Unprecedented water crisis in Delhi due to Jat stir Terming the water crisis in the national capital as “unprecedented”, Delhi minister Kapil Mishra has warned that the situation might worsen in the next few days if the supply from Haryana is not immediately restored. He said the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had almost run out of water and advised people to use water judiciously. Delhi gets its bulk of water supply from Haryana and the stir has affected 65% of water supply in Delhi has been cut with the shutting down of seven water treatment plants— Wazirabad, Chandrawal, Dwarka, Okhla, Haiderpur, Nangloi and Bawana which provide around 500 million gallons per day (MGD). In all Delhi has nine water treatment plants which together produce 820 MGD of potable water. Of these, only two Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi fed by water from Uttar Pradesh are operational. The current production is only 240 MGD. Among the areas affected were Dwarka, Janakpuri, Munirka, Palam, Rajouri Garden, Punjabi Bagh, Vasant Kunj, Saket, Green Park and Lodhi Colony, where residents complained of little or no water. In another news report DJB is reported to have made 140 water filling points functional to feed tankers which would be sent across the city, reeling under an unprecedented water crisis. Water Minister Kapil Mishra reviewed the contingency plan for water management in West, North, North-west, Outer and Central Delhi and said tankers will deliver water at 663 points to partially meet the shortage of 480 MGD. These points will keep rotating. Plan is to cover around 2,000 points by Monday evening. The DJB supplies around 900 MGD of water daily out of which around 600 MGD of raw water come from Munak Canal. Even if Haryana releases water immediately, it will take at least 24 hours to restore the supply. Meanwhile Supreme Court on 22 Feb.16 scolded Delhi government. for approaching the court instead of resolving the water crisis with Haryana. The Kejriwal government had approached the top court on in view of the severe water crisis in the national capital after Jat protesters blocked water supply through Munak canal in Sonipat. During the hearing on government’s plea, the court took strong objection to Water Minister Kapil Mishra’s presence inside the courtroom. On the other hand, the minister accuses Haryana & Central Government for providing no official information on the crisis He said the Delhi government was “repeatedly trying to communicate” with the two governments to find out when will the supply resume, but without much success. Also see Jat quota stir: Water supply cut, Delhi may go dry
Centre Govt planning to revive hydro power, bio fuel sector: Power Minister At Make In India event in Mumbai Piyush Goyal admitted that biofuel and hydro power had taken a bit of a backseat recently but added that there would be a big thrust to get them going again. Responding to a question the minister also said that he would try to woo international companies to invest in India and left the door open to both debt and equity inflows. In two separate interviews the minister also said that investors betting on trust created by PM and power sector stress is just short term.
Uttarakhand Govt. lays foundation stone for 1.5mw Guptkashi hydro power project CM Harish Rawat on 19 Feb.16 has unveiled the foundation stone of 1.5 mw capacity hydro power project at Lwara & Semi Bhaisari Gram Panchayat in Guptkashi. The execution of Guptkashi hydro power project would be done with the help of Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited and Lwara & Semi Bhaisari Gram Panchayat. From this project, electricity amounting to about Rs 3.5 crore will be sold each year. Under state government‘s Power Policy 2015, the responsibility of the gram Panchayat has been fixed. This policy aims at facilitating development of micro/mini hydro power projects with the involvement of the panchayat. This is a good news but as per google image the project seems to obstruct entire river flow which is not encouraging. The project is coming up on Mandakini river which orginates from Chorabari Glacier behind Kedarnath Shrine. Its close to Ukimath in Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand. Hope it does not impact the river, local environment and community in negative way as happened in case of Gangani SHP on Yamuna River in Kharadi, Uttarkashi. Instead of selling out electricity the project should first meet local demands. The Lwara and Semi Bhaisari Gram Panchayat should also be involved in operation and management of the project.
