Dear Saxena ji,
Thank you for inquiry.
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Why all these are not applicable to Tuticorin port or the one planned in AP or WB ?
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Safe or unsafe?
All the controversy surrounding the Mullaperiyar dam is because of laypersons’ apprehensions and comments by self-styled experts who want to see their names in print (‘Blunder 999’, December 16-31, 2011). The technical report submitted to the Kerala government nowhere mentions the term dam failure and only mentions damage. It is also not certain what compressive stress and tensile stress IIT Roorkee considered for checking the design of the dam, even though they state they have not anticipated failure and only cracks. A retaining structure is checked for safety against (a) sliding (b) overturning and (c) foundation settlement, and a factor of safety is assigned to each. Had the dam been unsafe under any of the three stability factors, it would have collapsed much earlier. But the Mullaperiyar dam has withstood one of the worst floods in 1924 and less severe floods later. As for the question about hydraulic lime being used as construction material, I would say it protects masonry because it is extremely flexible and allows for movement and thermal expansion, unlike reinforced cement concrete.
IIT Roorkee states that there have been many earthquakes of magnitude over 6 on Richter scale. The point is does anyone expect a higher magnitude in Zone III? Even if a moderate quake (5.0-5.9) occurs, it can slightly damage well-designed buildings but cannot destroy a dam. There are bigger dams in higher intensity earthquake zones; not one has collapsed in recent times. It is also ridiculous to compare Mullaperiyar to Machu dam, which is an earth dam and earth bunds cannot withstand floods that overflow them.
V K Bhavadasan
Retired chief engineer (civil),
Gujarat Maritime Board
Down To Earth replies
The news story “Blunder 999” highlighted reports of IIT Delhi and IIT Roorkee and the correspondents spoke to the Centre for Earth Sciences, too. The main emphasis of the article was on the weakness of the structure and damage that has been caused to it, as highlighted by the report of M Sashidharan, former chief engineer of the Kerala State Electricity Board. The veracity of this examination, and all others for that matter, are not beyond debate.
A study, ‘Probable Maximum Flood Estimation and Flood Routing of Mullaperiyar Dam’, by A K Gosain, professor at IIT-Delhi, had concluded that the dam is hydrologically unsafe. What’s more, Tamil Nadu has conceded before the Supreme Court that 3,500 tonnes of lime has been washed away from the structure and also only 542 tonnes of concrete has been put into the dam. Besides, the Central Water Commission (CWC) was advocating short, medium and longterm measures to strengthen the dam. At the discussion held on January 25, 1979, under the chairmanship of K C Thomas, CWC chairperson, it was decided that a joint team of engineers from Tamil Nadu and Kerala will explore the possibility of locating a new dam within a reasonable distance from the existing dam. Officials from both sides had jointly identified the location. A study on the structural stability of Mullaperiyar dam with regard to seismic effect by a team with Arun Bapat as chairperson and D K Paul, head of the Earthquake Engineering Department at IIT-Roorkee, has said quakes with 6 and above magnitude will have negative impacts on the strength of the structure. The Centre for Earth Sciences confirmed this. The article makes no reference to Machu dam.
It is true that most of the water harvesting structures like farm ponds, wells, earthen dams, check dams and vented check dams built under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are proving unproductive (‘A Million Opportunities Lost’, December 1-15, 2011). This is primarily because the objective is to give jobs to the rural poor without giving the required importance to planning and designing of water structures. The allotment of funds in the ratio of 60:40 for labour and materials for works like masonry dams and check dams, which involve purchase of stone, sand, cement and steel, on par with the earth-work oriented works is absurd. A better way to make the public money productive is to reserve five per cent of the budget for effective planning and designing work through qualified soil conservationists and civil engineers engaged on contract and further fix funds ratio of labour and material at 35:60 for masonry water harvesting structures so that they yield the required result and not end up wasting money of the public and the energy of the poor people on unproductive works.
B M T Rajeev
Activities taken up under MGNREGA are mainly focussed on improving availability of resources and conserving them, and water storage is an important concern which the scheme addressed. However, it has been noticed that water conservation structures built under the scheme have been inadequate to meet water storage needs. Sometimes, the works are left incomplete because of labour problems and funds shortage. But in the majority cases, even when the structures are built, their maintenance was inadequate, at the government-level and community-level. Community ownership is important in monitoring and management of water structures and this was neglected by those implementing MGNREGA. Such negligence is not just wastage of government resources but also shows inadequacy of our implementation and policy making processes.
