The Sardar Sarovar Dam: Engineering Miracle or Failure?

Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which is the world’s second largest dam on his 67th birthday, on September 17, 2017. He claimed that no other project in the world had faced so many obstacles and that the initiative had overcome numerous hurdles to finally be made. Present at Dabhoi, Gujarat, he dedicated the dam – which he called an “engineering miracle” – to the nation. The dam is supposed to provide power and water to 9,000 villages to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

At the same time, miles away in a village in Madhya Pradesh, thousands carried out a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ – a protest sitting barefoot in water. The reason for this protest? They believed that the water from the dam will displace 40,000 families because their homes will be submerged. The protesters are led by activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar. The protest had begun on Friday on the banks of Narmada at Chota Barda village in Dhar, about 300 km from Bhopal. The water level has been rising there constantly and has already submerged Nisarpur and Rajghat.

The highest embankment on a river in the country is built on the Narmada river and is expected to change the fortunes of Gujarat. However, since the foundation stone of this project was laid in 1961 by Jawaharlal Nehru, it has wrapped up in myriad controversies.

In September 1988, many environmentalists, social workers and scientists sent a memorandum to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asking him to reconsider environmental clearance granted to the project. Activists have since been demanding that the filling of water in the dam be stopped and the games opened so that the water level reduces.

Patkar, who had visited the areas expected to be submerged by the river project in 1985, submitted her critique of the project, saying that the people who were to be displaced had not been rehabilitated or informed properly about the issues. She also demanded that the water filling be stopped till rehabilitation is undertaken and compensation paid to the families, which however has not happened despite a Supreme Court order. She also took her case to the World Bank, which stoped funding the project in 1994. Modi himself has talked about the opposition to the construction of the dam from the World Bank. When the financial institution stopped giving money to the project, the temples of Gujarat donated money to it.

Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the apex court over the environmental issues posed by the dam and received a stay in 1996, although eventually in 2000, work was allowed to resume with some restrictions in October 2000. When her efforts failed, she led the NBA and undertook several fasts for weeks along with Baba Amte, another veteran activist.

Modi is right when he says that the project has progressed despite problems. In 2000, the SC allowed the government to increase the height of the dam to 90-metres, which kept increasing till it reached its current and final height of 138.68 metres.

The dam thus holds in its stead both expectations of development as well as the fear of displacement and the lack of compensation for the people of India. It also sits high as a symbol of the failure of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. While Patkar’s Jal Satyagraha movement carries on, so does some iota of rehabilitation and compensation, albeit slowly.

Sources: NDTV, India Today

Construction of Kishanganga and Ratle Projects in India permitted: World Bank

The World Bank has granted India the permission to construct the hydroelectric power facilities under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) on Jhelum and Chenab, the tributaries of Indus, with certain restrictions.

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiation between the two countries. Initially Pakistan opposed the construction of the Kishanganga and Ratle (330 megawatts and 850 megawatts respectively) hydroelectric power plants, being built in Jammu and Kashmir by India. On noticing the two countries’ disagreement on the technical aspect, World Bank asked the IWT to designate the two rivers and Indus as the “Western Rivers” and that Pakistan has unrestricted use to it.

In November 2016, the World Bank appointed neutral expert and established court of arbitration, to look into the technical differences between the two countries, but the process was stopped after India’s objection.

The meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) held in March 2017, the two countries had talk over these two projects with World Bank as a mediator between them.

Finally, in the secretary-level discussions that were held this week between the India and Pakistan, both have agreed to appoint neutral expert and court of arbitration, respectively. The two parties have also con corded to continue discussions and meet again in Washington DC in September. As reported by The Times of India, the fact sheet states that, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on the specified rivers as per the “annexure of the treaty”.



Seeing no progress in Pakistan’s natural gas project, World Bank cancels $100m loan

The World Bank has cancelled a $100 million loan to Pakistan’s natural gas efficiency project being carried out by Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) in the areas of Karachi, Sindh and Balochistan. Lack of progress and interest on the part of the gas company led to the closure of the project, which was started to check the rising levels of unaccounted-for gas (UFG) drain from the pipeline system. Illegal connections, one of the main reasons behind UFG have led to a drain of natural resources and also commercial losses.

Out of the original commitment of $200 million, World Bank had paid only $0.25 million so far. Inadequate ownership on part of SSGC coupled with organisational red tape led to delay in procurement and expiry of bid leading to a stalled project. The SSGC has blamed the slow procurement process for this loss. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of Pakistan was keen on reducing UFG and keeping this in mind, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had imposed a penalty on gas companies for UFG beyond the benchmark of 4.5 per cent.



All you need to know about the Indus Water Treaty

In light of India’s diplomatic response to the shocking Uri terror attack, it is being speculated that the Indus Water Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, may be reconsidered by the former.

Commenting on the matter, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup said, “ I am sure you are aware that there are differences between India and Pakistan on the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty. But this is an issue that needs to be addressed bilaterally.” Further, Swarup cited mutual partnership and credence as grounds for the success of such a treaty.

For 56 odd years, the Indus Water Treaty has ensured the peaceful distribution of the Indus and its tributaries’ water, between India and Pakistan. At a time when water wars are being instigated over the Cauvery river, this serves as a reminder that water resources, which flow through countries, can be shared by them amicably through legal framework. Here is all one needs to know about this decades-old accord between the two neighbours:

1.     The Indus Water Treaty is an agreement between former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s former President Ayub Khan, signed on September 19, 1960.

