Saturday, 31 December 2011

Press Note on Tehri Dam : THDC and State Govt. are culprits 23-9-2010

Criminal Offence committed by the Tehri Hydro-Development Corporation

Life and property of people living close to the reservoir level of 820M are in danger.

Both THDC and State Govt. are culprits

The 260.5 M high reservoir of the Tehri Dam on the confluence of Rivers Bhagirathi and Bhilangana poses a huge threat to the life and property of the people living near it. On the 27th of August, on the basis of misleading facts and figures, and by keeping the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the dark about the actual situation, the THDC got permission from the Supreme Court of India to fill the dam reservoir beyond 820m Reservoir Level. The THDC approached the Supreme Court only when it did not receive permission from the State government. It however kept the Supreme Court in the dark about this issue.

It is apparent that the insistence of the THDC in raising the Tehri reservoir water level even though people are residing in the reservoir region amounts to attempted murder of the displaced people, not to mention their butchering of Mother Nature and plain disregard for the Rule of law.

In the case of N. D. Juyal, the Supreme Court of India judgment said that "It is made clear that the condition of pari-passu implementation of conditions prior to the commissioning of the project shall be closely monitored under the existing mechanism set up by MoEF and the project authorities will ensure that prior to closing of diversion tunnels T1/T2 for impoundment of the reservoir, evacuation, resettlement and rehabilitation are completed in all respects." On October 29, 2005 the Nainital High Court gave the same order to the above mentioned parties, but in vain.

It was the constitutional duty/obligation of THDC to complete the rehabilitation and resettlement in all respect, without doing which increasing the water level of the reservoir is a criminal offence. Their actions have put the life and property of people at stake. The same is true for the Uttarakhand State Govt. They too have the responsibility of rehabilitation and resettlement work. But both parties were busy passing the buck and nothing was done.

The THDC claimed in their application dated 26-8-10 and then through an additional affidavit dated 15-9-10 filed in the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the N. D. Jayal and others Vs. Union of India and others that this move is to save the lives and properties of the people downstream in ‘important’ towns such as Haridwar and Rishikesh. But now the we are at the point where Haridwar and Rishikesh are under water and Tehri Dam reservoir is crossing 830M level. Water is flowing over the under construction of Koteshwer Dam, which is just after the Tehri Dam and the life of nearby villgers also in danger. How can THDC decide which lives are worth saving and which aren’t? The THDC has clearly made its decision and handed out the death sentence to the people living near the reservoir.

There are many families living between 820m to 840m mostly in the villages of Pilki, Ghoti, Palapu, Sodhu, Syansu, Badhan gaon, Hadiyaadi and Chhaam, who have either never been rehabilitated and are too poor to move. Such families continue to live on the rim of the reservoir. The State government has not evacuated these houses and moved its residents to safer locations, for which they are responsible under the law. These families and their houses are in danger of being submerged should the water level be raised beyond 820m. In fact, THDC admits in the petition that there are families in the 820m region which have not been shifted. Yet THDC wants to send them to their watery graves!

The incessant rain coupled with the weakening mountains (due to the dam activities) has increased the chances of landslides. In addition to Jogatmarg and Gangotri highway, many residential colonies got sandwiched due to the land slides. The villages of Raulkot, Nakot, Bhald, Baldogi, Haadiyadi, Chham and Syansu have also been affected by landslides. Houses of the village Chhaam are in immediate danger due to the increase in water level beyond 820m and village Chham people had to leave their houses and move to other places and terror is in Chinyali Saud area. There are cracks visible on the exposed surface of rocks facing the reservoir at many of these sites. The possible landslides in the village of Chanthi, located just above the Tehri dam reservior. In 2002, a study by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) said a rise in water levels could increase pressure and the instability of the slopes. Clearly, the THDC does not care for minor inconveniences such as houses tumbling into the water with its residents. THDC had the audacity to write in their affidavit that they will deal with the problems of landslides when they occur. Until the THDC knows how to bring the dead back to life, it is hard to understand how they will ‘deal with it’.

What about the dam’s safety? THDC did not follow the norms of the Central Water commission for the filling of the dam reservoir which they promised to follow, in their affidavit filed in Hon'ble Supreme Court in the N. D. Jayal case. According to the Central Water Commission rules, the water level above 820m has to be monitored such that the water level should not rise more than 1.3 M in 48 hours. The water level up to 830 M has to be monitored closely since the water level is being raised above 820 M for the first time. THDC records show that while on the 28th of August, the water level was 820 M, it rose to 825 M by 13th of September. The water should not have risen more than 2.4 M in the 16 days. However, THDC allowed the water to fill the reservoir at more than double the legal, prescribed speed and in doing so violated the law. This move had put the people and animals of the surrounding areas, the valleys downstream and the places upstream in extreme danger.

