DRP News Bulletin 26 Dec 2016 (Corruption & Fraud in 600 MW Kameng HEP in Northeast India)

In addition to allegations of fraud related to inflated bills, the officials report of Satish Verma the former chief vigilance officer (CVO) of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) mentioned that there have been numerous instances of top government officials allegedly accepting hospitality and gifts that cost the PSU lakhs of rupees. These include gifts for officials in the Ministry of Power: a teak wood cabinet for the Personal Secretary to the Union Power Minister; an iPad Air 2 for the Secretary; payment of a Vodafone bill for a Special Secretary; and a mobile handset for an Additional Secretary.

The CVO also red-flagged hospitality bills of Power Ministry officials worth Rs 20 lakh, including 18 for meals at five-star hotels in Delhi, and from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Baskin Robbins, a box of chocolate, even home delivery from Domino’s. The report, which sent to the ministry, CBI & Chief Vigilance Commissioner in July 2016 includes details of “unauthorised” car hires for ministry officials worth lakhs of rupees and purchase of dry fruits worth Rs 10.6 lakh. There’s also a bill for the purchase of turmeric and ginger, and reimbursements claimed for money spent in a movie theatre in Shillong.

The report containing details of money spent on Power Ministry officials by NEEPCO — between May 2014 and March 2016 was one of the nine submitted by Verma during his tenure as the PSU’s CVO between October 2014 and July 2016. Soon after Verma had sent the report, he had been pulled up by NEEPCO for “unauthorised absence” and transferred to the CRPF in Tripura.

In his earlier report the CVO has named Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju; his cousin, a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh, Goboi Rijiju; and several top officials of NEEPCO, including its Chairman and Managing Director alleging corruption of about Rs. 450 Crore in the construction of two dams for 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project, one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

At the heart of the conspiracy, Verma’s report says, are several fake and inflated bills by contractors to allegedly siphon off money in the name of transporting rocks needed for the dam construction. Not only was the transportation cost decided arbitrarily, the report says, but many transport challans and records provided by the contractor, Patel Engineering Limited (PEL), were found to be fake.

In November 2015, Mr Rijiju wrote to the Power Ministry asking for the stalled bills – red-flagged for corruption – to be cleared. The people whom the Minister claims to be “daily wagers” for whom he wrote a letter for payment of their dues worth “a few thousand of rupees” are actually contractors who have anywhere between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1 crore pending with Patel Engineering, according to Goboi Rijiju.

Along with the scam, several other issues plaguing the hydro power sectors of Northeast poor quality EIAs, fraudulent environmental clearance processes, non-existent consent of local people, poor quality constructions laden with corruption, conflict of interest while granting the environmental clearances, disregard to the indigenous flora fauna have hit the limelight once again.

In 2015, environmental activist Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP had written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests alleging gross violations in the Kameng hydroelectric power project. The letter pointed out how the scope of the project changed multiple times, but a fresh appraisal which is a must in any kind of change, was never done.

 Corruption and fraud in hydropower projects of NEEPCO is back, now also involving power ministry officials. None of the explanations from any of the parties as given in the detailed report sound convincing.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS 

Andhra Pradesh Blame it on inter linking, Krishna ecological balance takes a hit

* According to researchers from Acharya Nagarjuna University the Pattiseema lift scheme has damaged the delicate ecological balance of river Krishna through introduction of new aquatic life into the Prakasam Barrage across the river in Vijayawada. They suggest that the state government should take up environment impact assessment (EIA) studies on interlinking of rivers in the state.

* As the AP government plans to interlink all the rivers in the state, the researchers warn that unless full-fledged EIA studies are conducted the damage would be more than the benefits the project would accrue.

* They also say already exotic fishes present in the Godavari have entered the Krishna. They are causing damage to fish nets in Prakasam barrage. Piranha fishes are carnivore and can cause damage to native species. Interlinking of rivers may cause huge amount of distortion in the existing environment. There will be mass deforestation for canals and reservoirs. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life. The amount of fresh water entering seas will cause a serious threat to biodiversity of estuarine and ecosystems.

