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Dam, Water

After years of hydro push, Arunachal begins scrapping dam projects

22 projects worth 3,800 MW terminated and 46 projects worth 8,000 MW had been served notices, says Chief Minister Pema Khandu

More than a decade after his father Dorjee Khandu ushered in a “dam revolution”, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu has begun scrapping hydro-power projects for non-performance.

The Chief Minister, inaugurating the State’s first community-managed mini hydroelectric project at Dikshi in West Kameng district on September 13, said his government terminated 22 projects worth 3,800 MW while another 46 projects worth 8,000 MW had been served notices.

“These projects have not progressed and people have lost confidence in them. The government is reviewing the hydro-power projects periodically and action will be taken against the power developers found non-performing,” Mr. Khandu said.

Arunachal Pradesh was among 16 States identified during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government for an ambitious plan in 2003 to make India produce 50,000 MW or hydroelectricity by 2017. This north-eastern State bordering China’s Tibet, accounting for the bulk of the proposed installed capacity was the first off the blocks for the hydro-power “gold rush”.

Agreement spree

A State hydro-power policy drawn up in 2007 saw Arunachal Pradesh sign agreements with both public sector and private sector players. Deals for 142 dams – their capacity ranging from 4.50 MW to 4,000 MW – on virtually all rivers and streams were inked by 2015.

In July 2015, former Congress Chief Minister Nabam Tuki told the State Assembly that Arunachal Pradesh received ₹1,495.6 crore as upfront money and processing fees from agreements signed with 159 companies for projects with installed capacities of 47,000 MW. The upfront money was charged per MW.

Local tribal groups and environmentalists across Arunachal Pradesh and Assam – which fears a massive downstream effect of the proposed dams – stalled most of the mega projects while a few such as the 2,000 MW Subansiri Lower being built by the NHPC has been lying incomplete since 2011.

Over the years, though, the Khandu government has been inclined towards smaller, sustainable hydroelectric projects. “It is time to change our mindset. Clean and green energy can change the economy of the State and the region,” Mr. Khandu said.

Kulsi dam

Meghalaya’s push for the Kulsi multi-purpose dam, declared a National Project, along the Assam-Meghalaya border, has unnerved the residents of 33 villages in Assam.

The project has been in limbo for almost a decade, but a consensus between the Assam and Meghalaya governments has paved the ground for a detailed project report. The dam is proposed on the Kulsi, a river where the endangered Gangetic river dolphins from the Brahmaputra breed, near Ukiam, a village about 75 km west of Guwahati.

The proposed capacity of the Kulsi project has not been specified, but it entails a 62m high concrete dam on the inter-State border. The project is estimated to cost ₹1,460 crore and would affect 15.55 sq km of land in Assam and 5.75 sq km in Meghalaya due to reservoir submergence.

“We cannot let our homes and farmlands be destroyed. The dam will be built over our dead bodies,” said J.R. Marak, the president of a committee involving all the villages.

Dam, Water

China funding NGOs against hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh

China is trying to fund certain civil society organizations to incite protests against hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, fear Indian government officials.

The development comes amid India’s efforts to revive work on the long-pending hydro projects, including the 2,000 megawatts (MW) Lower Subansiri and 2,880MW Dibang projects by state-run NHPC Ltd. The Centre is also trying to expedite the completion of 600MW Tawang-I and 800MW Tawang-II projects in the strategically located state.

Any delay in building hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh on rivers originating in China will affect India’s strategy of establishing its prior-use claim over the waters, according to international law. India is concerned that the hydropower projects may be affected by Beijing’s plan to divert water from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra towards the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu.

“We have heard that China is trying to incite and fund some NGOs in Arunachal Pradesh against hydro power projects,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.

Mint reported on 30 August that 103 private hydropower projects in the state with a total capacity of 35 gigawatts (GW) are still to take off despite the government’s Act East policy.

“The public meetings for consent under the Forest Rights Act haven’t been held for Tawang-I and Tawang-II as these organizations are not allowing the critical meetings to take place,” said a second person aware of the development, also seeking anonymity.

China is working on an ambitious $62-billion south-north water diversion scheme for Yarlung Tsangpo, the upper stream of the Brahmaputra river.

