DRP News Bulletin 02 Jan 2017 (Corruption in Nepal’s Hydro Power Projects)

The latest report of Transparency International reveals that lack of dependable hydrological data, authentic study, action plans giving dual meaning, lack of transparency in the power purchase agreement and a failure to increase the risk-bearing capacity among power developers have remained major hindrances towards the development of hydropower sector in Nepal.

As per the report, the irregularities start from the stages of project selection and identification and this tendency further flourished in the period of a survey and the project implementation, the report states, highlighting a responsible role from the government level to control this practice.

The report also points out that environment standard violations, inadequate compensation in regard to land acquisition, false claims, unreasonable local demands, unwarranted contract variations, bias in selection of top officials like board members and CEOs during the construction, procurement, and implementation phases are working as a catalyst to bring the hydro sector under the grip of corruption.

The report concludes that lack of dependable hydrological data, authentic study, action plans giving dual meaning, lack of transparency in the power purchase agreement and a failure to increase the risk-bearing capacity among power developers have remained major hindrances towards the development of hydropower sector.

It further stated that corruption is high in the public procurement process and this has promoted to institutionalize corruption. Factors like political influence exerted in the course of making the national budget, preparing fake document and report, taking forward projects without prior field study and a failure to determine priority-based projects have helped make hydropower of the country non-transparent.

According to one more news report, the much-touted West Seti Hydropower Project may not generate as much electricity as expected, as the Chinese developer has signalled downward revision on its installed capacity, citing drop in water level in the river. The installed capacity of the project being built in far-western Nepal currently stands at 750 megawatts. The proposed reservoir-type project, which will spread over Baitadi, Bajhang, Dadeldhura and Doti districts, is being built at a cost of $1.6 billion. If the installed capacity is revised downward, the project may generate less electricity than anticipated.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

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SANDRP Letter PIB press release claiming clearances to KBL misleading SANDRP on December 28 wrote a letter to Union Minister for Water Resources and the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects to illustrate that Ken Betwa Link project is still to obtain many clearances and the construction can not start soon as claimed by the PIB press release from your ministry. The PIB press release from the ministry is thus misleading and is giving clearly wrong impression. We would urge you and MoWR to kindly provide point wise response to the issues raised in the letter and also immediately issue a clarification about the misleading press release of water ministry.

MoWR KBL link ‘approved’ claims contradictory Several ecologists on December 27 challenged Union water resources minister Uma Bharti’s remark on clearance to the Centre’s ambitious Ken-Betwa river link project, pointing out that there are more nods required before the government can launch the project. Taking objection to Bharti’s remark, water and river conservationists led by Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP stated that the NBWL recommendation does not mean the final wildlife clearance as all recommendations for de-notification of protected areas are scheduled to go to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by the Supreme Court and the CEC has to decide if they would like to refer the recommendation to the Supreme Court or not. That step is yet to be taken. According to Manoj Misra of the YJA any project like the Ken-Betwa link, on a tributary in the Ganga basin, would also need clearances from the relevant district, state and National Ganga River Conservation Authorities which are now statutory clearances as per the gazette notification of water ministry. These authorities are yet to be constituted and thus their clearances are still pending. They also pointed out that there was no inter-state agreement between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for implementation of the project as the earlier agreement of August 2005 was only for preparation of DPR. Niti Ayog also recommends 60: 40 funding (Centre: State) as against 90:10 that Uma Bharti wants. Despite all these, it is strange to see many news reports, claiming clearances KBL keep paddling old news. Why they do it remains a mystery.

Moreover, the environment minister in a recent interview stated that he was expecting decisions on Ken-Betwa links and dams on Ganga within next few months. This shows how little our environment minister understands about independent, statutory regulatory bodies. How can the minister predict when these bodies are going to decide or even if they are going to clear any project?

DAMS 

SANDRP Blog Maharashtra Water Sector Review of 2016 Amruta Pradhan of SANDRP takes stock of the happenings in Maharashtra Water Sector in 2016 and how SCAM tainted & CONTRACTOR driven BIG DAMS made a come back in spite of all the statements and promises by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Please share.

