Thursday, February 24, 2011


Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, 
Director, Center for Environmental Studies, 
Gitam University,Visakhapatnam
former Expert of the Environmental Appraisal Committe of Union Ministry of Environment (1990) who refused clearance for Alamatti dam on the basis of improper EIA reports,Risks,R&R issues etc.
1. INTRODUCTION:    As  on today the Alamatti dam has been constructed to a height of about 528.26m in certain sections of the dam and upto 524.26m in certain section while  the Karnataka state is permitted by the Supreme court to store 129 TMC  water upto 519.6m under certain conditions.   The Karnataka state has demanded the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal to permit the state to store water upto 524.6m for storing additionally under stage-III about 103 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic ft.)  of water in Alamatti dam for agriculture and hydro-power generation.  Alamatti dam and Narayanapur dams are the constituents of the Upper Krishna Project under which Narayanapaur dam is used as the water diversion project and Alamatti dam on its upstream side was originally planned to serve as a carryover reservoir that stores water for release through Narayanapur dam and its canals.  But subsequently Karnataka proposed to use Alamatti dam for supplying water to irrigate lands both by flow irrigation by canals and lift irrigation by installing pumps in the reservoir.  Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh placed their arguments before the Krishna Waters Tribunal by demanding that the height of the Alamatti dam should be reduced to     512.2 m by Maharashtra and  to 518m by Andhra Pradesh while Karnataka demands for a height of 524.26m for additional irrigation and hydro-power generation.  Karnataka also intends to store additional water in Alamatti reservoir upto 524.26m and perhaps upto 528.26m in due course for using this water for hydro-power generation and release that water after 2 months for irrigation in AP state.  
2. MAHARASHTRA HALF-HEARTEDLY PLEADS FOR REDUCTION IN HEIGHT OF ALAMATTI DAM:   Maharashtra objected before the tribunal against the increase of the height of the Alamatti dam to 524.26m on the ground that even at the level of 519.6m the Alamatti dam has caused high back water levels built up during the extreme floods experienced in August 2005 when many villages and lakhs of ha. of agriculture lands and several towns in Sangli and Kolhapur districts were flooded for about 10 days and caused economic losses of about Rs.600 crores.  When Mahrashtra state demanded  Karnataka in July 2005 to release about 6 lakhs cusecs of flood water into downstream river bed to avoid back water flood of Sangli region Karnataka refused by stating that even by release of 3 to 4 lakh cusecs of floods from Alamatti dam 60 villages were drowned in Karnataka and if the flood discharge were to be 6 lakh cusecs about 600 villages in Karnataka will be drowned.  Since Maharashtra realized that Karnataka refuses to follow conditions of agreement for ensuring safety of Maharashtra people and their properties due to increased backwater levels generated by Alamatti dam, they demanded for reduction in the height of the water storage upto 515m at Alamatti because  the ground level in Maharashtra at its borders lies at 518m above the mean sea level while the FRL of Alamatti is at a higher level of 519.6m and commonsense tells that water flows from a higher to lower level and thus Maharashtra is bound to suffer due to Alamatti dam.    
To substantiate this argument Maharashtra did not present any scientific papers on estimation of increased backwater levels at Sangli and Kolhapur areas to prove that they will be drowned under several meters of depth of flood water.  On the other hand Maharashtra misguided the Tribunal members by presenting arguments on the depth of siltation in the reservoir due to floods which indicated that the backwater afflux due to sedimentation will not cause any submergence problems in Maharashtra region. 
Similarly Maharashtra state did not  make any dam break analysis reports for the increased height of Alamatti dam to show the serious injuries to public life, animal populations and the properties downstream likely to be experienced in hundreds of villages in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and accordingly Maharashtra should have insisted on restraining water storage in Alamatti upto 515m only and the additional water allotted by the tribunal could have been used on more scientific lines as suggested by Chief Minister of Maharashtra by  building of a series of small dams or barrages as was done by Karnataka in the case of Hippargi barrage.

