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The Irrigation-Hydropower Nexus In The Ganges Headwaters (HI-NEX)

The HI-NEX is the collaborative trans-disciplinary research project supported by IWMI and CGIAR. The key components of the project aim at: 1) develop the knowledge base on interconnections among water resources, energy, food production, and livelihoods; 2) identify institutional and policy opportunities and obstacles to harness irrigation-hydel nexus for livelihood resilience and ecosystem conservation and 3) Identify opportunities to pilot applied research-cum-community based water, energy, and food systems development initiatives. For the conceptual understanding between the factors of water, energy, food and livelihood, this project is outlined to examine a nexus-based approach in Bhilangana River Basins. The proposed interdisciplinary research approach would able the policy makers and scientists to link the challenges in social-ecological systems terms, coupled with policy support for adaptive decision-making on hydel development, irrigation and water supply, so that the trade-offs between hydel and irrigation can effectively be minimized. This multiple approach project will lead in safeguarding and enhancement of critical ecosystem services; farming systems and productivity; improved livelihoods of women, youth, and men in the Ganges sub-basin.

The research theme is Integrating Ecosystem Solutions into Policy and Investments. The HI-NEX has a unique team of partners involving academicians, scientists, NGOs, policy makers etc.The main partners are 1) Prof. Christopher Scott, University of Arizona (Tucson, USA), 2) Dr. Suraj Mal, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi (India), 3) Dr. Aditi Mukherji and Rashmi Shrestha, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal), 4) Dr. Debashish Sen, People's Science Institute (PSI, Dehradun, India), 5) Dr. R.S. Tolia, (former Chief secretary of Uttrakhand) Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI, Delhi, India) and Prof P.C. Tiwari, Kumaun University (Nainital, India). The project partners reviewed the works initiated by each partner during the first year of the project (2015) through an international workshop on 4-5 December, 2015 at University of Delhi, India. Besides the lead institutions, the workshop was attended by nearly 30 participants including academicians, research scholars, NGOs, policy makers and undergraduate students of University of Delhi.

Dr. P.K. Khurana (Principal, SBSC, UD) briefly introduced the global concern about glacier recession and relationships between ongoing climate change and disaster risks in his opening remarks of the workshop. He also mentioned that Delhi is not far apart, when there will be a disaster in the city similar to recent Chennai Flood (2015). He linked the relevance of present project to recent Chennai floods in India and suggested need of the hour for policy making.

Prof. R.B. Singh (Keynote) highlighted the importance of integrated management of Water, Land and Ecosystem (WLE) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in India. He discussed the existing gaps between academic community and policy makers and essential ingredients of Himalayan Landscape. He presented various case studies on present condition and future scenario on Climate Change impact Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra basin and importance of Sendai framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Climate Change signals are clearly visible in many Himalayan regions. There is urgent need of disaster risk assessment in vulnerable regions such as Uttarkashi (Uttrakhand).

Prof. Scott, project lead, works on the framework of water-energy-food nexus and trade-offs and complementarities between hydropower and irrigation in the Bhilangana and Saryu River Basins in Uttrakhand, India. He briefly introduced and explained how the nexus term evolved in biology and now introduced in Irrigation-hydropower relationships. By drawing more attention toward the keyword- "Nexus", he explained the Nexus of Resources and Nexus of Agriculture- Green revolution and ground water pumping and also future inter-linkages of food, water and energy. According to him, hydrological modelling using GIS is a perfect tool in understating the scenario of water movement. His team has initiated stream flow estimation in Bhilangna basin, hydro-power and irrigation regulations, and relationships between livelihoods, age and gender in Himalayan highlands and suggest that all are inter-connected and inter-dependent.

