Renuka Dam Project, HP, India

High consumption of few elites and bad management of a thirsty Delhi are drying up Himalayan rivers amidst lack of clarity and transparency by the government


Description
The Renuka Dam project has been conceived as a drinking water supply scheme for the National Capital Territory of Delhi and envisages the construction of 148 m high rock fill dam on river Giri at Dadahu in Sirmaur district and a powerhouse at toe of the dam. While 90 per cent of the project cost will be borne by the Delhi government, Himachal Pradesh will bear 10 per cent of the cost. The project was scheduled for completion by November 2014. The project construction was stayed by the National Environment Appellate Authority/National Green Tribunal in 2010-11 due to objections on the Environment Clearance granted to the project. The project costs have shot up from ~3,572.19 crore to ~ 5,000 crore over the past few years. The origins of the project in fact go back to May 1994, when the governments of Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the utilisation and allocation of the waters of the upper Yamuna River which included the Renuka storage dam to be constructed in Sirmour district of HP. The MoU says that the state agency, HP Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL), will construct, operate and maintain the project while Centre will fund it. However, there is evidence that this dam had been proposed back in the '60s as a 40MW hydroelectric plant that was found not viable at that time. Later on, the purpose of supplying drinking water to the capital was added to the project proposal. As of today, the dam is being promoted as an "urgent" measure to tackle Delhi water crisis (the “urgency clause” -Section 17-4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894- was used during the land acquisition process and this way the dam authorities did away with the landholders’ right to file objections against land acquisition). Critics of the project have raised questions about the “urgency” associated with the project and its connection with Delhi’s water scarcity [1]. To justify the project, local politicians from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been making promises about bringing much-needed development to the "backward region”. What was unmentioned was the land to be acquired by the project, be it private, common or forest land. This has become the main issue, which is still debated. The total agricultural land to be diverted for this project is 1,231 hectares belonging to 32 villages. The dam and its reservoir will submerge 909 ha of reserved forestland, including 49 ha of the Renuka Wildlife Sanctuary (RWLS) [2]. A large part of the land to be acquired, nearly 40%, is forestland of which 49 hectares belongs to RWLS. When authorities requested to acquire this land in 2001-02, the proposal was first rejected by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) based on the Supreme Court orders related to protected areas. In 2005, the National Wildlife Board and later the Supreme Court cleared the diversion of the protected area conditional to some recommendations. The forest clearance for the project is the most complex issue of the affair, as most of the 450 hectares of private land to be acquired falls under the category of shamlaat lands,(private forests) . Although, as per a Supreme Court order (the 2009 T N Godavarman case), the felling of these trees and non-forest use of this area also needs a forest clearance, they have not been included in the survey for the forest clearance for the Renuka Dam. The environment clearance is being challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by Mr. Sharma, a resident of Mohtu, one of the project-affected villages, but representing the interests of 30 villages in total. The main claims are regarding the effects of the project on the local ecology and the absence of a social impact assessment study. The EIA has also been challenged for having inaccurate data with regard to the amount of land required for the project. The petitioners have also accused the project proponents of not including in the environmental impact assessment a large number of forest lands and the trees that will be submerged by the project and to have the lowest compensation rates in the state of Himachal. Mr Sharma declared: “We learnt through Right To Information appeals that the dam proponents purchased land by paying Rs 6,80,000 per bigha while they are paying compensation for uncultivable land at Rs 60,500 per bigha. When we enquired about the disparities in the land prices, they said that land prices have been stagnant as people hardly buy or sell land. It is not clear to them that nobody wants to sell the land since it is so fertile and lucrative to stay here. The people have not moved from here for last 100 years or so,” [2]. The oustees of the Renuka dam have come together in local collectives like Renuka Dam Sangarsh Samiti (especially since 2009) to completely oppose the project. Apart from the resettlement-related issues, they have also started questioning the very basis of the project. They argue that if Delhi wants to use the waters of the Giri river, there is no need for the dam; the same water in any case flows into the Yamuna and then onwards to Delhi. In March 2015, although the appeal is still pending at the National green Tribunal, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has given clearance for the diversion of 909 hectare forestland, also after the pressure in summer 2014 by Himachal's state Power Minister Sujan Singh Pathania on Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti to get the matter expedited [4]. There's a serious issue with official data provided around the project. Official documents present different sets of figures of the Renuka project: the website of the HP Power Corporation, the environmental impact assessment report, the various responses to right to information (RTIs) queries provide non-homogenous information on submergence areas, the land to be acquired and the number of affected families. Such confusion contributes to creating an unpredictable situation at the community level. According to Manshi Asher [1], the voices of those people depending on a "thriving agricultural economy based on cultivation of a wide variety of traditional, subsistence, and cash crops like ginger, garlic and tomatoes" have been "submerged by the vocal, influential persons in the community, who will lose small portions of their farms and forests, and who look forward to the fruits of “development”. Scientists and activists ask why is Delhi not taking other possible demand side management options to discourage avoidable misuse of water and note that Delhi has been using its current water supply in a most inequitable way. In fact, while the vast majority of the population struggles to get water for their daily basic needs, there are islands that use water most wastefully. The city is already drawing water from the Bhakra dam, it also gets water from the Tehri project and now it is looking to the Renuka dam. Moreover, it expects to draw its remaining share of Yamuna waters from the Kishau and Lakhawar-Vyasi Dams in Uttarakhand [5]. The World Bank had already noted that as much as 40 per cent of Delhi's water was lost, mostly due to old and leaking pipes, compared to the international best practice of 10 per cent. Given that Delhi supplies somewhere around 720 MGD of water, the losses work out to 288 MGD, more than what the Renuka project is expected to supply [5]. Asher finally observes that "Amidst this entire cacophony, the questions of whether the Renuka Dam is the only answer to Delhi’s water crisis, whether there is indeed such a “crisis”, and if so, what are its underlying causes, remain unaddressed." [1]
Basic Data
NameRenuka Dam Project, HP, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceSirmaur District, Himachal Pradesh
SiteDadahu
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Renuka Dam project, conceived as a drinking water supply scheme for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, envisages construction of a high rock fill dam on river Giri (Yamuna basin) at Dadahu in Sirmaur district and a powerhouse at toe of dam. The Renuka dam is planned to be 148 metres high and 430 metres wide, with an installed capacity of 40 MW. The project will ensure 45640 ha m of live water storage in its reservoir and a firm water supply to the tune of 23 cumecs to Delhi besides generating 40 MW power exclusively for use of Himachal Pradesh. The Dam will also result in generating additional power of 93.83 MU by existing 60 MW Giri HEP. Total cost of the project at December, 2006 price level is Rs. 2175.00 crore which shall be borne by Govt. of India/ Govt. of Delhi and other beneficiary states. The project is scheduled for completion by November 2014 [3]
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)1,600 (land submerged)
Level of Investment (in USD)INR 5,000 crores (more or less USD 800,000,000)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population337 families [3]
Start Date2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesHimachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) from India
Patel Engineering from India
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Himachal Pradesh, Government of Delhi, National Green Tribunal, Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), Himachal Pradesh High Court, Land Acquisition Officer, Supreme Court, Environmental Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersRenuka Dam Sangarsh Samiti