Maharashtra Scam tainted projects being funded in the name of AIBP The Centre on December 26, 2016 released the second and the biggest installment of Rs. 756 crore to the state government under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), to speed up construction of 26 dams. The State is set to receive a total of Rs. 3,730 crore as part of the AIBP until 2020. Experts had earlier pointed out the irony of pumping in large amounts of funds into projects that are under the scanner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and have been stuck for over a decade. Some of the controversial projects, which are receiving the AIBP funds, include Waghur dam project, projects at Lower Dudhna, Lower Wardha, Lower Panzara, Bawanthadi and Nandur-Madhmeshwar. The Maharashtra irrigation scam involved the same projects which were approved with escalated costs, alterations in the approved plan, and opaque funding mechanisms leaving doors open for manipulations. 

Polavaram Dam Polavaram to bury 10,000-year-old graves A 10,000-year old megalithic burial site with around 100 graves discovered last week in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh will be history again even before archaeologists can study them in detail thanks to the massive Polavaram dam coming up across the Godavari. NABARD on Dec. 26 has sanctioned a loan of Rs 1,981 crore. The project will also sink about a dozen old temples dating back to Kakatiya dynasty of 12th century. Several villages in Velerupadu mandal will also be submerged in the backwaters of Polavaram. The government plans to complete the ambitious project before the general elections in 2019.

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The adverse impacts of the Polavaram dam are still being discovered. According to one more news report, the stripe necked mongoose is under threat due to the irrigation project. A rare animal species discovered in the Papikonda hills earlier this year, may never be seen again in the area, after the completion of the project. An area of 3427.52 hectares of forest land is projected to be inundated due to the irrigation project. 

Even as the state readies itself for the construction, there are still many problems on the ground that remains unattended to. The Centre has handed over a cheque of Rs 1,981 crore to CM N Chandrababu Naidu for the project. The state had earlier announced to start concrete work at dam site on January 7. Indeed, it is bad day for India’s dams and rivers related governance that a project which does not have credible impact assessment, valid public hearings, has violated forest rights act, whose environment clearance is suspended, against which project there are petitions pending in the Supreme Court and NGT and which involves interstate disputes, is going ahead.

On the other hand, facing a threat of submersion due to the rising backwaters of the Gandikota project, hundreds of people from submersible villages continued to blockage on the Renigunta-Tadpatri national highway at Chowtapalle in the Kadapa district. The villagers contended that water had been released in the Gandikota reservoir without paying compensation to them. The release of water from the Srisailam Reservoir Right Bank Canal to the Pydipalem reservoir for a fortnight has led to the rise in the water level of the Gandikota reservoir. This has left 22 villages under the threat of inundation. 

MP & Rajasthan Spillway to release water from Gandhi Sagar dam into Aahu river The water resource departments of both States are planning to construct a 40-km-long spillway to discharge excess water from Gandhi Sagar dam into Aahu river in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar district. The project has been taken up on the suggestions of Central Water Commission to ease pressure on four old dams — Gandhi Sagar dam, Rana Pratap Sagar dam, Jawahar Sagar Dam and Kota Barrage of Chambal river basin. This is admission of the reality that the old dams, with changing climate, are no longer safe. 

IRRIGATION 

Odisha Cabinet gives nod to Rs 1,800 cr lift irrigation projects The State Cabinet on Dec. 27 approved several proposals, including awarding of tenders for mega lift irrigation projects to create additional irrigation potential for nearly 62,000 hectares. The Cabinet also decided that the state government would spend Rs 1,800 crore on 54 mega lift irrigation projects in 23 blocks of five districts- Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Ganjam, Kalahandi and Nuapada. I wonder if massive Lift Irrigation Schemes like these are successful anywhere on long term basis. In this particular case, it comes to Rs 3 lakhs per Ha. Is this making of a new scam? FEEDBACK IS REQUESTED.