2.     The World Bank orchestrated this accord.

3.     The treaty regulates how the amount of water (belonging to Indus and its tributaries) that flows between the countries, will be used.

4.     The accord mandates that rivers Beas, Ravi and Sutlej are to be under Indian administration, while Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are to be under Pakistani governance.

5.     However, as the Indus flows from India, the country is permitted to use up to 20 per cent of its water for generation of power, irrigation, and transport.

6.     A Permanent Indus Commission, a bilateral council was established to execute and handle the agreement. The committee also resolves altercations emerging over water sharing.

7.     The agreement imparts the tool of adjudication to settle conflicts peacefully.

8.     Despite Indus’s source being in Tibet, China has been excluded from the treaty. If the communist nation decides to stop or alter the course of the river, both India and Pakistan will be affected.

9.     Scientists believe that the melting of the ice caps in the Tibetan plateau region will affect the river in the future.

10.  Significantly, while India and Pakistan have had their daggers drawn over several issues since Partition, there has been no dispute over water since the treaty’s validation. The agreement has lived through three wars and perennial conflict between the neighbouring countries.

Read more: Hindustan Times, The Economic Times



Telengana signs deal with WB for Rural Inclusive Growth Project

The Telengana Government will soon be taking up the Rural Inclusive Growth Project which aims at improving the incomes of small and marginal farmers.

The project includes access to service like health, sanitation, nutrition and social entitlement for these farmers. The scheme mainly aims at helping farmers which belong to the schedule caste and schedule tribes in the 150 most backwards mandal covering 5,00 villages in Telengana.

The state Government has signed $75 million deal with the World Bank to implement the project. The deal was signed between World Bank Country Director Onno Ruhl, Department of Economic Affairs joint secretary Raj Kumar and State Rural Development Department Deputy Secretary K.P. Harish Kumar in New Delhi.

The assigned officials will work closely with the panchayats in the 150 mandals particularly on last mile service delivery issues, lay technology for one stop shops at the panchayat level and bolster their role as an interface between the citizens and dealers of important facilities. Apart from these, a facility to enhance the service deliveries to woman and disabled people would also be established.

This project will help small and marginal farmers to connect to the urban markets and make them competitive across the value chain so that they will be able to take benefits from other similar sectors, as well.





World Bank Cuts Global Growth Forecasts for the fifth straight year

The World Bank has lowered its economic growth forecast for the fifth straight year.  According to the Washington-based development bank, the weak performance of major rising market economies will compress activity overall, along with the feeble showings from developed countries such as the United States.

The bank has lowered its forecast for 2016 growth to 2.9 percent, from a 3.3 percent projection in June, 2015.  According to the World Bank’s bi-annual Global Economic Prospects report, considering the size and global economic amalgamation of the leading emerging markets like Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa, or the so-called BRICS, the simultaneous brake underway in all but one of them could have considerable spillovers to the rest of the world.

The World Bank has also raised particular concern about the declining performance of top emerging economies of the world. It also forecasts that, the Russian and Brazilian economies would continue to contract in 2016, rather than revisit growth as it had projected in June.

In Russia, the real gross domestic product could shrink at a 0.7 per cent annual pace in 2016, whereas in June, it had forecast 0.7 percent GDP growth for this year.

The South African economy is expected to grow at a modestly faster rate in 2016 as compared to last year, but substantially slower than the growth forecast in June.

India was the only one economy expected to see a notable progress in economic performance from 2015. But even there, the bank pinched its 2016 estimate by 0.1 per cent from its earlier forecast.

The bank also trimmed its outlook for the United States and other developed economies like the euro zone.


Sources: ReutersBloomberg

Clean India campaign gets a big push from World Bank

The World Bank on Wednesday, approved a loan of $1.5 billion for the government’s Clean India campaign. This comes as a great push to the government’s efforts to ensure improved sanitation conditions in rural areas and to put an end to the practice of open defecation by 2019. The loan issued by the bank will be used for Swachh Bharat Mission Support Operation Project.

According to the statistics provided by the World Bank, out of the 2.4 billion people who lack access to good sanitation conditions globally, more than 750 million live in India, with 80 per cent of them living in the rural areas.

Over 500 million of the rural population still defecate in the open, thus being vulnerable to preventable diseases, illness, stunting, harassment and economic losses.

World Bank Country Director for India, Onno Ruhl said, “This project, aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Swachh Bharat initiative of the government, will result in significant health benefits for the poor and vulnerable, especially those living in rural areas.”

The two key components of the project, as stated by Ruhl are incentivising good performance by states and focus on behavioural changes.

As per the Bank’s statements, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) will oversee and coordinate the program and also provide support to the participating states. A part of the funds will also be used to improve the role played by MDWS in program management, advocacy, evaluation and monitoring.

The World Bank has also allocated a parallel USD 25 million technical assistance to state governments to build their capacity in implementing community-led behavioural change programmes to ensure widespread usage of toilets by rural households.


Sources: The Indian Express


The World Bank has approved a loan of $1.5 billion towards the Clean India campaign (Image Courtesy: AFP)
The World Bank has approved a loan of $1.5 billion towards the Clean India campaign (Image Courtesy: AFP)