Nepal keen to develop Pancheshwar dam, says Oli Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on 21 Feb.16 visited the Tehri dam in Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, igniting new hope for the construction of the mega 6,600 Mw Pancheshwar multi-purpose hydel project on river Kali, a joint venture between New Delhi and Kathmandu. A day after holding talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Oli flew to Tehri region and visited the dam site. Oli was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Power Piyush Goyal and his Cabinet colleagues. Oli told the top Indian officials that Nepal was keen to develop Pancheshwar dam. The Uttarakhand government in 2012 had given its approval to the proposed project, following a meeting of the state Cabinet. Uttarakhand will get 13 percent of free power from the project. The flip-flop on Pancheshwar dam goes on. Last week only according to a media report the Union Home Ministry had scrapped the dam project. (http://goo.gl/gBw5NA) & now according this report Nepal PM is reported having visited the Tehri dam and showing interest in Pancheshwar also.
Himachal NGT raps construction firm for improper muck dumping Already running one year behind schedule, the Rs 2000-crore Kiratpur-Manali four-laning project has run into fresh trouble after the NGT took serious note of “improper dumping of muck”. Hearing a petition filed by Madan Lal, the Green court warned that it would be compelled to stop all works related to NH-21 project in case the company IL&FS did not fully comply with the law. The Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board placed the report of the team constituted by the NGT to inspect the illegal dumping of muck along the NH-21. The project was scheduled to be completed in November 2015 but faced several problems, including collapse of the under-construction tunnel near Bilaspur. Highlighting the same problem one more news reports that despite ban imposed on dumping of debris and other waste material in local rivers and water streams by the state High Court and subsequent notification issued by the state government, there is no check on the dumping waste material on road sides, local khuds and forests. Palampur-Kalu-Di-Hatti stretch of the national highway has turned into a major dumping site near the Irrigation and Public Health rest house as dozens of private vehicles can be seen dumping waste and debris on the road side in gross violations of the government orders. Hydro power companies too are involved in dumping of muck in rivers which like in Kedarnath case leads to disasters.
DRIP workshop highlights Inaugurating a workshop on lessons learnt from the ongoing Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) water ministry Uma Bharati stated that is making good progress. The water minister also says that State Govt. should take appropriate precautions to warn downstream people before releasing excess water and identify dams in need of rehabilitation. In the meeting Uma Bharti bats for immediate resurrection of old, large dams. According to the press release water Ministry is working on legislative Bill mandating regular inspection and maintenance and rehabilitation of dams. CWC feels the need for creating more storage of water through large, medium and small dams to fulfil our increasing demand for water. Hindi version of DRIP Website launched www.damsafety.in. Compendium of Technical Papers pertaining to the Second National Dam Safety Conference and ‘Guidelines for Preparation of Emergency Action Plans for Dams’ prepared under DRIP released. The six-year DRIP project, started in April, 2012 is in mid-way through its implementation. The experts also discussed examples of dam failures in the past due to varied reasons, including design flaw and lack of regular maintenance and failure of Machhu Dam Gujarat was cited as an eye-opener, seeking attention of authorities for regular inspection of dams in distress conditions. Other dams which failed in the past include Kaila in Kutch in Gujarat, Kodaganar dam on a tributary of Cauvery in Tamil, Panshet dam near Pune and Nanaksagar dam in Punjab. It is good to see the push by Minister Ms. Uma Bharti and Water Resources Secretary Mr. Shashi Shekhar for safety of the dams, but it is not sufficient to satisfy the engineers, but also the people whose lives are at stake, and it is not sufficient to have structural safety, but also operational safety. Also see, Water ministry to organize workshop on dam safety Water ministry organized workshop tomorrow (18 feb.16) to review progess of DRIP. “There are about 4900 large dams in India and about 80 % of them are over 25 years old. The old dams designed and built to withstand certain levels of flood and earthquake and may not meet the revised estimates based on information gathered over the period. Any remote event of dam failure seriously affects the lives, property and the environment in addition to disrupting the services provided by the dams.
