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fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study.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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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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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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