According to another news report the negative impact Krishana Godavari link project is fast showing up. The ‘devil fish’, which made its way into the Prakasam barrage across river Krishna in Vijayawada from Godavari through the much-talked about Pattiseema lift scheme, has now `invaded’ the Nagarjunasagar (NS) reservoir. Experts warn that the devil fish may soon spread to Srisailam reservoir, upstream of Nagarjunasagar dam across the Krishna. From there, the fish may enter into other rivers including Tungabhadra, Pennar and Musi as they are already interlinked. It may also damage the delicate ecosystem in all the water bodies en route as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have an intricate network of irrigation and drinking water channels that spread over thousands of kilometres.

The alien invasive fish has thus far been limited to Godavari, Cauvery and a few pockets in India. It entered the Krishna riverine ecosystem earlier this year after the inauguration of the Pattiseema scheme. 

Meanwhile MoWR sets up Expert Committee on Krishna Basin water management, including the Godavari water being transferred to Krishna, under chairmanship of former CWC chair AK Bajaj through Office memo dated 19 Dec 2016. 

DAMS

Maharashtra Releasing water for Kumbh Mela during drought was illegal: HC Bombay The High Court Bombay has set aside an order passed by the state chief secretary and held that releasing water from Gangapur dam complex on Godavari river during Kumbh Mela in 2015 for the purpose of Shahi Snan (holy dip) was illegal and contrary to Maharashtra’s water policy of 2003. The court also asked the state to consider setting up a committee by January 31, 2017 to look into the implementation of schemes such as Jalyukta Shivar. The court had last year directed the chief secretary to look into the legality of this diversion of water and the latter had passed an order in January 2016 saying the decision was lawful.

Gosikhurd irrigation project still 50% incomplete The failure of the administration to complete work on canals, lift irrigation projects and rehabilitation of villagers has marred the Gosikhurd project languishing for the last 32 years. The total project cost had gone up to Rs 18,500 crore, of which Rs 9,000 crore work remained to be completed. There are several reasons why Gosikhurd remains incomplete, rehabilitation, corruption, extremely poor quality work, absence of clearances. However, this media report focuses on painting the current govt in a kind light, when most of the tainted contractors of GosiKhurd were directly connected to the BJP. 

On the other hand the state govt has finally decided to hand over 1,055.64 hectares of forest land to state Water Resources Department for the Jigaon dam project in Buldhana district. The project, conceived in 2000, became controversial because of allegations of corruption. This is absolutely scandalous and shameful. There are way too many corruptions, rehabilitation and basic viability issues surrounding Jigaon Project. It’s a scam bigger than GosiKhurd in making.

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Jharkhand & W Bengal As per the Hindi report 62 years after displacement, the tribals of Damodar Valley are still fighting for basic rehabilitation. 

WATER 

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Experts Speak Democracy & Dictatorship EP 13: Right to water The full video of discussion on Right to Water on WION channel under Democracy and Dictatorship by a panel including SANDRP coordinator can be seen at the link below. Plz share to help spread the word, feedback will be nice. 

EPW  Welcome First Step to Much-needed Change  This article draws attention to some of the major shortcomings of recommendations of the Mihir Shah Committee on restructuring of CWC & CGWB. It also observes that some of the report’s recommendations need a word of caution. According to another article in EPW Mihir Shah report does have some blind spots. These would include its non-inclusion of waterbodies and preference for floodplain zoning, among others. On more article from the same magazine argues that the Mihir Shah committee governance reforms, though essential, are not enough to enable the paradigm shift necessary for sustainability and ecological justice. 

RIVERS 

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SANDRP Tribute to Anupam Ji Aaj bhi kharen hai Anupam Ji  God only knows how can one think of losing someone like Anupam Ji. The legacy he has left behind is so rich that one is tempted to think that it will not die. In his last public appearance, when he delivered that speech through so much pain, he had ended by saying that we need to save our rivers for our own survival. He also said that the rivers week initiative must continue. Also see, Anupam Mishra, noted environmentalist passes away. One hopes, that statement of Anupam ji reminds us everyday of the tasks ahead. We must succeed and it will take some doing. Also see SANDRP Hindi Blog paying tribute to the legendary environmentalist.