Telangana Acute water crisis stares at six districts The alarming depletion of groundwater table ranging from 6.83 ft to 24.57 ft in most parts of the State this season compared to last year has not only strained the drinking water sources already, but has also caught the administration ill-prepared to tackle the impending crisis even before the onset of summer this year. Statistics on the groundwater level in the last week of January prepared by the department clearly indicate that the situation is likely to be worse than expected in many parts of the State, as the depletion of water table has been found alarmingly high in Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Ranga Reddy, Mahabubnagar, Nizamabad and Medak districts, with the last two being the worst-affected.
Karnataka Krishna basin reservoirs in State hit rock bottom Water levels in Krishna and Cauvery reservoirs have hit record low threatening drinking water supply to Bengaluru and other parts of the state during summer. Even if the State government were to ration the stored water, it will still fall short of the drinking water needs through the summer months. When compared to last year’s storage, levels in these reservoirs have substantially reduced. The worst hit is Tungabhadra dam, which has a storage capacity of 100.86 TMC, but the available water at present is a mere 9.23 TMC. The same bleak scenario prevails in the remaining reservoirs of Bhadra, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Almatti and Narayanpur. According to Govt. official never before has the situation been this grim in the Krishna basin. No water for irrigation all summer. No water for thermal power from RTPS all summer. No water for drinking. No rain clouds are gathering at all. Water flow in KRISHNA has never been this bad, ever. Now we must prepare for about half the population in KRISHNA irrigated districts moving to cities in search of survival. This is also valid for most of Maharashtra, Andhra and Telanganga. Also see, Drying Krishna forces shutdown of two Raichur power units It is just Mid FEB and thermal power plants in North Karnataka are already facing water scarcity, signs of times to come, sand mining is among the reasons cited.
RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS
SANDRP Blog Digging Our Rivers’ Graves? A summary analysis of the ecological impacts of the National Waterways Bill (2015)- Nachiket Kelkar After a long history of damaging hydrological alterations, riverine control, and social injustices and disasters, the National Waterways Bill’s implementation does not show that something has been learned from a troubled past. In the current circumstances, achieving potential utilization of waterways without impairing ecological and hydrological dynamics, productivity, biodiversity, and social dependencies, environmental regulations and safeguards are critical for sustaining the life of the river basins of India does not seem likely. The bill in present form is not likely to be accepted at least by some concerned states and the proposed waterways are not likely to be viable.
INTERLINKING OF RIVERS
National River interlinking plan is ‘illegal and unnecessary’: Experts Plan to connect 37 rivers in India to prevent flooding and drought have been criticised for large-scale displacement and environmental destruction. According to SANDRP, the Godavari-Krishna link could be “illegal, unnecessary and misconceived” because an environmental impact assessment has not been done. They also challenge the claim that the Godavari river basin has “surplus” water. It is home to Marathwada, an area known as “India’s emerging farmer suicide capital”. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP says that it’s a long and slow struggle. They are not viable projects, there are no specifications. We need a democratic process to inform decisions & proper environmental, social and hydrological impact assessments. Only then can we come to the right scientific conclusions. The network has been scrutinising the proposals and writing to project developers and government bodies to demand information.
Centre EAC stalls Ken-Betwa linking, asks for taking up wildlife clearance first Environment clearance for Centre’s ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project has hit a roadblock as environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) has decided to look into the project only after its wildlife clearance and related issues are taken up for appraisal. According to report senior environment ministry’s expert panel does not want to take any call on the issue before the project’s crucial wildlife issues pertaining to Panna Tiger Reserve are addressed. The Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee on hydroelectric and river valley projects has taken up the project’s clearance for discussions thrice since October and in this decision was taken in the last meeting on 08 Feb. 16.
