SANDRP

Brahmaputra – The Beautiful River or The Battleground?

Capture 3

The Brahmaputra River, geologically is the youngest among the major rivers in the world yet it is known as a moving ocean. The river Brahmaputra travels 2880 km from its origin in the young Himalayan range through the Tibet and India and finally merges with the sea in Bangladesh by opening its streams like the roots of a large Banyan tree. While traversing through India the river is astonishingly wide at some areas. In Upper Assam near Dibrugarh the river is 16 km wide where as in lower Assam at Pandu, near Guwahati the river is 1.2 km wide but in the immediate downstream it is nearly 18 km wide. Brahmaputra which is mainly a glacier fed river has also the distinction of being the river with highest sediment yield 852.4 t/km2/y in the world and second highest water yield at delta, next only to Amazon.[1]

Origin and Path

The BrahmaputraRiver originates in the Chemayungdung mountain ranges which nearly sixty miles south-east of Mansarovar lake in the MountKailash range in Southern Tibet at an elevation of 5300 m.A spring called Tamchok Khambab spills from the glaciers which later gather breath and volume to become the Tsangpo, the highest river in world.

A Buddhist shrine called a stupa overlooks the Brahmaputra River in southern Tibet. Source: http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-67000/A-Buddhist-shrine-called-a-stupa-overlooks-the-Brahmaputra-River

A Buddhist shrine called a stupa overlooks the Brahmaputra River in southern Tibet.
Source: http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-67000/A-Buddhist-shrine-called-a-stupa-overlooks-the-Brahmaputra-River

Out of its total length of 2,880 km the Brahmaputra covers a major part of its journey in Tibet as Tsangpo. Tsangpo or the BrahmaputraRiver flows 1625 km in Tibet parallel to the main range of Himalayas before entering India through Arunachal Pradesh.

Apart from the name Tsangpo, the Brahmaputra is also known by its Chinese name, Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet.  There are several tributaries of Tsangpo in Tibet. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,  Raka Zangbo (Raka Tsangpo), Lhasa (Kyi) and Nyang Qu (Gyamda) are prominent north bank tributaries where as Nyang Qu (Nyang Chu) is a tributary on the south bank. The Raka Zangbo (Raka Tsangpo) joins Tsangpo in the west of Xigazê (Shigatse) and Nyang Qu (Gyamda) River joins the river from the north at Zela (Tsela Dzong). The Lhasa (Kyi) river flows past the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and joins the Tsangpo at Qüxü.  The right bank tributary Nyang Qu (Nyang Chu) meets the Tsangpo at Xigazê.

Before entering India, the river passes Pi (Pe) in Tibet and suddenly turns to the north and northeast and cuts a course through a succession of great narrow gorges between the mountain Gyala Peri and Namjabarwa (Namcha Barwa) in a series of rapids and cascades.

The Great Bend of Tsangpo where China planning to build world’s biggest hydropower project Source: http://greenbuzzz.net/nature/the-biggest-canyons-in-the-world/

The Great Bend of Tsangpo where China planning to build world’s biggest hydropower project
Source: http://greenbuzzz.net/nature/the-biggest-canyons-in-the-world/

The river then turns south and southwest and flows through a deep gorge across the eastern extremity of the Himalayas with canyon walls that extends upward for 16,500 feet (5,000 meters) and more on each side. This is the celebrated great bend where China has plans to build the world’s biggest hydropower project of 40 000 MW capacity and also divert water from here to the North China, though China is currently denying any such plans.

The river enters Arunachal Pradesh near Gelling where it is known as the Siang or Dihang. The total length of Siang River is 294.5 km till its point  of confluence  with Dibang and Lohit River. The elevation of Siang river catchment area ranges from 90 m to around 5800 m. In India the total catchment of Siang river up to its confluence with Dibang is 14965.30 sq km.[2]

The SiangRiver meets two other major tributaries of Brahmaputra, Dibang and Lohit in the west of Sadiya, at a place named Kobo. From this confluence point, the river is known as the Brahmaputra till it enters Bangladesh. In India the journey of the river Brahmaputra is 918 km long.

A recent study has shown that Kobo used to be confluence point in 1915.  By 1975 the confluence shifted to a place called Laikaghat which is 16 km downstream of the earlier point of confluence. In 2005 through satellite images it was observed that the confluence point has shifted “19 km farther downstream”.[3]

The river crosses Assam below Dhubri and enters Bangladesh where the river is known as Jamuna and it flows for 337 km. Regarding Brahmaputra’s role in Bangladesh a study writes “The Jamuna is the local name given to the river for its entire length in Bangladesh to the Ganges junction.

The Brahmaputra-Jamuna has one principal tributary input, the TeestaRiver in the north-west, and two major offtakes on the left bank that are the Old Brahmaputra and the Dhaleswari. The Brahmaputra/Jamuna River contributes ~51% of the water discharge and 38% of the sediment yield to the Padma (Schumm and Winkley, 1994), with the sediment yield being estimated at 590 MT/ yr and the sand fraction contributing 34% of this total (Sarker, 1996).”[4] The Jamuna joins the Ganges at Goalundo Ghat and from here the combined flows of these two mighty rivers are known as Padma which joins Meghna in the downstream. The united stream thereafter known as the Meghna and with this name the river Brahmaputra ends its journey, entering the Bay of Bengal.

Bhutan forms an integral part of the Brahmaputra river basin even though it does not come in the path of the river. In our subsequent blogs we will bring a detail account of Bhutan’s role in Brahmaputra river basin.

 The Brahmaputra River Basin

The Brahmaputra river is an international river and its river basin is spread over four countries Bhutan, Tibet , India and Bangladesh with a total basin area of 5,80,000 sq. km. Out of this total catchment area 50.5% lies in Tibet, 33.6% in India, 8.1% in Bangladesh and 7.8% in Bhutan. For geologist and environmentalist the Brahmaputra is a very unique river because “drains such diverse environments as the cold dry plateau of Tibet, the rain-drenched Himalayan slopes, the landlocked alluvial plains of Assam and the vast deltaic lowlands of Bangladesh.”[5]

Map of Brahmaputra Basin from its origin to its confluence Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmaputra_River

Map of Brahmaputra Basin from its origin to its confluence Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmaputra_River

In India the total basin area of BrahmaputraRiver is 197 316 sq. km. which 5.9% of the total geographic area of the country. In India the river is spread over states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim.

In India state-wise the drainage area of the BrahmaputraRiver is as follows:

State

Drainage area (sq. km)

% of state area in Brahmaputra basin

Arunachal Pradesh 83 740 100%
Assam 71 216 90.79%
West Bengal 12 585 14.18%
Meghalaya 11 780 52.52%
Nagaland 10 895 65.71%
Sikkim 7 100 100%
Total 197 316

Source: ‘Intregrated Water Resource Development: A Plan for Action’, MoWR, Govt. of India, September, 1999

The Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland portion of the Brahmaputra river basin is mainly covered by mountain ranges and narrow valleys. Meghalaya part of the basin is majorly covered by hills where as Assam and West Bengal are mostly plain areas.

Politically in India the basin is spread over 22 parliamentary constituencies (2009) comprising 12 in Assam, 4 in West Bengal, 2 in Arunachal Pradesh, 2 in Meghalaya, 1 in Sikkim and 1 in Nagaland.

Projected Water Use for Diverse Purposes in the Brahmaputra Basin

Catchment Area 197 316 km2
Population (1991 census) 29.1 million
Surface-Water Potential (Av Annual) 629 km3/year
Utilisable Surface Water 24 km3/year
Total Replenishable Ground Water (Av. Annual) 26.55 km3/year
Natural Groundwater Recharge from Rainfall 25.72 km3/year
Estimated Utilisable Flow excluding Ground Water 21 km3/year

Source: ‘Integrated Water Resource Development: A Plan for Action’, MoWR, Govt. of India, September, 1999

Tributaries of Brahmaputra

Sub-basin map of Siang River Source: Environment Assessment Report Siang Basin In Arunachal Pradesh, Interim Report June 2012

Sub-basin map of Siang River
Source: Environment Assessment Report Siang Basin In Arunachal Pradesh, Interim Report June 2012

Studies have stated that the Brahmaputra river in its entire course receive water from a large number of tributaries. A study called “Study of Brahmaputra River Erosion and Its Control” done by IIT Roorkee[6] stated “the Brahmaputra receives as many as 22 major tributaries in Tibet, 33 in India and three in Bangladesh.” However this study did not mention anything about the river in Arunachal. We have already mentioned about the few of the tributaries Tibet. In Arunachal the major tributaries of Siang River are Ringong Asi, Yang Sang Chhu, Sigong/ Sirapateng, Niyikgong, Angong, Simang, Yamne, Siyom, Yargyap, Hirit Korong.[7]

In the course of journey through Assam from east to west, some of the important tributaries of the BrahmaputraRiver which join the river on the north bank are Lohit, Dibang, Subansiri, Jiabharali, Barnadi, Puthimari, Pagladia, Beki, Manas, Ai, Gabhoru, Chompawati, Sankosh, Raidhak, Torsa, Teesta etc. Burhidihing, Desang, Dikhow, Jamji, Bhogdoi, Kakdonga, Dhansiri, Kopili, Kolong, Sonai, Digaru, Bharalu, Krishnai, Dudhnoi are the major tributaries on the left bank. The actual number of rivers and rivulets which joins the mighty river is much larger than this list. In subsequent blogs we will try to go into details of some of the tributaries of the river Brahmaputra.

Hydrology of Brahmaputra

For the river Brahmaputra the average annual flow (water discharge) throughout Assam vary from 8500 to 17000 cubic meters per second. At Pandu Ghat near SaraighatBridge the average annual floods recorded was 16,000 cubic meters per second. During floods water discharge reaches its peak and the yearly average peak flow recorded was approximately 51,000 cubic meters per second.[8] At its mouth in Bangladesh, the average annual discharge of the river is 19,830 cubic meters per second. This is the fourth highest average annual discharge in the world. For the river Brahmaputra the highest daily discharge was recorded in August 1962 at Pandu which was 72,726 cubic meters per second. The lowest daily discharge at the same place was 1757 cubic meters per second in February 1968.[9]

Satellite image of the river Brahmaputra (2008) just downstream of Guwahati city indicating intense braiding. width of the river at pandu is 1.2 km but donstream is about 18km. Source: ‘Riverbank erosion: a perspective” a presentation by Dr. Bipul Talukdar, Assam Engineering College

Satellite image of the river Brahmaputra (2008) just downstream of Guwahati city indicating intense braiding
Source: ‘Riverbank erosion: a perspective” presentation by Dr. Bipul Talukdar, Assam Engineering College

Though the Brahmaputra has been described as a braided river, recent studies have shown that the river does not fit into the conventional definition of braided river. A recent study states “In the study reach of the upper Assam area, the Brahmaputra appears to be a multichannel and multi-pattern river that has a tendency to very frequently generate ananabranching[10] (Latrubesse, 2008) pattern in decadal scale.” [11]

The Brahmaputra has been widening its (riverbed) size continuously from the last century. Reports from Water Resource Department showed that in Assam the river Brahmaputra was spread over for 4000 sq km in 1920 but in 2008 this has increased to 6000 sq km.[12]

The Brahmaputra along with several of its major tributaries like Subansiri, Jia Bharali, Manas had very high water yields[13]  which are higher than most of the major rivers in the world. The reason behind such high water yield for Dr. D.C. Goswami, one of the renowned environmental scientist from Assam is “High monsoon rainfall in the upper catchments and their steep gradients are considered to be the major factors responsible for the high rates of unit discharge which in turn help generate the high sediment yield from the basin and contribute significantly towards causing drainage congestion in the valley.”[14]

Seismicity and Brahmaputra Basin

The Brahmaputra river basin and its adjoining hill ranges are seismically very unstable because it is located in the Eurasian (Chinese) and Indian tectonic plates. The most severe earthquakes with Richter magnitude 8.7 was recorded twice in the valley, in 1897 and 1950. The latter one particularly had severe impacts on the river Brahmaputra. As a result of this earthquake river bed was raised at least by three meters at Dibrugarh which had increased the flood and erosion intensity of the river. In the opinion of geomorphologists “the region’s active seismicity has a significant impact on the hydro-geomorphic regime of the Brahmaputra system of rivers, causing landslides that result in the natural damming of rivers, flash floods due to the bursting of landslide-induced temporary dams, raising of riverbeds by siltation, fissuring and sand venting, elevation of existing river and lake bottoms and margins, creation of new water bodies and waterfalls due to faulting.”[15]

Climate Regime

The Brahmaputra in its path from snow covered mountains of Himalaya to the deltaic flood plains of Bangladesh covers different climatic regimes. The mean annual rainfall in the Brahmaputra basin excluding the Tibetan portion is 2300 mm.  The distribution of rainfall is different at different parts of the basin. In the southern slopes of Himalaya the rainfall is over 6000 mm but in parts of Nagaland this is 1200 mm. The monsoon rainfall (June to September) contribute 60-70% to the annual rainfall of the basin.[16]

In this basin, areas which are above or equal to the elevation of 1500 m experience snowfall. In the Indian part of Brahmaputra basin there are 610 glaciers which covers an area of 928.91 sq km and the volume of these glaciers are 49.57 cubic km. Out of these 449 glaciers are in Teesta basin and 161 glaciers are in Arunachal.[17]  In the Brahmaputra basin, Himalayan snow and glacial melt waters play a very significant role in water availability and climate change will have severe impacts on this. Climate change will also impact the rainfall and snowfall pattern in the Brahmaputra basin. This issue needs more serious attention and we will come up with more detailed blogs on this.

Bio-Diversity in the Brahmaputra Basin

The Lohit flooplains, immediately dowsntream of Lower Demwe HEP, constitute an Important Bird Area as per international criteria and is also a potential Ramsar site Photo: Neeraj Vagholikar

The Lohit flooplains, immediately dowsntream of Lower Demwe HEP, constitute an Important Bird Area as per international criteria and is also a potential Ramsar site
Photo: Neeraj Vagholikar

The Brahmaputra river basin hosts very rich and unique bio-diversity. The whole of northeastern region is a globally recognized bio-diversity hot spot.  In the Indian territory the total forest cover of the Brahmaputra basin is 1,14,894 sq. km. which is 54% of the total basin area. In the distribution of forest cover among 6 states in Brahmaputra basin, Arunachal Pradesh tops the list with 82.8% forest cover but it is sad that the highest number of hydro-electric dams are planned in this state inviting disastrous impacts for the biodiversity, forests, people and environment. The tally of rest of the five states is as follows – Nagaland (68.9%), Meghalaya (63.5%), Sikkim (38.1%), West Bengal (21.4 %) and Assam (20.6 %).

Besides, the aquatic bio-diversity of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries is also very rich. Here we should also take the case of ‘beel’ or wetlands in the Brahmaputra flood plains which according to experts work as ”ecotonal zones” and ”play an important role in the dynamics of the Brahmaputra ecosystem, as these are natural feeding and breeding grounds for a number of fish species and other aquatic fauna.”[18]

Flood and Erosion

Brahmaputra river basin is known to be very prone to flood and erosion and these two hazards have led to many problems in the basin. In India, out of the eight northeastern states, Assam faces the most severe brunt of flood and erosion. Both flood erosion has been severely affecting the economy as well political, social and cultural milieu of Assam.

Experts opine that natural as well anthropogenic factors lead to devastating floods in northeastern region. “The unique geo-environmental  setting of the region vis-à-vis the eastern Himalayas, the highly potent monsoon regime, weak geological formation, active seismicity, accelerated erosion, rapid channel  aggradations, massive deforestation, intense land use pressure and high population growth especially in the floodplain belt, and ad hoc type temporary flood control measures are some of the dominant factors that cause and/or intensify floods in the Brahmaputra and the Barak basins (Goswami, 1998).”[19] The Brahmaputra river basin is also prone to flash floods and some of the worst flash floods have occurred in the valley in the new millennium.