Op-ED Punjab left out in cold VERY strong words being RIGHTLY used in this EDIT a disaster waiting to happen. The state’s water resources are drying up, getting polluted or both. Farmers’ earnings end up in fighting diseases, particularly cancer, or installing submersible pumps. In its preoccupation with SYL, the political class has ignored the obvious threats to human health and agriculture the catastrophe-in-the-making.

National Scientists develop high resolution irrigation maps For the first time, high-resolution maps of irrigated areas of India from 2000-2015 have been prepared using remote sensing data. The maps were validated with ground-based survey data. High-resolution irrigated water maps are essential for estimation of irrigation water demand and consumption on a spatial scale, crop productivity assessments and hydrologic modelling. It needs to be checked how accurate are the figure given in the report.

HYDRO POWER

Arunachal An overview of hydropower projects in 2016 Between 2007 and 2015, the State Government signed agreements for 142 hydropower projects, liberally giving away all the rivers and streams running through the state. These agreements, for projects ranging in capacity from 4.50 MW to 4,000 MW, were signed with both public sector and private players. There was no open and competitive bidding in any of the projects – they were literally given away on a platter to the highest bidder. Neither were prior feasibility studies conducted, nor any public consultations held. There were also no discussions on the impact these projects would have on the local population and biodiversity in an earthquake-prone area.

RIVERS 

SANDRP Blog The Lesser River Goddesses South Asia has some spectacular, mesmerizing river names. Compare this with say France, where river names are mostly two syllables (For example Seine, Somm, Loire, See etc.). We have lyrical, evocative, complex names like Payaswini (Full of Nectar), Aghanashini, Shitalakshi, Kapotakshi (waters as clear as Pigeon’s Eye). But the overtly beautiful names are jarring when we know the reality. Today we have rivers which are so polluted, they are “Kirtinasha” for the society, governments and pollution control board. Tose dammed many times over are indeed “Umardasis”.  This is SANDRP’s blog no 600 by Parineeta Dandekar about less charitable names of rivers and other curses they face. 

West Bengal The River in the Poetry of Jibanananda Das In Jibanananda, the river is not merely a physical river but something more. This paper tries to understand the river beyond the river in Jibanananda Das poetry; to decipher what his sensuous representation of the rivers hides. In Bengal the Beautiful, alone, the poet names as many as fifteen rivers and most of them run through deltaic Bengal. He is very particular in mentioning the definite names of the rivers such as the Jalsiri, Chilai, Jalangi, Rupsa, Karnaphuli, Ichhamati, Meghna and many more. It clearly indicates how rivers are integral to the spirit of Bengal.

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NGT Consider releasing  10% water in Chambal in lean season The Green Tribunal on Dec. 26 directed Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to provide their opinion if they would part with 10% of their water share for maintaining the e-flow in Chambal river in the lean period between January and June. The next hearing in case will be on February 6. This is very interesting from NGT, though NGT saying that only snow fed rivers can be perennials is so totally wrong. 

GANGA Centre Govt to penalize individuals for polluting Ganga Key information In July last year, Union Water Resources Ministry had formed a committee which besides Justice Girdhar Malviya also includes former secretary, Legislative department V K Bhasin, IIT Delhi Professor A K Gosain, IIT Roorkee Professor Nayan Sharma, and Director of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) Sundeep. When even existing laws for achieving clean rivers are not being complied with and government has shown no interest in achieving compliance, what hope is there from new ones? 

SAND MINING

SANDRP Blog River Sand Mining in India in 2016 For past many years, incidents of illegal river sand mining across the country are on the rise. Given its resultant and adverse impact on river system and dependent communities, various state and central governments continue to go through the motions of devising a mechanism for judicious excavation of this minor mineral. But there seems no will to achieve compliance. In this backdrop, continuing tracking of this issue (like in 2015) SANDRP is providing an overview of various aspects related abstraction of the finite grit material from the rivers through a three part blog series. 