SANDRP Blog Krishna River in Maharashtra: A Profile Increasing number of dams, growing sugarcane cultivation, urban and industrial water demand have altered the face of the basin. Water parched stretches of Krishna River downstream of the dams are further being polluted by untreated sewage, effluents from sugar distilleries and other industries. Because of incessant dam building, the Upper Krishna sub basin is leaping towards its closure point, meaning nearly all the sediments and water from the basin is trapped by the dams. There has been an overall 94% reduction in Krishna sediments reaching the delta. The carrying capacity of the river is being stretched too far.

Yettinahole Row Proposal cleared to acquire land from farmers To complete its ambitious Yettinahole Integrated Drinking Water Project at the earliest, the government has approved a proposal to acquire 255.05 hectares of land needed for it directly from farmers. The Rs. 12,912.36-crore flagship project of Krishna Neeravari Nigam Ltd. proposes to transport 24.01 tmcft of water from Yettinahole, a west-flowing stream near Sakleshpur in Hassan district, through hardened steel pipe and open canal running to a distance of 274 km. Govt decides to forcibly acquire land for the Yettinahole project, this is bound to increase the opposition. 

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Punjab 25 Punjab villages won’t vote over water pollution Residents of as many as 25 villages in Jalandhar which lie along the banks on Kala Sanghia drain which flows in the region have asserted that they will not vote in the Assembly elections until the problem is addressed. One of the major tributaries of Satluj river, Kala Sanghia drain merges with Satluj through Chitti Bein. It then goes to Harike, from where drinking water is supplied to Malwa region. Ludhiana being the industrial hub, the effluent from all the major industries, including leather industries, electroplating is all discharged into the rivulets and drains. Apart from the stench that remains hung in air all through the day, the industrial discharge has also polluted the groundwater in the region. As per CPCB report water quality in 58.8 per cent of water sources in the state are not satisfactory. Ecologists highlight that presence of heavy metal is also leading to Cancer, skin diseases, birth defects and other deficiencies.

Center WII must come up with monitoring protocol on Rivers health Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave on Dec. 18 directed scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to come up with monitoring protocol on rivers and lakes in the country. The minister further stated that not only Ganga and Yamuna but other rivers and lakes too are also in critical condition in the country. Good to see Union Environment Minister asking WII to create a river health monitoring protocol. India Rivers Week last month demanded just that.

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GANGA SANDRP Blog Farakka Refugees: Walking along Ganga from Gangasagar to Gaumukh  A lot has been written on the topic of the Farakka barrage, and quite extensively from the ecological, engineering and political perspectives. Some have even filmed the dilemma of the people, showcasing the wrath of nature when mindlessly meddled with. My visit to Farakka and it’s nearby areas left deep imprints on me, characterized particularly by a sad question, “How many times have you lost your home to the river?”

Center  More dams like Tehri won’t be built: Uma Bharti Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Dec. 19 said that more Tehri like dams won’t be built and to maintain the natural form of rivers a stream would be created before the dam’s construction. Bharti claimed that Bhagirathi river, on which Tehri dam is built, is trapped and a team is working on releasing a stream of the river which is a headstream of the Ganga. Looking at the statements, Hon. Uma Bharti ji should immediately cancel Kotli Bhel Projects which will not only hinder Ganga, but Kotlibhel 2 will submerge Dev Prayag Confluence too. Indeed sad to see that only Ganga is seen worth saving for Aviral Dhara with a focus on Bhagirathi. When in our social ethos, all rivers are Ganga. 

On the other hand, the differences between Environment Ministry and Water Ministry were revealed in a letter sent by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar to his environment ministry counterpart. 

Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Shashi Shekhar said, in a letter to MoEF “You cannot shove in anything through the back door, this (permitting hydropower projects and mining in Bhagirathi eco sensitive zone) is a fundamental mistake and it is illegal. They need to realize that this is the last pristine and free-flowing stretch of the Ganga.” 

* The letter comes in the wake of the MoEF’s meeting on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone in August. In that meeting, the Uttarakhand state government had sought relaxations in activities allowed in the 4,179 sq km eco sensitive area. The state government argued that since 10 hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 82MW were approved before the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone was notified in 2012, they should be approved for construction. 

* In the minutes of the meeting, it was stated that the “MoEF & CC could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 HEP’s (hydro power projects) which were approved prior to the date of notification.” Along with plans to permit hydro power projects, the MoEF said that river-bed mining up to 2m depth could be allowed in the eco-sensitive area. 