Along with floods, erosion is also threatening the lives of the people in the state of Assam as it leads to permanent loss of land.  Here we can take the case of the river island Majuli, which had been one of the worst sufferers of the erosion done by Brahmaputra. In 1853 the total area of Majuli was 1129 sq km but it has now reduced to 3.55 sq km.[20]

In Bangladesh the Brahmaputra river which known as Jamuna is also infamous for severe floods and erosion. The river carries huge water and sediment discharge in this deltaic region. Because of its geographical setting, Bangladesh is very much dependent on its river for fertile fields and diverse flora and aqua culture but rivers also brings several hazards in the form of floods and erosion. Bangladesh has witnessed severe annual floods but the floods in 1987, 1988, 1998 and 2004 were the most severe ones in recent decades. But studies have shown that, “The people of Bangladesh have adapted their lifestyle for centuries to live with river flooding – frequently moving their temporary bank-side homes, planting on newly emergent river bars, and sometimes raising their homesteads above water level in flood periods (Paul, 1997). However, a growing population, coupled with the expansion of infrastructure and economic development, has resulted in an increase in the intensity of flood damage (FPCO, 1995; Paul, 1997; CPD, 2004). The lives of many millions of Bangladeshi citizens is thus reliant on these rivers, with up to 600,000 people living on the riverine islands and bars alone (Sarker et al., 2003).”[21]

In order to protect people from the fury of floods and erosion the main measure taken in India as well in Bangladesh is the construction of embankments. In Assam the total length of embankment is 4,473.83 km constructed on a total of 130 small and big rivers. But recent reports say that out this, 3376 km embankments are in a vulnerable condition and need immediate strengthening and repair.[22] As a deltaic region Bangladesh too has put its thrust on increasing length of embankments. In 1989 Bangladesh launched an elaborate flood control programme through construction of embankments which was named as ‘Flood Action Plan’. But this plan was vehemently criticized both at national and international level.

Protest against big dams – KMSS (Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti) members protesting in Pandu Ghat in Guwahati against the ship carrying the turbines for the Lower Subansiri project. Source: http://peakwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Lower-Subansiri-turbines-protest.preview.jpg

Protest against big dams – KMSS (Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti) members protesting in Pandu Ghat in Guwahati against the ship carrying the turbines for the Lower Subansiri project.
Source: http://peakwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Lower-Subansiri-turbines-protest.preview.jpg

In order to control the floods in Brahmaputra valley one of the proposed solution is construction of multi-purpose dams. In fact flood control was one of the pretexts for hydro-development in the northeastern region. But the idea that multipurpose dams can lead to flood control along with hydro-power generation is actually contradictory and unviable as seen from experience of such projects. Studies done on some of the biggest multi-purpose river valley projects of independent India, e.g. ‘Unravelling Bhakra’ by Shripad Dharmadhikary, ‘Drown and Dammed’ done on Hirakud by Prof Rohan D’Souza, “One Valley and a Thousand: Dams, Nationalism, and Development, Studies in Social Ecology & Environmental History” on Damodar Valley dams by Daniel Klingensmith have shown how unviable this proposition is. A number of these dams have actually created avoidable flood disasters in the downstream areas due to wrong operation of the dams[23]. In case of the mightly Brahmaputra river, this is likely to prove even greater disastrous considering its characteristics described above.

Today Brahmaputra valley is witnessing severe opposition against hydro-power dams.  The struggle against the Lower Subansiri hydro-electric project can be regarded as milestone. In the Brahmaputra valley the hydropower projects have been opposed also because of the impacts which it will going to have in the downstream as well as on the biodiversity, seismicity, society and culture of one of the most ecological sensitive areas. .

Institutional Mechanism over Brahmaputra in India

The Brahmaputra Board is the foremost body on Brahmaputra established by Government of India under an Act of Parliament i.e. The Brahmaputra Board Act, 1980 (46 of 1980) under the Ministry of Irrigation which now renamed as Ministry of Water Resources. The main task entrusted on Brahmaputra Board is ‘planning and integrated implementation of measures for the control of floods and bank erosion in the BrahmaputraValley and for matters connected therewith.’ Both Brahmaputra and Barak valleys are under the jurisdiction of Brahmaputra Board. Even though this independent board was established to better manage the flood and erosion problem of the two river basins, but its activities have come under severe public criticism. Besides Brahmaputra Board, the State Water Resource Department and Central Water Commission also looks after water issues in the river basin. Recently international funding agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) has come to be associated with flood and erosion control in the Assam but from the experiences of Bangladesh, the advent such agencies must be dealt with precaution.

Brahmaputra Valley as the Point of Confluence for People and Cultures

The Brahmaputra is a dynamic river whose dynamism is not only limited to its physical characters or features of the river, but immersed in social, political, economic and cultural aspects. The Brahmaputra valley has been the space of assimilation for people from different races and the one can find large variety of languages and dialects being spoken in this valley. The northeastern region falls under the Brahmaputra and Barak River basin[24] which is home for more than 166 separate tribes, 160 scheduled tribes and over 400 other tribal and sub-tribal communities and groups, speaking a wide range of languages (Climate Change in India: A 4×4 Assessment, 2010). The northeastern region can also be considered as an ‘ethnological transition zone’ between India and the neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Tibet, Burma and Bangladesh. In this region one can find 220 languages belonging to three language families – Indo-Aryan, Sino-Tibetan and Austric.[25]

Relevance of Brahmaputra for Assam

For Assam, the state located at the center of the northeastern region, the river Brahmaputra paves its way through this state like the lifeline of the state. The river ‘Brahmaputra’ literally means ‘Son of Brahma’. It is also one of the few rivers in India which is regarded as a ‘male’ river. There are several myths and legends about the Brahmaputra’s origin and we will bring those together in our coming blogs.

Bogibeel, the fourth bridge on Brahmaputra is under construction between Dhemaji and Dibrugarh district. Photo – Parag Jyoti Saikia

Bogibeel, the fourth bridge on Brahmaputra is under construction between Dhemaji and Dibrugarh district. Photo – Parag Jyoti Saikia

In Assam Brahmaputra River is also known by several other names  i.e. ‘Luit’, ‘Siri Luit’, ‘Bor Luit’ ‘Bor Noi’. For the people of Assam, the Brahmaputra is a symbol of great pride due to its ‘moving ocean’ size but this also ignites fear when it rises to its strength during floods. People of Assam have faced difficult times when the river has come to its full strength. Famous singer Jayanta Hazarika wrote, when he formed ‘Xur bahini’ to gather relief for flood victims “Luitor Bolia baan, toloi koloi nu dhapoli meliso, hir hir sowode kal roop dhori loi kaak nu bare bare khediso (Oh the maddening floods of Luit, where are you heading this time. Whom are you chasing again with frightening sound of your waves)”.

But this river is also the source of strength for the people of Assam. Time and again, they have expressed their unity as ‘Luitporia’ or ‘people from the banks of Luit’. The famous cultural icon of Assam, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala wrote in 1942 during Indian Freedom movement “Luitor parore ami deka lora, moriboloi bhoi nai (we are the youth from the banks of Luit and we don’t have any fear of death)”.  For another legendary cultural icon, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika  who is known as the bard of Brahmaputra, the river’s power of destruction was the source which will awaken the people. In his famous song “Bistirno parore” he asked the river – “Sahasro barishar, unmadonar, avigyotare, pangu manobok sawal songrami aru agrogami kori nutula kiyo (with your maddening experience of thousand monsoons, why don’t you arouse the disabled human beings for struggle and progress)”.

This blog is a small step to document the various aspects of the river Brahmaputra. It is the need of the hour since a flood of dams are proposed to submerge the Brahmaputra valley. Chinese plans of dam construction is not very much in the public domain but the impacts of dam construction of in the upstream Tibet will have severe impacts on the Brahmaputra river. Besides, the bogey of Chinese threat to divert the waters of Siang is used by the Indian government to push for rapid dam construction sidelining all the social, environmental, safety, sustainability, climate change concerns and impacts on the river ecosystem. The government very shamelessly has also put aside all the democratic processes to push for rapid dam construction. Though there is no proposal for a dam on the Brahmaputra in Assam, there are proposals to dam its major upstream tributaries.  This upsurge of dams, if they do get constructed will have huge impacts on the Brahmaputra River which are yet not known due to lack of credible projects specific or cumulative impacts assessment studies. These studies should include issues like  the river ecosystem, river bio-diversity, forests and wildlife, climate change, floods and erosion and economic and socio-cultural impacts. However, we are hopeful that the ongoing struggles against such unjustifiable projects will succeed and all these projects won’t come up. Through a series of blogs we will also try to bring together all these different streams of concerns.

Himanshu Thakkar, Parag Jyoti Saikia

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)
Email: ht.sandrp@gmail.com, meandering1800@gmail.com


[1] Lahiri, S.K., Sinha, R., Tectonic controls on the morphodynamics of the Brahmaputra River system in the upper As-sam valley, India, Geomorphology (2012)

[2]EnvironmentAssessmentReport  SiangBasin In Arunachal Pradesh, Interim Report June 2012, Prepared for Central Water Commission(CWC

[3] Lahiri, S.K., Sinha, R., Tectonic controls on the morphodynamics of the Brahmaputra River system in the upper As-sam valley, India, Geomorphology (2012)

[5]GoswamiD.C., “Managing the Wealth and Woes of the River Brahmaputra” available at http://www.indianfolklore.org/journals/index.php/Ish/article/view/449/514

[7]EnvironmentAssessmentReport  SiangBasin In Arunachal Pradesh, Interim Report June 2012, Prepared for Central Water Commission(CWC)

[9] Goswami D.C., “Managing the Wealth and Woes of the River Brahmaputra” available at  http://www.indianfolklore.org/journals/index.php/Ish/article/view/449/514

[10] An anabranch is a section of a river or stream that diverts from the main channel or stem of the watercourse and rejoins the main stem downstream.

[11] Lahiri, S.K., Sinha, R., Tectonic controls on the morphodynamics of the Brahmaputra River system in the upper As-sam valley, India, Geomorphology (2012)

[13] Water yield means volume of water drained by unit area of the basin.

[14] “The Brahmaputra River”, India  by D.C. Goswami and P. J. Das in The Ecologist Asia Vol. 11 No 1 January- March 2003

[15] ibid

[16] ibid

[17] “Water Sector Options for India in a Changing Climate” by Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, New Delhi, March 2012

[18] ‘Stemming the Flood, Killing Biodiversity’ by Dr. Sanchita Boruah and Dr. S.P. Biswas in The Ecologist Asia Vol. 11 No 1 January- March 2003

[19] Goswami D.C., “Managing the Wealth and Woes of the River Brahmaputra” available at  http://www.indianfolklore.org/journals/index.php/Ish/article/view/449/514

[24]Barak River is located in south Assam and also an international river but smaller than the Brahmaputra.

Dams in Western Ghats: Nardawe Dam, Sindhudurga, Maharashtra

Through this series,  will be trying to publish issues related to dams in the World Heritage site of Western Ghats. The dilemma of Conservation Vs Development of this ‘most populated biodiversity hotspot in the world’ has been highlighted with the WGEEP and HLWG Report. Through this series, we will try to look at the way in which rivers, forests and communities in the Ghats are being affected by dam construction and to what extent do these dams contribute to development of teh region whihc suffers the impacts.

1. Nardawe Dam, Sindhudurga District, Northern Western Ghats, Maharashtra

Introduction

Nardawe dam is being built on GadRiver in Kanakavali taluka of Sindhudurg district by Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), under the Water Resources Department, Maharashtra. Gad is a small west flowing river originating from the Western Ghats, meeting the Arabian Sea. According to the White Paper on Irrigation Projects in Maharashtra brought out by the Water Resource Department (WRD) in December 2012, Administrative approval for Nardawe Dam was granted in 1989 for Rs. 32 Crores. Due to a number of delays, the project could not be started for more than a decade. By the third administrative approval in 2007, the sanctioned cost shot up to ₹ 446 Crores.

Rice sowing at Nardawe

Rice sowing at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari

 

A brief reading of the White Paper and actual situation in Maharashtra indicates that this is a typical tale of most dams, where cost and time estimates have been escalated multiple times.

By June 2012, the KIDC has spent ₹ 311 Crores on this project. Costs have escalated despite the fact that canals in the original proposal have been cancelled and converted into 16 ‘Kolhapur Type’ gated weirs (KT Weirs). Its Command area (after the dam completion) is supposed to be 12, 530 ha, through 16 KT weirs. It will store 123.74 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) water .Total submergence of Nardawe Dam is 625 ha which will affect 3849 people from 967 families. 1 village is completely affected (Jambhalgaon) and 4 (Naradawe, Yavateshwar, Bhairavgaon, Durganagar) villages are partially affected. 34.13 ha of identified forests will have to be diverted for the project

Actual work on the project started in 2001.

According to white paper, 61% work on the dam is complete, which includes the earthen dam wall and 10 KT weirs.

This project finds itself mired in violations of several kinds That it is coming from KIDC comes as no surprise. This section of the WRD Maharashtra has been a regular in violating several norms while pushing its projects. KIDC was also found to have indulged in corruption in the case of Konadhane Dam in Raigad, has started work on Dams like Kalu and Balganga without Forest Clearances or rehabilitation plans.

Illegal Work without Environment Clearance The project has a command area more than 10,000 hectares and hence, requires an Environmental clearance according to the EIA Notification of 1994 which was in effect when the construction work for the dam started. Legally, work cannot start on the dam without an Environmental Clearance. In Nardawe, work has been 61% complete even without an Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing.

NardaweDam

Work at Nardawe Dam. Photo; Damodar Pujari

Executive Engineer of the Project, Mr Godse, while speaking to SANDRP on the 7th July 2013 accepted that the project has just applied for Terms of Reference (TORs) with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and had started work without an Environment Impact Assessment, Public Hearing or Environmental clearance.

Forest Clearance The project affects 34 ha of identified forest land (वन संज्ञा क्षेत्र) and hence requires Forest clearance from Divisional Forest Office, Bhopal. It does not have final forest clearance. Violating the Forest Conservation Act 1980, work on the project went on, even in Forest area.

Work at Nardawe Dam Photo: Damodar Pujari

Work at Nardawe Dam Photo: Damodar Pujari

The Executive Engineer, while speaking to SANDRP stated that a number of queries have been raised by the Forest Office, Bhopal, one of which is that the project is in vicinity of Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary and may need clearance from National Board for Wildlife too.

Forest Rights Act: Individual and community Rights of people dependent on Forest areas are not yet settled. This is serious as these are private forest lands and there is a strong dependence of people on these forests.

High Level Working Group (HLWG) and Western Ghats Expert ecology Panel (WGEEP) Reports All of the affected villages fall under Ecological Sensitive Areas as per the HLWG report and entire Kanakavali Taluka was considered as Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) – I by WGEEP. WGEEP Report has recommended that no large dams should be built in ESZ 1. According to HLWG Report, peoples’ consultation and resolution are a must prior to starting work in Ecologically Sensitive Areas.

These committees were formed after work on the Nardawe Dam started. However, these reports highlight the high ecological richness of the area. If KIDC had conducted a credible Environment Impact Assessment, as it is legally bound to conduct, these issues could be highlighted before starting work. Current ecological and related social loss could have been avoided.

Officials agree to violations, say that it is more of a norm When SANDRP talked with the Executive Engineer of the project, Mr. Godse on 7th July 2013, he agreed that work on the project is in advanced stage without an Environmental Clearance or Forest clearance in place. As a justification, he said that many projects in Maharashtra indulge in these violations! He said that the project has just applied for TORs for Environmental Clearance with the Ministry of Environment and Forests’. However, the project is yet to come up before the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF on River Valley Projects.

Dubious role of EIA Agencies While the Executive Engineer himself agrees that the project has progressed without an Environmental and Forest Clearance in place, The EIA agency for this project, namely Science and Technology Park, Pune[i] did not bat an eyelid while agreeing to do an EIA for this project. They did not point it out to KIDC that applying for an Environmental Clearance when the work is supposedly 61% complete is illegal, neither did they refuse to be a party of such a violation. When SANDRP talked with official from Science and Technology Park involved in this work, he admitted that have visited the region and know that work is at advanced stage. He also agreed that this is a violation and there is little meaning in doing an EIA in such a case. This same agency has worked on EIA Reports of other dams in Konkan region as well.

