period. The proposed ban under the order will come into force after expiry of the 60-day deadline.

“Moves like this makes one wonder as to what would become the fate of the law abiding citizens of this country; when the government elected by the people are resorting to such blatant violations of the existing laws of the land, and are circumventing them to serve vested interests, it is a shame at the least”, reacted Affected Citizens of Teesta(ACT) president Tseten Lepcha, while speaking to this correspondent exclusively. The ACT had created a stir by sitting on a relay-hunger strike during 2005-6, for over a year protesting against the onslaught of numerous hydropower projects operating in Sikkim in blatant violation of all laws. We will take up the issue officially, reiterated Lepcha.

“In a letter dated April 13th 2011, the then Sikkim additional principal chief conservator of forests- cum the chief wild life warden, Mr. N T Bhutia had written to the DG Forests MOEF, reiterating the states’s commitment to announce the 6 ESZ around sanctuaries and the lone NP in Sikkim. That it would comply with the MOEF dictated revision of the perimeter of the ESZ, as is now evident was not mentioned. An RTI query to this effect is pending with the forest department.”

Soumik Dutta (duttauni@gmail.com)

Inputs from SANDRP:
This shameful attempt at regularisation is a complete mockery of Wildlife Clearance as well as  ESA zonation process. The Draft notifications do not elucidate upon any justifications behind the extent of ESA or the process through which this was arrived at. This is clearly unacceptable and will not stand legal scrutiny

This shameful regularisation indicates that the MoEF is shielding the guilty projects which have violated EPA (1986) and WPA (1972), colluding with these projects, furthering environmental and cultural destruction in Sikkim.

This is entirely shocking and unacceptable. We urge the MoEF to:
• Take back these draft notifications and take strict action against Government of Sikkim and projects which have violated SC orders
• Disclose the process through which ESA for Sikkim was arrived at.
• Disclose the justification used behind specific buffer zones around specific protected areas
• Ensure that violators of the past will in any case be penalised.

Following the SC Orders and considering that:
• Sikkim is the most species-rich state in India.
• Sikkim falls in geologically fragile and seismically active zone
• Communities of Sikkim have strong cultural and religious bonds with forests and region like Dzongu which is surrounding Khangchengdzonga BR,

MoEF should recommend that Sikkim undertakes a participatory process to identify ESA regions around PAs.
Not only should the local population have a say in area of the ESA, but also activities allowed in the PA. Unless such a participatory process is devised, Sikkim should respect SC Orders of 10 kms buffer zone of ESA around PAs.

Excerpts from NBWL member Report, August 2013:

“…based on an examination of available information on legal compliances required for the above projects in the Teesta basin, we conclude that, with the notable exception of the Teesta IV project (which has currently approached the Standing Committee of the NBWL for clearance), none of the other projects listed above appear to have sought/obtained this compulsory SC-NBWL clearance, as mandated by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Goa Foundation vs. Union of India case of December 2006.

While we are fully aware that there are many more proposed/ongoing hydroelectric projects situated within the Supreme Court mandated 10-km eco-sensitive zone of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Sikkim, we have not been able to ascertain whether Supreme Court stipulations in their regard are being followed, or being violated, and if latter be the case, the MoEF should take due cognizance of the same urgently.

We further recommend that the Standing Committee direct the MoEF to write to the Government of Sikkim asking them to immediately investigate and submit a detailed report listing hydroelectric projects in Sikkim that are being constructed prima facie in violation of Honourable Supreme Court’s order of 12/2006. Based on the list provided by the Government of Sikkim, if it is indeed ascertained that the projects are proceeding in violation of the said Supreme Court ruling, we further recommend that the MoEF initiate action by asking the State Government to suspend ongoing work on those projects immediately and to direct user agencies to formally seek clearance for these projects from the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife.” (Emphasis added)

“Independently, we recommend that the MoEF and the Government of Sikkim thoroughly investigate the circumstances under which the seemingly widespread bypassing of Supreme Court orders in the construction of dams within the 10-km eco-sensitive zone of Sikkim has taken place, fix responsibility for the transgressions and violations, and punish the guilty.” (Emphasis added)

“Finally, we base our recommendations by drawing a parallel between hydroelectric dams in the eco-sensitive zones of Sikkim and iron ore mines in the eco-sensitive zones of Goa. The coastal state, which is just half the size of Sikkim, had heavily pivoted its economy on iron ore mines, just as Sikkim has done with hydroelectric power. The landmark Justice Shah Commission Report observed in the case of iron ore mining in Goa that, “approvals have been granted in many cases… in the eco-sensitive zones without placing the project proposals before the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (p 190)”. The report went on to say that, “all mining activities should be stopped with immediate effect including transportation of ore for all mining leases where there is no approval or clearance of the Standing Committee of the NBWL and are falling with 10 km of eco-sensitive buffer zone (p 191)” We believe that much of the Summary and Recommendations section of Justice Shah’s report (pp. 189-200) is extremely relevant to the case of the hydroelectric dams in Sikkim, and request that any committee constituted to examine hydroelectric dams in the eco-sensitive areas of Sikkim, pay close attention to this report.” (Emphasis added)