* Meanwhile, the water ministry has panned the Zonal Master Plan. “It is (Zonal Master Plan) is fundamentally wrong because it is not prepared by experts. We have prepared a draft joint affidavit to be submitted in the NGT that has been sent to the environment ministry. We should have experts visit the ESZ,” said Shekhar. 

YAMUNA Delhi Create Special Purpose Vehicle to clean Yamuna: Delhi to Board The Delhi government on Dec. 20 proposed setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), in association with the Centre and on similar lines as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to clean and rejuvenate the Yamuna. The proposal was made during a meeting of the National Capital Region Planning Board which was chaired by Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu. It seems like a bit of non sense. How will SPV help when already so many agencies are involved? There is a lot of difference between setting up Metro and cleaning a River. 

SAND MINING

Tamil Nadu CBI arrests sand mining baron Shekhar Reddy A Chief Secretary hand in glove with sand mining Baron? This shows how lucrative is the business and how deep and wide is the corruption. The sand mining baron has a firm called JSR Infra Developers is involved in implementing even World Bank funded projects. The chairman and officials of the state environment impact assessment authority are also implicated. 

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES 

Gujarat 6 years on, no wetland panel hasn’t formed wetlands panel According experts the state has the maximum (22.7%) of India’s wetlands. Though the guidelines were mandated in 2011 by the central government, Gujarat had failed to even begin the process to constitute the committee. Gujarat has not taken up ANY wetland conservation effort, since no mechanism exists. This is the legacy of rulers of Gujarat, what hope is there for the wetlands of India.

DROUGHT 

Kerala Police cover sought for 15 water sources For the first time, the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) has sought police protection to 15 of its water sources in Chitturpuzha, a tributary of the Bharathapuzha, fearing ‘water war’ among the local communities in the wake of unprecedented drought and acute shortage of drinking water. The KWA also called for bringing down the use of ground water for industrial purposes by 75% in the district. The KWA wanted to end the ongoing system of flood irrigation and go for drip irrigation to save water. It also suggested restriction on the use of drinking water. 

IRRIGATION 

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Rajasthan Leaking Narmada Canal cuts off village accessibility Leakage/ seepage from Narmada canal surrounds a village in Jallore district in Rajasthan, shows not only poor design, construction and operation of the canals, but also the fact that for a month there was no response from anyone shows how irresponsive the project authorities are. Ultimately, people took things in their own hand and constructed a bridge to cross the water spread on all sides.  There is interesting news here in the same clipping, where some 175 college youth have built nine check dams in a village in Nashik district in Maharashtra to solve the water problem. 

AGRICULTURE

National Rosy data on wheat sowing, no one knows who has collected it The Agriculture Ministry claims wheat sowing is normal this year, despite demonetisation. But in Uttar Pradesh, officials say surveys have not yet begun. This shows how poor is our agriculture data, mostly cooked up, it seems. 

ENERGY OPTIONS

National  Gujarat slips to third position in solar power generation After losing its top rank to Rajasthan last year, Gujarat has now slipped further to end at third position in commissioned solar power capacity. Rapid capacity addition by Tamil Nadu helped the state to topple both Rajasthan and Gujarat from their respective top ranks. According to a similar report Tamil Nadu has the highest solar power installed capacity at 1555.41 MW Rajasthan is second with 1301.16 MW and Gujarat with 1138.19 MW.

Industry Tata Power to focus on renewable energy In otherwise mundane interview the statement that Hydro power, which has been lagging for a while will receive a major thrust once the new hydro policy is announced seems a bit surprising.

SOUTH ASIA 

Pakistan & India IWT: What newest twist means In August, Pakistan asked the World Bank for a Court of Arbitration on the designs of Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects. The report provides some additional details about the fresh Pakistan complaints about Kishanganga HEP after the Hague court’s ruling earlier. On the other hand the first meeting of the high level task force on Indus Waters utilisation happened on Dec 23, 2016. Punjab and J&K have been asked to submit ground reports about projects in their states, the next meeting o happen in Jan 2017. 