KT Weirs instead of Canals Letter written by Upper Secretary, Irrigation Department dated 23rd November 1994, claims that the proposal of building RBC (85 km) and LBC (45 km) can generate less irrigated area compared to their length and hence appear to be inefficient in terms of cost as well as irrigation potential. The letter further asks the executive engineer to change the cropping pattern to arecanut and floricultural crops in the command area which require less water which could be supplied from gated barrages through lift irrigation. With this letter as support, canals have been cancelled and KT weirs are being installed, at an increased cost.

Abandoned site office of teh nardawe Dam at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari

Abandoned site office of the Nardawe Dam at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari

 

Issues of rehabilitation and resettlement When a survey was conducted in 1997, it concluded that 967 families were affected by Nardawe Dam. Sixteen years after the survey, villagers say that the number of affected families has grown to 1245. This means that more than 6000 people may be affected by this project. The villages where resettlement will take place are nothing but sections of hill slopes, as I saw for myself.

Figure 5. Santosh Sawant. One of the affected people and non-governmental member on rehabilitation committee at district administration level

Currently, No resettlement has taken place and villagers are not moving out of their homes.

In a bid to force the affected families out from their homes, administration has stopped construction and repairing of basic civic facilities in the affected villages since 2001. No new water connections, repairing of roads and even ZP schools has taken place in the affected villages in order to push the residents accepting lands in resettlement villages.

Response of the administration has been to assert that local opposition has been the main reason behind the delay in the project. Actually, work on the project has been going on irrespective of local protests, morchas or sit-ins, in complete disregard of the local demands and concerns.

In Conclusion According to villagers, KT weirs built downstream the dam are largely unused because of the cropping pattern, which depends mainly on monsoon and availability of groundwater. Before the KT weirs too, the river was used for some seasonal irrigation.

Time and again it has been proved that major and medium irrigation projects are not a solution for Konkan’s agriculture. According to the White Paper, while the ‘Created’ Irrigation potential of a large dam ‘Tillari’ in Sindhudurga is 7,295 hectares, the actual irrigation potential utilized is just 162 ha!

According to Economic Survey Report of Sindhudurg District in 2012 (Please see table below), large and medium projects have performed dismally. Of the total command area of 49878 hectares, the area actually irrigated by major projects is a mere 158 hectares that is 0.31% and for medium projects with command area of 40821 hectares, area irrigated is an unbelievable 82 ha that is 0.2%!

As against this, minor projects seem to have done better with 4619 hectares irrigated in command of 12851 hectares (around 36%).

Performance of water resources projects in Sindhudurg

No Taluk

Small

Medium

Large

Command area Actual irrigated area Command area Actual irrigated area Command area Actual irrigated area
1 Devgad

1205

533

0

0

0

0

2 Vaibhavwadi

770

114

9027

0

0

0

3 Kankavali

2697

453

20652

82

0

0

4 Malvan

2650

1201

0

0

0

0

5 Vengurla

942

313

0

0

0

0

6 Kudal

3298

1218

0

0

26285

0

7 Sawantwadi

904

598

11142

0

0

0

8 Dodamarg

385

189

0

0

23654

158

Total

12851

4619

40821

82

49939

158

Source- District Economic Survey of Sindhudurg, 2012

The region receives more than 2500 mm of rainfall and decentralized rainwater harvesting, watershed management, revival and renovation of traditional irrigation systems like temple tanks and paats can be cost effective, ecologically sustainable, equitable and efficient solution for this region. The entire Sindhudurg district has several small, decentralized traditional irrigation systems like paats. There exist intricate conflict resolution and water sharing arrangements at the community level about using these paats. Sindhudurg is also rich in irrigation through Temple tanks. TempleTanks in Dhamapur and Nerur stand testimony to the fact that even today, these systems are being utilized.

So then, why are projects like Nardawe, which are costly, unviable, ecologically destructive and stemming unrest in the region being pushed and promoted?

The primary motive behind these irrigation project does not seem to be irrigation or public welfare,  for which number of benign options are available. These projects are an easy source profits for contractors, engineers and politicians.  Issues like sustainability, efficiency and equity do not seem to matter for the KIDC or Water Resources Department in Maharashtra.

Nardawe Dam is just one example of the large dam centric water management prevalent in Maharashtra. The Irrigation scam which is still unfolding, has demonstrated how hollow this dependence on large infrastructure projects is. If we weigh the meager benefits of these projects against the ecological, social and economic losses to the local communities, environment and public exchequer, it becomes clear that specifically in Konkan region, large dams like Nardawe have no case.

Damodar Pujari, SANDRP


[i] According to its website (http://www.scitechpark.org.in/): “The Science and TechnologyPark is an institute set up jointly by Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India and University of Pune in the year 1988.”

Uttarakhand: Existing, under construction and proposed Hydropower Projects: How do they add to the state’s disaster potential?

 

As Uttarakhand faced unprecedented flood disaster and as the issue of contribution of hydropower projects in this disaster was debated, questions for which there have been no clear answers were, how many hydropower projects are there in various river basins of Uttarakhand? How many of them are operating hydropower projects, how many are under construction and how many more are planned? How many projects are large (over 25 MW installed capacity), small (1-25 MW) and mini-micro (less than 1 MW installed capacity) in various basins at various stages?

This document tries to give a picture of the status of various hydropower projects in various sub basins in Uttarakhand, giving a break up of projects at various stages.

River Basins in Uttarakhand Entire Uttarakhand is part of the larger Ganga basin. The Ganga River is a trans-boundary river, shared between India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 kms long river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganga begins at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers and forms what we have called Ganga sub basin till it exits Uttarakhand. Besides Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Ganga sub basin, other river basins of Uttarakhand include: Yamuna, Ramganga (Western Ramganga is taken as Ramganga basin in this document, eastern Ramganga is considered part of Sharda basin) and Sharda. Sharda sub basin includes eastern Ramganga, Goriganga, Dhauliganga, Kaliganga and part of Mahakali basin.

Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

Destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda. Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

Existing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have given the sub basin-wise list of existing hydropower projects in Uttarakhand along with their capacities. The list has been prepared based on various sources including Central Electricity Authority, Uttarakhand Jal Vidhyut Nigam (UJVNL), Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Authority (UREDA) and Report of Inter Ministerial Group on Ganga basin.

Existing Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand

 

Projects

Installed Capacity  (MW)

Projects in Alaknanda River Basin

1. Vishnu Prayag (P)

400

2. Tilwara

0.2

3. Soneprayag

0.5

4. Urgam

3

5. Badrinath II

1.25

6. Rajwakti (P)

3.6

7. Tapowan

1

8. Jummagad

1.2

9. Birahi Ganga (P)

7.2

10. Deval (P Chamoli Hydro P Ltd on Pinder)

5

11. Rishiganga (P)

13.5

12. Vanala (P Hima Urja P Ltd Banala stream)

15

13. Kaliganga I (ADB)

4

Alaknanda Total

455.45

Projects in Bhagirathi River Basin

14. Maneri Bhali-1 (Tiloth)

90

15. Maneri Bahli-2

304

16. Tehri St-I

1000

17. Koteshwar

400

18. Harsil

0.2

19. Pilangad

2.25

20. Agunda Thati (P Gunsola hydro Balganga river)

3

21. Bhilangana (P – Swasti)

22.5

22. Bhilangana III (P – Polyplex)

24

23. Hanuman Ganga (P – Regency Aqua)

4.95

Bhagirathi Total

1850.9

Projects in Ganga River sub basin downstream of confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda

24. Chilla

144

25. Pathri

20.4

26. Mohamadpur

9.3

Ganga sub basin Total

173.7

Projects in Ramganga basin

27. Ramganga

198

28. Surag

7

29. Loharkhet (P Parvatiya Power P Ltd Bageshwar)

4.8

30. Kotabagh

0.2

31. Sapteshwar

0.3

32. Gauri

0.2

Ramganga Total

210.5

Projects in Sharda River Basin

33. Dhauliganga

280

34. Tanakpur

94.2

35. Khatima

41.4

36. Chirkilla

1.5

37. Taleshwar

0.6

38. Suringad

0.8

39. Relagad

3

40. Garaon

0.3

41 Charandev

0.4

42. Barar

0.75

43. Kulagad

1.2

44. Kanchauti

2

Sharda Total

426.15

Projects in Yamuna River Basin

45. Chibro

240

46. Dhakrani

33.75

47. Dhalipur

51

48. Kulhal

30

49. Khodri

120

50. Galogi

3

51. Tharali

0.4

Yamuna Total

478.15

Grand Total

3594.85

Note: (P) in the bracket suggests the project is in private sector, throughout this document. The eastern Ramganga river, which is part of Sharda basin, is included in Sharda basin. Where-ever Ramganga river is mentioned in this document, it refers to Western Ramganga, which is a tributary of Ganga.

Alaknanda flowing beyond the destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag Project Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

Alaknanda flowing beyond the destroyed 400 MW Vishnuprayag Project Photo: Matu Jan Sangathan

In the next table we have given available list of existing mini and micro hydropower projects in Uttarakhand, based on UREDA information.

List of projects up to 1 MW under operation:

 

SN Project

Ins Cap (MW)

Dist Basin
1 Milkhet

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
2 Bamiyal

*

Chamoli Alaknanda
3 Bursol

0.2

Chamoli Alaknanda
4 Choting

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
5 Ghagaria

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
6 Ghagaria Extension

*

Chamoli Alaknanda
7 Ghes

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda
8 Gulari

0.2

Chamoli Alaknanda
9 Niti

0.025

Chamoli Alaknanda
10 Sarma

0.1

Chamoli Alaknanda Nandakini/ Maini Gad
11 Wan

0.05

Chamoli Alaknanda
12 Bank

0.10

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
13 Gamsali Bampa

0.05

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga/Ganesh Ganga
14 Kedarnath II

0.2

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
15 Badiyakot

0.1

Bageshwar Alaknanda
16 Kunwari

0.05

Bageshwar Alaknanda
17 Borbalada

0.025

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar/ Chhiyaldi Gad
18 Dokti

0.02

Bageshwar Alaknanda
19 Dior IInd Phase

*

Pauri Alaknanda/ Ganga
20 Chandrabhaga Gad

*

Tehri Bhagirathi
21 Jakhana

0.1

Tehri Bhagirathi Bhilangana/Balganga
22 Gangotri-I

0.1

 UttarKashi Bhagirathi Kedar Ganga
23 Kanwashram

0.1

Pauri Ganga
24 Bilkot

0.05

Pauri Ramganga
25 Dior Ist Phase

0.1

Pauri Ramganga
26 Gogina II

0.05

Bageshwar Ramganga
27 Sattshwar

0.05

Bageshwar Ramganga
28 Toli

*

Bageshwar Ramganga
29 Ramgarh

0.1

Nainital Ramganga
30 Lathi

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
31 Liti

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
32 Liti-II

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
33 Ratmoli

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
34 Baghar

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
35 Baicham

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
36 Jugthana

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
37 Kanol gad

0.1

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
38 Karmi

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
39 Karmi -III

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
40 Karmi-II

0.05

Bageshwar E Ramganga/Sharda
41 Bhikuriya Gad

0.5

Pithoragarh Sharda
42 Kanchauti

*

Pithoragarh Sharda
43 Lamabager

0.20

Bageshwar Sharda Saryu
44 Lamchula

0.05

Bageshwar Sharda Saryu
45 Tarula

0.10

Almora Sharda Saryu/Jataya Ganga
46 Taluka

0.025

Uttarkashi Yamuna Tons/ Gattu Gad
47 Bhadri Gad

0.02

Tehri Yamuna

From http://ahec.org.in/, capacity of some of the projects is as per the UJVNL website. The capacity comes to 3.815 MW for the 41 projects for which capacity is available.

 

5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti

5 MW Motigad Project in Pithorgarh District destroyed by the floods. Photo: Emmanuel Theophilus, Himal Prakriti

Based on above two tables, in the following table we have provided an overview of operating hydropower projects and their capacity, with basin wise and size wise break up.

Uttarakhand has total of 86 existing hydropower projects, with total installed capacity of close to 3600 MW. At least eleven of these projects are in private sector with total capacity of over 503 MW. An additional about 1800 MW capacity is in central sector. It means that majority of the power generation capacity in the state is not owned by the state and there is no guarantee how much of that power would be available to the state.

 

Basin wise number of operating hydro projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro Hydro projects (below 1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

1

400

10

54.75

21

2.22

32

456.97

Bhagirathi

4

1794

5

56.7

4

0.4

13

1851.1

Ganga Sub basin

1

144

2

29.7

1

0.1

4

173.8

Ramganga

1

198

2

11.8

9

1.05

12

210.85

Sharda

3

415.6

4

7.7

21

4.45

28

427.75

Yamuna

5

474.75

1

3

3

0.445

9

478.195

TOTAL

15

3426.35

24

163.65

59

8.665

98

3598.665

 

Here we should note that as per the Union Ministry of New  and Renewable  Energy sources, in Uttarakhand, by March 2013, 98 small hydro schemes has been installed with total capacity of 170.82 MW. If we add the small and mini-micro projects in above table, we have 83 operating schemes with installed capacity of 172.315 MW. This mis-match is not possible to resolve since MNRE does not provide full list of operating SHPs in Uttarakhand.

 

Under Construction Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have given available list of under construction hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. Actual list of under construction projects is likely to be larger than this, since clear and upto-date information is not available on official website. Please note that this does not include the list of mini and micro hydropower projects that are under construction. Even in case of small hydro projects (1-25 MW capacity), the list is not complete. According to this list, 25 projects with 2376.3 MW capacity are under construction in Uttarakhand. 6 of them are large hydropower projects and rest 19 are small hydro projects. Of the 6 large hydropower projects, three are in private sector and three are in central sector, none in state sector.

 

Mountains of Muck generated by under construction 330 MW Shrinagar Hydel Project

Mountains of Muck generated by under construction 330 MW Shrinagar Hydel Project

List of under construction projects:

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin
1 Srinagar

330

Pauri Alaknanda
2 Phata- Byung

76

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
3 Singoli-Bhatwari

99

Rudraprayag Alaknanda
4 Lata Tapovan

171

Chamoli Alaknanda
5 Tapovan Vishnugad

520

Chamoli Alaknanda
6 Madhmaheshwar (ADB)

10

Rudrprayag Alaknanda
7 Kaliganga-II (ADB)

6

Rudrprayag Alaknanda
8 Bgyunderganga (P)

24.3

Chamoli Alaknanda
9 Birahi Ganga-I (P)

24

Chamoli Alaknanda
10 Devali (P)

13

Chamoli Alaknanda
11 Kail ganga

5

Chamoli Pinder Alaknanda
12 Khiraoganga (P)

4

Uttarkashi Alaknanda
13 Sobla I

8

Pithoragarh Alaknanda
14 Hafla

0.2

Chamoli  Alaknanda Hafla Gad
15 Nigol Gad

0.1

Chamoli  Alaknanda Nigal Gad
16 Wachham

0.50

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar/SunderDhunga Gad
17 Tehri stage-II

1000

Tehri Bhagirathi
18 Asiganga-I

4.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
19 Asiganga-II

4.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
20 Suwarigad

2

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
21 Limchagad

3.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
22 Kaldigad (ADB)

9

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
23 Balganga-II

7

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi
24 Jalandhari Gad (P)

24

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
25 Kakora Gad (P)

12.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
26 Kot-Buda Kedar (P)

6

Tehri Bhagirathi
27 Siyangad (P)

11.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi
28 KotiJhala

0.2

 Tehri Bhagirathi Bal Ganga
29 Pinsward

0.05

 Tehri Bhagirathi Bal Ganga
30 Dunao

1.5

Pauri Ganga sub basin
31 Gaudi Chida

0.25

Pauri Ganga sub basin E Nayar
32 Rotan

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda E Ramganga/Rotan
33 Duktu

0.025

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Nati Yanki
34 Nagling

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Nagling Yanki
35 Sela

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Seal Gad
36 Kutty

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali
37 Napalchu

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Piear Yanki
38 Bundi

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Pulung Gad
39 Rongkong

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Kali/ Dangiang Yanki
40 Chiludgad

0.10

Uttarakashi Yamuna Supin/Chilude Gad
41 Khapu Gad

0.04

Uttarakashi Yamuna Supin/Khapu Gad

Total Under Construction               2378.115 MW

Note: Projects like Loharinag Pala, Pala Maneri, Bhairoghati and other projects along Bhagirathi upstream of Uttarkashi along the Eco Sensitive zone have been dropped from this list. Rest of the list is from the IMG report or from UJVNL website. P in the bracket indicates the project is in the private sector. ADB in the bracket indicates that the project is funded by the Asian Development Bank.