The Tawang Chu and Nyamjang Chu are the two main rivers in Tawang district. The Tawang Chu emerges after the confluence of Mago Chu and Nyukcharong Chu. The river system for Nyukcharong Chu originates from Tibet in the eastern Himalayas and flows in the southern direction and joins Seti Chu after 52km, according to information reviewed by Mint. The catchment area lies in the inaccessible high mountain region of the Himalayas and a major part of it is located outside the Indian territory in Tibet. About 65% of the catchment area of Stage-I lies in Tibet.The total catchment area up to the proposed barrage site of Tawang Stage-I is 2,937sq. km and of Tawang Stage-II is 3,419sq. km, according to the information.

The forest advisory committee of the ministry of environment, forest, and climate change had earlier deferred clearance to the 600MW Tawang hydroelectric project, saying that the location is a vital wintering ground for the black-necked crane, an endangered species, and other birds. The area is also home to barking deer, sambar, wild yak, serow, goral, wild boar, red panda, clouded leopard, snow leopard and musk deer. Environmentalists have repeatedly said efforts to raise the bogey of “national security” could result in irreversible environmental damage.

“India needs to take informed and democratic decisions about whatever it plans to build on rivers in Arunachal Pradesh. There is a need for thorough social, environment, and cumulative impact assessment of projects that we want to build,” said Himanshu Thakkar, co-ordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. “People’s movement in the state is so strong that any project that takes a toll on the environment would be opposed. The whole narrative that China is funding NGOs to oppose these projects is absurd,” said Thakkar.

Queries emailed on 2 September to the spokespersons of India’s ministries of power, external affairs, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi and NHPC till press time were not answered. In response to Mint’s queries, Arunachal Pradesh chief secretary, Naresh Kumar, in a message, said: “I have no information.” A Union home ministry spokesperson declined comment.

Courtesy: The Live Mint

Dam, Development, Water

103 private hydro projects fail to take off in Arunachal

  • Firms that won the contract to set up the projects lack the capacity to do so, says govt
  • india has installed generation capacity of 357.87GW. Of this, 45.4GW comes from hydropower projects

As many as 103 private hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh totalling about 35 gigawatts (GW) are still to take off despite the government’s Act East policy focus.

This comes against the backdrop of growing concerns on the delay in India’s plans to generate power from rivers originating from neighbouring China.

The projects that are estimated to require investments of about₹3.5 trillion were awarded to the private power producers by the Arunachal Pradesh government, said three Union government officials aware of the matter on condition of anonymity.

The state government has now approached the Centre to explore whether state-run power producers such as NHPC Ltdwould want to take over the projects, said the three people mentioned above.

The Arunachal Pradesh government has already issued termination notices to 21 such projects totalling around 2.5GW, the three people mentioned above said.

“Those projects couldn’t be constructed. The work is at a standstill on all of them,” said one of the officials. “Those projects were awarded by taking some upfront money or premiums from the private sector developers. Not one of these projects could be constructed,” said the official.

The government has been pushing an economic agenda, especially with respect to long-pending infrastructure projects, keeping in mind the geo-economics of the northeastern region. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has also substantially increased budgetary support for the region.

A delay in building hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh on rivers originating in China will affect India’s strategy of establishing its prior-use claim over the waters, according to international law. India is concerned that hydropower projects planned in Arunachal Pradesh may be affected by the neighbouring country’s plan to divert water from rivers that flow into the Brahmaputra towards the arid zones of Xinjiang and Gansu.

Arunachal Pradesh, which has the greatest hydropower potential among Indian states, awarded private companies contracts to build four hydropower projects though NHPC had prepared their detailed project reports (DPRs), Mint reported on 8 October 2012. A DPR forms the basis for implementing capital-intensive projects, which involve relocation and resettlement of project-affected persons and the ability to withstand geological surprises and also requires a substantive investment of time and money. “The private sector companies don’t have the capacity to set them up,” said another of the officials mentioned above.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India in a report, Performance Audit on Capacity Expansion in Hydro Power Sector by CPSEs (central public sector enterprises), tabled earlier in Parliament, said the power ministry should instruct state governments that allocation of projects above 100 megawatts needs to be “fair, transparent and competitive”.

“The government of Arunachal Pradesh is committed to harness in a time-bound manner, the hydro potential of Arunachal Pradesh, which is about 60% of India’s potential, in close cooperation with the government of India, including central PSUs,” said the state’s chief secretary, Naresh Kumar.

India’s north-eastern region, along with Bhutan, has a total hydropower generation potential of about 58GW. Of this, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounts for 50.32GW. India at present has an installed generation capacity of 357.87GW, of which 13% or about 45.4GW comes from hydropower projects.