Maharashtra and AP state Governments should have got dam break analysis reports made for different heights of Alamatti dam to show that by increasing the height of the Alamatti dam the tribunal is creating a massive water storage behind the dam which is always a potential hazard and incase the dam breaks for one reason or the other several lakhs of people and cattle will be killed due to flash floods in hundreds of villages and towns in the downstream areas of karanatka and Andhra Pradesh by showing evidence in the form of these reports .The Krishna Water Tribunal would have been influenced to reduce the height of the Alamatti dam to ensure safety of the people and their properties and safeguard the economic wealth of the states and nation.  Consequently the tribunal would have perhaps directed Karnataka state to make scientific use of the additional Krishna water allocated to it by adopting alternate methods of construction of small reservoirs and barrages as followed by Karnataka in building the Hippargi barrage upstream of Alamatti dam.  Even now Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh must jointly workout the project reports on dam break analysis and disaster management and also reports on backwater affluxes due to Alamatti dam and place scientific arguments with evidence before the tribunal so that the tribunal members can arrive at just and reasonable conclusions on apportioning the waters of the Krishna river equitably among the basin states by promoting the development of all regions without destroying the life and culture of the people.
Name of the site
Discharge in cusecs
(i) Without Dam:
      Polavaram Dam


94.88  (28.92)
165.57 (50.46)
166.10 (50.63)
(ii) With Dam (and with different pond levels during
(a)   Polavaram dam


140.00 (42.67)
170.09 (51.84)
170.75 (52.04)  
 (b)   Polavaram dam
145.00 (44.20)
172.03 (52.44)
172.33 (52.53)  
 (c)   Polavaram dam
150.00 (45.72)
173.97 (53.03)
174.22 (53.10)  
According to para 103 of the Bachawat Tribunal report on Godavari water disputes dt.27-11-1979 the tribunal stated that Andhra Pradesh made necessary flood and backwater calculations for the pre and post project conditions of the Polavaram project a copy of which was sent by AP state by Maharashtra.  The computation on backwater levels clearly show that over a distance of 60 to 65km at Kunavaram the backwater levels increased from 157ft. without a dam to 168ft. with the height of the Alamatti dam fixed at +150ft. above the mean sea level and this clearly shows that at the flood discharge rate of 30 lakh cusecs the backwater levels increased by more than 10ft. if the Polavaram dam is constructed.  Thus the Maharashtra state Government Engineers, experts and officials and Andhra Pradesh state Engineers , experts and officials are fully aware of the phenomena and facts about the raise of the backwater  levels in the upstream areas of the river due to the placement of an obstruction in the natural flow regime of an open channel or a river like Krishna river. Such calculations should have been made both by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh engineers and experts for presentation before the tribunal to prove that such backwater affluxes will cause serious injury to the human and animal populations and the properties of people in the form of crops, buildings and infrastructure facilities. 
Name of the site
Discharge in Cumecs
(30 lakh cusecs)
(36 lakh cusecs)
(48 lakh cusecs)
(54lakh cusecs)
i) Without dam

28.06m (92.07ft)
28.92m (94.88ft)
30.6m (100.48ft)
47.9 m (157.2 ft)
50.5m (165.8ft)

61.76m (202.6 ft)
ii) With the dam (with different pond levels due to floods)
a) Polavaram
b) Polavaram
52.18m (171.2 ft)
54.18 m(177.8)
58.93m (193.3)