 

Proposed hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In following tables we have provided available list of proposed hydropower projects in the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Sharda and Ramganga basins in Uttarakhand. The list is likely to be longer than the list in these tables since full and upto-date information is not available. Also there are different agencies  involved in proposing, sanctioning and executing these projects and there is no single agency which can provide comprehensive picture of what is happening in the basin. However, even this available list is frightening.

 

List of proposed projects in Alaknanda Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Vishnugad Pipalkoti (WB)

444

Chamoli Alaknanda Construction to be started
2 Kotli Bhel (IB)

320

Pauri Alaknanda EAC ok/FAC u/consideration
3 Alaknanda (P Badrinath)

300

Chamoli Alaknanda EC & FC ok IA not signed
4 Devsari Dam

252

Chamoli Alaknanda EC & FC ok CEA concrnce?
5 Kotli Bhel II

530

Pauri Ganga sub basin EAC ok/FAC u/consideration
6 Bowla Nandprayag

300

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC TOR Approved
7 Tamak Lata

280

Chamoli Alaknanda EC ok, DPR under revision
8 Nand Prayag

100

Alaknanda DPR returned
9 Jelam Tamak

108

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC ok in June 2013
10 Maleri Jelam

55

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
11 Rishiganga I

70

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
12 Rishiganga II

35

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
13 Gohana Tal

60

Chamoli Alaknanda PFR prepared
14 Rambara

24

Rudraprayag Alaknanda IMG report
15 Birahi Ganga-II (P)

24

Chamoli Alaknanda DPR under revision
16 Melkhet (P)

56

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder Proposed
17 Urgam-II

3.8

Chamoli Alaknanda Under S&I
18 Bhyunder Ganga

243

Chamoli Alaknanda FC under consideration
19 Nand Pyayag Langasu

141

Chamoli Alaknanda EAC TOR Approved
20 Rambara

76

Rudraprayag Alaknanda EAC TOR u/consideration
21 Bagoli

90

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
22 Bangri

44

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
23 Madhya Maheshwar

350

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
24 Ming Nalgaon

114

Chamoli Alaknanda Pinder
25 Padli

66

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
26 Thapli

44

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
27 Utyasu-I

70

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
28 Utyasu-II

205

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
29 Utyasu-III

195

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
30 Utyasu-IV

125

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
31 Utyasu-V

80

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
32 Utyasu-VI

70

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
33 Rampur Tilwari

25

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
34 Chunni semi

24

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed Mandakini
35 Kosa

24

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
36 Vijay nagar- Rampur

20

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
37 Nandakini-III

19.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
38 Nayar

17

Pauri Ganga sub basin Nayar
39 Alaknanda I

15

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
40 Buara

14

Bageshwar Alaknanda Pindar
41 Duna Giri

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
42 Alaknanda II

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
43 Balkhila-II

10

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
44 Mandani Ganga

10

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini Mandani ganga
45 Rishiganga

8.25

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
46 Subhain

8

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
47 Son

7

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini son gad
48 Kalp ganga

6.25

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed kalpganga
49 Lustar

6

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini Lustar
50 Madhya maheshwar -II

6

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Mandakini madmaheshwar
51 Hom 6

6

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
52 Amrit ganga

6

Chamoli Alaknanda Amrit ganga balsuti gadera
53 Gaddi

5.25

Chamoli Alaknanda dhauliganga Gaddi Gadera
54 Deval

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
55 Ghrit Ganga

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
56 Jumma

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
57 Ringi

5.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Dhauliganga
58 Tamak

5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
59 Balkhila-I

5.5

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed Balkhila
60 Basti -I

4

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
61 Basti -II

4

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
62 Laxmanganga

4

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
63 Nil ganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
64 Santodhar – I

2

Pauri Ganga sub basin W Nayar
65 Santodhar – II

2

Pauri Ganga sub basin W Nayar
66 Birahiganga

4.8

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
67 Byaligaon

2.25

Pauri Ganga sub basin E Nayar
68 Ghirit Ganga

1.3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
69 Jummagad

1.2

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
70 Kailganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
71 Kakra

1

Rudraprayag Alaknanda Proposed
72 Kali Ganga

3

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
73 Garud Ganga

0.6

Chamoli Alaknanda Proposed
74 Gansali Bampa

0.05

Chamoli  Alaknanda Dhauliganga/Ganesh Ganga
Alaknanda Total

5199.25

     

 

List of proposed projects in Bhagirathi Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Kotli Bhel (IA)

195

Pauri Bhagirathi EC/FAC stage 1
2 Jhalakoti (P)

12.5

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed dharamganga
3 Bhilangana II A

24

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
4 Karmali

140

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi IMG, on Eco-sensitive zone?
5 Jadhganga

50

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi IMG: PFR prepared
6 Bhilangana IIB

24

Tehri Bhagirathi Under S&I
7 Bhilangana IIC

24

Tehri Bhagirathi Under S&I
8 Pilangad-II

4

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
9 Bhela Tipri

100

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
10 Nelong

190

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
11 Asiganga-III

9

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
12 Gangani (P)

8

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
13 Balganga-I

5

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed
14 Khirao ganga

4

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
15 Lagrasu (P)

3

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed
16 Songad

3

Uttarkashi Bhagirathi Proposed
17 Jalandhari Gad

3

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
18 Jalkurgad I

2

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed jalkur gad
19 Rataldhara

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkur Gad
20 Lamb Gaon

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkur gad
21 Dhatirmouli

0.4

Tehri Garhwal Bhagirathi Proposed Jalkurgad
22 Gangi-Richa

0.2

Tehri Tehri Bhagirathi Bhilangana/ Re Gad
Bhagirathi Total

801.9

     

 

List of proposed projects in W Ramganga Basin

 

Golden Mahseer in Ramganga

Golden Mahseer in Ramganga

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Babas Dam

88

Almora Ramganga Proposed
2 Khati

63

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
3 Lumi

54

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
4 Kuwargarh

45

Bagehwar Ramganga Proposed
5 Bawas Gaon

34

Nainital Ramganga Proposed
6 Jamrani Dam

30

  Ramganga Proposed
7 Khutani

18

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
8 Sarju Stage-II (P)

15

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
9 Sarju Stage-III (P)

10.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
10 Sheraghat

10

Almora Ramganga Kho
11 Baura

14

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
12 Sarju Stage-I (P)

7.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
13 Balighat

5.5

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed
14 MehalChaura-I

4

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
15 MehalChaura-II

3

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
16 Agarchatti

2

Pithoragarh Ramganga Proposed
17 Kho I

2

Pauri Ramganga Kho
18 Kho II

2

Pauri Ramganga Proposed
19 Harsila

0.7

Bageshwar Ramganga Proposed harsila gad
20 Kalsa

0.3

Nainital Ramganga Proposed
Ramganga Total

408.5

     

 

List of proposed projects in Sharda Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Mapang Bogudhiyar (P)

200

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
2 Bogudhiyar Sarkaribhyol (P)

170

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
3 Sarkaribhyol Rupsiabagar

210

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC TOR Approved
4 Rupsiabagar Khasiabara

260

Pithoragarh Sharda EAC Ok / FAC Rejected
5 Bokang Baling

330

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed THDC
6 Chungar Chal

240

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
7 East Ram Ganga Dam

30

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
8 Khartoli Lumti Talli

55

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
9 Budhi

192

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
10 Garba Tawaghat

610

Pithoragarh Sharda-Mahakali Proposed NHPC
11 Garbyang

131

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
12 Lakhanpur

160

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
13 Malipa

138

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
14 Pancheshwar

6000

Pithoragarh Sharda Indo Nepal Project
15 Purnagiri Dam

1000

Champawat Sharda Indo Nepal Project
16 Tawaghat – Tapovan

105

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
17 Taopvan Kalika

160

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
18 Tapovan Chunar

485

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
19 Sela Urthing

230

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
20 Urthing Sobla (P)

340

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
21 Sobla Jhimjingao

145

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
22 Kalika – Baluwakot

120

Pithoragarh Sharda Mahakali
23 Kalika Dantu

230

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
24 Dhauliganga Intermediate

200

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
25 Gauriganga III A & B

140

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed NHPC
26 Madkini (P)

39

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
27 Burthing – Purdam

5

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed Jakula
28 Jimbagad

7.7

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
29 Suringad-II

5

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
30 Tanga (P)

5

Pithoraharh Sharda Proposed
31 Tankul

12

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
32 Motighat (P)

5

Pithoraharh Sharda Proposed
33 Painagad

9

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed
34 PhuliBagar- Kwiti

4

Pithoragarh Sharda Proposed Jakula
35 Kumeria- Garjia (Bawas)

12.5

Nainital Sharda Kosi
36 Balgad

8

Pithoragarh Sharda E Ramganga
37 Kuti SHP

6

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Kuti yangti
38 Palang SHP

6.5

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Plang gad
39 Najyang SHP

5.5

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Najyang gad
40 Simkhola SHP

8.75

 Pithoragarh Sharda Maha Kali/ Simkhola gad
41 Birthi

1

Pithoragarh Sharda Balchinn
42 Baram

1

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Baram Gad
43 Unchiya

0.05

Pithoragarh Sharda Dhauli Ganga/ Khari Gad
44 Murtoli

0.02

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Martoligad
45 Burphu

0.03

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Martoligad
46 Ralam

0.03

Pithoragarh Sharda Goriganga/ Ralangad
47 Ram Gad-II

0.1

Nainital Sharda Kosi/ Ramgad
48 Watcm

0.1

Pithoragarh Sharda Ramgad E/ Watchraila

Total Sharda Basin

12022.28

     

 

List of proposed projects in Yamuna Basin

 

SN Project Ins Cap (MW) Dist Sub-Basin Status
1 Lakhwar

300

Dehradun Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
2 Vyasi

120

Dehradun Yamuna EAC Recommended
3 Arakot Tuni

81

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
4 Tuni Plasu

66

Dehradun Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
5 Mori-Hanol (P)

63

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
6 Naitwar Mori (Dewari Mori)

60

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC Recommended
7 Hanol Tuni (P)

60

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC Recommended
8 Jakhol Sankri

45

Uttarkashi Yamuna EAC TOR Approved
9 Kishau

600

Dehradun Yamuna Proposed
10 Chammi Naingaon

540

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
11 Chatra Dam

300

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
12 Taluka Sankri

140

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
13 Taluka Dam

112

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
14 Sankri Mori

78

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
15 Barkot Kuwa

42

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
16 Hanuman Chatti Sianachatti

33

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
17 Barnigad Naingaon

30

Uttarakashi Yamuna Proposed
18 Rupin Stage V (P)

24

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
19 Damta – Naingaon

20

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
20 Tons

14.4

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
21 Supin

11.2

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
22 Rupin Stage IV (P)

10

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
23 Rupin Stage III (P)

8

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
24 Barnigad

6.5

Uttarakashi Bhagirathi Proposed
25 Pabar

5.2

Dehradun Yamuna Proposed
26 Badyar (P)

3

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed
27 Lagrasu

3

Tehri Yamuna Proposed
28 Rayat (P)

3

Tehri Yamuna Proposed
29 Ringali

1

Tehri Garhwal Yamuna Proposed Aglar Ringaligad
30 Purkul

1

 Dehradun Yamuna Tons
31 Paligad

0.3

Uttarkashi Yamuna Proposed Paligad
32 Rikhani Gad

0.05

Uttarkashi Yamuna Rikhanigad
33 Bijapur

0.2

 Dehradun Yamuna Tons
Yamuna Total 2780.85 MW
Grand Total 21212.78 MW

Note: EAC: Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF; FAC: Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF; EC: Environment Clearance: FC: Forest Clearance; TOR: Terms of Reference (of EIA); for Alaknanda, the first 17 projects are listed as given in IMG report and for Bhagirathi first 8 projects are as listed in IMG report. However, many of these projects have been recommended to be dropped by the WII (Wildlife Institute of India) report. Also, IMG and other have said that no further projects should be taken up in Bhagirathi and Alaknanda basins. The projects listed above in the Bhagirathi basin beyond serial number 8 and those in Alaknanda basin beyond 17 would, in any case, not be taken up.

In the table below we have provided and overview of proposed hydropower projects in Uttarakhand based on the information from above five tables.

Overview of Proposed Hydropower Projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro Hydro projects (below 1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

29

4823

43

375.6

2

0.65

74

5199.25

Bhagirathi

5

675

13

125.5

4

1.4

22

801.9

Ramganga

6

314

12

93.5

2

1

20

408.5

Sharda

26

11920

16

101.95

6

0.33

48

12022.28

Yamuna

17

2670

13

110.3

3

0.55

33

2780.85

TOTAL

83

20402

97

806.85

17

3.93

197

21212.78

 

Overview of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand In the table below we have put together the number and capacities of existing, under construction and proposed hydropower projects in various basins of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand government has plans to have total of 337 hydropower projects with total capacity of 27191.89 MW. Largest number (124) of such projects are in Alaknanda basin, the largest capacity is proposed to be in Sharda basin at 12450.905 MW.

In the table below we have given basin wise figures of total large, small and mini-micro hydropower proejcts (including existing, under construction and proposed) projects in Uttarakhand. According to Union Ministry of New and  Renewable energy, total potential of small hydro  in Uttarakhand is 1707.87 MW from 448 small hydro projects. If we take that into account the figures in the following tabes would change (go up) accordingly.

Basin wise total capacities for large, small and mini HEPs in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Large Hydro projects (above 25 MW) Small Hydro projects (1-25 MW) Mini-micro hydro projects (<1 MW) Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

35

6419

61

524.65

26

3.67

122

6947.32

Bhagirathi

10

3469

28

266.7

10

2.05

48

3737.75

Ganga Sub basin

1

144

3

31.2

2

0.35

6

175.55

Ramganga

7

512

14

105.3

11

2.05

32

619.35

Sharda

29

12335.6

20

109.65

35

5.155

84

12450.405

Yamuna

22

3144.75

14

113.3

8

1.135

44

3259.185

TOTAL

104

26024.35

140

1150.8

92

14.41

336

27189.56

In the table below we have given basin wise figures of existing, under construction and proposed hydropower projects of all sizes in Uttarakhand.

Overview of all Hydropower projects in Uttarakhand

 

Basin Existing Hydro projects Under construction projects Proposed hydropower projects Total Hydro projects
No of projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW No of Projects Capacity, MW
Alaknanda

32

456.97

16

1291.1

74

5199.25

122

6947.32

Bhagirathi

13

1851.5

13

1084.75

22

801.9

48

3737.75

Ganga Sub basin

4

173.8

2

1.75

6

175.55

Ramganga

12

210.8

20

408.5

32

619.35

Sharda

28

427.75

8

0.375

48

12022.28

84

12450.405

Yamuna

9

478.195

2

0.14

33

2780.85

44

3259.185

TOTAL

98

3598.665

41

2378.115

197

21212.78

336

27189.56

Basin Maps Maps of Hydroelectric Projects in various sub basins of Uttarakhand are available at the following links. Please note that the maps are based on information available when the maps were created in 2011:

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects_in_Ganga_Basin.pdf

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Bhagirathi%20150411.jpg

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Alaknanda%20150411.jpg

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Mandakini150411.jpg

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Goriganga150411.jpg

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Major_Hydro_Projects_in_Yamuna_Basin.pdf

 

How do the hydropower projects increase the scale of disaster?

This is a question that a lot of journalists and TV anchors have been asking me since the Uttarakhand disaster. Here is a quick response:

Þ     Almost all hydropower projects of Uttarakhand involve deforestation. Deforestation directly increases the potential of erosion, landslides and floods since water now just runs off to the rivers. Moreover the compensatory afforestation and catchment area treatment, even when done, usually involves planting of commercially important variety of trees like pine and teak and not broad leaf tress like oaks which not only adds humus in the soil, but also allows rich under growth. Pine does not allow this to happen. This change in character of forests is something Gandhiji’s disciple Mira Behen has been warning since independence, but there is little impact of this on the forest department.