Telangana Uma Bharathi orders fresh study to measure “surplus” water in Gadavari river Union water resources minister Uma Bharathi has ordered a fresh study to determine the quantum of surplus water available in River Godavari, on an objection by the Telangana government. Irrigation advisor R. Vidyasagar Rao on 14 Feb.16 stated that this was done after Telangana state raised objections over a National Water Development Agency study on arriving at surplus water figures in the Godavari, based on parameters set 25 years ago and without taking into account the irrigation schemes that had come up after that. This is good but matter of fact is that all NWDA studies are outdated and undependable.
Oridsha Displaced People Stall Odisha Deo Irrigation Project Construction work on the much-awaited Deo irrigation project in Mayurbhanj district has been stalled for the last couple of days due to opposition from the displaced people. Initiated in 1992, the project at Hatibari in Karanjia block is yet to see the light of the day owing to displacement related issues. According news report the displaced people are up in arms against the project as they alleged that despite several assurances, the authorities have failed to compensate them as promised. The displaced people from Devigarh, Shyamchandrapur and Thakurmapatana villages are now on a dharna in front of the project office since Saturday demanding land compensation at market rate, monthly pension of Rs 5,000 to above 50-years-old, package for the partially displaced families and release of villagers who were arrested for halting the project work.
Telangana Irrigation officials raise doubts over Palamuru–Ranga Reddy lift irrigation scheme At a time when Telangana government is aggressively pushing forward Palamuru – Ranga Reddy lift-irrigation scheme whose bids for construction will be opened on 29 Feb.16, irrigation officials have expressed serious doubts whether the project was a departure from the cardinal principle of ensuring 75 per cent dependable yield to farmers. The Second Irrigation Commission, 1972, observed that the farmers should be assured of getting the designed supply in 75% of the years which in effect meant supplies from any project for three out of four years. The engineers feel the surplus in rivers was found only in 40 per cent of years which meant that the quantum of 227.5 tmc ft or more was available in two out of five years. There was no surplus in remaining years. In addition to the seven schemes, the Telangana government now came up with Palamuru–Ranga Reddy as a surplus water-based project.
Andhra Pradesh State needs Rs.20,000cr. for completing projects: CM Naidu Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu expressed the government’s commitment to complete pending irrigation projects over the next five years and said that they entailed an expenditure of Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000 crore. He also stated that barring Polavaram Left Main Canal (PLMC) and Vamsadhara expansion, the other projects — Thotapalli, Pattiseema, Polavaram Right Main Canal, Galeru-Nagari and Handri-Neeva– would be completed by March / June 2016. PLMC and Vamsadhara are will be completed by June 2017. Addressing a press conference on 20 Feb.16, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said government was waiting for reimbursement of Rs. 2,000 crore spent on Polavaram by the Central government. The Centre has paid back Rs.300 crore recently. Also see, Polavaram first phase will be ready by 2018: Naidu
Himachal Sirmaur villagers complain of health impacts from industrially polluted Markanda River More than half dozen residents of Ambwala, Sainwala, Moginand etc falling downstream of Kala Amb industrial area in Sirmaur district alleged that their cattle were under the spate of various water borne diseases. Villagers lament that they were becoming victims of various skin diseases as they have to use the polluted water of this river for bathing and washing clothes daily. They were facing the apathy of State Pollution Board which could not force the paper units and pharmacy firms to release their industrial effluents after treating it in sewerage treatment plants as many of them were openly flouting the norms.
Andhra Pradesh A watery chaos Amaravati is being built on India’s newest state capital is being built on a plain which floods thrice in an average year; often, it also suffers from droughts and consequent water shortage. Amaravati is planned as a smart city from the very beginning, and its planners from the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority are quite aware of the twin flood and drought threats. But why is Amaravati being built on such a vulnerable spot? The only defence of the policymakers is that it is the best spot available. Indeed it is a watery choas, first the new capital is coming on Krishna floodplains hence prone to frequent flooding. Master Plan suggests raising of ground by 25cm which neighbouring farmers fear will inundate several villages located around the capital. The place is water stressed as three upper riparian States draw all the water resulting in a dry Krishna during lean season. Andhra Govt. plans to divert Godavari water into Krishna to meet capital potable water demand via a canal which will eat up huge chunks of remaining fertile farmland around the region. Also see, India’s new state capital on world’s best farmland
Karnataka Drying Krishana forces shutdown of two Raichur power units The seventh and eighth units of the Raichur Thermal Power Station (RTPS) stopped functioning on 17 Feb.16 owing to water scarcity. Of the six pumps which supply water to the thermal power station, five are not being utilised due to water scarcity. Earthmovers have been pressed into service to provide a gradient facilitating smooth flow of water collected in patches of River Krishna. It is just Mid FEB and thermal power plants in North Karnataka are already facing water scarcity, signs of times to come, sand mining is among the reasons cited.