Note: The above  values are based upon the information from the Bachawat Tribunal Report and the calculations made by the author on the basis of the Advanced Numerical Methods using the Standard-step Method described by K.Subrahmanya in his standard book on flow in open channels.  
The computer based backwater calculations made by the authors used the data presented by the AP State Government to the Bachawat Tribunal for peak flood flow of 30 lakhs cusecs and 36 lakh cusecs and the calculations were extended to cover 48 and 54 lakh cusecs peak floods. Consequently the increased backwater levels with and without the Polavaram dam show that when the Polavaram dam reservoir level is kept at 150ft. the backwater levels touching 157ft. at 30 lakhs cusecs discharge rose to 198ft. at Kunavaram over a distance of about 60 to 65km upstream of the Polavaram dam  and this clearly indicates  that with increased height of Alamatti dam Sangli district located about 200km upstream of Alamatti dam is bound to be frequently drowned by the backwater afflux caused by Alamatti dam resulting in serious threat to lives of lakhs of people and loss of crops in fertile lands in the Western Maharashtra districts amounting to several thousands of crores of worth of properties. 
Chinese Example:  Backwater afflux due to Three Gorges Dam rose by 13m  in cities 200km upstream:
Refer to the findings of the "Experimental Research on the Impact of the 1954 Major Flood on the Chongqing Harbor Reach," which the Institute of Water Conservancy and Hydro-electric Power Research (IWCHPR) released in July, 1988. If the Three Gorges reservoir were required to store flood waters of the magnitude of the 1954 flood and ensure the safety of downstream areas by maintaining a maximum allowable controlled flood discharge at Chenglingji, the water level in the reservoir would increase by six to eight meters in July, and seven to 13 meters in August. This would be a striking increase from normal flood years. The water level at the dam would increase from 145 meters (the flood-control level) to 175 meters, and the backwater level at Chongqing would increase from the normal flood level of 185.3 meters to 198.1 meters, causing a significant increase in sedimentation.It means that the back water levels increased by 13 meters at Chongquing City located about 200 km.upstream of Three Gorges Dam

