Polavaram Dam(n) – Part-1

Polavaram Dam is a Multipurpose Project planned to be built in West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. The explanation presented to every court whenever a case is filed against the project is .
Beneficiaries:
1. 7 Lakhs Acres of Land Irrigation
2. 906 MW Hydro Power Generation
3. Drinking water supply to 524 Villages + Visakhapatnam City
4. 80 TMC Godavari River water transfer to Krishna River. This will quench the thirst of arid regions of South Telangana and North Rayalaseema

But there are some crucial Technical facts being hidden. Few of them are..
1. Polavaram Dam is a Major project with 75 TMC storage and design is an Earth cum Rock Fill Dam. This project is among the Jalayagnam projects of YS Rajasekhar Reddy. Two medium projects started in Jalayagnam namely ‘GundlaVaagu and Palem Vaagu breached even with moderate floods. Earthen Dams have breached quite a few times in Indian and World History.
a. Machu Dam in Gujarat
b. Earthen bund of Vishnuprayag Dam in Uttarakhand (2013)
c. Kadem Dam in Adilabad (Andhra Pradesh)

In case of a Breach of Polavaram Dam, atleast 20 Lakh people downstream will die. -Dam Break Analysis Report, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee

2. Godavari River recorded highest flood of is 36Lakh Cusecs in 1986. This level reached almost 43m (without the dam) near the project site. Imagine how much it would rise with water being impounded to +45m. The water level rise above the FRL (Full Reservoir level) due to Flood is called BWL (Back Water Level). There is no mention of BWL anywhere in the project in calculating the villages being submerged or pristine Forests being inundated due to the water level rise.
(Current water level is close to +25m. Not sure of the correct figure)

Image

3. 50 Villages in Andhra Pradesh  + 205 villages in Telangana + 10 Villages in Chattisgarh + 13 villages in Odisha Submergence

4. Before granting Environmental Clearance to the project, Ministry of Environment and Forests asked for Dam Break Analysis. This was done by National Institute of Hydrology. They say with the global climate chnage patterns. There is a possibility of 90 Lakh Cusecs flood occuring. So in 2006 MoEF asked the project proponent to redesign the spillway for 50Lakh Cusecs. Spillway has been redesigned. But the Submergence of Forests and Villages is still being shown only under FRL and not under BWL.

5. While Obtaining Forest Clearance, AP Govt showed 10000 acres of land for Reforestation. Forests along the banks of Godavari river in that region is pristine and are home to some of the rarest species indigenous to this region. The land shown for reforestation is in bits and pieces even to the tune of 30 cents (1/3 of an acre) in some places and not contagious to any forests.
How would ‘forests’ grow in such small tracts of land?

6. 7 Lakhs acres of irrigation is a wrong figure. Almost 6 lakhs acres of land to be irrigated is already sown 2 times. The additional water is for 3rd crop of an year. 4 lakh acres of the land is irrigated by various ground water sources. nearly 2 lakh acres to be irrigated by Thatipudi and Pushkaram lift irrigation projects still to be completed. These canals run parallel to Polavaram left main canal. you can see these canals in Google Earth too.
So Newly irrigated land is about 1 lakh acres only.

7. Drinking water to be provided to Vizag district. Yeleswaram Project Phase-1 and Phase-2 are for the same.

8. The Bachwat Tribunal award orders are if water is added from Godavari basin to Krishna Basin. Then water has to be shared by Karnataka, Maharashtra and AP (also TG). In case of good rains in Krishna basin that would be advantageous to Rayalaseema and Telangana. But In case of a drought year, Both these regions will not get their present share of water. But region in Krishna Delta will have enough as Godavari river is mostly surplus water region.

9. The present Contractor of the dam is Transtroy (a benami of Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, who is doing Jumping japongs from Congress to BJP) only for the same. This company’s earlier subsidiaries were blacklisted for their previous projects. There is a case in Lokayukta by Soma Engineering company that Transtroy have furnished false Financial statements to bag the project tender.

10. Tribal Welfare Clearance to the project was given with the condition that the tribals who will be displaced to be provided with land ‘upto 2.5 acres in project benefited areas with the same privilges’. But till date only cash of 1.5 lakhs INR is being given to only those who have land titles.

The concept of Land titles is very ambiguous in Forest areas. Many tribal farmers do shifting agriculture and depend on forests directly for their and their cattle survival. They do not have titles (either revenue or Forest Rights titles). So, they are not willing to leave the place.