“Doors are open for projects in the North-East particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. Hydropower will play an important role in the development and integration of the region with the mainland,” said Balraj Joshi, chairman and managing director of NHPC.  (The Mint) 

Dam, Water

NHPC likely to begin construction of 2 GW Lower Subansiri hydro plant in October

State-run hydro power giant NHPC is likely to begin construction of the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri power plant in October this year as it has received the requisite approval from the Assam government, an official said. 

NHPC had inked a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Arunachal Pradesh for setting up the project in 2010. However, since the project falls in the territories of both Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, the latter’s approval was needed as well. 

“NHPC inked MoA with Assam on August 23, 2019 for Lower Subansiri project. As you know, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had given go-ahead to the project on July 31, 2019, and NHPC is expected to begin construction of the plant immediately after monsoon season is over by October this year,” the official said. 

Developers of power projects are required to sign MoAs with the respective states for setting up plants in their territories. 

The Lower Subansiri project has been stuck for the past eight years due to various issues. The run-of-the-river project on the Subansiri, a tributary of the Brahmaputra river, is mostly situated in Arunachal Pradesh. However, some parts of the submergence area fall in Assam. 

Work on the project is expected to be completed in three-and-a-half years with a total expenditure of Rs 20,000 crore (on completion). 

The official said to allay safety fears, the dam has been designed and strengthened to withstand seismic activity up to a magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale, which makes it one of the strongest dams in India. 

Work on the Subansiri project was started in 2006, but it came to a halt in 2011 due to various issues. 

In 2013, the NGT stayed any further work on the project. Thereafter, the project was examined from every angle, be it safety or environmental issues, by national and international experts.

Subansiri Lower Dam is located in India

Finally, the project got clearance from all the agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Recently, the NGT also gave its nod for the construction of the project. 

The project is located near North Lakhimpur on the border of Aruncachal Pradesh and Assam. The estimated annual energy generation from the project is 7,421 million units in a 90 per cent dependable year. 

The project is located near North Lakhimpur on the border of Aruncachal Pradesh and Assam. The estimated annual energy generation from the project is 7,421 million units in a 90 per cent dependable year. 

Hydro power is among the cleanest sources of green power. It is essential for meeting climate commitments and ensuring grid stability in view of anticipated large scale integration of infirm .. 

integration of infirm renewable energy from sources like solar/wind. 

The hydropower sector has been going through a challenging phase. The share of hydropower in the total capacity has declined from 50.36 per cent in the 1960s to around 13 per cent in 2018-19. 

Dam, Water

Indian Government helps Bhutan to generate hydropower plunging Indian downstream people

Happy Bhutan had unleashed unhappiness in the form of water to the people of Assam for years. While the Union Government and stakeholders are opposing Chinese dams on the Himalayan rivers flowing into India, our government is not concerned over dams built by Bhutan over trans-boundary rivers. On the other hand, the Union government is patronizing hydro projects upstream in complete disregard to the interests of the people of Assam downstream.


by Chandan Kumar Duarah


Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his second visit to Bhutan, inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant in Thimphu on Saturday and also launched stamps to commemorate five decades of India-Bhutan hydropower cooperation.


With the inaugural of 720MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Plant and opening of official discussion on the Sunkosh, the biggest project targeted, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit is in a way commemorating five decades of hydropower cooperation between Bhutan and India.


“I am very happy to come to Bhutan at the beginning of my second term,” Mr. Modi said in a joint press statement after delegation-level talks with his Bhutanese counterpart at the historic Simtokha Dzong. The two countries signed 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education.


The commissioning of Mangdechhu takes Bhutan’s installed power capacity to 2,326 MW from 1,606, an increase by 44.8 percent. Mangdechhu is the fourth project implemented under inter-government (IG) model.
The first project under the IG model was 336MW Chukha project financed with 60 percent grant and 40 loan grant from the government of India and commissioned in 1986.


The 1,020MW Tala and 60 MW Kurichhu were other projects implemented under IG model. The two projects of Punatshangchhu are also being implemented under the IG model with 70 percent loan and 30 percent grant.


Sunkosh, which has the potential to generate over 2,500MW of power is the priority for the government currently. Discussions during PM Modi’s visit  revolves around the modality of implementation and financing.
But Dams in Bhutan continues to be a nightmare downstream, having created havoc at regular intervals. In the last 10 years, over one lakh families were rendered homeless while more than one lakh hectares of farmland were devastated in the downstream districts of Baksa, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Nalbari.