4. AP STATE MADE UNSCIENTIFIC  DEMANDS FOR REDUCTION IN THE  HEIGHT OF ALAMATTI DAM:   Andhra Pradesh complained to the Tribunal about the excessive use of water from Alamatti project and demanded that its height should be reduced to 515m to 518m.  It was argued that by abnormal increase in the height of the Alamatti dam the Karnataka Government intends to use a large quantity of water for hydro-power generation and release that water thus used for non-consumptive purposes after a lapse of 2 months whereby the farmers of AP state are bound to suffer in conducting agricultural operations in time.  But Andhra complained that water for irrigation purpose has a higher priority under National Water Policy 2002 while water utilization for hydro-power generation as was accorded a lower priority and hence Karnataka state should not be empowered to cause serious damage for agricultural operations and hydro-power generation under the Jurala, Srisailam and nagarjuna Sagar dams and Krishna barrage which supply irrigation water for about 35 lakh acres. 
By allowing Karnataka to detain and misuse Krishna waters for an inferior priority of hydro-power generation  from Alamatti reservoir and thereby prevent its timely arrival into AP State for a superior  priority of utilization for agriculture and food production  by the lakhs of Andhra Pradesh farmers.  
Thus  the tribunal should not curtail the right to livelihood and the right to life of the millions of Andhra farmers and Agricultural labourers.
In order to substantiate their arguments on scientific lines even the Government of Andhra Pradesh miserably failed to present technical proofs that any increase in the height of the Alamatti dam is going to cause serious injuries to the lives of people and their properties in Maharashtra due to backwater  flooding built up due to the obstruction to the natural  river water flow in the form of a big Alamatti dam.  Andhra Pradesh also failed to make a dam break analysis for the proposed increased height of Alamatti dam which results in causing a wall of flash floods that would wipe out of existence lakhs of people and animal populations and  precious properties in thousands of villages in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh resulting in a man-made disaster which makes Bhopal tragedy fade into insignificance.   Infact Andhra Pradesh got these dam break analysis reports prepared for several of their irrigation projects like Pulichintala dam and Polavaram dams by the National Institute of Hydrology at Roorkee and the same action should have been taken by the responsible experts and officials for the Alamatti dam also so that they could have prevented the tribunal to take a wrong decision on Alamatti dam.  
5. ANDHRA PRADESH AND MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENTS MISGUIDED THE TRIBUNAL ON THE EXISTISNG REPORTS OF DAM BREAK ANALYSIS AND BACKWATER CURVES FOR ALAMATI DAM :       Both Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh Governments must have made genuine attempts for making a careful examination of the dam break analysis made by the Central Water Commission at the request of the Karnataka state Government for obtaining Environmental clearance from the Union Government for storing water in Alamatti dam upto a height of 519.6m. Similarly Maharashtra state Government and Andhra Pradesh state Government Engineering experts knew even in 1980 that the AP state presented backwater calculations and the Bachawat Tribunal was presented with data for the increased levels of backwaters of Polavaram dam amounting to more than 25ft due to building the Polavaram dam to a height of 150ft. elevation above the mean sea level.  Even the dam break analysis report was also prepared for this Polavaram dam but having known  all these facts and figures about the technical reports on backwater curves and dam break analysis why the experts and engineers of both Mahratraha and Andhra Pradesh have failed to repeat the same exercise to tender proper guidance to the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal members who demanded them for scientific proofs to prove that increase of Alamatti dam is going to cause injury and losses to the riparian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.   
Surprisingly when Karnataka argued before the tribunal that the Central Water Commission has prepared the dam break analysis report for the existing Alamatti dam and presented results indicating that the consequential wall of flood will not cause any loss of life downstream of the dam as it will be contained within the banks of the Krishna river, even a non-technical person cannot believe it.   But how could the engineers and experts and officials of Mahrashtra and Karnataka  blindly believe in such statements which are absurd when the Alamatti dam with a height of over 30m and with a storage capacity of 130 TMC were to collapse, the flood coupled with inflow design flood of about 50,000 cumecs were to occur in a cyclonic period when the   Krishna river and its tributaries will be running to their full capacities  the flood water due to dam break will certainly cause large scale inundation and damage to  the lives of human beings and cattle population in several villages in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh particularly. When the Karnataka Chief Minister himself admitted that due to August 2005 floods more than 60 villages were flooded even without a dam burst scenario.  These facts clearly show that Brijesh Kumar tribunal was completely misled on critical issues of life and death and hence the tribunal was perhaps forced to give a wrong judgement on Alamatti dam height.
6. UNION GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FAILED TO PRESENT TRUE FACTS ON SAFETY OF ALAMATTI DAM:   The  Union Ministry of Environment and Forests gave environmental clearances at different times for 4 to 5 different  phases of the project  without  making a comprehensive approach in identifying the environmental impacts of the project.  The Ministry of Environment should have taken into consideration the backwater levels caused by the Alamatti dam for various heights of the dam and also must have got the dam break analysis and disaster management reports including rehabilitation and resettlement reports , emergency action plans and environmental management plans to safeguard the ecology, agriculture and safety of the dam structure by identifying the seismic potential of the area and estimate the peak ground accelerations anticipated in the near future as the dam is located on a seismic highway and then estimate the cost benefit analysis based upon an inevitable dam break for several reasons like earthquakes, extreme floods likely to be caused not only due to intense cyclones