11. ‘The same privileges’ in pt.10. In Tribal areas (5th Schedule Areas) They have special laws protecting them from land alienation. Non-Tribals cannot occupy their lands. Govt will have to notify the newly acquired land in project benefitted areas into 5th schedule areas.
Note: 805 villages which were to be notified since AP state re-organisation 60 yrs ago is not yet complete.

12. There are better alternatives. Dr. T. Hanumantha Rao, Vidya Sagar Rao, Dharma Reddy and many Chief Engineers have opposed the present design which do not serve the purpose. The Alternative suggested by T Hanumantha Rao sir has advantages of irrigating more than 25 lakh acres of dry and unirrigated land. It has advantages of a Navigational channel from the Bay of Bengal to Sriram sagar project (which is located in Maharashtra border). This will boost Economy in both states by providing transport infrastructure to Industries apart from stabilising the seasonal variation of Godavari river.

To Read what Dr. T Hanumantha Rao sir, One of the best cheif engineer of AP, who hails from Rajamundry BTW. Here is his document on the present dangerous design and his alternate design.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B87EmZE2LcX_LU1TdGNRX1Zydms/edit?usp=sharing

There are many more facts will be continued in part-2..

Millets and Water

My exploration about Food and Water brought me to Anantapur District (AP), India’s 2nd most driest district (first being Jaisalmer, Rajasthan) where I came across some important findings.
Millets, So this series of posts is on Millets. (Chiru Daanyalu in telugu)

Ever wondered,
Why there are so many Dams, River water interlinking being constructed these days? why such a big push for irrigation?
Why states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (even Telangana), Maharashtra are fighting over water and control over rivers? (Infact the control over water is big fight world-wide.)
Why our groundwater levels went to such a low?

India’s main food and agriculture production is rain-fed, but our policy makers have forgotten this fact and wanted to do something else. About 40 years or so, our prime minister Indira Gandhi started this Green Revolution.  At the outset, that program was essential then,  which concentrated on food security for India. Paddy Rice for South India, Wheat for North India was main focus.

The point that these crops consume more water to be produced was somehow missed.

Food-diversity was also hit. But once the campaign started and more farmers and consumers turned to these crops, The water levels started to go down and now almost all major tanks, ponds went dry. then building dams and constructing canals became a priority. Thousands of crores spent on dams n canals. with more irrigation facilities more farmers are shifting to paddy, wheat. Now there is cotton revolution  which also had its toll on water consumption.

States like TN, AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra are fighting over the control of water. Huge tracts of land being converted to canals, catchment areas. Forests being destroyed for that. Climate change, tribals living there getting displaced. Telangana people’s movement has Water as one of the top agenda.

A simple fact:
Imagine each family can save 10000 Ltrs of water each week. Imagine every family consumes them instead of un-healthy foods like Rice (this will be discussed in my next post). Consuming Millets could help us in dealing with all the above problems.

Eat Millets. Save Water!!

In Solidarity with Millets,
Yashwanth

What is Development??

Is development more cities, Industries, High-(free)ways, Cars, ACs??

My exploration begun to find out what development means and are we as a nation-state of India are heading in the right direction. I have asked this question to people who are working in ‘Development’ sectors and found out few interesting facts. Development is all about self-sufficiency of that particular society.

As per my understanding until now, there are seven basic and essential needs for human sustenance to live a comfortable and decent life. They are food (includes water), clothing, shelter, energy, education, health services and entertainment. All the other activities of humans are somehow or the other directed to achieve one or more of these.

Another very important understanding is about how and how much we derive from Earth, its natural resources and its subsystems. Suppose, we gather our food from a tree everyday and if we consume each time some of its parts and if the amount of intake is more than what that tree can regenerate until our next meal, then the tree will diminish. This example applies to all the natural resources. If we overdraw minerals, fossil fuels, land, mountains and hills, water from Earth, fertility from soil than what nature can sufficiently provide, we will experience the resource crunch and that leads to various conflicts between Man vs Man or Man vs Nature. The essence of this concept is to consume within Regenerative limits/thresholds of earth.