Þ     In fact largest proportion of deforestation in Uttarakhand has happened basically for hydropower projects.

Þ     All run of the river projects involve building of a dam, diversion structure, desilting mechanism, tunnels which could have length of 5 to 30 km and width sufficient to carry three trains side by side, as also roads, townships, mining, among other components. All of these components increase the disaster potential of the area in one or the other way. Cumulative impacts of all the components of any one project and all projects together  in a given basin is likely to be larger than the addition of the impacts of individual projects in many cases.

Þ     Massive blasting of massive proportions is involved in construction of all these components, which adds to landslide risks. In fact Uttarakhand’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in their report of Oct 2012 after the Okhimath disaster of Sept 2012 recommended that no blasting should be allowed for any development activity anywhere in Uttarakhand, but Uttarakhand government did nothing about this recommendation.

Þ     The massive tunneling by itself weakens the young and fragile Himalayan mountains, increasing the disaster potential.

Þ     Each of the hydropower project generates immense amount of muck in tunneling, blasting and other activities. A large hydropower project could typically generate millions of cubic meters of muck. The large projects are supposed to have muck disposal plan, with land acquired for muck disposal, transportation of muck to the designated sites above the High Flood levels, creation of safety walls and stabilization process. But all this involves costs. The project developers and their contractors find it easier to dump this muck straight into the nearby rivers. In the current floods, this illegally dumped muck created massive disaster in downstream areas in case of 330 MW Srinagar HEP, the 76 MW Phata Byung HEP and the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP. When the flooded rivers carry this muck, boulders and other debris, has much greater erosion capacity and also leaves behind massive heaps of this muck in the flooded area. In Srinagar town about 100 houses are buried in 10-30 feet depth of muck. Such debris laden rivers also create massive landslides along the banks.

Muck Disposal directly into the Alaknanda river by Srinagar Project Photo: Matu janSangathan

Muck Disposal directly into the Alaknanda river by Srinagar Project Photo: Matu janSangathan

Þ     Wrong operation of hydropower projects can also create greater disasters in the downstream areas. For example the operators of 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP on Alaknanda river did not open the gates when the river was flooded on June 16-17, possibly to maximize power generation. However, this lead to accumulation of massive quantities of boulders (for photos of dam filled with such boulders see: http://matuganga.blogspot.in/) behind the dam, so much so that that there was no space for water to flow. The river then bypassed the dam and started flowing by the side of the dam, creating a new path for its flow. This created a sudden flashflood in the downstream area, creating a new disaster there.

Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan

Boulders devouring the Vishnuprayag Project. 26th June 2013 Photo: Matu jan Sangathan

Þ     The incomplete, broken and ill designed protection wall of the Maneri Bhali projects in Uttarkashi lead to erosion and landslides in the downstream areas.

 

DAMAGED HYDRO PROJECTS A large number of hydropower projects are likely to have suffered damage due to the flood disaster in Uttarakhand. Some of the projects that have suffered damage include:

  • According to the update from http://www.energylineindia.com/on June 27, 2013, the 520 MW under construction Tapovan Vishnugad HEP has suffered damaged by rains on June 16, 2013: “While construction of diversion tunnel was completed in April this year, the same was washed away due to heavy rains on June 16. Diversion dyke has washed away and damages have been observed in chormi adit approach road. In August last year, the flash floods had caused serious damages in the coffer dam of the project.”
  • 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP of JP Associates has suffered serious, but as yet unassessed damage(http://www.indianexpress.com/news/jaiprakash-power-tanks-15–as-plant-shuts-down-in-uttarakhand/1133083/). As per MATU PR (http://matuganga.blogspot.in/), the project has also been cause of damage in Lambagad village, which was also flahsed on front page of TOI on June 25, 2013, though without mentioning the project. The blog also provides the before and after pictures of the upstream and downstream of the project.
  • 76 MW Phata Byung HEP of Lanco in Mandakini Valley in Uttarakhand
  • 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP of L&T in Mandakini Valley in Uttarakhand NDTV India reported that the water level of the river has gone up due to the silt dumped by dams. This is likely to be due to the Phata Byung and Singholi Bhatwari HEPs.
  • Kali Ganga I, Kali Ganga II and Madhyamaheshwar HEP, all in Mandakini Valley, all of UJVNL, all hit by mudslides (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/uttarakhands-r500-crore-request-to-prevent-landslides-pending-since-2009/1132351/)
  • Assiganga projects on Assiganga river in Bhagirathi basin in Uttarakhand
  • 5 MW Motighat I HEP in Goriganga basin in Pithoragarh (Himalprakriti report)
  • 280 Dhauliganga Project of NHPC in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand (reports said the power house was submerged, but is now working, part of the township was submerged.)
  • The Himalaya Hydro (HH) Tanga Phase I for 5 MW, located along the Paina gad in Goriganga basin, is badly damaged. The dam has got smashed by a deluge of huge boulders. One sluice gate is torn through. The metal filter-gates are all choked with boulder debris, and the remnant concrete and gate pulleys of the dam are now stranded mid-river, with both banks eroded and the river now running along the true-left bank. (Himalprakriti report)
  • The UREDA 500 KW Motigad microhydel on Moti gadh (a tributary of Paina gadh) at Bindi (Dani Bagad) is also badly damaged. The water has broken through the wall, cut under the foundation, inundated the turbines with water and debris, and smashed the housing for the electrical distribution system. (Himalprakriti report)
  • The 5.5′ diameter head race waterpipes taking water to the HH Phase II, located on the Gori opposite Seraghat, has also been damaged. The generator and housing for the HH Ph II has collapsed into the river. All this damage is said to have happened on the evening of 17th June. People working as non-skilled labour have been sent home for a few months, but welding work on the new pipes feeding the powerhouse is still underway! (Himalprakriti report)

It has been now reported in Business Standard (http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/gvk-l-t-hydel-projects-hit-by-floods-113062300394_1.html) that the 330 MW Srinagar project, a cause for downstream destruction, has itself suffered massive damages on June 17, 2013, with breach of its protective embankment. The report also mentions the damage to the L&T’s Singoli Bhatwari HEP on Mandakini river.

Down to Earth (http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/hydropower-projects-suffer-severe-damage) has given some details of damage to some of the hydropower projects, quoting UJVNL sources. It says: 19 small hydropower projects have been completely destroyed, while others have been damaged by the raging waters (see table below)

Project Location Capacity Estimated Loss
Dhauli Ganga Pithoragarh  280 MW Rs 30 crore (project completely submerged)
Kaliganga I Rudraprayag 4 MW Rs 18-19 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Kaliganga II Rudraprayag 6 MW Rs 16 crore (power house and 4 houses washed away)
Sobla Pithoragarh 8 MW Rs 14 crore (completely washed away)
Kanchauti Pithoragarh 2 MW Rs 12 crore (totally washed away)
Chirkila Pithoragarh 1.5 MW Rs 20 crore (part of the project washed away)
Maneri Bhali I&II Uttarkashi 304+90 MW Rs 2 crore + Rs 5 crore (walls collapsed, silt in barrages)

In addition, a large  number of projects had to stop generation temporarily due to high silt content, including Maneri Bhali I and II, Tanakpur, Dhauli Ganga, Kali Ganga I, some of the Yamuna basin projects among others.

 

Conclusion This article was intended to give an overview of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. However, we should add that there are many glaring issues related to these hydropower projects, some of the key issues include:

  • Most of these projects are out of the environmental governance. Projects below 25 MW do not require EIA, Social Impact Assessment, public consultation, environmental clearance, environmental management plan or monitoring. This is clearly wrong as all projects have environmental impacts, and they are particularly serious in Himalayan region with multiple vulnerabilities. We have for years demanding that all projects above 1 MW should need environment clearance, EIA and so on.
  • Even for projects above 25 MW we do not have any credible environmental or social impact assessment. Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is on record having accepted that most EIAs are dishonest cut and paste jobs. We do not have any credible process in place to ensure that EIAs are proper and those that are not are rejected and consultants are black listed. Jairam Ramesh did put in place a process of registration of EIA consultants under the Quality Council of India, but that is completely non transparent, unaccountable and ineffective process. It is amazing that reputed NGOs like the Centre for Science and Environment are on board of this process, but they have completely failed to achieve any change and have chosen to remain quiet.
  • The Environment clearances of the River Valley Projects (which includes hydro projects and dams) is considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects appointed by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. However, the ministry chooses members of the EAC such that they rarely object to any project. As per SANDRP analysis in six years ending in Dec 2012, the EAC had not said NO to any project for environment clearance. Its appraisal of projects, EIAs, public consultation process and its own minutes were found to be inconsistent, unscientific and loaded in favour of the project developers.
  • Our environment compliance system is non-existing. The projects are supposed to implement the environment management plan pari passu with the project work, they are supposed to follow the conditions of environment clearance, follow the environmental norms, but who is there to ensure this actually happens? The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests which is supposed to ensure this compliance has no capacity the officials tell us. The officials do not have time to even check if six monthly compliance reports are being submitted or make any surprise visits. However they do not even seem to have will, since we have seen no change in this situation for decades. Nor do they seem to have willingness, since even when NGOs present photographic and video and other evidence of violations they refuse to take action.
  • One way to achieve compliance is to have a project monitoring committee for each project where over 50% of the members are from local communities and other independent persons and such committees ok must be required each stage for the project to go ahead. We have been suggesting this for long, but the MoEF has shown no willingness to follow this.
  • More pertinently, none of the assessment reports look at the impact on the disaster potential of the area. Each of these projects have significant impact on the disaster potential of the area, particularly in the context of a vulnerable state like Uttarakhand. This should be a must for all such projects.
  • Similarly the projects must also be assessed in the context of climate change, again in vulnerable area like the Himalayas. How the project will impact the local climate, how it will have impact on adoption capacity of the local communities and also how the project itself will be impacted in changing climate. This again we have been writing to the MoEF numerous times, but without any success so far.
  • Most significantly, the only impact assessments that we have is for specific projects of over 25 MW capacity. However, we have no credible cumulative impact assessment for any of the river basins of Uttarakhand, which also takes into account carrying capacity of the river basins and all the interventions that are happening in the basins. As our critique of so called cumulative impact assessment of Bhagirathi-Alaknanda basins done by AHEC of IIT Roorkee shows (see:  http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf), it was not much of a cumulative impact assessment. WII (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun) report was somewhat better within the mandate given to it (assessment of hydro projects on aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity), but the most important recommendation of the WII report that at least 24 projects should be dropped has not been accepted by the MoEF, so what is the use of the cumulative impact assessment in such a situation?

Unless we address all of the above issues in a credible way, there is little wisdom in going ahead with more hydropower projects in Uttarakhand. They will invite greater disasters. Uttarakhand has many other options for development.

  • Firstly people of  Uttarakhand should get first right over all the power that is getting generated within Uttarakhand.
  • Secondly, this is not a plea for no projects, but to address the crucial issues without addressing which we are in no situation to even know the impacts or address the issues.
  • Thirdly, Uttarakhand needs to take up power generation options that do not accentuate the disaster potential of the area. Such options include micro hydro, hydro kinetics, and solar and biomass based power in addition to better utilization of existing infrastructure.

Going ahead with more hydropower projects in current situation would be invitation to greater disasters. In fact, the Uttarakhand government should not allow even the damaged and under construction hydropower projects until al the conditions mentioned above are satisfied.

Some of the hydropower projects that have surely seem to have added to the disaster proportions of current Uttarakhand flood disaster include the 400 MW Vishnuprayag HEP, the 280 MW Dhauliganga HEP, the 330 MW Shrinagar HEP, the 304 and 90 MW Maneribhali II and I HEPs, the 99 MW Singoli Bhatwari HEP and the 76 MW Phata Byung HEP, the last two on Mandakini river.

In response to my question on a programme on Headlinestoday channel anchored by Rahul Kanwal on July 8, 2013 (in presence of panel that also included Dr Vandana Shiva and Vimlendu Jha), the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Shri Vijay Bahuguna agreed that he will institute an enquiry into the damage due to these hydropower projects and hold them accountable for such damage.

Let us see how soon and how independent and credible enquiry he institutes.

Himanshu Thakkar

 South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)                                                        July 2013

References:

1. http://envfor.nic.in

2. http://www.uttarakhandjalvidyut.com/eoi/list_of_projects_self.pdf and many other UJVNL documents.

3. http://www.ahec.org.in/shp%20sites/uttarakhand/Hydropower%20stations%20in%20operation%20and%20under%20construction%20in%20uttarakhand.pdf

4. http://cleanhydropower.blogspot.in/2009/07/brief-description-of-small-hydro-power.html

5. http://ureda.uk.gov.in/pages/show/130-micro-hydro-programme and other sites of UREDA.

6. http://sandrp.in/env_governance/TOR_and_EC_Clearance_status_all_India_Overview_Feb2013.pdf

7. http://sandrp.in/IMG_report_on_Ganga_has_Pro_Hydro_Bias_June2013.pdf

8. http://www.sandrp.in/hydropower/Pathetic_Cumulative_Impact_Assessment_of_Ganga_Hydro_projects.pdf

9. 2012-13 Annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy: http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/annual-report/2012-2013/EN/chapter3.html

SANDRP blogs on Uttarakhand disaster :

1. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/uttarakhand-deluge-how-human-actions-and-neglect-converted-a-natural-phenomenon-into-a-massive-disaster/

2. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/uttarakhand-floods-disaster-lessons-for-himalayan-states/

3. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/uttarakhand-and-climate-change-how-long-can-we-ignore-this-in-himalayas/

4. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/central-water-commissions-flood-forecasting-pathetic-performance-in-uttarkhand-disaster/

5. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/uttarakhand-floods-truth-about-thdc-and-central-water-commissions-claims-about-tehri/

6. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/lessons-from-uttarakhand-disaster-for-selection-of-river-valley-projects-expert-committee/

7. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/climate-justice-statement-on-the-uttarakhand-catastrophe/

Can an unjustified dam submerging 1000 ha. be encouraged only because its claimed to be a drinking water project?

Submission to the Forest Advisory Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests urging them not to grant Forest Clearance to Kikvi Drinking water supply Dam coming up in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik,  in the absence of relevant studies and justifications. The project  will submerge  nearly 1000 heactres of agricultural and forest land in Western Ghats, and there is no justification provided that Nashik needs a new source. The city already takes water from 4 dams, is building a fifth weir and is allegedly supplying more drinking water to help  India Bulls Thermal Power Project.

 

To,

Chairperson and members,

Forest Advisory Committee

Ministry of Environment and Forests

Delhi

 Subject: Concerns about Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Project, Brahmanwade, Nashik

 Respected Chairperson and Members,

We see from the agenda uploaded on MoEF Website that the FAC will be considering proposal of Kikvi Drinking Water Supply Dam in BrahmanwadeVillage in Nashik, Maharashtra diverting 172.46 hectares of Forest in its upcoming meeting on 11th and 12th July 2013. The entire submergence of the project is a massive 933.98 hectares in the Northern Western Ghats. Partners from SANDRP visited the site on the 7th July 2013, studied the ecology and talked with the local farmers to be affected by the project. Based on the visit and analysis of Site Inspection report (SIR), FormIA and Factsheet uploaded on MoEF Website, we would like to highlight some strong concerns about this proposal:

  1. No evidence that Nashik needs a new source of drinking water: The Site Inspection Report of the Additional Principal Chief Secretary of Forest Department in June 2013 simply says “The project should be encouraged as it is a drinking water project”.

This is a strange statement coming from Forest Department, entrusted with protecting the dwindling forests of the country. There has been no supporting evidence provided by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone that Nashik actually needs this project for its drinking water supply needs.

In fact, there is no information provided in the Site Inspection Report, FormIA or the Fact sheet justifying the need for this project.

There is no estimation of Nashik’s current water demand, existing drinking water sources, future water demand, options assessment, demand management explored, etc.

In the absence of any such studies, how can Forest Department simply “encourage” a project to divert 172.47 hectares of forest (it will also submerge 776.52 hectares of agricultural land) only because it is a drinking water supply project? This is unacceptable and FAC should ask all the concerned officials to apply their mind before accepting to such proposals, including looking at the justifiability of the proposal and assessment that given project is the best option. This is important for all projects, but particularly so for a project that does even have environmental and social impact assessment.