W-Bengal The Adi Ganga: A forgotten River of Bengal The article sheds light on the Adi Ganga, one of the most significant streams of the Ganges in its lower course and narrates how the fate of the stream (later Tolly’s Canal) which was once the life line of Kolkata transformed into a mere sewer and was finally ruthlessly slaughtered with the changing politico-economic interests of the state. Using a political ecology approach it traces the shift in development perspectives that determined the fate of the stream in colonial and postcolonial Kolkata. The small narrative on the transforming tale of the Adi Ganga, quite a forgotten entity by now, is but a tiny component of the bigger canvas of shifting development needs and interests within changing temporal contexts.
Tamil Nadu Second phase of Adyar creek restoration nearing completion The last leg of restoration of the Adyar estuary and the creek is likely to be complete in the next three months as the Chennai River Restoration Trust (CRRT) authorities have completed planting around 22,000 mangrove saplings along its bund and on the eight islands n the river. Another 30,000 saplings will be planted which the authorities say will be over by May-end. A member of Madras Naturalists’ Society stated that it is a great example of restoration. The creek has been cleaned and this has attracted a large number of migratory birds. Last year, pelicans were sighted in the creek area. CRRT official told that restoration has been taken up on an area of 300 acres starting from the old bridge in Adyar and extending up to the Broady’s Castle Cemetery on Santhome High Road.
Maharashtra KMC told to prepare action plan to check Panchganga river pollution The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has directed the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) to come up with a detailed action plan to check pollution in the Panchganga river while speeding up the work on sewage treatment plants. (KMC) was issued the directives after a meeting of its officials with the MPCB member secretary P Anbalagan in Navi Mumbai on 16 Feb.16. The meeting was held to review the pollution-control measures adopted by the civic body to curb pollution in water bodies. Anabalagan asked the civic officers to ensure they have a time-bound plan for the next review meeting to be held in April. He also directed KMC to complete pending projects to check pollution in the Panchganga river.
NARMADA नर्मदा में अवैध रेत उत्खनन को हाईकोर्ट में चुनौती जबलपुर में नर्मदानदी में अवैध रेत उत्खनन और प्रदूषण को हाईकोर्ट में चुनौती दी गई है। एक जनहित याचिका पर जस्टिस राजेंद्र मेनन और जस्टिस एसके पालो की खंडपीठ ने मुख्य सचिव, प्रमुख सचिव सामान्य प्रशासन, नगरीय प्रशासन, खनिज विभाग और मप्र प्रदूषण नियंत्रण मंडल को नोटिस जारी कर जवाब मांगा है। नर्मदा मिशन संस्था ने याचिका दायर कर बताया कि नदी में कई स्थानों पर उद्योगों का अपशिष्ट छोड़ा जा रहा है।
GANGA Centre Belgium keen to join ‘Clean Ganga’ drive Belgium is keen to take part in the “Clean Ganga” campaign confirming the development a top Belgian official stated that a Belgian mission with companies specialising in sanitation will meet Indian government. According the official Vito a Belgian research institute has developed a technology that not only cleans sewage water but also produces electricity out of it.