But Modi’s stand with Bhutan makes a grave concern to downstream people of Assam (India) living along the rivers originates in Bhutan. In last week of July, after a little relief, the flood situation has deteriorated once again in Assam with Bhutan releasing the excess water from 55 meter tall dams in eastern Bhutan adjoining western Assam.


Although there is an agreement between India and Bhutan to share information on the release of water from the Kurichu dam, Bhutan allegedly continues to release water from the dam without sharing the information with the Indian (Assam) authorities. There are instances when unannounced release of water Kurichu dam by Bhutan jeopardized the lives of thousands of people downstream.


The sudden surge of water release again caught Assam authorities off-guard. It so happens that during incessant rains, waters from the dam is released flow down to Assam. In July this year, there was a sudden rise in the water levels of the Beki river that washed away a part of the embankment at Panchmile, inundating the entire Manas National Park.


Last month Druk Green Power Corporation Limited (DGPC) of Bhutan, which runs the 60MW Kurichhu project in eastern Bhutan, had announced that it would release excess water from its dam. Several flood-affected districts in lower Assam are on alert following the release of excess water from the dam of Kurichhu hydropower plant in Bhutan early on July 25 morning.


In Barpeta district, the administration has sounded a red alert for people residing on the banks of the Beki and Pahumara rivers appealing them to move to higher and safer locations.


Further, the threat of Kurichu looms large on pristine wildlife habitats like Manas—a world heritage site, an elephant project, a tiger project and a biosphere reserve.

Situated on the western flanks of Assam, Manas National Park is one of the most vibrant forest ecosystems in India. Situated on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, brushing the Bhutan border, this pristine and primordial wilderness reserve is a treasure trove of bio diversity.


Situated on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, brushing the Bhutan border, this pristine and primordial wilderness reserve is a treasure trove of bio diversity. Conservation activists voiced the concern of the downstream people. The situation prevailing in Manas is likely to happen in wildlife habitats of upper Assam when hydro electric power projects are commissioned in China, Butan and Arunachal Pradesh (India).


Happy Bhutan has been unleashing unhappiness in the form of water to the people of Assam for years without informing concerned authorities except last time. While the Union Government and stakeholders are opposing Chinese dams on the Himalayan rivers flowing into India, our government is not concerned over dams built by Bhutan over trans-boundary rivers.
Conservationist activists expresses the concern of the downstream people and the situation prevailing in Manas is likely to happen in wildlife habitats of upper Assam when hydro electric power projects are commissioned in China and Arunachal Pradesh.


It is another matter of concern that on July 18, 2019 the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave the go-ahead to the Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. Pegged at a capacity to yield 2,880 megawatts, the project is going to be India’s largest hydropower venture. When completed, it would reach the elevation of a staggering 278 metres – also making it the world’s tallest concrete gravity dam.


The central government has decided to build the project without any public consultation or study of the potential impacts in downstream Assam state. Anti-dam activists are now concerned Modi’s government will now push ahead with a series of mega dams planned in the northeast region, ignoring all expert and advisory committees in an attempt to harness “green” hydropower.


The Dibang is just one of 168 massive dams slated to produce 57,000 megawatts of hydropower in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states. This strategically important region, which borders Myanmar in the east, Bhutan in the west and China in the north, is described by politicians as India’s ‘future powerhouse’ and is a key focus point of the country’s dam building programme.


China is involved in a major dam building programme on its side of the border, also using the waters of the Brahmaputra – which it calls the Yarlung Tsangpo. China’s plans to build a massive dam three times the size of the Three Gorges Dam on the Great Bend before the river swings round into India.


The Brahmaputra is one of the world’s major rivers, winding across the Tibetan Plateau through China, India and Bangladesh before joining with the Ganga and flowing out into the Bay of Bengal.
The dam building programme in north-east India has been highly controversial. Opponents say it not only ignores geological and ecological factors – it also fails to take into account the impact of climate change in the region.


Experts also say no proper overall plan has been put in place: though India and China have signed a limited agreement to data on river flow, there is no specific deal on managing the Brahmaputra’s waters.
Protests about the dams have been growing, with work on the 2,000 megawatt Lower Subansiri dam on one of the Brahmaputra’s tributaries – repeatedly held up.


Broken promises
In the build up to 2014 elections, Narendra Modi held a rally in Pasighat in the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in February where he acknowledged peoples’ concerns about large dams and committed to developing small hydropower instead.


“I know citizens of the region are against large power projects,” he had said. “I respect your sentiment. But hydropower can also be harnessed using smaller projects, while protecting the environment” Modi pretended.

