Sand Mining

2022: Riverine People’s Protest against Destructive Sand Mining Activities

The rampant riverbed mining in India have reached the alarming stage where the adverse impacts on river’s eco-system, river based environmental services including fishing, groundwater recharge, potable and irrigational water supply schemes have started affecting the riverine communities in multiple ways. Given the poor track records of responsible agencies in addressing their plight, the dependent, affected and concerned people have been left with no option but to resist. Like in past years, there have been several incidents of riverine people strongly opposing the destructive mining practices in many states in 2022. This overview compiles some such incidents which we could track. The first part of the overview highlighting the adverse impacts of riverbed mining on river eco-system and freshwater species can be seen here.      

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 261222: People on roads against hydro projects that govt is pushing

(Joshimath residents staging protest against land sinking and damages to their homes demanding rehabilitation & halt in NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad HEP tunnel work on Dec. 24, 2022. Image source: Atul Sati, Joshimath)

People of at least four states are opposing hydropower projects that the central and state governments are pushing, ignoring all the ground realities. In Uttarakhand, the Joshimath residents are on roads to wake up the government that seems deaf to their protests due to their houses cracking and land subsiding due to the tunnels being blasted for hydropower projects and Char Dham highway being built ignoring the voices of not only the affected people, but also the experts.

In Arunachal Pradesh, people have been writing to the central govt authorities against the Etalin and Dibang projects being pushed in Dibang valley of Brahmaputra basin.

In Himachal Pradesh, the people of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti districts have made it an election issue the destructive hydropower projects being pushed there both by the state and central governments.

In Andhra Pradesh too people have been protesting against the pump storage projects being given permission in schedule tribe areas without their prior informed consent and ignoring the statutory requirements.

2022 is thus ending with people’s active protests across the country against destructive, disaster prone and unviable projects being pushed against their wishes and in violation of any proper consultations or even any credible impact assessments. In the escalating impacts of climate change, these projects are even more problematic as they not only worsen the adaptive capacity of people and invite more frequent, intense and spread of the disasters, but they also destroy the mitigation tools like forests and flowing rivers. This when all these projects are not even economically viable, and when better, cheaper options are available. It would be best if sooner the government listens to the people and stop pursuing such projects.

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Dam Disaster

2022 Fly ash dam breaches in India

(Feature image:- This is the second time in the six months that Rautdih village has become inundated by the breach of ash pond embankment in Bokaro. ToI, Oct. 09, 2022)

Most mining companies make dams to store the semi solid slurry waste from the mines. Similarly most thermal power projects have fly ash dams to store the fly ash slurry. These dams store highly toxic slurries but there is little happening by way of regulation, monitoring or compliance at design, construction or operation level. Many of these dams breach or overflow, leading of release of the toxic slurry in the downstream areas. These dams do not even come under monitoring of Central Water Commission or under the dam safety act passed by the parliament. Despite accidents happening with huge adverse consequences, there is no accountability.

In this report, we have compiled the instances that we could locate about breaches of such dams in 2022. We earlier wrote about the Singrauli instance in April 2020 and in the 2019 SW Monsoon dam breach compilation report.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 191222: Question marks over viability of pump hydro projects

(Feature Image: 1772 Mw PSHPs Spain. Photo courtesy of Iberdrola/ ENR)

The question marks over viability of huge number of pump storage hydro projects (PSHP) being pushed forward in India currently were flowing in the rivers for long. This week, Moody’s investors Service (MIS) seems to have strengthened this after it downgraded Greenko Energy Holdings’ corporate family rating. It may be noted that Greenko is the biggest investor in PSHPs in India from private sector and a major part of Greenko’s new investments are in PSHP.

This makes the implications of MIS’s downgrade all the more interesting. MIS has noted that PHSPs are capital intensive and each PHSP will generate cash flow only after at least 2-3 years of construction (in reality it can be much longer than 2-3 years, the operative phrase here is at least). It also noted that the additional debt to be raised from Greenko’s capital spending, coupled with a rising interest environment will put further pressure on “GEH’s already weak financial metrics” and that Greenko’s high financial leverage due to its substantial capital spending program will keep its financial metrics below its downgrade trigger “for an extended period of time”.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 281122: Justice Lokur at IRW 2022: We need to be vocally more aggressive to make a difference

In his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022, Justice Madan Lokur, former judge of Supreme Court of India said, “Time has come we need to be a little more active and aggressive vocally to ensure that we are listened to about the problems we all are facing. Farmers struggle, the CAA amendment etc. are good examples. There is need for a political will to bring about any change. How do we generate such a political will is the issue.”

Among other messages Justice Lokur gave in his key note address at the final session of India Rivers Week 2022 on Nov 27, 2022 included: “Rivers belong to all, not a select few… We need to ensure that we are effective in our work, our messages.”

The two day, five session India Rivers Week 2022 function focused on use of rivers as waterways, organized in collaboration between India Rivers Forum (IRF is constituted by ten organizations now) and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra ended on Nov 27, 2022. The IRW 2022 sessions had a number of highlights, we will try to bring them to you in separate articles.

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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 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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Urban Rivers

Top Ten Judicial Actions on Urban Rivers 2022: Executors Deliberately Delaying, Diluting, Defying orders

(Feature Image: The order is subject to the orders of the SC which is pending. NGT on Nov. 24, 2021ordered the BMC to deposit within three months an environmental penalty of ₹28.20 crores to the CPCB for discharging raw sewage into the city creeks, rivers and drains. HT Photo)

During past one year, the judicial bodies including National Green Tribunal, Supreme Court, various High Courts have passed several orders and made critical observation while dealing with multiple issues afflicting Urban Rivers in India. This report highlights top ten such judicial interventions across India. The stories underline that the responsible agencies particularly pollution control boards and district, state and union governments have been failing miserably in timely and efficient implementation of these judicial orders, some of which are quite remarkable. If the executive bodies do not show right spirit and seriousness in enforcing the existing rules and court orders the state of India’s urban river only go downhill.    

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 21 Mar 2022: Centre’s unconvincing Plan to rejuvenate 13 major rivers

The government of India, through joint announcement of Union Ministries of Jal Shakti & Environment and Forests (such joint addresses are rather rare events) this week announced its plans to rejuvenate 13 major rivers of India (excluding Ganga but including some of the key Ganga tributaries!) through the limited activity of plantations is not every convincing on many counts. Firstly it is welcome to see that the government sees a role of forests as a hydrological asset. Unfortunately, this is clearly and completely absent in government’s forest management, both in policy and practice. If we see the forest governance of India through the functioning of the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, we see absolutely no sign of acknowledgement of this reality that forests are major hydrological assets. So for example when a decision is taken to allow diversion of major chunks of existing forests, there is never any discussion, assessment or counting of hydrological eco system services that forests provide. This is apparent in many cases, but most recently in the case of Ken Betwa project where the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee too has acknowledged this reality. So again it seems government’s mind or heard does not seem to know what the tongue is conveying!

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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.

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