Tribal Farmers Union, Balijapeta

Here in tribal hamlets of Vishaka Agency area, especially Paderu division, one of the important cash crops is Rajma (Kidney beans). Locally called ‘Kandulu’, they are grown in vast acreage and there is a good demand from outside world. Some local traders have explored the option of selling this Rajma to bigger traders in markets like Rajamundry, Tuni or Guntur from where the Rajma produce is exported to Northern regions of India, where it is one of the main pulses in their daily diet. But being tribals, they are subject to exploitation of local traders in many ways.

  1. The traders lend them money at exorbitant interest rates. Usual practice here is for 1000 Rs, they have to return 1500 Rs. That counts to 50% interest rate. The Principal amounts are usually given in June-July period and the collection is during Jan or Feb in the form of Grain. So considering 8 months, the interest rate is 75%.
  2. The Rajma is measured in Kuncha (a ‘Standard’ vessel of measurement brought by traders) which is supposed to be of volume of 5 kgs,  But that Kuncha is never below 5.5 kg. There has been instances claimed by tribals that these Kunchas are more than 6.5 kg. So they lose at least 10% of the commodity giving it for free in volume based measurement process.
  3. Being in remote tribal regions with off-beat roads and lack of outside knowledge and business acumen, traders set the prices quite low.
  4. The payments are usually not done in time. Tribals are left with no other option than taking new loans from other traders. The traders who took the produce and earned money give loans to some other tribals in the meanwhile.

There is much more exploitation, but these are some major ones which need to be addressed. I came to know about this practice in 2008 during my Engineering final year when I visited here to review an education project funded by ‘Asha’ an US-based NGO. I found out that APVVU, under PS Ajay Kumar have tried to build a co-operative to break the loans issue by lending money in thrift society format, partial amounts in 10 villages.  This project was supported by aid-India and few others, ran successfully for 2 years until a drought and a cyclone hit in these areas for two continuous years respectively and loans were not repaid and eventually on humanitarian grounds, pardoned off and the idea got bust.

But, Witness to this scheme, I have realized the importance of a co-operative here and wanted to interfere somehow in managing the co-operative by working sometime in this area. After my engineering, I joined a job in Essar and later in Vanoord. Life became hectic and I could not spend time except that the dream was still on.

Later in 2012, I decided to quit my job after few life-turning events like cycling trip with Akram Feroze, Kudankulam visit, An economics lecture on Karl Marx and his relevance in present world by Vamsi Vakulabharanam, Reading books like I too had dream (Varghese Kurien), The banker to the poor (Mohammad Yunus), Gram swaraj (Mahatma Gandhi). And work for larger sections of the country.

After quitting my job in late Sept, I wanted to start somewhere and I was exploring various options of what could be done. So, I was volunteering at People’s Biodiversity festival organized by NAPM, ASHA, CSA, Anthra, Gongali etc (parallel to COP-CBD held at Hyderabad), a visit to Mozda village where Michael and Swati are living in a tribal village in Satpura forest and talking to them on their journey of building Mozda collective have made my resolve stronger to work with tribals for some time.

Since I have met Sri PS Ajay kumar in 2007 December at Aid-India annual conference at Parlakhimudi, Orissa,  I have been a great fan of him, about his expertise in land issues, Dalit and tribals issues etc. Anyone who listens to his speeches gets mesmerized and will make him a Guru, Such is his oratory talent. So, I have come back to him in Novemeber’2012 and asked if something could be done about the tribal co-operative. He was very happy and gave me few suggestions to start small in 2 or 3 villages by Marketing the produce (Rajma) for better price and I can win confidence of them soon.

So, I chose 3 panchayats where the first thrift society was not implemented. Gemmeli, Vanjari and Bharam and visited 2 hamlets in each panchayat. I was sure, that not all villagers would believe me in the first instance and I had to try harder. All the tribal farmers work in distant fields during the day and return in the evening. So, I used to trek to a village with a volunteer from APVVU who work in that panchayat and reach there by afternoon. Evening around 7pm, In the cold (temperatures are around 7-10*C during nights) and dark (many villages do not have electricity, for those which have, never sure of timings) places, we used to make a bon-fire around which we sat and discussed about Rajma sale, traders tricks, measurements, loans and high interest rates, roads, water problems in the village etc. then I raise the issue of a village becoming a union and sell their produce as a union instead of individual farmers. The idea was good but to believe me was a bigger issue. So, I gave sometime to the villagers (2 weeks) in which they can think about the plan and let the volunteer who accompanied me know and I would come back to work on it if they wish.