Uttarakhand Saint Bodies in Haridwar divided over removal of silt from Ganga Scores of sadhus in this holy town are on a relay hunger strike for the last five days seeking removal of “extra” silt from the river Ganga, which they say has become shallow in the city since the 2013 flash floods, making it difficult for them and the pilgrims to take a holy dip. According to the saints, by not removing the extra silt due to the ban on mining in the district the administration was “depriving” people of water to take a holy dip in the Ganga. But, the stir has invited the wrath of Matri Sadan, an ashram which has been on the forefront of anti-mining agitation in Uttarakhand. Its spokesperson alleged that the sadhus are trying to help the mining mafias. Peculiar situation is arising in Haridwar. A group of saints have sit on hunger strike demanding sand mining from ghats. They say due to excess of sand the Ghat areas have turned shallow hampering the regular religious bathing rituals. While Matri Sadan has opposed the move fearing that it would end up helping mining mafia.
NGT If media can, why state can’t find illegal beach camps: NGT In the hearing on beach camps flouting an interim ban and operating along the Ganga on New Year’s eve, the tribunal, headed by NGT admonished the state government counsel and said though the media had found the existence of such beach camps, which had been set up in violation of an NGT order, the state administration had not. Taking a strong note of the state government’s denial of the issue, green court rapped the state government counsel and said, “The information put up by the state government on beach camps has been false till now.” The court also indicated that it would bring up the issue of incorrect information in the judgment as well. The court also explained that the restriction on the beach camps was meant for Ganga’s tributaries as well.
NGT asks industries why they shouldn’t be shut NGT on 17 Feb.16 issued show cause notice to industries located on the stretch from Haridwar to Kanpur asking why they should not be shut down for polluting river Ganga. The green panel also directed industries like tannery paper and pulp, textile, slaughter houses etc to clear their stand on attainment of zero liquid discharge, installation of online monitoring systems, current status of these units and asked what steps they have taken till now to control pollution resulting from their activities. The Tribunal ordered Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to put on its website the list of 1,070 seriously polluting units and also the Environment Ministry to clarify the process of identifying seriously and grossly polluting industrial units in public domain. The tribunal will now hear the matter on 07 March 16. Before this on 10 Feb16, the green panel had set up a committee to look into the polluting industries located along the banks of Ganga and inform it about the quantum of sewage discharged by them in the river.
YAMUNA Delhi Activists oppose encroachment of Yamuna floodplains A group of intellectuals and social activists have written an open letter to Indian President, Prime Minister and concerned government representatives to stop the encroachment and destruction of Yamuna floodplains to celebrate 35th Anniversary of ‘Art of Living’ Foundation, a private organisation formed by. The event is scheduled in March this year. According to the activists the preparations are in progress, which is destabilising and destructing the ecosystem of river as floodplains are getting encroached and damaged largely, which used to play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and health of the river. The activists have appealed President and PM to not attend the event while saying that their presence might appear to lend legitimacy to an illegal activity.
Uttar Pradesh Journalist in Sultanpur killed by mining mafia Karun Mishra, bureau chief of a Hindi daily, was shot on 13 Feb 16 allegedly for highlighting in his newspaper illegal mining in Sultanpur which did not go well with some local contractors. Mishra was gunned down by bike-borne assailants while he was heading towards Katka village under Gosainganj police station in Sultanpur in a car. The criminals fired indiscriminately at Mishra using sophisticated weapons and he succumbed to injuries at the hospital. UP police on 18 Feb.16 arrested five persons for the murder of a journalist in Sultanpur and revealed that he was killed by mining mafia. Ganesh told reporters that two contractors, Rahul Singh and Pawan Singh, had given Rs 1 lakh to a group of five criminals to kill Mishra. Both the contractors and three shooters, Ajay Singh, Sandeep Singh and Haider Abbas, were nabbed in a joint operation by the STF and Sultanpur police. Two more criminals, Aman Singh and Mama, are being hunted.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Delhi Against all odds Model Town residents striving to Save Naini Lake A campaigner tells us what it takes to save a nearly “ecologically dead” natural lake in the heart of India’s capital city. While working on a lake revival in Delhi you are confronted with politics at every step. The Naini lake is owned by the MCD which is under BJP whereas maintenance lies with Delhi Tourism which is part of the Delhi govt. Bringing both the agencies together for the common goal of lake conservation is becoming challenging as having two agencies on the lake means both shrug off responsibility. Nevertheless due to the campaign, the govt has started talking about reviving Delhi’s 600 water bodies with Naini lake as a role-model. People feel a sense of belonging and Naini has become ‘our’ lake. With residents becoming vigilant, MCD staff pays extra attention to the lake’s cleanliness. This is very inspiring tale of Save Naini Lake campaign in the heart of India’s capital. I wish it to pioneer the revival of the rest 600+ water bodies in Delhi.