2. Nashik has a number of existing drinking water supply projects There are already three dams in the upstream of Nashik city on the river Godavari and its tributaries. Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation for drinking water in each of these dams. These include the Gangapur Dam, Kashyapi Dam and Gautami Dam. Kashyapi and Gautami Dams were built to supplement Gangapur Dams water storage because it was silting up[1]. Kikvi project is also being pushed stating the same reason that Gangapur dam is silting up.

In addition, Nashik Municipal Corporation has a reservation of 350 million cubic feet on the Darna Dam, 28 kms downstream Nashik.

Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) is also building one more weir on DarnaRiver with a capacity of 144 million cubic feet. [2] There is no study to show that Nashik has been using all these available resources efficiently and that it is taking necessary steps to reduce the siltation of the Gangapur dam effectively and also considering the desilting of the reservoir.

It is clear that NMC already has many sources to supply drinking water. With efficient water supply, demand management, effective use of rainwater harvesting and gray water recycling (which have been compulsory since 2009, but which are yet not implemented effectively) the water demand of NMC may come down. These options should be explored first rather than a new dam project that is ecological, economically and socially costly. Forest Clearance to such projects should not be given in the absence of supportive studies.

3. The City Development Plan prepared by Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) under the JNNURM does not consider a new drinking water source in its Phase I work till 2016. Why then is there a hurry to divert forests and submerge agricultural lands? (http://nashikcorporation.gov.in/pagedetail.aspx?id=22&mid=69). Even for the phase beyond 2016, unless there is credible study that shows that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently and has exhausted all available options, there should not be any consideration for the current project.

4. No exploration of desilting Gangapur Dam While the Form IA and Factsheet claim that the project is needed as capacity of Gangapur Dam is decreasing due to siltation, it logically follows that the first attempt should be to arrest siltation and desilting of the reservoir. Gangapur Dam also provides irrigation water. Hence, desilting should be explored seriously. During the current 2012-13 drought, Government had undertaken desilting of some reservoirs in Maharashtra. In fact, the Chief Minister himself said that a capacity of 8 TMC has been added in Pune division due to desilting projects.[3] Thus, desilting should be carried out even before discussing new costly sources.

5. Wrong representation in Form IA FormIA states that there is no dependence on forests of the communities and the project does not involve any rehabilitation. This is incorrect.

The entire project involves submergence of 933.98 hectares of land, with 761.52 hectares of agricultural land. This also includes farm shelters and temporary houses of farmers. Farmers and tribals in this region depend heavily on the forests for a number of produce. Hence, the claim in FormIA that there is no dependence on forests is incorrect and should not be accepted.

In fact, there is a strong opposition to the project by villagers of nine villages which are losing agricultural lands to this project.

6. Fact sheet claims lands under submergence and not irrigated: As our partners witnesses this is a misleading statement. Large proportion of land under submergence is irrigated by groundwater through private shallow wells sunk by farmers. This irrigated area will also be submerged, along with the wells.

7. Over developed region The SIR, Form I and Fact sheet mention that there is no alternative alignment of Kikvi project possible due to existing projects in the upstream and downstream. This gives an idea of the overdeveloped region in terms of projects. One more project in this area will add to the cumulative impacts of the existing projects on ecology as well as sociology, but there is no cumulative impact assessment available.

8. Violation of Forest Rights Act: While it is clearly stated by the State Government in the Fact Sheet that: “10. The project authority has partially fulfilled the compliance under the Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Right) Act, 2006.  The compliance is not in proper format.” (emphasis added), it is surprising to see that the Form IA mentions that the project authority has fulfilled the compliance under Forest Rights Act 2006!

Thus, Forest Clearance should not be recommended unless the status of FRA compliance is known clearly.

9. Restoration of Forests needed, not further diversion The SIR by the Additional PCCF, Western Zone, notes that submergence of 1960 trees “ will have no ill effect on the area, in fact it will have positive impact due to water body”. This is a shocking statement to be coming from the Forest Department. How can loss of 1960 trees have no ill effect? As for the positive impact due to water bodies, this is a baseless claim for a region that has many water bodies and receives 2600-3000 mm rainfall annually.

The further justification given to divert forests is that the forest is pruned and lopped with low density. When partners of SANDRP visited the site on the 7th of July 2013, they found that the region is poorly managed by the Forest Department, with no security. This has encouraged encroachment and lopping. Instead of addressing these problems and restoring the forests under their control, Forest Department is using this as a justification to further divert forests. This argument is not acceptable.

10. No Environment Impact Assessment, Public Hearing or Environmental Clearance process: Due to an unsound and arbitrary exclusion in the EIA Notification 2006, drinking water supply projects are excluded from the ambit of EIA, Public hearing, Environmental Clearance and hence, Environment Management Plan and environment monitoring. The current project will submerge a total of 933.98 hectares of land without these checks and balances and hence, the FAC needs to consider this project very seriously. Not only will this affect the forest, it will also affect the agrarian economy of the region. FAC should first demand a project specific EIA, SIA and also cumulative impact assessment before even considering this project.

11. No mention of environmental flows: The proposed project will be entirely diverting the water of River Kikvi for drinking water use through Gangapur Dam in Nashik. Such a complete diversion of river has a profound ecological and social impact on the downstream. The issue is serious here as this region forms part of the Western Ghats. Hence, there has to be a study of the environmental flows that should be released from the project in the downstream for social and ecological needs.

As the project will not be applying for an Environmental Clearance, FAC needs to pay serious attention to these aspects.

We hope that the Forest Advisory Committee considers this project seriously and not simply as a drinking water supply project. Nashik Municipal Corporation has been reported to be supplying more drinking water to Nashik city than its need. This is allegedly to benefit the India Bulls Thermal Power plant which is based on the treated sewage water from Nashik Municipal Corporation.[4]

In this scenario, FAC should not recommend a forest clearance to this project, with no justification. The points becoming more pertinent considering that this is a project which has a potential to drown nearly 1000 hectares land in the Northern Western Ghats without any project specific EIA, SIA or cumulative impact assessment without any options assessment or study to show that Nashik is using its current resources efficiently.

Looking forward to a point-wise response to the issues raised above.

Thanking You,

Yours sincerely,

Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, Pune

Jui Pethe, Independent Botanist and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik

Amit Tillu , Independent Wildlife Researcher and Agriculturist, Trimbak, Nashik

Serious question marks over the SIT under Dr. Chitale

Pradeep Purandare, Retd. Associate Professor, Water and Land Management Institute, Aurangabad writes about the basic problems and limitations of the Special Investigation Team, under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Madhav Chitale, constituted by the Govenrment of Maharashtra to investigate the unprecedented Irrigation Scam in Maharashtra

Maharashtra’s infamous irrigation scam highlighted the agonizing state of Maharashtra’s water sector exposing the establishment, the government, the engineers and the numerous “Vikas-purush” who pulled irrigation projects (and not water!) for their constituencies. Drought that followed the scam highlighted the far reaching impacts of playing irresponsibly with water and rivers. Even the fraudulent White Paper on Irrigation Projects could not quell the huge discontent generated by the scam. Very reluctantly, state government constituted “Special Investigation Team” (SIT) on 31st December 2012, on the last day of such a commitment. The team was supposed to submit its report to the government within 6 months, i.e. till 30th June 2013. The committee has not submitted its report yet. Instead, it has asked for an extension of 6 months to the government which has been granted with alacrity. Thus, the Chitale committee has now become a “twelve monthly” committee, like the sugarcane which completes its cycle in 12 months! But looking at the constitution and the real motive behind forming this committee, it will not be surprising if this committee follows the eighteen month cycle like sugarcane in the state! In fact, looking at the remuneration and allowances given to the committee, it will not be a surprise if it even becomes perennial!

According to a leading Marathi Daily dealing with issues related to agriculture, (11th May2013), Dr. Chitale receives a remuneration of Rs. 1.50 Lakhs per month as the chair of the committee, while other members receive Rs. 1.25 lakh per month, with travel and related allowances being paid separately. Considering these details, I remember a washing powder ad, “Daag acche hai!!” In this context, it will be important to know exactly when officials like Dr. Chitale and Mr. Ranade retired, how many committees they worked on and how much of remuneration did they earn meanwhile. This information must also be made public.

Significantly, it cannot be forgotten that “Sinchan Sahayog,” [SS] an organization closely related with Chitale has been receiving tremendous government patronage since its conception. There has been a separate government resolution issued to facilitate government officers attending events organized by SS. Its office is in government premises at Aurangabad. All correspondences for SS take place through Godavari Khore’s e-mail id. Many government officers are office holders and/ or active members in SS. The questions like- whether government facilities are being used for programs organized by SS, whether the officers guilty of corruption/ scams are/ were part of SS, and whether SS receives government grants – are unanswered despite me raising them in a  reputed newspaper (27th March 2013).

As an illustrious Engineer, Dr. Chitale is not known to have taken any position against corruption/ scandals and misuse of post/ power. In fact, other officers of Water Resource Department – like Shri. Mendhegiri, Shri.Kulkarni, Shri.Vandere, Shri.Upase etc. – who do not get attention like Chitale but are equally capable, have already highlighted engineering defects, gross corruption and serious issues about several projects through their reports. Keeping this in the context, what more can the SIT achieve? The only implicit mandate of the team seems to be to buy time and eventually justify the white paper. Dr. Chitale’s response, “Investigating any allegations does not fall under the mandate of the SIT” in response to a demand by opposition leader, Mr. Tawde, speaks volumes about the committee.

Immense corruption, intentional irregularities, and misuse of power have been the hallmarks of the irrigation scam. Most allegations are quite serious and do not only limit themselves to engineering related issues. Transparency, public participation and accountability are totally missing in Maharashtra’s water resource development and management policies. Inclusiveness and participation have been consciously sidelined. There has been too much of engineering arrogance in such policies. Adjustments and impractical conditions accepted by so called vanguards of economic development – just to push the project forward- are now back-firing. Adamant “supply side management” rationale of increasing water availability at any cost as well as criminal and blatant neglect towards “demand side management” involving equitable, efficient water distribution underline our pathetic water management. We are experiencing the cumulative impacts of this approach. Overemphasis on supply side management has been one of the main drivers of the irrigation scam and Dr. Chitale has been a staunch supporter of such supply side management. Keeping this in mind, what investigation would he indulge in?

Despite knowing very well that Maharashtra WRD does not measure either the exact volume of water used or the actual area irrigated, Dr. Chitale believes that the same department has been successful in publishing – with fraudulent figures of- water audit, benchmarking and status of irrigation report. While speaking to a newspaper on 6th July 2012 Dr. Chitale said, “WRD’s records of the area irrigated are based on water-bills and hence, compared to Revenue, and Agriculture department, Water Resource Department’s data are more reliable”. It would be appropriate that I objected the same statement on 7th July 2012.

“To verify the created irrigation potential & actual area irrigated and water used for non-irrigation purposes; to study the details of area irrigated (such as area irrigated on wells, farm ponds & that irrigated by Water Conservation Department & WRD) and to find out reasons behind less area irrigated” constitutes the very first point of Chitale committee’s mandate. The committee is yet to submit even its interim report. It will, therefore, be interesting to see which statistics in this regard have been used & reported by Chitale Committe to Kelkar Committee.[1] Dr. Chitale is member of Kelkar Committee too. If the data furnished by WRD has been simply passed on to Committees without unbiased and fair checking, then it is a serious matter & may adversely affect the reports of both the committees. This point needs to be clarified by all concerned.

Water audit for 2009-10 was published in 2011. I raised some critical objections to the report and the figures published under it. The WRD did not clarify these points. However, there has been no water audit, benchmarking and irrigation status reports published since then!

Maharashtra Water Resource Development Centre (MWRDC) is said to be helping SIT in daily technical matters. MWRDC had been publishing water audit and benchmarking reports for many years without measuring water used and actual irrigated area. Many experts say privately that the MWRDC did not cooperate with Kulkarni Committee which was constituted to investigate barrages on GodavariRiver. Kulkarni Committee reportedly has mentioned this fact in its report.

Above details are part of the current reality of water management in Maharashtra. However, complications in the situation are because of another reason too. Dr. Chitale has been a proponent of a certain school of thought and he has seldom concealed his political inclination. His opinions and actions bear a special strategic meaning. In fact, he appears to behave as if he is on a mission of his parent organization. Against this backdrop, his constant tie-up with ruling class for shaping its water policies while keeping close links with opposition party warrant a detailed political analysis. What is he suggesting? What are his two recent comments pointing at?

7th Annual Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad was organized on 21st April 2013 at Aurangabad. As an inaugural speaker, Dr. Chitale said, “Our decisions are going wrong because our water discourse is clouded by the dark shadow of agriculture”

Dr. Chitale specially guided industrialists during water management conference organized by Confederation of Indian Industries on 27th June 2013, again in Aurangabad. He said, “Considering the economic growth due to agriculture (4%), industry (8%) & service sector (15%) parallel weightage to all sectors is required.” (Times of India, Aurangabad, 28 June 2013)

Treating water as an economic commodity and referring to agriculture as a ‘dark shadow’ bears disastrous implications for farmers in the state. It underlines the hidden mandate that the Chitale committee is following. Keeping irrigation projects incomplete and transferring water from agriculture to industries seems to be a strategy. It is important to keep a keen watch on the SIT under Dr. Chitale’s chairpersonship (and even Kelkar committee for that matter), its credibility has many question marks already. The issues range beyond corruption.

[Edited Marathi version of this article is published in Divya Marathi (all editions) on 6th July 2013.

Translated by Damodar Pujari, SANDRP, with the permission and approval from the author.)


[1] Kelkar Committee, Headed by former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar, was appointed in May 2011 by Government of Maharashtra to analyse regional development imbalance, especially for regions like Vidarbha, Marathwada and Konkan which are lagging behind in terms of irrigation facilities, road network and spread of education and health infrastructure as compared to regions of Maharashtra.

Hydropower Generation Performance in Sutlej River Basin

The Sutlej River Basin is the major part of Indus River Basin. It is the easternmost tributary of the Indus River. It rises near the Darma Pass near Mansarovar Lake, enters the Zarkar range and flows through Tibet before entering India. It cuts through the Great Himalayan range and the outer Himalayas and enters the plains at Roper. It receives the Beas River at Harike at Punjab and forms the boundary between India and Pakistan for nearly 120 km. It finally enters Pakistan near Sulemanki.

The project wise generation data of large hydro (above 25 MW) with installed capacity of the basin in the latest year 2012-13 is follows.

SN Projects

State

Inst Capacity  (MW)

Generation (MU)

MU/MW

1 Sanjay Bhabha

Himachal Pradesh

120

365

3.04

2 Baspa-II

Himachal Pradesh

300

1240

4.13

3 Nathpa Jhakri

Himachal Pradesh

1500

6778

4.52

4 Bhakra

Himachal Pradesh

1325

4707

3.55

5 Ganguwal

Punjab

77.65

593

7.64

6 Kotla

Punjab

77.65

600

7.73

7 AP Sahib

Punjab

134

639

4.77

8 Karchham Wangtoo*

Himachal Pradesh

1000

4057

4.6

  Total

4534.3

18979

4.19

* The Generation figure of Karchham Wangtoo is available for one year only as it commissioned in the year 2011.