Later when I returned on Jan-2, 2013 I heard that 4 hamlets out of 5 have already committed to traders and the trade was already on for a price of 160-165 Rs per Kuncha measurements(supposed to be 5 kgs, effectively 35 Rs/Kg). But one village called Balijapeta was different. There are few farmers who were pro-active and wanted to try out my experiment. I heard from volunteers that they even bought a weighing instrument (Balla kattu / Balance) two years ago after seeing the measurement losses by local trader. I went to this village and on the way, heard that they did not sell a single grain to local traders and they were very keen about this co-operative idea.
My anxiety and tension grew as I have committed to this and being my first responsibility and did not want to lose the opportunity in proving the worth of the union and show them results. There are about 80 families living in the village and this could be my starting point where I can catalyze a change. After my second visit for a day, I heard the harvest of Rajma was still on and would take some more time. I took time to explain the example of Amul, Mulkunoor co-operatives. I also warned them about coffee plantations and other cash crops which are completely under traders lobbies and they could go bust in case of no proper intervention. I also explained my idea of by-passing one or two levels of traders and thus both farmer and consumer getting a better price.
My third visit was on 18-19 Jan, 2013 and I discussed with villagers about various Rajma markets, where it is mainly consumed, the plan of action, I asked if some youth could volunteer in getting a survey done and find out approximately how much produce was there and for the sale of Rajma at a different location. Four people have volunteered. Lingamurthy, Krishna Rao, Jeeva Kumar and Mahesh. I met them after the meeting and gave them a format for survey to find info. Interestingly, I came to know the local traders have sensed the movement and raised the price and the new price was 42 Rs/Kg.  I estimated the price would rise further upto 47 or 48 as the produce would be of one trader and no single trader would like to lose the big bonus all at a single shot. I collected some samples from the village and carried them to Hyderabad with me to give it to Mr. Nanda Kumar (Safe Harvest Pvt Ltd) from whom I came to know some more details.

  1. To give to the next level traders, the grain has to be processed. The impurities have to be removed.
  2. We need way bills from either ITDA or GCC or Marketing committee to send the produce from the village to anywhere outside. So, I had to collect them somehow and somewhere.

On 27th Jan, when I came back to the village, held a discussion with the team about processing and way bills, they got puzzled. But I have got an idea about processing whether women in the village could be involved in it. They answered there are some Dwakra groups, which can take up this work. So the first issue will be taken care of. For the second issue, we planned to meet GCC office at G. Madugula mandal headquarters and then ITDA centre at Paderu. Next morning, we set off to G. Madugula and found out that the Manager went to meeting at Vizag. Then we headed to GCC head office at Paderu and met Smt. Parvathamma. She is a tribal woman and started her career in GCC as a sales woman. But with hardwork and dedication, achieved many promotions and she became a manager in that office. She was very nice to talk to and explained many things and gave us a purchase price list of many MFP (Minor Forest Produce) and AP(Agricultural produce).  She enumerated the benefits of going with GCC which stuck us and personally, I found it very promising. The benefits are

  1. Rajma (Red) was being procured at 45 Rs/Kg.
  2. Measurements would be proper in weights.
  3. Instant cash will be paid unlike the traders who take months together.
  4. Co-operative loans at less interest rates (9.2% per year) to tribals.

Well, here we come to a point, when there are assured prices and proper marketing channel. Tribals could directly contact her and do the dealings. My intervention need not be there. I asked her permission to give us some time as it a democratic decision of the villagers and we would let her know the next day morning by phone. She promised, she would personally visit the village and talk to villagers if we invite her. We were very happy and came back to village. Once we came back to village and called for a meeting at night and discussed this issue. We came across a new dilemma, a local trader offered 46Rs/kg and another, somebody overheard is planning to give for Rs48/kg. So, the new dilemma is should we go with GCC for 45 Rs/kg, instant cash? Or should we go for 46 (or even 48) Rs/kg, but the cash will be given whenever the trader wishes.  Anyways, we planned to invite Smt. Parvathamma garu, Manager from GCC, Paderu to let her talk and see.

So, here I am waiting for her arrival, writing this blog about my first success of 2013. Whatever the villagers decide, they can go by the trader or GCC. My job here is almost complete. First phase work of Under-cover Economist comes to following conclusions.