Why does the THDC not have a contingency plan? Why did they not plan for a rainy day, literally? Also, if the rains are as incessant and heavy as the THDC claims in the petition, then there is a possibility of even 830m water level not helping in flood moderation. Has the THDC considered this? Or is the realisation that they maybe drowning millions to no avail yet to dawn? THDC had released only 900 cumecs of water. Why did they not release more water when they found out that the situation was becoming worse? While they claim to want to protect the people and property of downstream towns, it is a known fact that THDC has made only one tunnel for diverging water at the Koteshwar dam site. This tunnel has a capacity of 1180 cumecs only. The work at the dam has been delayed and fear of the excess water sweeping away the dam is at the core of THDC’s case for increase in water level. The THDC is responsible for the delays in construction and for not making more diverging tunnels. Why is it then making the people pay the price for its lack of foresight? Also, the increased discharge at Haridwar and Rishikesh is mostly from Alaknanda and its tributaries. The contribution of river Bhagirathi is minimal.

It is only when State Govt. did not permit them, that the THDC approached the Apex court. If they believed in the possibility of a flood and they knew that they could not go beyond 820mts then they should have started releasing water at a much earlier stage. If water goes beyond 820 mts then it would be contempt of Court and would place lives of thousands of families in danger. Losses downstream can not be used to get permission in the middle of the monsoon. They should have approached the Hon'ble Supreme Court after completing rehabilitation, six months before monsoon. When the R&R had not completed by then, why did THDC not approach the State Government or to the Hon’ble Court six months before as per orders of this Court?

On 14th September, THDC announced to newspapers and media that due to the incessant rains the water level in the reservoir may rise anytime. This false alarm created the panic THDC hoped for. This shows the ugly nature of THDCs tactics which feels no shame in manipulating the law in its favour.

Geological Survey of India (GSI)

THDC and State Govt. Uttarakhand both were aware of GSI reports but they did not take any action to save villages around rim of the reservoir.

29th March, 2007- The Geological Survey of India submitted its preliminary note in which they assessed the slopes in and around Barola, Kangsali, Raulakot, Nakot, Talla, Uppu, Bhald, Badhan and Hadiari villages in Bhagirathi valley as highly vulnerable. Similarly, slopes below Sod Uppu, Baldogi and Mundara Sera in Bhagirathi Valley were also assessed as vulnerable.

14th and 15th May, 2007- Geological Survey of India (GSI) has visited the site of vulnerable villages and observed the cracks in villages of Nakot, Raulakot and Bhaldgaon. They assessed that land-slides can occur in these villages upto 830 meters. The Survey team recommended the rehabilitation of Nakot, Raulakot and Syansu in Bhagirathi Valley immediately and that a detailed survey is done of the other villages.

25th May, 2008- the Supreme Court via an order directed that if there is a possibility of water level going upto 830 meters or nearby, immediate steps should be taken at least six months prior to FRL reaching 830 meters. The directions with regard to rehabilitation were reiterated in Orders dated 25th September, 2008 and 30th April, 2009. In the affidavits filed by the State of Uttarakhand and THDC, from 2008 onwards, it was repeatedly assured that they were rehabilitating people, but now the situation is worse.

It also came out in the affidavit of State of Uttarakhand and THDC that when re-survey was done by the Survey of India a new demarcation line of EL 835 meters was drawn wherein a maximum deviation of approximately 13.50 meters was observed at some places due to change in survey line, requiring the rehabilitation of 118 more families and acquisition of additional land falling in 45 villages. In such a situation, raising the water level in the reservoir will bring devastation to the entire area as well as the affected villages.

Lame excuses by the Uttarakhand Govt.

Nothing stops the State Government of Uttarakhand from spending money on the R/R work. The State government cannot use lack of funds as an excuse to play with people’s lives. The State government is entitled under the law to 12% free electricity from the Tehri Hydro electric project. The revenue generated from this electricity is to be used for the rehabilitation of affected people, development of the affected villages and bio-diversity conservation.

Government of India, vide its O.M. dated 17th May, 1989 have approved that “since the Home States are increasingly finding it difficult to locate alternative land and resources for rehabilitation of the oustees in hydro-electric projects. They need to be suitably assisted by giving incentives, such as the (proposed) 12% free power, to enable them to take care of the problems of rehabilitation in the areas affected by the hydro-electric projects.

The Central and State government should stop playing this political volleyball with the lives of the people. It’s time to stop passing the buck. The State Government should, therefore, take immediate steps to stop the deliberate attempt of THDC to raise the water level of the reservoir.

We demand:-

Tehri Dam reservoir’s water level should be brought down below 820m. by releasing water constantly.

  • R/R of people up to full reservoir level, building of bridges and other connectivity roads, civic amenities at all R/R site including resolution of oustees residing in New Tehri Town should be done immediately.

  • Land Rights should be given to all the oustees immediately.
  • THDC should be punished and should not be permitted to build any more dams.

Puran Singh

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