7. ALAMATTI DAM IS BOUND TO COLLAPSE DUE TO A MAXIMUM CREDIBLE ACCIDENT:         Alamatti dam is bound to collapse sooner than later for several reasons like extreme  floods, earthquakes, insufficient spillway capacity, foundation defects, construction defects, terrorist activities or human failures in opening the gates to discharge peak floods in time as had recently happened at Srisailam dam in October 2009.  Alamatti dam area is recently experiencing earthquake tremors of about 3 magnitude on Richter Scale and due to increased water storage there will be increased reservoir induced seismicity because the reservoir is located on a seismic highway.  Moreover, the dam is going to fail due to extreme floods caused by sudden flood discharges from dams like Koyna and Warna located in the most treacherous seismic zones of Western Maharshtra and such sudden discharges along with natural peak floods due to intensity and duration of cyclones will cause inevitable failure of Alamatti dam. About  40 such dam collapses occurred in India so far.  In China about 68 dams collapse every year as per the statement of the Chinese Irrigation Minister and hence a dam with a higher storage of water must be treated as a potential hazard for the vast numbers of people living downstream of such major dams. 
8. WRONG VIEW OF KRISHNA WATER TRIBUNAL IN FIXING THE HEIGHT OF ALAMATTI DAM:           While questioning whether Karnataka can store water upto 524.26m under Alamatti dam or upto 515m as demanded  by Andhra Pradesh or 512.2m as claimed by Maharashtra, the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal in its report on page 598 clearly indicated its erroneous attitude to the problem by asserting that “the height of a dam is generally relevant in relation to the quantum of water which is required for utilization in a project.”  a) Unethical approach:  This initial wrong approach had made the tribunal commit a series of mistakes by bloating the water availability in Krishna river from 2173 TMC at 75% dependability to 2293 TMC at 65% dependability and thereby allotted increased quota of water for all the states and thereby made the upper states retain higher percentage of more dependable usable water by Maharashtra and Karnataka and thereby reduced practically the availability of the precious   allotted 75% dependable water for irrigation to Andhra Pradesh farmers and thereby deprived the right to livelihood and right to life as their occupation as well as their  living standards depend upon the timely availability of irrigation water by which they eke out their livelihood.   Even from an ethical and moral angle this action will produce an enormous degree of damage to the economic earnings of the agriculturists and the agriculture labourers who cannot bare this burden of imposed poverty over their lives by a tribunal which is expected to do justice to all people.           b) Illegal approach:  The tribunal members are not experts in the fields of irrigation, design of irrigation projects on the basis of not only water availability but also on the equally important design criteria of estimating the hazard potential and the consequential dam burst scenario and the economic costs involved in implementing the emergency action plans in case the dam were to fail for one reason or the other in the long run.  According to murphy’s law if something can fail it will certainly fail one day or the other or for one reason or the other.  Hundreds of dams failed all over the world including about 40 dams in India and this dam cannot be an exception particularly because of its location on a high seismic zone and that too on the downward side of risky dams like Koyna and warna also located in seismic highways.   For ensuring safety of their dams the concerned engineers will suddenly release abnormal quantities of floods during peak rainy season when the composite dam at Alamatti in addition to its own reservoir being full cannot withstand the additional shocks imposed by huge flood flows from several dams located upstream in Maharashtra and Karnataka states.  Hence without making a detailed environmental impact analysis including a dam break analysis, a risk analysis and emergency action plans nobody can make a genuine cost benefit analysis for this very big dam at Alamatti.  
c) Dam design standards:  In almost all the countries in the world  the design of the dam is not merely based upon the quantity of water required to be stored which incidentally determines its height.  But the design of a dam is mostly based on the advice of the meteorologists hydrologists, seismologists, meteorologists, irrigation engineers and environmentalists are the competent persons to determine the probable maximum flood based upon probable maximum precipitation in the catchment.  Hydrologists are the experts who estimate the probable maximum flood based on several factors.   The environmental experts who make the dam break analysis and determine whether in the event of failure of the dam the wall of flood water can wipe out the lives of lakhs of human and animal populations and destroy the crops and valuable properties estimated at several thousands of crores of rupees.  Due to the additional height of flood known as incremental increase of the flood caused by the static standing water in the reservoir getting transformed into a dynamic crushing flood,  the existing flood banks downstream of the dam will be eroded and washed away causing a man-made catastrophe of inestimable cost in almost all the developed countries if the incremental increase in flood exceeds by 2ft the experts will recommend for re-design of the dam by modifying a killer dam into safer barrages or small dams which cause least environmental damaging impacts or otherwise if the dam is to be kept intact the height of water to be stored under such a risky dam will be drastically cut down so that even if the dam were to burst the degree of damage of the downstream areas will be kept within the tolerable limits. To quote an example the following table presents the modern state of art technology for design of dams in various states of USA and other countries.



