Himachal Pradesh · Hydro Disaster

Fatal Disaster at Shongtong Hydro in Himachal Pradesh in June 2022

Two workers of 450 MW Shongtong hydropower Project[i] were killed when the trolley they were using overturned inside the tunn[ii]el of the under-construction project near Ralli in Kalpa Tehsil of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The police have registered a case in connection with the incident.

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Urban Rivers

Top Ten River Front Development Stories 2022: Destroying Rivers, Livelihoods

(Feature Image: Work on Rs. 700 crore Chambal RFD project in Kota which is supposed to be ready by Dec. 2022 end. Image Source: Free Press Journal)

The Central and various state governments have been pushing big budget River Front Developments (RFD) projects as panacea for all the urban water woes. In reality, these are River destruction projects with the objective of encroaching on river floodplain and even river beds of Urban Rivers. These RFDs have been failing to deliver on proposed claims and resulting in waste of public money apart from causing more damages to urban rivers eco-system and livelihoods of dependent communities. The projects are also multiplying the Urban Flood potential. In reality, India urgently requires an Urban River Policy as a subset of Urban Water Policy to guide how to treat urban water and urban rivers.

This compilation highlights situation of ten such RFD projects in the country which are failing miserably and facing stiff resistance from concerned citizens and dependent people during last one year or so.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 200622: Erratic onset & progress of SW Monsoon in India

It is great to see an EDITORIAL on monsoon progress in one of India’s National newspapers, THE TIMES OF INDIA on June 20, 2022. The editorial figure of monsoon deficit of 32% at all India level is hugely outdated as it was for rainfall till 8.30 am on June 15. According to the latest figures of rainfall till 0830 am on June 19 available as we write this, the deficit is DOWN to just 8% as rainfall has been above normal on each of the last five days. The deficit in NW India has also reduced from 77% reported in TOI edit to 63% now. The monsoon has also covered much larger area except in North West India. The rainfall so far has already broken several records in terms of intensity of rainfall.

Nevertheless, the key message of the TOI EDIT, about our wrong cropping pattern and urgent need of the govt to come up with schemes to incentivise farmers to change to more appropriate cropping pattern is very important.

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Urban Rivers

Urban Rivers 2022: Top Ten Positive Stories from India

(Feature Image: WATERMARK: An 1810 painting by J. Hammer of the Hooghly at Serampore/ Source, The Telegraph)

The plight of urban rivers in India has been going from bad to worse courtesy systematic neglect and unplanned development projects. On the one hand they are being increasingly deprived of freshwater flows by diverting water for domestic supplies and on the other have been turned into dumping place for mostly untreated solid and liquid waste in massive amounts from residential areas as well as industrial pockets. Nevertheless, there are some remarkable efforts being undertaken by individuals, organizations, government departments aiming at restoration of urban rivers at some places across the country. This compilation highlights top ten such positive urban river stories taking place during past one year. 

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Beas · Dams · Environment · Environment Impact Assessment · Environmental Flow · Fish · Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk · Free flowing rivers · Gharat · Himachal Pradesh · Hydropower · Rivers

Muktadhara Tirthan

How one fish and many people saved a river

“Hark! What is that? What is that sound? It is laughter, bubbling up from the heart of the darkness. It is the sound of water! There is no doubt. The water of Muktadhara is free!”

As I stepped on the wooden slats across the joyously gurgling Tirthan River, I remembered Rabindranath Tagore’s lines from his first play, Muktadhara (Free-flowing). I was in the Himalayas to listen to the story of Tirthan, a Muktadhara in her own right! Tirthan is the rarest, possibly the only river valley in India to be declared as a “No-Go Valley” for hydropower or dam development, protected in perpetuity.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 13 June 2022: Down in Dumps, MoEF becomes more opaque

(Feature image: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav with PM Narendra Modi before taking oath on July 7, 2021 PTI/HT.)

While the news that India has achieved the worst ever ranking of 180, at the bottom of 180 country index in terms of Environment Performance Index was shocking, it should not surprise too many people considering the way environment is treated by the current central government, particularly the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). As expected, MoEF questioned the methodology of the assessment, and the criticism has been responded to and rejected by the authors of the EPI report.

Now with a dictate of the MoEF (dated Apr 8, 2022, preceding the EPI news) coming to light, the trajectory of the MoEF should leave no one in doubt. Through this dictate, the MoEF has asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a supposedly autonomous institute of the Ministry, to seek the ministry’s approval before it publishes any document, that too with retrospective effect! WII in any case, was towing the ministry’s line in many of the cases as is evident from its performance in regulatory committees like the Forest Advisory Committee, National Board of Wild Life and Expert Appraisal Committee (on River Valley Projects, possibly among others). And yet the Ministry has come out with this dictate, without giving any reasons, possibly since some of WII reports have been problematic for the govt in judicial proceedings in some cases. But the MoEF move to stop WII from publishing (and hence doing) any credible studies only shows the paranoia of the ministry. Its performance index would not improve this way, it would only get worse.

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Dams

DRP NB 060622: NDMA says not to rely on hydropower, Central lobby pushes disaster called Etalin HEP

(Feature Image:-Damaged Tapovan hydel project tunnel, after glacier burst in Joshimath causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river, in Chamoli. PTI/HT)

It is good to see the report of the National Disaster Management Authority, incidentally chaired by the Prime Minister of India mincing no words regarding the Chamoli disaster of 2021, holding the hydropower project authorities (again basically central agencies including Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Water Commission, Central Electricity Authority and also NDMA itself), district disaster administration and lack of early warning systems.

The stark conclusion of the NDMA that the government needs to pursue alternative sources of Energy rather than the hydropower. Projects in what it calls environmentally fragile area has many implications, but the first one is to stop pursuing more hydropower projects all across the Himalayas. However in the same week we also get the reports that the central government, pushed by vested interests of hydropower lobby, is going for clearing the disastrous Etalin Hydropower project in Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India. The Forest Advisory Committee of the same MoEF is indulging in all kinds of manipulations to clear the Etalin project.

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River Biodiversity

When a gharial landed in a cow shelter in Delhi

It’s been more than six months since I got a Whatsapp video forward from my friend Yayati Bhardwaj along with a message in Hindi about some cow vigilant rescuing a ‘crocodile’ from Swaroop Nagar area of Delhi and sending it to a cow shelter in Narela, a bustling town in North West Delhi bordering Haryana.

It was around 07:00 pm on November 12, 2021 when busy in market, I had quick glance over the video. It was not very clear and shot with loud Punjabi music playing in the background. It showed some monitor lizard kind reptile lying motionlessly on ground with wheat grains scattered around it. At first sight, I found nothing to be surprised or worth responding.

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Floods

Assam: Kopili River Flows above Kampur HFL for 6 Days in Pre-Monsoon Season

In the third week of May 2022, River Kopili at Kampur Level Forecast (LF) site in Nagaon district of Assam has witnessed Extreme Flood Situation. The flood level at the site not only crossed the Highest Flood Level (HFL) there after 18 years but also stayed over HFL unusually for about 149 hours. 

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Rainfall

Pre Monsoon 2022: District wise rainfall in India

In the just concluded three month pre monsoon season (March 1 to May 31, 2022) India received 130.6 mm rainfall, 1% below the normal rainfall of 131.7 mm as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD). In 2020[i]  and 2021[ii] India received 158.5 mm  and 155.2 mm or 20% and 18% above normal rainfall respectively. So this year, India has received much lower pre monsoon season rainfall compared to previous two years.

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