GangaThe national river – Now a disappearing river
Ganga – Our national River“ ”“ The land of India is blessed, Himalayas are also blessed but the region in Himalayas whereGanga is born is especially blessed because this is the place where she exists in confluencewith God.” - 149, 39-40Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his will and testament:“The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes and her fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol ofIndias age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.” Swami Vivekananda on the other side of the ocean wrote: “The Gita and the sacred waters of the Ganga constitute the Hinduism of the Hindus. Last time I went to the West I also took a little with me, fearing it might be needed, and whenever opportunities occurred I used to drink a few drops of it.And every time I drank in the midst of the stream of humanity, amid that bustle of civilization, that hurry of frenzied footsteps ofmillions of men and women in the west, the mind at once became calm and still as it were”
A matter of concern• Ganga is vanishing in her valley of origin – bumper to bumper HEPs being constructed all over Uttarakhand in the last pristine stretch of the river• Local impacts – fragile Himalayan ecosystem• Impact of the already existing hydro-power projects• Existing projects – overall feasibility• Next steps
View of the Himalayan Basin – Water towers of Asia
These are hydropower projects, aka “Run-of-the riverschemes” beginning from Glacier lines, designed in aseries, one following the other one, lined up bumper-to-bumper.
What is this so called “Run of the river” project?River from one exit is almost immediately diverted to the barrage of thefollowing project where the river is diverted through the tunnel directedto a power house and after using it to move the turbines – it goesthrough 2nd exit – again diverted at the barrage of the following project
Himalayan Environment under threat• Developing mountains ,deep gorges with fragile mountain slopes.• Rich biodiversity and areas enriched by natural water springs .• Highly hazardous landslide zone Earthquake prone zone – Seismic zone V.• Retreating Gangotri glacier – stored water in reservoirs, raising temperatures in vicinity• Himalayan snow trout - endangered – obstructed migration path• Golden mahasheer – endangered – due to decreased water in Ganga• Bear, goral, leopard, Himalayan Otter – being affected• Home to many migratory birds
Current situation in Uttarakhand- Cloud bursts in Gangotri, Yamunotri , Alaknanda, Mandakini etc.- Flash floods in Asi-Ganga – Gangotri valley- 3 under-construction power projects completely washed away-The cloud bursts are more catastrophic due to the hydro projects on the path ofthe river. No considerations, whatsoever, are even proposed or thought of duringproposing the HEPs in areas of Uttarakhand- Due to the extensive construction in the hills, our forests are literally beingskinned & due to this the land is rendered loose – increasing the frequency offlash floods- The project authorities fill up the reservoirs to the limit, sometimes beyond &when they open the reservoir gates it causes flood downstream. Due to the fillingup of the reservoirs beyond the posted limit, the villages in the vicinity are at risk &the areas are often submerged. The villagers then have to immediately tread uphillin order to protect themselves- In Alaknanda valley, forceful filling up of reservoir was seen inthe under-construction HEP – that almost drowned the entire dhari village & even after repeated appeals to the company toopen the gates – they refused.
Fragile Himalayan EcologyGIS-based Landslide Hazard Zonationin the Bhagirathi (Ganga) Valley,Himalayas – International journal ofRemote sensing The seismic sensitive zones of Uttarakhand
Not just the constructed dams even the process of construction has severe impacts in the vicinityImpacts with Examples of some existing projects
Havoc created by Deforestation at the construction sitesA destroyed mountain slope between Loharinag and Pala
Tapovan – Vishnugad projectwhere excessive tunneling hascaused cracks in housesThe usual myth that these localprojects generate local jobs –is a complete farce.The excessive blasting hasalso caused loss of watersources
Dried water sources – after effects of Maneri Bhali 2Once enriched, now dried water sources in Deoli
Cracks in houses due to Heavy Blasting in seismic Zone-5
Severe Impacts of the constructionprocess – Case of Bhatwadi - 2010 -Even during the early phase of construction of Loharinag- Pala dam excessive blasting that was done at Pala for tunneling rendered the entire area weak -The following monsoons, massive land-sinking was seen in Bhatwadi, the immediate vicinity of the construction site
Collapsed house in Vishnuprayag –another example of land sinking due to excessive blasting
Chai gaon - Joshimath • The tunnels that are dug for the HEP construction render the mountains weak & fragile causing big cracks in houses, drying the fresh water sources in villages & pose an immediate threat to the village located above the tunnels.
Unstable Mountains-Under serious threat Cracks in houses nearby villages of Koteshwar due to Land-Sinking
Muck dumping inAlaknanda along thesite of construction ofSrinagar HEP
-Muck Dumping in Asi-Ganga-Due to this muck dumping& cutting of trees, the muckwas blocked - a temporaryreservoir was formed &recently during themonsoons the water filled inthis make-shift reservoir-Consequently with thecloud-burst, the collectedwater added to the woes &caused severe damagedownstream – washingaway 3 under-constructiondams.