 Sutlej_Performance

  • The above graph shows the trend line of power generation of large Hydropower projects for last 28 years in the Sutlej basin. The trend-line shows diminishing generation from existing hydro power projects of Sutlej River Basin.
  • It shows that the per MW generation in 2012-13 (4.19) has dropped by a huge 31.09% from the highest per MW generation (6.08) achieved in the year 1998-99.
  • All generation figures have been taken from official data of Central Electricity Authority (CEA).
KarchamWangtoo HEP

1000 MW KarchamWangtoo HEP

Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/

Muck dumped from Karcham Wangtoo project into the Sutlej photo from :http://adrianomarzi.photoshelter.com/

 

List of other projects (up to 25 MW) under operation (for which latest generation figures not available):

SN Project

Ins Cap (MW)

State

1 Rukti

1.50

Himachal Pradesh
2 Chaba

1.75

Himachal Pradesh
3 Rongtong

2.00

Himachal Pradesh
4 Nogli

2.50

Himachal Pradesh
5 Titang

0.90

Himachal Pradesh
6 Lingti

0.40

Himachal Pradesh
11 Ghanvi

22.50

Himachal Pradesh
 

Total

31.55

 

Source: http://www.hpseb.com/hydro_potential.htm

List of proposed and under construction projects in the basin:

  Project

Ins Cap (MW)

State

Status

1 Kol Dam

800

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
2 Rampur

412

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
3 Kashang-I

165

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
4 Kasang-IV

48

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
5 Shorang

100

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
6 Raura

8

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
7 Ghanvi-II

10

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
8 Bhaba Aug.PH

4.5

Himachal Pradesh Under Construction
9 Chango-Yangthang HEP

180

Himachal Pradesh EAC TOR Approved
10 Lara Sumta

104

Himachal Pradesh EAC TOR Approved
11 Luhri HEP

775

Himachal Pradesh EAC & FAC  Recommended
12 Shongtong-Karcham HEP

402

Himachal Pradesh EAC& FAC Recommended, (Under stay order of HC)
13 Sumta Kathang

130

Himachal Pradesh EAC TOR Approved
14 Tidong -I

100

Himachal Pradesh EAC Recommended
15 Tidong -II

60

Himachal Pradesh EAC Under consideration
16 Yangthang – Khab HEP

261

Himachal Pradesh EAC TOR Approved
17 Kashang -Stage II & III HEP

130

Himachal Pradesh FAC Recommended
18 Jangi Thopan

480

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
19 Khab-I

450

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
20 Khab-II

186

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
21 Kuling Lara

40

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
22 Kut

24

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
23 Mane Nadang

70

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
24 Poo Spiloo

300

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
25 Ropa

60

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
26 Thopan Powari

480

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
27 Bahairari

5.5

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
28 Lara

60

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
29 Baspa

210

Himachal Pradesh Proposed
  Total

6055

EAC: Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF; FAC: Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF

Source: http://www.hpseb.com/hydro_potential.htm; http://envfor.nic.in

Underground Tunnel at Nathpa Jhakri Project

Underground Tunnel at Nathpa Jhakri Project

1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Project

1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Project

 

 Map of Hydroelectric Projects in Sutlej River Basin available at:

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects_in_%20Sutlej_River_Basin.pdf

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)                                           July 2013

ht.sandrp@gmail.com

HydroPower Performance in Indus Basin

Indus river rises in the southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and then enters Pakistan via the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan), flowing through the North in a southerly direction along the entire length of Pakistan, to merge into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi in Sindh.

The Sub-basin wise generation data of large hydro with installed capacity of the basin in the latest year 2012-13.

Projects

Inst Capacity  (MW)

Generation (MU)

MU/MW

Sutlej

4534.3

18979

4.19

Beas

2267

9125

4.03

Ravi

2059

7383

3.59

Chenab

1530

8159

5.33

Jhelum

690

3828

5.55

Total

11080.3

47474

4.28

indus

  • The above graph shows the trend line of power generation of Big Hydropower projects for last 28 years in the basin, the trend-line shows diminishing generation from existing hydro power projects of Indus River Basin.
  • It shows that the per MW generation in 2012-13 (4.28) has dropped by a huge 17.69% from the highest per MW generation (5.2) achieved in the year 1988-89.
  • All generation figures have been taken from official data of Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

List of other projects (up to 25 MW) under operation (for which latest generation figures not available):

SN Project

Ins Cap (MW)

State

In main basin

 

1 Iqbal

3.75

Jammu & Kashmir
2 Hunder

0.40

Jammu & Kashmir
3 Sumoor

0.10

Jammu & Kashmir
4 Igo-Mercellong

3

Jammu & Kashmir
5 Haftal

1

Jammu & Kashmir
6 Marpachoo

0.75

Jammu & Kashmir
7 Bazgo

0.30

Jammu & Kashmir
8 Stakna

4

Jammu & Kashmir
Total

13.30

In Sub Basins
1 Sutlej

31.55

Himachal Pradesh
2 Beas

61.8

Himachal Pradesh
3 Ravi

110.6

HP, J&K and Punjab
4 Chenab

33.8

Jammu & Kashmir
5 Jhelum

51.6

Jammu & Kashmir
 

Grand Total

302.65

 

Source: http://www.hpseb.com/hydro_potential.htm

http://jkspdc.nic.in/exist.htm

List of proposed and under construction projects in the basin:

  Project

Ins Cap (MW)

State

Status

In Main Basin

 

1 Rongdo

9

Proposed IPP Project
2 Bairaas

9

Proposed IPP Project
3 Tamasha

9

Proposed IPP Project
Total

27

In Sub Basins
1 Sutlej

6055

Himachal Pradesh
2 Beas

3270.1

Himachal Pradesh
3 Ravi

1292

HP, J&K
4 Chenab

8225

HP, J&K
5 Jhelum

864.55

Jammu & Kashmir
Grand Total

19733.65

Source: http://jkspdc.nic.in/up.htm

http://www.hpseb.com/hydro_potential.htm

http://envfor.nic.in

Map of Hydroelectric Projects in Indus River Basin available at:

http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydropower_Projects_in_Indus_Basin.pdf

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)                                           July 2013

ht.sandrp@gmail.com

No Chief Minister Sir, we are not doing social/ecological assessment of large dam projects

Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was the Chief Guest for one day symposium regarding water management in Maharashtra organised by the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune on the 2nd of July 2013.

In his address, the CM raised a number of important topics about water management in Maharashtra. Some of his thoughts were encouraging. He talked about the problems and expense of large irrigation projects, their underperformance and underlined the need for decentralised water management systems. He mentioned that the 2000 crores spent on tankers and animal shelters during 2013 drought was an avoidable expense, if we had developed decentralised water sources. He highlighted the problems of water regulatory authorities like MWRRA. He also mentioned that improper dam operation is a reason behind many disasters like the floods in Surat in 2006 due to Ukai Dam, Sangli floods due to mismanagement of Almatti Dam and stressed that Maharashtra should be concerned about this.

Significantly, he mentioned that while we are assessing the economic costs and efficiency of large dams, we are not looking at their social and ecological and that such assessments should take place. He also said that there should be an in-depth study on the ecological costs of these projects. This is a very welcome statement.

In reality, there has been a huge gap on what he said and what is happening on the ground.

The most blatant example of this is the Kalu Dam where work has stopped currently due to a stay order by the Hon. Bombay High Court. This dam is coming up in the Murbad block of Thane District and falls entirely in the tribal sub plan area and ecologically sensitive region of the Western Ghats. It is set to submerge 1000 hectares of Western Ghats forests and will affect more than 18000 primarily tribal population. The dam, being built by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC,) has not done any Social Impact Assessment as per the National Rehabilitation Policy. Nor has it undertaken an Environmental Impact Assessment or Cumulative Impacts Assessment of its impact on the Forests. The individual and community Forest Rights have not been settled, in violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Despite all this, the construction started illegally, without a Forest Clearance and is halted only because of a petition filed in the High Court by Shramik Mukti Sangathana.

Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011

Illegal Work on Kalu Dam Site by FA Constructions Photo: SANDRP, May 2011

The Forest Clearance of this dam was rightfully rejected in 2012 by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). But exactly a year later the Forest Advisory Committee went back on its decision and gave Forest Clearance to this project unjustifiably.

One of the important reasons as, stated by the FAC in in its minutes is that

“(The FAC) also noted that Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharshtra has specifically requested for a review of the decision of the Forest Advisory Committee” (FAC Minutes 3-4th April 2013)

How is it that the CM actually pushed for a Forest Clearance which would destroy over one lakh trees in Western Ghats, without any studies or options assessment?

When we asked this to the CM after this meeting, he replied that there is no law which says that EIA study for a drinking water supply dam is needed. While this is true and attributed to the erroneous omission in the EIA notification 2006, there is no law which says that such studies should not be conducted! Especially for a dam which is going to submerge 1000 hectares of forests and affect 18000 tribals! A Chief Minister with vision would in fact ask for such studies suo motto.

Dams around Mumbai which are mainly for drinking and industrial water supply can together submerge more than 6000 hectares of Forest. Even the State Forest Department under the Chief Minister himself has said that EIA of Kalu Dam is necessary. Chief Conservator of Forests, Central Circle has said that Cumulative impact Assessment of Dams coming up around Mumbai is necessary.

In this scenario, rather than urgently demanding for such a study the CM has in fact pressurised the FAC into giving a Forest Clearance to Kalu Project, WITHOUT any assessments.

Forests in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. 750 hectares of these primer forests will be submerged for the Gargai Dam. Photo: SANDRP

Forests in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. 750 hectares of these primer forests will be submerged for the Gargai Dam. Photo: SANDRP

During his speech, the CM said how important afforestation is. He said that he has asked all departments to undertake afforestation. “The issue is so important that even tanker water should be given for afforestation”. When afforestation is so important, why are we submerging last remaining forests of  Western Ghats without any studies?

Misrepresentation of Western Ghats Expert Ecology Panel (WGEEP) Report: The CM also said that WGEEP Report has banned all development from Gujarat to Kerala and that the on-going laterite stone mining in Sindhudurga-Ratnagiri districts  is a result of WGEEP which will hamper development in these places. It has laid a blanket ban on development.

CM seems to be entirely misinformed on this count. Firstly the laterite stone mining ban has nothing to do with WGEEP Report, but is in place due to a Supreme Court Order. This point has been reiterated several times and it is surprising to see the CM still claiming this. Secondly the WGEEP has not banned developmental activities, but has said that local communities should be in the driving seat while taking decisions affecting their regions. This is also upheld by several laws including the Forest Rights Act. So CMs statement about the WGEEP is clearly ill informed.

It was great to see the CM mention Climate Change, its impacts, need for advanced weather monitoring, etc. It was also good to hear from him about ecological importance for rivers and their flow. It will be good if environmental flows are released from dams of Maharashtra, as also upheld by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal. This is currently not happening.

The CM seems to have progressive opinions about water and natural resource management. Hence, we are sure that the CM will demand for an Environment Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment and Cumulative Impact Assessment of dams coming up around Mumbai, especially Kalu Dam and will take a critical look at dams coming up across Western Ghats in Konkan being undertaken by KIDC, breaking laws like Forest Conservation Act, Forest Rights Act, Environment Protection Act, National Rehabilitation Policy with impunity. In fact he should see that KIDC and contractors which started work illegally are brought to the books.

We hope that the CM walks his talk about decentralised water management and valuing ecology.

-Parineeta Dandekar and Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP

Indavi Tulpule, Shramik Mukti Sangathana

Suhas Kolhekar, Convener, NAPM Maharashtra

CWC Flood Forecast for Assam: Issues Started Arriving before Floods

The season of flood havoc has just started in Assam. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority in its daily report published on 28th June 2013, stated that in the last 24 hours 55 villages in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Tinsukia district have been affected by flood. All three of these districts are located in upper Assam and three of them shares borders with Arunachal Pradesh. Dhemaji till now is the worst affected among these three. In this district, 13 villages in Dhemaji revenue circle, 28 villages in Sissiborgaon revenue circle and 7 villages in Gogamukh revenue circle has been affected. In Lakhimpur 1 village in Subansiri revenue circle and 6 villages of Doomdooma revenue circle in Tinisukia district has been affected by floods. The report also said that the cumulative number of villages affected till 28th was 70 in four districts which include Golaghat, Kamrup, Jorhat and Karimganj.

Even though Dhemaji has faced severe floods, there is no forecasting about these floods in the Central Water Commission’s (CWC hereafter) flood forecasting website http://www.india-water.com/ffs/index.htm. SANDRP had prepared a map of CWC’s flood forecasting sites in Assam. If we look at this map, we find that there is no flood forecasting site in Dhemaji district even though that is one of the worst flood affected districts in the state. This is a serious lacuna on the part of CWC.

Map of Flood Forecasting Sites in Assam prepared by SANDRP

Map of Flood Forecasting Sites in Assam prepared by SANDRP

Dhemaji has a long drawn history of devastating floods. The district website lists 20 rivers in Dhemaji Embankment & Drainage division along with other smaller tributaries. The 20 relatively bigger rivers of the district include Brahmaputra, Silley, Sibia, Leko, Jonai Korong, Dikhari, Narod, Somkhong, Tongani,  Burisuti,  Simen, Dimow,  Gainadi, Moridhal, Jiadhal/Kumotia, Korha/Sila,  Charikaria, Nonoi, Sampara Suti and Subansiri.

Several rivers and areas in Dhemaji district are known for catastrophic floods. One such river is Jiadhal River in Gogamukh revenue circle. Jiadhal emerges in the Lower Himalayan ranges of West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh and flows through Dhemaji district to meet the Subansiri River. This river has a catchment area of 1205.41sq km and majority of its catchment lies in the plains of Assam ( 835sq km) where it creates devastation every year. Samrajan is the area which majorly faces the brunt of floods of Jiadhal. This river is known for frequent changing of its course which had brought disasters to this area. The ongoing floods in the Gogamukh revenue circle are mainly created by Jidhal, Kumatiya and Na-Nodi. Jiadhal is one of the rivers where CWC must put up a flood forecasting site.

The CWC should also consider putting up a flood forecasting site in the Brahmaputra in Jonai subdivision of Dhemaji district. This subdivision is in the immediate downstream of the confluence point of the three rivers Dihang, Dibang and Lohit, creating a larger Brahmaputra. In a report published in a regional newspaper on 28th June 2013, it was stated that in the Jonai subdivision had faced severe inundation done by the Brahmputra and its tributaries. But CWC website has no information about this as the flood forecasting is available on for Dibrugarh.

Besides, in Lakhimpur district CWC has only one flood forecasting which is in the SubansiriRiver. But Ranganadi is another major river which inundates a substantial area of the district every year. In fact there was a catastrophic flood on 28th July 2008 in the river due to the release of water from the Ranganadi hydroelectric project located in the upper reaches of the river. In such a situation it is very important that the river should come under the flood forecasting map of CWC.

Questions over Accuracy of the Existing Flood Forecasting 

The existing flood forecasting done by CWC is also not very accurate. We can take the case of Jiabharali River here. Even though the CWC had been forecasting ‘falling’ in water levels, in reality it is crossing the previous day levels.

Date Actual Level (meter) Forecast (meter) Trend indicated Flood Category
25-06-13 76.08 76.20 Falling Low Flood
26-06-13 76.33 76.55 Rising Low Flood
27-06-13 77.20 77.15 Falling Moderate Flood
28-06-13 77.55 77.50 Falling Moderate Flood
29-06-13 77.75 77.60 Falling Moderate Flood

On June 11 2013, CWC had done another major blunder when its flood forecast site reported that water level of BrahmaputraRiver at Neamatighat site in Jorhat district had reached 94.21 meter at 0900 hrs on that day, which was 6.84 m above the highest flood level of the site at 87.37 m. The flood forecast site also forecasted that the level will be 94.15 m at 0900 am on June 12, 2013. Both the recording and forecast were clearly wrong, rather way off the mark. The site or the area in question or upstream and downstream levels did not match with what the CWC site had mentioned. The water level at the site mentioned on CWC site the previous and following day also did not match this observation and forecast. Needless to add that there was no floods in Brahmaputra in spite of such forecast by India’s highest technical body on water! SANDRP had already written to CWC regarding this on June 12, 2013, but CWC has not replied to our mail.

Assam faces one of the severest brunt of floods every year in the country and the flood season in the state has just set in. The performance of CWC flood forecasting during the recent Uttarakhand floods was also very poor (please see https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/central-water-commissions-flood-forecasting-pathetic-performance-in-uttarkhand-disaster/). In such a situation, it is expected that CWC’s flood forecasting for the floods this season will be done more cautiously and actively and right information will be disseminated in timely manner so that the public expenses on CWC are justifiable. CWC needs to be responsive to such messages and also accountable for the wrong forecasts. The focus of CWC should be on identifying and making correct forecasts for actual flood hit areas.

Parag Jyoti Saikia

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

Email: meandering1800@gmail.com

PM kick starts 850 MW Ratle Project in J&K without full Impact Assessment: Invitation to another disaster in Chenab basin?