Road From Durban
Reducing emissions before 2050 is a global challenge. If we fail to tackle it we may become extinct (‘Equity: the next frontier in climate talks’, December 16-31). The second concern is poverty eradication through economic growth. The advanced countries have infrastructure, better technology and can emit less greenhouse gases compared to poor countries. But if the poor are not allowed to grow economically, the environment will deteriorate and increase human conflict.
To avoid this, we need equity, funds and cooperation. Hence climate talks must have a holistic view of future. Exploration of uses of outer space can help. Space Benefits for Humanity in the 21st Century, a report of the UN Conference, UNISPACE III, July 1999, emphasised the need to implement an integrated global system to manage natural disasters.
Former professor, Space Law,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Why is it that Indians like to talk about the past, rarely talk of the present, and generally avoid the future? Your editorial is a good example of this mindset. You exaggerate when you say that equity is the next frontier in climate change talks. It has been around for decades. When India insists on using per-capita emission figures in these talks, equity is implicit here. I believe in equity and differentiated responsibilities, but I also believe that all countries should share the burden and all the commitments made to reduce emissions should be binding and independently verified. Harping on the past and pointing fingers at rich countries (which you do often) is not the way to reach ‘collaborative agreement’ in climate change that you advocate. India, China and the US are playing an obstructionist’s role in the global talks by blaming others and refusing to take on their share of the burden. I think the rest of the world will get tired of their antics and move on to take action on their own (no matter how little or flawed).
There is not an iota of doubt that Kingfisher Airlines’ deep financial crisis is due to rising cost of jet fuel and weakening of rupee (‘Kingfisher and cronies’, December 1-15, 2011). But at the same time the company, too, is responsible for going bankrupt, and in this situation there is no justification in Vijay Mallya asking for a government bailout. At the same time, government contemplating 26 per cent FDI by foreign airlines in the domestic carriers will only mean instant death of the ailing Air India. Mallya seeking bailout also exposes the hypocrisy of private airlines that hesitate to lower tariff when the going is good and raise a hue and cry when there is slump in business. The government also needs to be blamed for leaning towards capitalist politicians and refusing to bail out farmers who are committing suicide because of crop failure.
K R Srinivasan,
How to improve JFM
This refers to “A wealth withheld” (September 1-15, 2011) I have seen some areas of Forest Development Agency (FDA) of Midnapore forest divisions in West Bengal. I feel Joint Forest Management (JFM) can be implemented more effectively. There is a provision for development of forest land, community land, revenue land, government wasteland and private land under FDA. But only projects on forest land are undertaken. If all categories of land are taken for development by planting species of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) which are in demand, the regular income of the Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) can be increased. Also, the members of FPCs are not aware of the many provisions of the FDAs and JFM. There is no concrete mechanism to educate and train them. Whatever is explained to them by the forest department they have to follow. Organisations other than forest department should be involved to make them aware of not only the unfair formula adopted to reduce their share of profit but also the marketing aspects of the sale of timber and NTFPs.
N K Verma
Professor Vidyasagar University
This refers to the editorial, “Diesel: when bad policy makes for toxic hell” (November 16-30, 2011). The diesel versus petrol debate in India is pivoted around two points: (a) pricing and subsidy (b) pollution. Differential pricing and subsidy are a need in India but the subsidy must go to the targeted users including public and commercial rapid mass transport of raw material. Use of diesel in the agriculture sector is reducing due to increased use of submersible pumps to draw groundwater. Its use is also declining in railways due to track electrification. Hence, gradually the price differentiation would need to go as it would not benefit the target users. To reduce pollution we need to improve engine efficiency and deploy stringent mechanisms.
N K Agarwal
Learn To share
It is being regularly highlighted that China being an upper riparian country controls the flow of the Brahmaputra, one of the major water supply systems for India (‘Passive neighbour’, November 1-15, 2011).
The Brahmaputra has good falls and volume in China and can be used for power generation in upper basin, resulting in change in flow pattern in lower basin. This could lead to water disputes. There is a need for sharing waters. The best way is to build cooperative river arrangements involving all riparian countries. Such arrangements should focus on transparency, information sharing, pollution control and go further in the direction of equity. Consent for implementation of projects and redressing imbalances should also find a place in agreement. The successful international basin agreements, like on the Indus and the Nile, are based on such principles.
Retired chief engineer,
Water department, Rajasthan