Thursday, September 23, 2010

MATU media statement on Tehri Dam Decision

Matu Peoples' Organisation
Delhi contact: D 334/10, Ganesh Nagar, Pandav Nagar Complex Delhi-110092
Phone No.-011-22485545/ 9891814707

Criminal Offence committed by the Tehri Hydro-Development
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

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 Hon'ble Supreme 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

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

Puran Singh

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