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES 

Karnataka Govt fails to bring city’s water bodies under MoEF In August 2013, the Centre issued a detailed advisory on ‘Conservation and restoration of water bodies in urban areas’, wherein it was stipulated that they should be classified under the separate land use category. This should be done in parallel with the other protected areas that are defined under the Environment Protection, and the Forest Protection Acts, to safeguard them from encroachment and destruction. Moreover, in a communication dated November 7, the water resources ministry asked all state governments to take appropriate action with respect to the inclusion of water bodies in land records, besides ensuring they formed an integral part of the town planning process. However, the Karnataka urban development department is not sure if such a communication has come through Interesting though, clearly, none of the central or state agencies have shown any seriousness in this regard. 

WATER OPTIONS 

Kerala State fights drought with recharged wells For a region that does not want for water, Kerala is extending a rainwater harvesting programme in the central district of Thrissur to all parts of the state following the recent droughts. Good to see that groundwater recharge efforts are spreading in these drought times in Kerala. 

Tribute Why Anupam Mishra was our water guru Very informed tribute to Anupam Mishra ji from Umesh Anand, who knew Anupam ji for long from close quarters and also knew the subject of water and traditional water harvesting systems. 

DELHI WATER & WATER BODIES 

AAP-BJP tussle kills revival plan of dying city lake The political battle in the capital has claimed an unlikely victim -one of the last natural water bodies in north Delhi. A plan to revive the dying Naini lake in Model Town was prepared a year-and-a-half ago by a top biologist but it hasn’t been implemented as control of the lake changed hands from the city government to the municipal body. Similarly the continuous discharge of sewage and dumping of garbage have not only jeopardized the revival plans of the natural water body at Aya Nagar in south Delhi, but also violated the Delhi high court order to keep it clean. Residents had approached HC in October 2014 to revive the only water body in the area following which garbage was removed and sent to the landfill site at Okhla. The area was fenced and it took over a year to clean-up, desilt and redevelop the lake. Another water body in Delhi remains polluted, in spite of orders from High Court, also shows failure of judiciary.

AGRICULTURE 

National Arhar pinches, this time for farmers! Arhar farmers are in dire situation, with prices in mandi below the MSP and half that of last year, there is over production, and lowering of demand. It is not clear if the suggestion here of lifting export ban is useful at all for farmers, but there is no doubt that government REALLY needs to wake up and take steps to ensure timely procurement and prices for farmers. It is also so important that arhat economy is sustained for farmers as that will also lead towards better water and soil management, in addition to sustained availability of daal, protein for the poor. Unfortunately there is no sign that govt would wake up. Please share and spread the word. 

ENERGY OPTIONS 

Rajasthan Govt exempts electricity duty for rooftop solar The state government has exempted electricity duty of 40 paise per unit for rooftop solar and captive units. The decision is expected to help Rajasthan reach closer to 2300 MW rooftop solar capacity by 2022, a target given to it by the Centre. The duty cut is expected to have a positive impact on the new capacity lined up. The state already has an installed rooftop capacity of 47 MW. Good step by Rajasthan. 

SOUTH ASIA 

India-China Dragon looks to play Bangladesh against India According to the Global Times, an organ of the Communist Party of China, It is understandable that India may want to reach a deal with China over the construction of dams and the sharing of hydrological data, but Bangladesh should also enjoy similar rights to protect its own interests against India. This is the key message. 

India-Bangladesh Ecology, livelihood under threat as Teesta loses flow Once mighty Teesta river has turned into a thin flow at the beginning of the dry season, thanks withdrawal to water from upstream in India. Livelihoods of a large number of boatmen, fishermen and farmers of the river basin villages in the district are under threat due to the situation.

India-Pakistan Pak objects to WB pausing processes Pakistan Finance Minister in a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on December 25, 2016 has objected to the decision of the World Bank to pause the process of appointing the dispute resolution mechanism as per the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Pakistan has asked the World Bank to “fulfill its obligations” regarding the IWT as it objected to the body pausing two concurrent processes related to Indo-Pak dispute over Kishenganga and Ratle project. In response to Pak Minister’s letter, the WB President has called him to discuss IWT.