On the 25th June 2013, when unprecedented floods were ravaging Uttarakhand,  Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone of 850 MW Ratle Hydroelectric Project, being developed by a private company GVK, on the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir. The PM hailed this project as a harbinger of prosperity to J and K and did not forget to state that the project has acquired all the requisite clearances.(http://inbministry.blogspot.in/2013/06/pms-address-at-laying-of-foundation.html). While he mentioned the upcoming elections, he did not mention a single word about the Uttarakhand tragedy.

PM laying the foundation stone of Ratle Project Courtesy: Indian Express

PM laying the foundation stone of Ratle Project Courtesy: Indian Express

He forgot to mention that while there are over 60 projects under planning, construction and commissioning in Chenab Basin of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, no Cumulative Impact Assessment that has been carried out to study the cumulative impacts of these bumper to bumper projects on the ecology, geology, disaster impacts, climate change impacts and communities of the Chenab. No carrying capacity study has been done in the basin to ascertain if the area can take all these projects in a sustainable and safe way. CHENAB BASIN LIKELY TO HAVE THE HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF HYDROPOWER PROJECTS AMONG ALL BASINS IN INDIA.

In addition, the  MoEF website till date (1st July 2013, after PM laid the foundation stone of Ratle Project) does not show the Form I, Form I A or the Environmental Impact Assessment Report of Ratle Project on its website, clearly violating Central Information Commission (CIC) orders. This issue has been pointed out by civil society including SANDRP multiple times and it is shocking that MoEF is not following CIC orders even for a project which is high profile enough for the PM to lay its foundation stone.

The PM, incidentally laid foundation stone for the 3000 MW Dibang project in Arunachal Pradesh on January 31, 2008, the project still has not got even statutory clearances over five years later. Let us see if Ratle makes better progress than that.

No Lessons from Uttarakhand?

Glaciers in Chenab Basin: According to IMD, Glaciers in Chenab basin have been retreating rapidly, some at the rate of 54 mts/year. 49% of the average flow component in Chenab is snow melt.(http://www.imd.gov.in/ims/pdf/plenary/RDS.pdf). ICIMOD has said that several glacial lakes in Chenab are potentially dangerous, in the risk of GLOFs (http://geoportal.icimod.org/Publication/Files/cf894b1a-d2df-46ca-9e7a-e0577d24ea4f.pdf).

Considering these issues and also the devastation in the wake of Uttarakhand Floods, one would expect that the upcoming hydro projects in the fragile Himalayas will have a thorough assessment of their risks due to climate change, flash floods, landslides. However, the TOR of 850 MW Ratle Project given by MoEF does even mention the term Climate change! Going for the project without such an assessment may be invitation for a disaster. 

RetreatingglaciersChenab

These and other such issues have been raised by civil society organizations including SANDRP when MoEF was busy clearing hydropower projects on the Chenab Basin.

SANDRPs submissions to the EAC on Ratle: SANDRP had raised many issues after Ratle was  granted Environmental Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF in its 59th meeting in July 2012.

Submission sent by SANDRP before the 60th EAC meeting in September 2012:

RATLE HEP: the EAC has recommended EC to this 850 MW project, the largest such projects so far in J&K and in Chenab basin. However, Chenab basin is home to a very large number of large hydropower projects, including Salal, Baglihar-1, Dul Hasti (all operating) and also Baglihar 2 (under construction), Sawalkote, Bursar (plannned) among many others. However, there has been no cumulative impact assessment including basin wide and carrying capacity aspects. Taking up further projects without such a study is not prudent.

More importantly, in the context of this project, there seems to be some major discrepancies and EAC do not seem to have applied its mind. For example, the minutes say (page 14) that FRL of Ratle is 1029 m and TWL of upstream Dulhasti is at 1031.5, just 2.5 m above the FRL of Ratle. And yet the minutes claim that this project is 14 km downstream of Dul Hasti power house! How is this possible that the elevation of the TWL of the upstream project is just 2.5 m above and yet the distance is 14 km? This seems unlikely considering the topography of the region. The minutes do not say what is the length of the river where the tail race water of upsteram project enters the river and the tip of the FRL of downstream project.

VIOLATION OF CIC ORDERS  The EIA and other related documents of the Ratle (or any other projects discussed in EAC) are not available on the MEF website, as required under the CIC orders, and till the implementation of the CIC order is achieved, consideration of projects will be violating the basic transparency norms.

We find that for Ratle, the minutes says that min env flow of 33.43 cumecs will be achieved through the operation of a 30 MW unit, it is not clear what norms will be followed for other seasons, including monsoon. The EAC do not seem to have applied its mind on this.

In view of all these reasons, we request the EAC to review its decision regarding the Ratle project.

Himanshu Thakkar

SANDRP”

We did not receive any response on this from the EAC members or other officers of MoEF. The EAC did not even acknowledge the letter, nor did they bother to explain the serious discrepancies pointed out in the letter. 

Bumper to Bumper Dams in Chenab: As Chenab descends from Himachal and enters Jammu and Kashmir, it is dammed by several large hydro  projects either operational, under construction or planned. Table below lists hydropower projects close to 9,000 MW in the Chenab basin in Jammu and Kashmir. This is not the full list. According to the Central Electricity Authority, projects totaling 4,200 MW are planned in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, while additional projects for 2,075 MW have been identified.

Partial list of large hydropower projects on the Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir:

Sr No Project Capacity (MW) River
1 Kirthai I 250 Chenab
2 Kirthai II 990 Chenab
3 Bursar 1,200/1,500 Marusudar
4 Pakal Dul 1,000 Marusudar
5 Dul Hasti (operating) 390 Chenab
6 Ratle (GVK) 850 Chenab
7 Baglihar I (operating) 450 Chenab
8 Baglihar II 450 Chenab
9 Sawalkote 1,200 Chenab
10 Salal (operating) 690 Chenab
11 Chainani I, II, III 33 Tributary
12 Kiru 600 Chenab
13 Kwar 520 Chenab
Total 8,623/8,923 MW

 

Some projects are under consideration for forest and environmental clearance, like the 1,200 MW Bursar project in Kishtwar district which requires 1,665 hectares of land, including 1,077 hectares of forest. It will affect more than 500 families in over 14 villages (option 2 requires 4,593 hectares of land!). And the 1,200 MW Sawalkote dam which will require 1,099 hectares of land, including 600 hectares of forest. Some of these dams will submerge parts of the Kishtwar High Altitude National Park. Here again, like it is being done in Chenab Basin in Himachal Pradesh, projects are being planned bumper-to-bumper; no environmental mitigation measures like fish passes or ladders are included and the social impacts appear huge, adding to the overall cumulative impact.

Despite all of this, no cumulative impact assessment study is being recommended or undertaken for the Chenab basin in Jammu and Kashmir.

Overdeveloped Chenab Basin in Himachal Pradesh: As many as 49 Hydroelectricity projects are planned or under construction in Chenab in Himachal Pradesh (HP). According to CM of HP Premkumar Dhumal, more than 28 of these projects are at an advanced stage of  obtaining clearances (http://thehimachalnews.com/himachal-asks-for-environment-waivers-on-chenab-river-projects/ ). HP government is actually suggesting that the condition of cumulative impact assessments for projects on the Chenab put forward by the MoEF should be lifted as “it is unilateral and contrary to the state’s interests”! It would appear as though the chief minister believed that the interests of the state lay only in the execution of hydropower projects, nothing else. Services obtained from a river such as water availability, groundwater recharge, fishing, irrigation through smaller streams, climate regulation, tourism and protection of lands, forests, mountains and biodiversity are not in the interests of the state and are worthless!

Partial list of large hydro projects planned/under implementation in the Chenab basin, Himachal Pradesh:

Sr No HEP Cap in MW District Tributary Length of HRT Distance from U/s project Distance from D/s project Developer
1 Gyspa 300 Lahaul and Spiti Bhaga 14.96 km Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited
2 Chattru 120 Lahaul and Spiti Chandra 10.48 Not applicable DCM Sriram
3 Shangling 44 Lahaul and Spiti Chandra Reliance Power
4 Miyar 120 Lahaul and Spiti Chandrabhaga Moser Baer
5 Tandi 104 Lahaul and Spiti 7.4 ABG Shipyard
6 Rashil 130 ABG Shipyard
7 Seli 400 Lahaul and Spiti Zero Moser Baer
8 Reoli Dugli 420 Lahaul and Spiti 11 km Zero Moser Baer
9 Teling 94 Reliance Power
10 Bardang 126 Lahaul and Spiti ABG Shipyard
11 Patam 60 Lahaul and Spiti 9.75 +
12 Tinget 81
13 Purthi 300 Lahaul and Spiti Reliance Power
14 Sach Khas 260 Chamba Chenab 3.5 km 9 km
15 Dugar 380 Chamba Chenab 8.5 km 9 km 3 km Tata Power S N Group, Norway
16 Gondhala 144 Lahaul and Spiti Chenab
17 Khoksar 90 Lahaul and Spiti Chenab
Total 3,173
Protests against Hydel Projects on Chenab in Himachal Courtesy: Himdhara

Protests against Hydel Projects on Chenab in Himachal Courtesy: Himdhara

Cumulative impact Assessment of Chenab Basin Projects in Himachal: The MoEF sanctioned TORs for cumulative impact assessments of the Chenab in February 2012. Surprisingly, this critical task has been entrusted to the Directorate of Energy, Government of Himachal Pradesh. Can there be any agency with greater conflict of interest than the Directorate of Energy for this study? Can we expect this department to conduct the study in an unbiased manner? Even as the directorate put out a request for proposals for contractors to carry out the study, it did not mention that the consultant had to be an independent agency with a credible track record, as specifically instructed by the EAC.

The MoEF seems to have meekly accepted the Himachal Pradesh chief minister’s demand for delinking environmental clearances from cumulative impact assessment studies, without any questions asked. Delinking EC from Cumulative impact Assessment defeats the entire purpose of having a CIA done. J and K Government is not even considering a Cumulative Impact Assessment as the MoEF has not asked for it so far.

It is time India took the issue of the impacts of cascading mega projects seriously. These rivers are not merely power-producing channels, they have been providing and continue to provide services to millions of local communities and our ecology. Governments and their agencies cannot simply push ahead with their big dam agenda at the cost of the environment and communities, in the absence of unbiased scientific studies and democratic decision making process. Doing that would be invitation to disaster.

(For a detailed report on projects in Chenab Basin: http://infochangeindia.org/environment/analysis/bumper-to-bumper-dams.html)

Moreover, we need a cumulative impact assessment for the whole Chenab basin, including Himachal Pradesh and J&K, which is not even being considered by anyone, including the Prime Minister, MoEF, or state governments.

Poor track record of GVK group Here it should be added that  Ratle project is being developed by GVK group, who has poor track record in development of hydropower projects. The only hydropower project of the group that has gone to advanced stage is the 330 MW Srinagar hydropower project on Alaknanda river in Uttarakhand and that project has been mired in serious controversies. A case has been going on in the Supreme Court, Union Ministry of Environment and forests has given stay work order, the project has no environmental impact assessment, and now during the current flood, the project is found to be responsible for the destruction of the downstream Srinagar town, and project itself has suffered extensive damage. People of J&K need to be aware of this track record so that they know what to expect from them. It is indeed shocking that the Prime Minister chose to lay foundation stone for this GVK project in the face of the role that the project of this company has played in Uttarakhand.

Neglect by PM’s Advisory Council on Climate Change It may be added here that Prime Minister is the head of the India’s climate change related work along with his advisory council on climate change. One of the highlights of the Uttarakhand disaster is that the PM and his advisory council have neglected the issues related to climate change in Uttarakhand. Now they are again repeating that blunder in J&K.

It is indeed unfortunate to see that the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the huge Ratle Project even as all the above mentioned issues are unresolved and are being swept under the carpet. What makes it more poignant is that he should do it when floods are still ravaging Uttarakhand and when many experts and organisations are linking these floods with the cumulative impacts of damming, blasting, tunneling, mining, muck dumping, deforestation, no attention to climate change impacts, disaster impacts , environmental compliance and sheer playing with the rivers associated with hydel projects in Uttarakhand.

This act has the potential of sending a very wrong signal to communities of Himalayas: That Indian Government will go ahead with its hydel development plan at any cost:  even without assessing impacts of these projects on communities and ecology, without fulfilling norms of transparent governance. At a time when the nation is trying to cope with the Uttarakhand disaster, this is indeed a very wrong signal to send.

Parineeta Dandekar (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

For Map of Chenab basin with hydropower projects, see: http://sandrp.in/basin_maps/Hydro_%20Electric_Projects_in_Chenab_River_Basin.pdf

For blog on performance of hydropower projects in Chenab basin, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/hydropower-generation-performance-in-chenab-river-basin/

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We have recently sent a letter to the PM, Ms. Snia Gandahi, Planning COmmission Members, etc.

July 4, 2013

 

To,

 
1. The Prime Minister of India,
Government of India, 
New Delhi
 
2. Union Minister of State of Environment and Forests (IC),
Paryavaran Bhawan,
New Delhi
 
3. Mihir Shah,
Member (Water), 
Planning Commission, Government of India, 
and member NAC,
New Delhi
 
4. Chairperson,
National Advisory Council,
New Delhi
 
Respected Sirs and Madams,
The Prime Minister of India and UPA Chair-person graced the occasion of laying the foundation stone for the 850 MW Ratle Hydropower project in Jammu and Kashmir on June 25, 2013. We were very happy to see that Mrs Sonia Gandhi raised the issues of environmental impacts and sustainability on this occasion. 
 
In this context we would like to bring to your attention that a very large number of hydropower projects are at various stages of planning, clearance, construction and operation in the Chenab basin. These include at least 13 hydropower projects of J&K alone, with total capacity of over 8600 MW. A very large number of smaller hydropower projects (each of them also have adverse impacts on local environment and communities) are additional. In addition, in the upstream Chenab basin in Himachal Pradesh, at least 17 large hydropower projects of total capacity of 3200 MW are in advance stage, whereas the state has plans for 49 projects in Chenab basin. Here again there are other smaller projects. It means even now there are over 30 large hydropower projects (for a full list of such projects, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/pm-kick-starts-850-mw-ratle-project-in-jk-without-full-impact-assessment-invitation-to-another-disaster-in-chenab-basin/) with total capacity 11 800 MW (this is not the full list or total capacity) and much larger number of smaller hydropower projects are planned to come up in this basin. It seems Chenab basin is going to be home to one of the largest number of hydropower projects in the country if all these projects are to come up.
 
However, there is no cumulative impact assessment of all these projects and other developmental interventions that are going on in the basin. Nor is there any carrying capacity study. As you know credibility of our environmental and social impact assessments is also very poor. Such indiscriminate planning and construction of so many projects without such basic assessments in place is clearly an invitation to disaster. This is particularly so in the context of Climate Change, which is having one of the greatest impacts in the Himalayan Region. Scientists have been warning us that Chenab basin has seen a very high rate of melting of glaciers and threat of Glacier Lake Outburst floods. 
 
The absolute minimum we can do is to do the cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity by a credible agency (not by Directorate of Energy, Govt of Himachal Pradesh, since this agency is more interested in pushing more and more hydro projects, or such other agencies involving conflict of Interest) and stopping clearance and work on all new projects (including Ratle) till such an assessment is available. It is not prudent to delink the new projects from such an assessment as the MoEF is currently doing. This is the most important lesson we can learn from the Uttarakhand disaster and the lessons from that disaster are relevant for all Himalayan areas including the entire Chenab basin. The MoEF should also not be considering cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity study in Himachal Pradesh and J&K separately, but consider for Chenab basin as a whole. 
 
Here we would also like to highlight that the GVK Hydro, which is the developer of Ratle project, has been held guilty of a lot of serious problems in implementation of the 330 MW Srinagar hydropower project in Uttarakhand (the only large hydro that this company has ever developed. Over a hundred houses have been damaged in Srinagar town, many of them submerged in over 10 ft of muck illegally dumped by the project in the river and sudden release of water in early hours of June 17 by the project. In fact your government should investigate such project induced damages in Uttarakhand disaster and fix responsibility on those guilty and make them pay for such damages. Your gracing the foundation stone laying ceremonies for projects of such companies do not send right signal.
 
We request you to kindly take the steps suggested above on urgent basis. We will look forward to your early response on this.
 
Yours Sincerely,
 
Himanshu Thakkar