One more news report referring to two studies stated that Pakistan may be heading towards a water crisis that could be a tipping point. Pakistan blames India for its water woes and accuses it of “water terrorism”. The matter has been set to rest by a report made to the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power on July 9, 2015 that held that India was using less than its allocated share under the IWT and was not responsible for water shortage in Pakistan. Pakistan’s deteriorating water security would be catastrophic for an economy in which irrigated agriculture plays a dominant part. Water insecurity has the potential of being the tipping point in Pakistan’s trajectory towards the abyss. The report has some contradictory statements but this is new information.

Bhutan & Nepal Two ‘Least Developed Countries’ That Could Change the Face of Asia It is very surprising to see this hydropower fundamentalist article on wire. It provides totally one sided or rather totally warp sided article. Bhutan and Nepal both have other options for development. The hydropower projects in Bhutan seem to be reaching a plateau and in Nepal it has hardly taken off. The article does not even once mention the adverse impacts of hydropower!

CENTRAL ASIA

Tajikistan invites investments from India India shows interest in Hydropower development in Tajikistan. Another news mentions of Indian involvement in hydropower also in the context of Kyrgyzstan too.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Study Climate change may impact Hindu Kush-Himalaya water supply The report describes how climate change will affect the river serving over 1.5 billion people, originating in Hindu Kush Himalayas:

* Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies. 

* A committee of experts, including those from NASA, found that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use may have a greater impact. 

* The Hindu Kush-Himalaya is one of the most dynamic, diverse, and complex mountain systems in the world, with several rivers and glacial systems making the region a “Third Pole” of the earth, providing fresh water resources to more than 210 million people in the mountains and 1.3 billion people downstream. 

* Groundwater storage in a fractured basement influences the Himalayan river discharge cycle that contributes to countless springs throughout the HKH. Therefore, springs are the major groundwater sources which connect surface and groundwater regimes in the region. 

Research Almost 40% of Mumbai may be submerged in next 100 years The findings are from an unpublished research paper were discussed during the National Symposium on Tropical Meteorology; Climate Change and Coastal Vulnerability between December 18 and 21. The paper states that 190 sq km of Mumbai’s 458.53 sq km could be flooded. The study is under review by the scientific community and will be published soon. It is very likely to happen earlier than 100 years. 

ENVIRONMENT

Madhya Pradesh Big power paradox: Surplus supply, no buyers This should be literally shocking that the State to have surplus power to the extent of 23,122 Million Units during current year, that is 2016-17, with few takers. According to another report Thermal power plants’ capacity utilization would  drop to 48% by 2022.  This is another shocker as plant load factors of thermal power projects, on decline already (from 80% in 2007-08 to 67% last year to 60% in Oct 2016) will reach 48% by 2021-22. PLF below 55% is economically unviable. 

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Uttar Pradesh NGT questions EIA, quashed the EC of Welspun Energy Project Delivering the final judgment in an appeal filed by Vindhya Bachao members challenging the Environmental Clearance of 1320 MW coal based thermal power plant granted to Welspun Energy (U.P.) Private Limited, the NGT on Dec 23 quashed the Environmental Clearance granted by MoEF to M/s Welspun Energy Pvt. Ltd. In addition to it, the court also asked the company to restore the project area to its original condition.  The order granting environmental clearance of 21st August, 2014 was challenged by the members of Vindhya Bachao, Debadityo Sinha, Shiva Kumar Upadhyaya and Mukesh Kumar and was argued by Advocate Parul Gupta.

National Resolutions of the General Body meeting of National Fish workers Forum, held on Dec 9-10, 2016. Several of them are noteworthy, including about National River Navigation Plan (Resolution 1), Demand for separate fisheries ministry (Resolution 4), Compensation for damage to livelihood of fishers (Resolution 5), Implementation of Madhav Gadgil Com recommendation and save Western GHats (Resolution 9), Fisheries Rights Act (Resolution 11), Considering of fisheries rights while amending CRZ notification (Resolution 12), Resolution of drinking water problem for fisher families (Resolution 16), among others. Plz circulate and add strength to the NFF.

Center India, others get UN rules on tribal rights diluted Indian government has opposed international guidelines that require free or uninfluenced consent of tribal communities for commercially using their traditional knowledge at the global biodiversity negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. In the face of the protest from India and others, diluted guidelines allowing countries to obtain consent as per their national legislations were agreed upon.

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 19 Dec. 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 12 Dec. 2016

 

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