Feasibility of these projects• The existing Maneri-Bhali 1 hydro power project of just 90MW, is working at almost half its efficiency since the last ten years. The reasons stated in the RTI are: – Increased silt in the river during monsoons – Decreased flow during winters.• The problem of silt is only going to increase in the near future owing to melting of the glaciers, how then can a upstream project of 600MW function when on the same river a 90MW is not running to its capacity.• Dropping water levels: Ganga was flowing at half her normal capacity last year. The global climate change has already seen this in cases of several other rivers.
Similar trend all over HimalayasExcessive silt in Himachal – shutting up of power plants
Local electricity requirementsOften the hydro-power projects are promoted under the pretext of“Local energy requirements” when the fact of the matter is that noelectricity from the big projects is supplied locally.
Zone in Uttarakhand The hydro-power projects Actual Energy Consumption in 2011- 2012 (As per RTI response received from UPCL)Uttarkashi Operational 48.76 Mus 1. Maneri Bhali 1 (90MW) 2. Maneri Bhali 2 (304MW) Cancelled 1. Loharinag Pala (600MW) 2. Pala Maneri (480 MW) 3. Bhairon Ghati 1&2 Under Construction and proposed 1. Asi Ganga, etc.Tehri Operational 132.03 Mus 1. Tehri Dam (1000 MW) 2. Koteshwar (400 MW) Under construction 1. Kotlibhel 1A, 1B and 2 ( ) 2. Tehri stage 2 (1000 MW), etc.Pauri Srinagar (330 MW) etc. 115.57 MusRudraprayag Under construction: 28.26 Mus 1. Singoli Bhatwadi (99 MW) 2. Phata-Byung (77 MW), etc.Gopeshwar/Chamoli Under construction : 82.39 Mus 1. Vishnugad-Pipalkoti (444 MW) 2. Tapowan-Vishnugad (520 MW) 3. Alaknanda (300 MW), etc.Garhwal region of Ganga-Himalayan More than 18,000 MWs estimated Total consumption ( 407.01 MUs ≈basin capacity. 46.46 MW)
A Reality Check• 50% of Uttarakhand’s electricity is consumed by a handful of factories•The Public hearing carried out are farcical. •Many times the locals don’t receive intimation at all. Few planted people who arrive at the scene, are made to sign – which is then used as official document for clearance. • Case of Devsari Dam – where locals have opposed the public hearing time and again & yet the authorities prompt fresh public hearings•Environment ministry has become a clearing house. No project is ever rejected.•There is a clear conflict of interest as the proponent of the project carries out the EIA•Cost benefit analysis is absolutely flawed. Wrong projection of benefits and no talkabout environment, culture etc•Maximum death & casualties were reported from village Jamak, under which the tunnelfor the Maneri Bhali runs. The irrigated & fertile fields that once grew many cash crops,are now dry.• Breeding of malarial mosquitoes is now rampant due to the stored water of reservoirs.The fogging done to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes is leading to respiratorydisorders.
Despite of expert’s opposition Alkananda (300 Mw) got clearance near Badrinath
Environmental flow for the National River• Constant bargain for an environmental flow• Environmental flow for A class rivers such as Ganga is actually her natural flow. On such rivers, no projects or construction should be proposed or executed, in order to maintain the special water quality of the river.• No laws to protect our national heritage• Decreased water flow (since most it will be tunneled) means increased temperatures, loss of aquatic life & velocity.• Sustainability in light of ecological flow – cases of fraud flow in Maneri Bhali every-time a committee came over for a visit• No valuation of the loss of natural habitat• Flawed cost benefit analysis – underrate cost & ignore many factors• As has been seen in the case of Maneri-Bhali, under the banner of hydro power prjects, Ganga gets reduced into a mere rivulet.
Corruption – Committee visits- Time & again different committee visits that have happened in different partsof the Uttarakhand are always planted & schemed for a certain result- During the visit of an expert committee that went in Uttarkashi at the time ofdecision for Loharinag – Pala, water was intentially released in the main riverbed by the Maneri Bhali authorities only to show that there is an environmentalflow.- During the recent visit of Sanchita Jindal committee by MoEF to Alakananda,Dhari Devi – the project authorities, contractor lobby showed them around &with the result the committee submitted a wrong report of assessing theviolations done.- The committee members that just went to Alaknanda – Dhari Devi did noteven meet the locals & when the locals somehow caught hold of them – theywere so convinced with the project authorities false claims that the meeting wastherefore futile.-
CULTURAL IMPACT:The dead need to petition for Ganga jal for their last rites
Alternatives of electricityNo alternative of the Ganga
Conclusion• All the projects (proposed & under construction) in the Ganga-Himalayan basin should be scrapped.• Maneri Bhali project is barely producing 40 MW and drying up 14 Km of Ganga, belongs to eco-sensitive zone & is 30+ years old – this must be de-commissioned now.• At least 60% of ecological flow from the existing projects must be released immediately & maintained at all times of the year. In a set-time frame steps to de-commission the projects must be taken.• 150 kms from winter glacier line, must be declared as “Cultural-Eco-sensitive zones” - locals are given an incentive to protect the forests, the Ganga & the environment.• A different view for Himalayas. – A fresh Himalayan policy must be structured