DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 190922: Dams bringing unprecedented changes to the World’s Rivers

A new study published this week once again highlights not so well known impact of large dams on the rivers: role of rivers in building, supplying sediment, nutrients to floodplains, deltas, coastlines, estuaries, oceans and supporting so much biodiversity and how large dams are majorly adversely impacting this role of rivers. The study by scientists at Dartmouth using images from the NASA-US Geological Survey for 414 of the world’s largest rivers show the unprecedented changes the dams are bringing to World’s rivers, the impacts that in many cases are outweighing the impacts of climate change. This is particularly true of the northern hemisphere that includes India, World’s third largest dam builder.

Unfortunately in India, there is very little appreciation or acknowledgement of this role of rivers and how dams are affecting it. The least one can expect is that the Government of India should urgently initiate a study to document and understand this phenomena and also highlight what needs to be done about it. The study should be done by an independent team of multidisciplinary experts.

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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 120922: Decisive judicial action dire necessity for wetlands

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

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

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DRP News Bulletin

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

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

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

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

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 220822: Salutes to Vimalbhai

(Feature Image:- Vimal Bhai with a group of villagers in Uttarakhand. Photo: Matu Jansangathan/ The Wire)

It’s very sad occasion. Vimalbhai, who has been tirelessly active on issues related to dams, rivers and environment in Uttarakhand in particular and India in general, left us on Aug 15, 2022 for his journey beyond this world. He was a remarkably dedicated, committed and yet always smiling, simple man with simple needs. His loss is already being felt. May his soul rest in peace and may his friends and family get the strength to bear the loss.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 080822: Why is Centre not taking action against violations, defects of Kaleshwaram Project of Telangana?

(Feature image source: Pratidin News)

Union Water Resources or what is now called Jal Shakti minister Shri Gajendra Shekhawat made a rare and rather interesting statement this week about Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project of Telangana, supposed to be the world’s biggest lift irrigation project, India’s most expensive ever irrigation project. The Union Minister publicly said that the Kaleshwaram project did not have all the clearances, project thus involved violations, and had defects, leading to submergence of three barrages and a massive power house last month. It is not clear if the Union Minister has also written to this effect to the Telangana state government and also taken action against the project. This is because the allegations made by the Union Minister are about such a huge project and are serious in nature.

If the Union Minister has done neither, as seems to be the case, he hope he is doing something on these lines soon. We do not expect a responsible Union Minister not take any action on such an important matter and is only making such statements for public consumption (incidentally, he seems to have made these statements in Karnataka, not in Telangana). Questions will be raised if the Union Minister fails to take such an action.

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DRP News Bulletin

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

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

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

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

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 250722: State of Yamuna River ignored by NMCG and MoEF

(Feature Image:- A drain choked with solid waste and untreated effluents running through Yamuna floodplains in Mathura. Source: News 18, 13072022.)

This year, even in the middle of monsoon, the Yamuna river in the national capital is in such a pathetic state, there is insufficient flows in the most of the days. The govt may jump to blame it on poor monsoon rains, ignoring that the upstream dams like the recently commissioned Vyasi dam not releasing water in the downstream is also a major reason beside the unsustainable riverbed mining and also dumping of solid waste in the upstream, including due to the building of mindless projects like the Char Dham highway, all in the news this week. Both National Mission on Clean Ganga (NMCG) and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) should be concerned about this lack of flows downstream from the dam and other issues listed above, but they clearly seem least bothered.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 180722: Polavaram, Kaleshwaram projects damaged, Kadam dam overflowed

(Feature image: An aerial view of the flood-affected areas in Godavari districts on July 15. Photo by arrangement/Deccan Chronicle)

One of the noteworthy feature of the floods in ongoing on monsoon so far has been what is happening around large dam projects, particularly in Central India, Eastern India and Southern India. The Polavaram dam on Godavari river, the largest under construction dam in India, again suffered damage this monsoon as confessed by the Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister Ambati Rambabu after his frequent visits to the dam. The dam had suffered damage in 2019 floods and it is still not clear what is way forward and the dam has again suffered damage. This will make the unviable project even more unviable, but the government will continue to sink good money after the massive sunk funds.

The Kaleshwaram project in Godavari basin, the largest lift irrigation projects of India has also faced damages with at least two pump houses with large number of massive capacity pumps getting submerged, and third one partially flooded. The full impact of this damage will only be known after assessment once the floods recede.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 110722: Govt failure on cloudburst monitoring, forecasting, managing

(Feature Image: On July 8, a flash flood triggered by a cloudburst hit a camp near the Amarnath cave shrine in J&K’s Ganderbal district. The Indian Express)

Just in first few weeks of this South West Monsoon in India and particularly in last two weeks there have been numerous cloudburst incidents leading to large number of deaths and destruction of human and natural infrastructure. Most of the time, the government just calls these disasters cloud burst and points finger at climate change, implying its helplessness, but happy that they have rescued the affected people. In reality, a lot can be done in terms of monitoring, forecasting and managing cloudbursts that is clearly not happening and is not part of government’s disaster management plans or actions.

Firstly there are some known places where the flash floods from cloud burst could lead to disaster, they need to be identified and habitations near and at risk at such locations need to be mapped and monitored to minimize the risks. The locations next to streams are clearly such hazardous locations and how can there be camps located right next to such streams as happened during the recent Amarnath caves?

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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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