J&K India’s largest freshwater Wular lake lost 50% area since 1911 All is not well with Wular Lake in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, which has been identified as one of the 26 Ramsar sites in the country. Over the past many decades, it has suffered heavily due to siltation, conversion of 40 per cent of the lake area into agricultural land, pollution from fertilisers, highly degraded catchment area and encroachment along its banks. These factors have reduced the size of the lake from 157 sq km in 1911 to 86 sq km in 2007. The lake, according to experts, needs dredging, de-weeding, de-silting, embankment and rooting out of trees to restore its original space, which require huge funding. 80000 locals are reported to be beneficiary of Wular lake ecosystem. The 4 years govt. sponsored conservation project which completed in 2015 is reported to be ineffective due to lack of funds.
Kerala Greens warn of vanishing wetlands in the city Highlighting the risk faced by wetlands at a seminar on 17 Feb.16 jointly organised by the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) and the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, environmentalists point out that a large number of development projects in Kochi have come up on wetlands, including the LNG Terminal at Puthu Vypeen, Kochi metro, NH bypass and Goshree projects, Smart City and the proposed electronic park at Amballoor. C.N. Mohanan, scientist of the Institute for Climate Change Studies, Kottayam, said Kerala lacked proper and scientific demarcation of wetlands. Though the Vembanad Lake is a Ramsar site, its boundaries have not been specifically notified. It’s also the case with most of the wetlands of the State though wetland surveys are held at intervals. Also see, Don’t turn wetlands into wastelands, warn greens
Haryana MCG plans lake revival in urban Gurgaon In rapidly urbanising Gurgaon, the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) has decided to rejuvenate a small set of ponds. Recognising the importance of about 120-odd Johads (ponds), which have either shrunk or have just vanished, the corporation has entered into an agreement with Future Institute, a not-for-profit and an applied urban research based organisation in New Delhi. The institute will provide technical and design support to the MCG for the next two years. With rejuvenation of these ponds, the authorities hope that it would improve biodiversity by attracting birds and encouraging establishment of native vegetation, plants and trees.
Centre Uma Bharti to inaugurate Jal Manthan-2 on 22 Feb. 2016 With a theme of two day event is ‘Integrated Approach for Sustainable Water Management’, Water Ministry will inaugurate “Jal Manthan -2” on 22 Feb. 2016 New Delhi. The two day with event will have consultations and discussions on River Basin Approach for Sustainable development, Ground water, Water security, Principles of allocation of water, innovation in water governance, Water management, Coordination between centre and states, Water conservation and need for a National Legislation on water. Union Ministers of related Ministries/Departments, Chief Ministers of some States/Union Territories, Irrigation/ Water Resources Ministers of States/UTs, eminent experts in water sector, representatives of NGOs and senior officers of the Central and State Governments will be attending the event. It may be recalled that first Jal Manthan was organized in November 2014.
