Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation finds place in Indian Biodiversity Congress!

IBC Recommendation to MoEF: Safeguarding Riverine Biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services of rivers and inland water bodies


Dams, hydropower projects, diversions and hydrological modifications to rivers and inland water bodies are having a huge negative impact on biodiversity and dependent livelihoods across India. Biodiversity Assessments for such projects is nonexistent or fundamentally inadequate or flawed including in in ecological hotspots like Himalayas and Western Ghats. Environmental Impact Assessments are severely flawed. Credible mitigation measures for endangered, threatened, endemic or rare fish and other biodiversity are not in place, even Endangered and iconic species like Ganges River Dolphins are under threat from absence of flows in the downstream and hydrological obstructions. Downstream impacts are neither part of social impact assessment nor part of resettlement and rehabilitation measures. All these  gaps are leading to incremental, cumulative negative impacts on biodiversity and local communities which depend on riverine biodiversity for their livelihoods.

IBC recommends that:

  • EIA notification 2006 should be amended urgently to include all hydel project above 1 MW capacity, all large dams including those for drinking water, industrial use, irrigation above 1000 hectares and flood control structures under its purview
  • Cascade of Hydropower dams in any river basin, including in the Indian Himalayas and Western Ghats should be reviewed, cumulative impact assessment including carrying capacity and river basin studies should be mandatory. No further projects should be considered before such studies in any basin having two or more projects. The studies should be done by credible independent agencies having no conflict of interest.
  • Recommendations of studies like Wildlife Institute of India’s report on Cumulative Impacts of Hydel Development on terrestrial and aquatic ecology of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Basins should be accepted and 24 hydel projects should be immediately scrapped for their irreversible negative impacts on biodiversity, as recommended by the WII study.
  • Process of Environment Impact Assessments should be made stringent, consultants with conflict of interest should be blacklisted. More scientific inputs and peer reviews should be brought in these studies.
  • Participatory Studies about environmental flow requirements of rivers, free flowing distance of rivers between two dams (should be more than 5 km as suggested by additional chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh in a report to high court) and downstream impacts of dams should be undertaken by the MoEF with participation from scientists and communities across the country. In the absence of these studies, more projects should not be sanctioned.
  • Fish Diversity and dependent livelihoods of inland fisherfolk are being greatly jeopardized by current dam development, in the absence of any mitigation measures. We urge the MoEF to undertake studies about efficacy of current fish farms and hatcheries, studies on fish ladders and passes and impacts of dams on fish diversity in India and not sanction new dams in areas of great fisheries diversity like Western Ghats and Indian Himalayas in the absence of mitigation measures and studies
  • Dams affecting community conserved areas and conservation reserves should be scrapped like 780 MW Nyamjangchhu Project in Arunchal Pradesh affecting last wintering sites of Black-necked Cranes, a community reserve.
  • Free-flowing rivers of India need legal protection as reservoirs of rare biodiversity.
  • Ramsar and other wetlands should get legal protection from impacts due to upstream abstractions.
  • In every state and ecological zone, certain rivers should be left as no go zones for dams and hydropower projects.
  • Community conserved riverine stretches and community fish sanctuaries should get legal protection.

India Pushing for a Water Treaty with China?

This is indeed very interesting, welcome news if India starts pushing China for a water sharing treaty:

India for water sharing pact with China
Feb 10 – Water is emerging as a new possible irritant between China and India, which has proposed a bilateral mechanism to deal with it, reports PTI.

In a significant move, India is pressing China to have either a water commission or an inter-governmental dialogue or an treaty to deal with water issues between the two countries.

This comes in the wake of Chinese move to approve construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet, in addition to the one being built without informing New Delhi.

Following the Chinese move, a high-level inter- ministerial committee, comprising officials from External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry, Department of Space among others met here to take stock of the situation and decided to take it up with China.

The issue was once again taken up when a senior Chinese embassy official met MEA officials to give details on the construction proposal.

“Though, the issue (of having a bilateral mechanism) has been part of our discussions earlier also, the recent move by Beijing has further pushed the matter. There is a need for some mechanism to deal with water issues between the two countries on the lines of what India has with other countries like Pakistan,” sources told PTI.

While India has an Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan under which the two countries share information and cooperate on the matter, a Ganges Treaty with Bangladesh establishes a 30-year water-sharing arrangement and recognises the neighbouring country’s rights as a lower-level riparian.

Recently, the Chinese cabinet had approved a document which mentions construction of three dams at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra.

Reacting to the Chinese move, the official spokesperson in MEA has said India carefully monitors all developments on the Brahmaputra river. “As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the river, India has conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels.”

The official spokesperson also stressed the need for China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.Image