Dr. Suraj Mal is leading the hydro-climatic risk analysis component of the HI-NEX. In first phase of the project, he has mapped all the glaciers and glacial lakes in Bhilangna basin, glacier recession and fragmentation of selected glaciers. The Landsat 5 (1992), Landsat 7 (2000), Landsat 8 (2013) and Corona KHA (1968) images were used to analyse the glacier recession in study area. The study reveals that the Khatling glacier has retreated by nearly 2 km with 45.9 m-1 average retreat rate from 1968 to 2013, on the contrary Phating glaciers retreated by 1.6 km with 37 m-1 rate of retreat from 1968 to 2013. The recession of glaciers result into the formation of new lakes in the Bhilangna River Basin. A total of 14 glacial lakes were detected from the satellite imagery of 2013. Out of 14 lakes, 5 lakes are Cirque Lake, 4 are lateral moraine-dammed lake, 3 are other moraine-dammed lake, 1 recessional moraine-dammed lake and 1 end moraine-dammed lake. On the conclusive note, rise of temperature has been regarded as main and direct factor of glacier retreat, but there are many other factors also e.g. local topography, negative trend of snowfall in winter season, warm winters, transformation of precipitation forms (from snowfall to rainfall), increasing numbers of supra-glacial lakes etc. which are leading to increased melting of glacier ice. The debris covers control ice melting.

Dr. Debashish Sen emphasized on the impacts of HEP on livelihoods in Bhilangna basin. He developed a knowledge base on interconnections among water and resources and also identified policy and institutional opportunities and obstacles to harness irrigation-hydel nexus. By seeing the opportunities and identification to pilot applied research, detailed study involving use of research tools- RRA, FGDs, HH surveys were conducted. He also marked the 3 operational ROR type HEPs- Agunda Thati (3MW), Bhilangana I (Phalenda, 22.5MW) and Bhilangana III (Ghuttu, 24 MW). As the conclusion, he has discussed the varied impacts at different levels like unaccounted socio-economic losses, Ad- hoc and inadequate compensation, more work load on women, aam-sabha not taken into confidence, benefits sharing inequitable. Thus policy level changes are required.

Dr. Yogeshwar Kumar (special invitee) shared his views on mega benefits of micro hydro-power. He explained that the suitable energy is important as it is the prime driver of development for improving quality of life, supplementing, traditional livelihoods, opening new avenues of employment and conserving forest and environment. He emphasised the significance of involvement of communities, as contribution by the community can effectively reduce the cost of hydropower projects by 10 to 25 percent and substantially reduce maintain cost and other overheads etc. He noted that comprehensive capacity building is the key to the success of isolated community micro hydro and what are the transparency in community hydropower structure is necessary to keep away disputes in areas, such as local contributions, outside support, revenues, remunerations, purchase of material, etc.

Dr. P.C. Tiwari studied community perception of hydro-power development in upper Saryu catchment, Uttarakhand. He discussed the hydropower project and their impacts on "impact villages and control villages" and how the social profile of Impact village (Munar, Rikhari, Supi, Kaphlani, Bhani Reethabagar, Reetha Cheerabagar, Kharbagar) and control village (Kui, Gashi, Lahur, Dulum, Kanyouti) are affected. Majority of the people of both control and impact village are highly dissatisfied from hydro-power development, neither livelihood opportunities improved nor it led to socio-cultural transformation and depletion of critical natural resources. In the end, he strongly focused that ecosystem services are degraded due to hydropower development.

Rashmi Shrestha presented the primary findings on benefits sharing in hydro-power projects in the Bhilangana basin. While discussing the Benefits- Sharing, she selected the Case studies of Agunda Thati (3MW), Bhilangna Hydropower project (25MW), Bhilangna III hydropower project (24MW). She interviewed three hydropower companies to understanding benefit sharing. From the survey and interview analysis, she strongly suggests that policy changes are required e.g. Government should assist handling the local issues/land acquisition, sale of power: reasonable price, transmission line and tax, royalty. At last, she showed the proper mechanism of benefits sharing with the community.

(Suraj Mal /February/NAM Today/2016)

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