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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 28 October 2021


  1. Energy cooperation as the backbone of India-Russia ties
  2. Safety first: On Mullaperiyar dam dispute

Energy cooperation as the backbone of India-Russia ties


India has been at the forefront of the transformation of global energy and striving to diversify its trade relations. With its abundant energy sources and appetite for trade diversification, Russia could be an ultimate long-term partner.


GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background: India–Russia relations
  2. Background: India-Russia bilateral cooperation in the energy domain
  3. Potential symbiotic relation: India – Russia on energy
    1. Other ways in which India can benefit from Russia
  4. Recently in news: India-Russia Foreign Ministers Meet

Background: India–Russia relations

  • During the Cold War, India and the Soviet Union (USSR) had a strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship and after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited its close relationship with India.
  • Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space – and in recent years a sixth, economic component has grown in importance, with both countries setting a target of reaching US$30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025.
  • Both countries are members of many international bodies like UN, BRICS, G20 and SCO where they collaborate closely on matters of shared national interest.
  • Russia has stated publicly that it supports India receiving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
  • India is the second largest market for the Russian defence industry and Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment for India (Russia almost 70%, USA around 15% and Israel around 8% as of 2016).
  • India and Russia have deepened their Make in India defence manufacturing cooperation by signing agreements for the construction (including Joint Ventures) of naval frigates, KA-226T twin-engine utility helicopters, Brahmos cruise missile.
  • The defence co-operation is not limited to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training, service to service contacts, including joint exercises
  • Both India and Russia have jointly developed an economic strategy that involves using a number of economic components to increase future bilateral trade – which include:
    • development of an FTA between India & the EEU,
    • a bilateral treaty on the promotion and protection of investments,
    • a new economic planning mechanism built into IRIGC,
    • simplification of customs procedures,
    • new long-term agreements in the expansion of energy trade including nuclear, oil and gas
    • long term supplier contracts in key sectors such as oil, gas and rough diamonds etc.
  • Major commodities exported from Russia to India are: Gems & precious metals, Machines & engines, Electronic equipment, Fertilizers, Medical & technical equipment, Oil etc.
  • Major commodities exported from India to Russia are: Pharmaceuticals, Electronic equipment, Iron and steel, Clothing, Coffee, tea and spices, Tobacco etc.
  • Historically, there has been a long history of cooperation between the Soviet Union and India in space. Examples include Aryabhata (India’s first satellite), Rakesh Sharma (First Indian to visit space) as a part of Interkosmos space program.
  • Energy sector is an important area in Indo-Russian bilateral relations.

Background: India-Russia bilateral cooperation in the energy domain

  • India and Russia have an extensive record of bilateral cooperation in the energy domain. The companies of both the countries have been pushing for greater cooperation in the oil and gas sector.
  • Russia is among the largest investors in India’s energy sector. Around U.S.$32 billion have been invested in joint projects between the companies of the two countries.
  • Russian companies have been involved in the construction of six nuclear reactors in the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu. Of these, unit 1 and unit 2 have been operating at total capacity. Unit 3 is still under construction.
  • All of Russia’s major energy companies have expressed interest in projects in India. Russia’s Gazprom and India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) and the Indian Oil Corporation signed separate memorandums of understanding to augment energy cooperation.
  • A few years ago, Rosneft invested U.S.$12.9 billion in India’s Essar Oil, renamed Nayara Energy, marking it one of the most significant foreign investments in years.

Potential symbiotic relation: India – Russia on energy

  • India has a comparatively low per capita energy usage as compared to the global average and India’s per capita energy usage is poised to increase in the near future.
  • As India’s need for clean and affordable energy is bound to increase – with its abundant energy sources, Russia could be an ultimate long-term partner in the energy sector.
  • Also given India’s large petrochemical refining capacity, it is emerging as a critical refining hub in Asia. Russia could sign long term contracts with these refineries and emerge as a major supplier of unprocessed fossil fuels to these refineries. This will allow Russia to monetize its fossil fuel resources while also allowing Indian refineries a constant source of fossil fuels.