Himdhara.org

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Project temporarily suspended
Ministry of Environment gave clearance for the diversion of forestland and the Environmental clearance is challenged at the NGT.
Development of AlternativesFor improving water supply system in Delhi: repair and improve conditions of water pipes in Delhi, reduce consumption, apply a fairer distribution.

At local level at Renuka: mobilizers agree they don't need the dam for local economy and want to protect their fertile fields and fisheries in the river.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Ministry of Forest and Environment gave clearance in March 2015 for the diversion of forestland and the Environmental clearance is challenged is at the National Green Tribunal. The court has stayed the construction of the project in the meanwhile.

However, besides legal procedures and tools to challenge the dam project, the questions of whether the Renuka Dam is the only answer to Delhi’s water crisis and what are the underlying causes of a water crisis in Delhi remain unaddressed.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Forest Rights Act, 2006
[click to view]

References

ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT FOR RENUKA DAM PROJECT IN SIRMAUR DISTRICT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
[click to view]

Site inspection report
[click to view]

Links

Renuka dam project faces delay
[click to view]

Letter To Delhi CM on Renuka Dam And Delhi Water Issues, by scientists and activists, June 2010
[click to view]

Himdhara - A Himalayan Sell Out
[click to view]

India Environment Portal
[click to view]

[4] The Tribune - Renuka Dam project gets MoEF approva
[click to view]

[2] Green Tribunal clears way for Renuka dam, partially
[click to view]

[1] Manshi Asher, "Renuka Dam. The Saga Continues", EPW august 11, 2012 vol xlviI no 32
[click to view]

[3] HPPCL webpage
[click to view]

Tehelka - Manshi Asher, Himachal Pradesh Government Flunks Forest Rights Subject
[click to view]

Memorandum: Scrap Renuka dam project - 2009
[click to view]

[5] India Together - S. Dharmadhikary, Drowning Himachalis, pampering Delhi
[click to view]

Letter from SANDRP and Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan to Aam Admi Party (at Delhi government in 2013) on water politics in Delhi
[click to view]

Media Links

Renukaji Dilli Ke Nalon Mein - A documentary about the movement against the proposed Renukaji Dam Project
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protest at Renuka The Cost of Delhi’s Water: Protest against Construction of Renuka Dam in Himachal Pradesh
Source: SANDRP
[click to view]

Delhi water system network Source: SANDRP
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorHimdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh, India (www.himdhara.org) and Daniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB ( d.delbene_at_gmail.com)
Last update19/11/2015
Comments