Dam, Water

Water levels reducing in Siang and Brahmaputra river

People in Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and several districts in Assam heaved a sigh of relief as water level in Siang has significantly reduced on Sunday.

Arunachal Pradesh water resources department secretary, Bidol Tayeng said that with the danger of flash flood over, the situation has come to
normal now in all the vulnerable districts.

Assam water resource minister, Keshav Mahanta said, “The government has posted an officer in Pasighat to update the government of
situation. In Assam the water level are receding.”
Ferry services were resumed between Dibrugarh and Dhemaji on Sunday. This service was suspended after flood alert. The water level
in Dibrugarh increased by 1.16 metres from 103.32 metres to 104.48 metres in the last 24 hours upto 7am on Sunday which is below the
danger level of 105.70 metres.
After 7 am the water level has started decreasing by 4 to 6 cm every hour.

People in Siang in Arunachal Pradesh and several districts in Assam heaved a sigh of relief as water level in Siang has significantly reduced on Sunday.
Following landslide in China’s Yarlung Tsangpo and threat of water bomb, six districts in upper Assam had been put on high alert. Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Golaghat have been put on a high alert by the state government. Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has gone on alert after the formation of an artificial lake on the Yarlung Tsangpo River after a cliff fell at Milin section of the river, 70 km from Nuxia Hydrological Station in Tibe. East Arunachal Pradesh MP, Ninong Ering said that, “It seems the danger is over. The water level of Siang started receding from Saturday, and went down further on Sunday. So, the imminent threat is no more now. Much water has already flowed down by now.
Hence Siang is calm now.”
In Siang water receded to about 145 meter on Sunday from some 152.97 meter on Saturday at Pasighat. Tsangpo is known as siang in Arunachal Pradesh and Brahmaputra in Assam. On Thursday, Chinese government
informed India that a landslide on the river in Tibet region might burst any time.
In Arunachal Pradesh eight companies of NDRF were airlifted from Bhubaneswar and deployed at various vulnerable areas. Arunachal
Pradesh water resources department secretary, Bidol Tayeng said that with the danger of flash flood over, the situation has come to
normal now in all the vulnerable districts

Assam water resource minister, Keshav Mahanta said, “The government has posted an officer in Pasighat to update the government of
situation. In Assam the water level are receding.”
Ferry services were resumed between Dibrugarh and Dhemaji on Sunday. This service was suspended after flood alert. The water level
in Dibrugarh increased by 1.16 metres from 103.32 metres to 104.48 metres in the last 24 hours upto 7am on Sunday which is below the
danger level of 105.70 metres.
After 7 am the water level has started decreasing by 4 to 6 cm every hour

By Bikash Singh,

Chinese media reports: 

More than 6,000 people were evacuated and more will follow after a barrier lake was formed following a landslide that blocked the Yarlung Tsangpo River in the Tibet autonomous region on Wednesday morning. Its water level continues to rise, local authorities said on Thursday.

The landslide struck around 5 am on Wednesday near Gyalha village in Manling county, plugging the river that originates in Tibet and flows to India, according to the regional emergency response department.

By 7 am on Thursday, the water level of the lake had risen to 59 meters, and the amount of water reached 360 million cubic meters. The water level had been rising at an average speed of about one meter an hour from midnight to 7 am, the department said around noon.

More than 20,000 people in Manling and Medog counties were affected by the barrier lake and more people will be evacuated due to the risk of the barrier lake bursting.

The regional government has activated the highest level of emergency response for geological disasters and evacuated 6,000 residents.

The Ministry of Water Resources also required the regional government to provide hourly information of the water level of the Yarlung Tsangpo River at observation stations upstream and downstream of the barrier lake to Indian authorities.

A 12-member local work team consisting of hydrological and geological experts had arrived at the site by Wednesday. A six-member team sent by the Ministry of Natural Resources arrived at Menling county around 8 am on Thursday, the regional emergency response department said.

Wu Yingjie, Party chief of Tibet, urged the authorities to closely monitor the barrier lake and issue warnings on possible disasters. He also required them to evacuate residents who are threatened by the disaster.

It was the region’s second major geological disaster less in a week. On Oct 11, the Jinsha River, in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, was blocked by a landslide, creating a barrier lake in Chamdo.

Water from upstream has burst through the blockade in the Jinsha River, causing the water level in the barrier lake to drop significantly, signaling an easing of risks for the lower reaches of the river. But the Ministry of Emergency Management warned on Saturday that the possibility of another landslide near the first landslide site has grown.