India-Nepal Pancheshwar DPR to be finalised next Feb Despite an agreement to expedite the much-delayed project during Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014, the two govts have shown little interest in operationalizing it on the ground. Both of them have repeatedly missed key deadlines. The Indian govt has not sent its water resources secretary to the joint meeting of the PDA’s governing body twice in a row. Having missed several deadlines, India and Nepal give themselves fresh one of Feb 2017 to decide the DPR of 4800 MW Pancheshwar project. 

THE REST OF WORLD

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Global Fukushima radiation contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day. The worst is yet to come. Can any supporter of nuclear energy and arms claim that this won’t be repeated elsewhere? Is it worth that risk at all? 

Iraq Mosul dam breach, bigger problem than ISIS MOSUL dam in IRAQ (storage capacity is humungous 11 Billion Cubic Meters) could fail ANY TIME, this is YET ANOTHER warning and the dam breach will have catastrophic consequences, just to have glimpse: “If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours. Along the riverbanks, towns and cities containing the heart of Iraq’s population would be flooded; in four days, a wave as high as sixteen feet would crash into Baghdad, a city of six million people.” In 2006 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had declared: “In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world”, predicting “mass civilian fatalities” if it failed. This warnings have been repeatedly coming from the Americans and western media, but as this article says, the Iraqis do not agree with it.

CLIMATE CHANGE 

Hindu Kush Himalaya Melting glaciers may impact hydropower plans Interesting hypothesis about why Karakoram glaciers are not melting: “What is far more certain is that most glaciers in the high mountain regions of the world are in retreat. The exceptions are glaciers in the Karakoram range of the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Lutz said the reason for this well-known “Karakoram Anomaly” was still “very poorly understood”. At present, most scientists think it is largely due to winds from the Caspian Sea bringing more snow and rain to this region.” 

ENVIRONMENT 

Op-Ed Scant attention to compliance by Manju Menon and Kanchi Kohli Rather than an empty legal or regulatory category, compliance needs to be seen as the minimum acceptable standards of development through a social contract between projects, governments and communities. It could tie the expectations of communities to be protected against risk with their aspirations for development through production. In each one of the scores of projects that are operational today, it is impossible to know if the safeguards in their approval letters are adequate and what their upper limits are. These issues can be addressed meaningfully only when communities that are forced to live near these projects are allowed to engage with environmental regulators. Indeed, achieving compliance is the biggest failure of our environmental governance. In a similar op-ed Neha Sinha while reviewing the situation of environment 2016  provides link to SANDRP’s recent letter to MoWR on Ken Betwa project, besides including the NGT order on Nyamjang Chu and Kasang among important orders. 

J&K Freshwater fisheries breeding grounds shrinking, production declining  

Some very interesting facts:

* The total fishermen population in the State as per livestock census 2003 was around 31,000. It is presently estimated around 93000. The 27781 Km. length of rivers/streams facilitate farming of more than 40 million tonnes of fish. As against this, the State has only 0.07 lakh hectares under reservoir area.

* There are 1248 lakes, including water bodies, and water is spread into 0.40 lakh hectares area which gives an indication of the potential for fisheries in the State. The Dal and Wular lakes produce 70% of the total fish production in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Uttarakhand 12K cr allotted for upgradation of Char Dham roads The Central Govt has allotted of Rs12,000 crore to widen the existing highways connecting the Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. According report, work on the project amounting to Rs 2,000 crore has already been started under the Char Dham programme. The entire project is likely to be completed by 2018. The Char Dham Highways were badly damaged during 2013 flood disaster of Uttarakhand, but it is not clear what lessons have been learnt from that as this massive project is taken up. 

You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 26 Dec. 2016 and DRP News Bulletin 19 Dec. 2016

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