Conclusions:

  1. Balijapeta villagers have the courage to try new things and I salute them for the bold steps. They have showed unity, whih won them extra money.
  2. Traders are playing their games. But being together, farmers have collectively taken decision after good discussions got the ‘demanding power’ into their hands. They have already gained 10Rs/kg (GCC gives 45, initially trader offered 35Rs/kg)
  3. Measurements will be in weights and not in Kunchas which has 10% loss factor to farmers.
  4. If they go by GCC, they will get loans from them for less interest rates and can come out of loan-debt trap by traders.
  5. GCC if it had proper sales people, could have saved lot of tribal farmers in many villages who are in this cyclical trap of loans and exploitative trade practices. My next goal is to popularize them.
  6. I have personally learnt that Economics is my favourite subject and will read more and more books and experiences to help more farmers to get their better prices.

Why?

Often people around me get annoyed. Because I ask them ‘Why?’

Every thing under the sky is very interesting to me. Since my childhood, If I bump into someone who tries to tell me something, I pick up  the conversation and discuss about it, to know more about it. My high school has laid foundation to this habit. Especially, I remember my social studies teachers Sri Brahmananda Reddy and Sri Abednago who never discouraged students by rejecting any question.

Engineering education has ruined my habit. Classes are boring. Professors do not understand the pulse of students. Even if someone tries hard to understand what they are ranting about and ask some doubt, replies are not given properly. We get teased by rest of the classmates. Then when I joined an Indian steel company as an Engineer, and asked some question regarding the processes or some stupid management policy, the answer comes straight on face from the manager ‘You are not supposed to question here, just be obedient and do what I say.’

Thanks to my next company, a European company in which the culture is more evolved in terms of education, listening to people’s questions, answering them in a layman’s language with proper interpretations. If someone asks a question why something has to be done in particular way and explain a better way to do it, they are considered and implemented. Else, they will at least get answered ‘why not’. Why

Indian education system needs to learn and evolve from its European and American counterparts. Students should be encouraged to question and the answers must properly be given. I personally agree to the statement, a teacher (or for the matter, anyone) who cannot explain someone in a layman’s language is not a good teacher.

We are not slaves to just be obedient. Crime or Corruption around us are present because we do not question them. If we do not ask, we do not get to know. Freedom of Speech, Democracy, Idea-sharing begins with education and education begin at home and school.

What can we do?

1. Habits start early. If children start asking questions, Please take time to answer. If a child hesitates to ask a question, we can ask them questions and frame the questions in such a way, they start to think of more questions.

2. Ask your friends why they gave a bribe to the RTA guy or a cop to get a license. why not we celebrate the festival or a party with a difference, how about a pot-luck lunch or a picnic instead of a Mc.D or KFC?

3. Start asking people questions. Ask if the waiter a change water on the table if you dont find its good. Ask your call-centre guy why your service is not proper. Ask your shop-keeper when they  have calibrated their weighing machine, Ask your petrol-bunk guy why only 99.76 of petrol is given instead of 100, ask your house owner when they have got the water tank cleaned.

4. Start building social relationships with people instead of sitting at home and just watching TV. Join an NGO or a meetup group or just a friends circle, Discuss why our farmers and handlooms artisans are commiting suicides, women being raped, why we are getting sick, why there are more mosquitoes, why there are people struggling against dams, thermal or nuclear powerplants, Farmers land in villages n slums in cities are being encroachment of real estate agents, Why our lives are in shambles.

5. Ask your legislator or Authority why your streets are not clean, roads not proper, why the climate change, why Genetically modified crops, why govt schools do not run properly, why govt hospitals are in worse conditions, File an RTI. Let people know and discuss issues.

Development, Social welfare, Freedom of Expression, Democracy, Personal good cannot be fully realized until and unless we question and do not get answers.

Resolution – 2013

“2012 gave me wonderful experiences.. Hoping 2013 will be delightful as well..
Happy New Year.. 🙂 ”

This was my Facebook update on the new year’s eve. There were many instances when I was overwhelmed with Love, Sadness, Joy, Anger, Frustration, Happiness. I wanted to share many of my thoughts about various things happening around me, each of these events had a great impact on my further life.

So, Here I come with a Blog, which I wish to write regularly (Every Sunday) about what happened in my life during that week and my plans ahead. This is my only resolution for 2013.
See you around..

Yashwanth