Class of Dam
Hazard Potential if dam fails
Size Classification
Spillway Design Flood (sdf)
Maximum capacity (Ac.ft
Height (ft)
Probable Loss of life, Excessive Economic Loss
Large  >  50,000
Medium   1,000 to  
Small   50 to 1,000
  40 to 100

 25 to 40

0.5 PMF to PMF
Possible Loss of Life; Appreciable Economic Loss
Large  >  50,000
Medium   1,000 to  
Small      50 to 1,000
  40 to 100

  25 to 40
0.5 PMF to PMF

100-YR to 0.5 PMF
No Loss of Life Expected; Minimal Economic Loss
Large  >  50,000
Medium   1,000 to  
Small      50 to 1,000
  40 to 100

  25 to 40
0.5 PMF toPMF
100-YR to 0.5 PMF
50-YR to 100YR
No Loss of Life Expected; No Economic Loss to Others
> 50 (non-agricultural)
> 100 (agricultural)
>25 (both)
50-YR to 100-YR

Statutory Authority:  § 10.1-605 of the Code of Virginia.     Effective Date:  July 1, 2002.

d) How to define “an Expert” as per Indian Law:   Hence the Members of the Tribunal are wrong in thinking that the height of the dam can be fixed by them without the tribunal members being qualified experts under Sec.45 of the Evidence Act.  Just like people do not ask a lawyer to conduct a heart operation and just as they do not approach a heart surgeon to argue their case in a high court on a legal matter the Krishna waters tribunal members should have restricted their expertise in law to make a just and judicious apportionment of the quantities of water avialble in the river based upon the reasonable and just demands made by the river basin states.
e) Farmers demand safer barrages and smaller dams to safeguard the national economy:  Thus even now it is high time that the permissions given to increase the height of the Alamatti dam must be immediately rectified so that in place of a killer dam which has the potential to destroy the lives of people and ruin the national economy being promoted a series of small dams including barrages may be permitted to be built by the Karnataka state to utilize the water allotted to them by the tribunal for benefiting the farmers of Karnataka state,see web site :
. In this effort Maharahstra and Andhra Pradesh governments must help the tribunal by presenting scientific reports on the environmental impacts of the backwater levels generated by the increased height of the Alamatti dam and also the disastrous consequences of a dam break analysis and it impacts on the people living downstream of the dam.
9. MODIFY KILLER ALAMATTI DAM BY BARRAGES AND SMALL DAMS: Now Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh must work together in presenting scientific reports on backwater calculations and its damaging impact on the people and properties on the upstream side of the dam.  Similar calculations be madeon dam break analysis and their environmental impacts on millions of people living downstream of the dam in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states.  The state and Central Governments must make a scientific cost benefit analysis which ultimately shows that increasing the height of the Alamatti dam will be environmentally hazardous, ecologically unsound, economically unviable, socially unacceptable.
Karnataka farmers also need safe barrages:The Chief Minister of Maharashtra stated in Belgaum recently that Karnataka must follow scientific methods of utilizing the allotted water of Krishna river by the tribunal by means other than a hazardous Alamatti dam with FRL at 524.26m which will cause flooding of Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara Districts if the national development projects have to be in harmony with the slogan of development without destruction.  Naturally even the people of Karnataka are bound to study the environmental damaging impacts of increasing the height of the Alamatti dam to the lives and properties  of their own people living in the upstream side of the dam due to serious backwater flooding and in the downstream of the dam due to flash floods consequent to an inevitable dam burst for one reason or the other.  Environmentalists and independent retired Engineering experts plead for utilization of the Krishna waters by Karnataka state by building a series of small dams and barrages as they had done in the case of Hippargi barrage and Narayanapur dams.  Under the circumstances  a man-made catastrophe in the form of a big killer Alamatti dam that will be  economically destructive to the nation instead of being a project that promotes sustainable development must be changed into safer, small dams and barrages for improving the quality of life of the people and to promote the economic wellbeing of the nation.

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Born in 1932 at Mudinepalli, near Gudivada, Krishna Dist. Andhra Pradesh, received Bachelors degree in Civil Engg., from Viswesaraiah Engineering College, Banglore (1956) and Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering from Rice university, Houston, Texas, (USA) (1962), Ph.D (Hony). Former Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and principal of College of Engineering, Andhra university.Formerly Hony.Professor in Andhra University,Manonmanian Sundarnar University,JNT University. Fellow of the Institution of Engineers,India Recipient of the University Grants Commissions National Award "Swami Pranavananda Award on Ecology and Environmental Sciences" for the year 1991. Recipient of Sivananda Eminent Citizen Award for 2002 by Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust, Andhra Pradesh state. Presently Working as Director, centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM University,