Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sindhol Project Update III by WIO

Sindhol Project Update III from Water Initiatives Odisha - 24th August 2011

Clear the air on Sindhol

The moves so far on this controversial hydro power project has been more political game rather than a procedural intervention.  Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) has urged upon the government of Odisha to first clear the air on the project design and other related issues before moving any further.  WIO has also made it clear that the project is uncalled for without making a comprehensive analysis of water and energy scenario of the state; and if it displaces people and submerges agriculture land and forests.

The Sindhol project has sparked strong resentment among people in the affected districts in western Odisha.  There are hardly any details on the project available in public domain.  This creates confusion among people and also casts doubts over the government's true intention behind it. 

Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) earlier raised concerns over its socio-economic and ecological impacts. We apprehend this to be merely a ‘reservoir creation project’ to centralize storage of river water for supply to upcoming industries in the region.  (For further details, please see our earlier updates on the issue posted in this blog).

However, the way the government has been moving ahead with the project ever since signing of the MoU with OHPC and NHPC, we are apprehensive that the project is a political game rather than any hydroelectric project, at least for now.  We urge upon the government to clear this air and take things through proper procedures.

The energy minister of the state has been, time and again, telling that the design of the project has changed so that there is no submergence and displacement of people.  However, he has never disclosed the new design; not even in the floor of the house.  We therefore question whether such a design exists.  Even for mega projects like POSCO facts have been disclosed as soon as MoUs were signed.  Why then the government is refusing to doll out the detailed plans and designs for this project? 

We demand a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to be made public. 

After the house saw storms over the issue, the speaker of the Assembly decided that a ‘house committee’ will be formed which will conduct public hearings and give report to the government.  He also said that there would be ‘no work’ until that is done.  We have serious objections to this move. 

When there is no DPR available, on what basis the house committee will conduct public hearing? 

Further, what are the procedural mechanisms established for such a public hearing that can take ‘free, prior and informed participation’ of the people?  Has an Environmental Impact Assessment been done?  If not, how will this committee investigate into it and on what basis? When the project is just at a MoU signing level, what ‘work’ does the speaker refers to which will not be done until the house committee reports on the matter?  The casual approach in which the government has moved so far, giving a complete miss to proper procedural requirements, makes us believe that the real intention of the project is not to initiate any hydro project but merely a political game being played by the government.  Or the government is simply taking the people for a ride? Clarity needs to be couched up on this.

WIO urges upon the government to shun this casual approach on such a sensitive issue and come out with a DPR that narrates the complete technical design and feasibility of the project; the impacts it will have on the people and biodiversity.  It must also first carry out a cumulative assessment of the river Mahanadi (including the use and abuse of the river by Chhattisgarh; and considering both upper and lower basin impacts) before going in for any new project or allocating water to any new industry or power plant.  WIO has been apprehending that the Sindhol Project, if at all it is being seriously thought up by the government, is a project to create water reservoirs to be supplied to the upcoming industries and power plants in the area.  The government must clear the air on this too.

WIO also urges upon the government to look into the history of the NHPC and its efficiency in building hydro power projects.  According to the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), NHPC has a very bad track record not only in social and environmental issues but also in technical, safety and economic issues.  It has not succeeded anywhere in non-Himalayan projects, informs the SANDRP.  The government, therefore, must clarify as to whether it has looked into the efficiency of the NHPC or not before signing the agreement and also make it public what procedures were followed to enter into a pact with NHPC.

WIO also urges upon the government to publish a white paper on the power generation scenario of the state at present from all sources including all captive thermal power plants.  It would like to ask the government ‘has there been any audit of the power efficiency of all these sources?’  If yes, the government must make it public and justify the reasons for going for more power projects at the cost of the people, the environment and the river.  We sincerely feel Odisha is a power surplus state and it should not increase its power generation capacity only to sell extra power at the cost of the people and the environment.

For further details, please contact us at:

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, WIO

Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!

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Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.

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