Other ways in which India can benefit from Russia

  1. Technology for Petrochemicals: India has been increasingly expanding towards petrochemicals to capture the additional value and diversify the sector while also trying to overcome supply chain risk in the segment. Russian companies have the potential to be long-term partners with India in aiding its energy transformation. Russia with its technological prowess can play an important role in helping India in this process.
  2. Partner for Green Energy transformation: India has been leaning toward green energy sources with increasing emphasis on renewable energy resources. Russia, one of the key global players across the energy market, could emerge as an indispensable partner for such a transition.
  3. Investment in renewable energy sector: India aims to install 175 GW of renewable energy by December 2022. This would require additional investments of about $80 billion in renewables up to the year 2022. Russia can be a potential source of such investments.
  4. Nuclear Energy cooperation: Nuclear energy currently accounts for a very small proportion of the renewable energy sector in India. India will have to ramp up its nuclear energy sources in the near future to meet its renewable energy targets. Russia with its technological know-how and experience with respect to nuclear energy can pitch in this context. Russia has repeatedly expressed its willingness to build more nuclear reactors in India.

Recently in news: India-Russia Foreign Ministers Meet

To build on the common “resilient” ground, Indian and Russian Foreign Ministers addressed each other’s concerns on a wide range of issues in 2021.

The key points that were discussed include:

  1. Economic opportunities in the Russian Far East – which is rich in natural resources including minerals, hydrocarbons, timber and fish; and yet it is an economically underdeveloped region.
  1. Connectivity through the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) – which a multi-modal transportation established in September 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation.
  2. The Chennai-Vladivostok Eastern maritime corridor – which is a maritime route covering approximately 5,600 nautical miles, aimed at increasing bilateral trade between India and Russia.
  3. Russia, China relations – on which the Russian Foreign Minister clarified that the Russia-China relations are at the highest in the history, but these relations do not pursue a goal of establishing a military alliance.
  1. S-400 Air Defence System – which is one of the world’s most advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems designed by Russia and India is purchasing them from Russia.
  2. Long standing partnership in space and nuclear sectors and more

-Source: The Hindu

Safety first: On Mullaperiyar dam dispute


An online meeting of the high-power committee appointed by the Supreme Court on the Mullaperiyar dam was held recently to decide on fixing the maximum water level in the dam.


GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Interstate water disputes), GS-I: Geography (Water Sources), GS-III: Disaster management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Mullaperiyar Dam
  2. About the Dispute regarding Mullaperiyar river
  3. Recent developments regarding Mullaperiyar dam risk
  4. Background on Dams in India
  5. Ageing dams in India: Highlights of the UN Report
  6. Issues with Ageing Dams in India
  7. Way Forward

About Mullaperiyar Dam

  • The Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in Kerala – built at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
  • It is located on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats and it was constructed between 1887 and 1895 (by John Pennycuick).
  • The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is located around the dam’s reservoir.
  • The catchment area of the Mullaperiyar Dam itself lies entirely in Kerala and it is argued that it is not an inter-State river, however, by the principle of estoppel (new argument cannot be against previous action/agreemet/statement) it is considered otherwise.
  • In a report published in 2021, the dam was identified as one among the world’s big dams which needs to be decommissioned due to being ‘situated in a seismically active area with significant structural flaws and poses risk to 3.5 million people if the 100+ years old dam were to fail’.

About the Dispute regarding Mullaperiyar river

  • The dam is located in Kerala on the river Periyar, but is operated and maintained by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
  • For Tamil Nadu, the Mullaperiyar dam acts as a lifeline for Theni, Madurai, Sivaganga, Dindigul and Ramnad districts, providing water for irrigation and drinking, and also for the generation of power in Lower Periyaru Power Station.
  • While Kerala has pointed out the unfairness in the 1886 lease agreement and has challenged its validity, Tamil Nadu has insisted on exercising the unfettered colonial rights to control the dam and its waters, based on the 1886 lease agreement.
  • There is also the issue of concerns regarding the ageing Mullaperiyar dam (including alleged leaks and cracks in the structure) have been repeatedly raised by the Kerala Government while the Tamil Nadu governments have sought to downplay these concerns.
  • While Tamil Nadu has sought to increase the limit of maximum water level in the dam to 152 ft, Kerala has strongly argued against such a move citing safety concerns.
  • Kerala’s proposal for decommissioning the dam and constructing a new one has been challenged by Tamil Nadu.

Rule of Curve issue

  • A rule curve or rule level specifies the storage or empty space to be maintained in a reservoir during different times of the year.
  • It decides the fluctuating storage levels in a reservoir.
  • The gate opening schedule of a dam is based on the rule curve. It is part of the “core safety” mechanism in a dam.
  • The TN government often blames Kerala for delaying the finalization of the rule curve.

Recent developments regarding Mullaperiyar dam risk

  • Supreme court judgment came in February 2006, has allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the level of the dam to 152 ft (46 m) after strengthening it.
  • Responding to it, the Mullaperiyar dam was declared an ‘endangered’ scheduled dam by the Kerala Government under the disputed Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  • Notably, Kerala has been experiencing unusually heavy spells of rain which have resulted in record inflows to the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir. Kerala has pressed upon Tamil Nadu to consider the urgent need for the gradual release of water from the fast-filling Mullaperiyar dam reservoir to ensure that there is no damage to the ageing dam structure.
  • Kerala also fears that the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar could contribute to the flood situation in the state of Kerala.

Background on Dams in India

  • India has 4,407 large dams, the third highest number in the world after China (23,841) and the USA (9,263).
  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
  • Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand is the highest dam in India built on Bhagirathi River.
  • Hirakud Dam in Odisha built on river Mahanadi is the longest dam of India.
  • Kallanai Dam in Tamil Nadu is the oldest dam of India. It is built on the Kaveri River and is about 2000 years old.

Ageing dams in India: Highlights of the UN Report

  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
  • Over a thousand large dams in India will be roughly 50-years-old in 2025 and such aging structures pose a growing threat.
  • There are also more than four thousand large dams in the country that will be over 50-years-old in 2050 and 64 large dams will be more than 150-years-old in 2050.
  • Ageing signs include increasing cases of dam failures, progressively increasing costs of dam repair and maintenance, increasing reservoir sedimentation, and loss of a dam’s functionality and effectiveness, “strongly interconnected” manifestations
  • Krishna Raja Sagar dam was built in 1931 and is now 90 years old.
  • Mettur dam was constructed in 1934 and is now 87 years old.
  • The report said that approximately 3.5 million people are at risk if India’s Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, built over 100 years ago, “were to fail”.

Issues with Ageing Dams in India

  • As dams age, soil replaces the water in the reservoirs. Therefore, the storage capacity cannot be claimed to be the same as it was in the 1900s and 1950s.
  • Studies show that the design of many of India’s reservoirs is flawed in the sense that the designs underestimate the rate of siltation and overestimate live storage capacity created.
  • When soil replaces the water in reservoirs, supply gets choked. The cropped area begins receiving less and less water as time progresses.
  • The net sown water area either shrinks in size or depends on rains or groundwater, which is overexploited.
  • The designed flood cushions within several reservoirs across many river basins may have already depleted substantially due to which floods have become more frequent downstream of dams.

Way Forward

  • Assuring the safety of the downstream population should be the topmost priority in this scenario. The remaining works to strengthen the Mullaperiyar dam are to be done at the earliest.
  • There is a need to assure Kerala that all the instruments for monitoring the safety and health of the dam are installed and are functioning properly.
  • As there are sufficient scientific and technological tools to respond effectively to any legitimate and genuine concern, every stakeholder should adopt a rational approach while deciding on the storage levels and safety aspects of the dam.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023