Himachal Shimla, Solan under Hepatitis-E threat The National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune on 10 Feb.16 has again sent alarm bells ringing in Shimla and Solan. Eight water samples taken from Ashwani Khud water treatment plants in both cities and the Malyana sewage treatment plant have tested positive for Hepatitis-E. The NIV found that two water samples taken from a water tank from a house of the jaundice-affected family in Chhota Shimla had also tested positive for Hepatitis-E virus. The NIV report result of water samples paints an alarming picture of the Ashwani Khud. It found that the Hepatitis-E virus infected Ashwani Khud drinking water even after chlorination carried out by the Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) Department, revealed the report.
Delhi On one year completion, Delhi govt waives water bills With the AAP government celebrating its one year in office, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal offered people of the national Capital a fresh waiver on pending water bills till last November-a master stroke to pitch for the 2017 municipal elections-while slamming his political opponents for disapproving his government’s measures on subsidies. The waiver will cost the government exchequer Rs 923.27 crore.
Haryana Aquifer mapping to be completed by May 16 Haryana will be the first state where mapping of underground water will be completed. The mapping is being conducted by the Water Ministry to find the status of underground water and measures needed to be taken to recharge the water table. The states included in the first phase of the exercise are Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Telangana where underground water table has reached a critical level. In Haryana, a ban on exploitation of underground water had been imposed in some of its districts, including Gurgaon, about a decade back. Reports suggest that the ban imposed by Central Ground Water Board was violated with impunity. Also see, Haryana uses mapping tech to trace groundwater
National El Niño may be neutral when monsoon hits Initial predictions from global weather agencies indicate towards an overall weakening of the El Niño phenomenon. The prediction also says that a weakening of the El Niño might not immediately lead to La Niña phenomenon, which causes ample rains. So far by all indications, the conditions are expected to remain neutral during the time monsoons hit the Indian mainland that is around June 2016. The Australian Weather Bureau in its last weather forecast released a few days ago said El Niño continues its gradual decline in 2015-16 due to which sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are cooling, and beneath the surface, cooler-than-average waters are advancing into the eastern Pacific. It said based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50 per cent had been followed by a neutral year, and 40 % by La Niña.
Centre Govt okays Rs 4,000cr for 7 drought-hit states The Centre on 15 Feb.16 approved relief assistance of over Rs 4,000 crore for seven drought-affected states from the National Disaster Relief Fund. The maximum Rs 1,737.65 crore will be released to Tamil Nadu, followed by Rs 1,193.41 crore to Rajasthan, Rs 336.94 crore to Jharkhand, Rs 332.57 crore to Assam, Rs 280.19 crore to Andhra Pradesh, Rs 170.19 crore to Himachal Pradesh and Rs 16.02 crore to Nagaland. These seven states are part of the 18 affected by drought due to deficit monsoon this year. The other affected states include Maharashtra, MP, UP, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The decision to release central assistance to these states was taken in a meeting of the high-level committee (HLC), chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh. The HLC, so far, has approved over Rs 15,000 crore for drought-affected states.
Centre Renewable ministry finalized all sites for solar parks The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has completed the first stage of its ambitious solar parks project, which envisages setting up solar clusters across the country with an overall installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the end of 2018-19. With two new areas selected this year, the process of identifying the land on which these parks will be located is complete. The new sites are in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh and across the districts of Bhiwani, Hisar and Mahendragarh in Haryana, both having an installation capacity of 500 MW. In all, 34 solar parks across 21states and one union territory are in various stages of being built. According to one more news the Centre govt is looking to tender 4,431MW of solar projects in Feb-Mar 2016. According to a document of the ministry of new and renewable energy, Solar Energy Corp. of India Ltd, a central public sector enterprise, will tender 3,156MW, NTPC Ltd 1,050MW and the Bihar government 150MW. The various public sector units of the central government will tender the remaining 75MW. The report also mentions that govt.’s effort to start more solar power projects may be hampered by its fiscal constraints. One another news India’s solar capacity may cross 9GW by March. According to data on the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s website India added about 5.25 gigawatts of new solar capacity to the grid as of 31 January after ending the previous year with 3.7 gigawatts of installed capacity, An additional 1.5 gigawatts were installed at the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Meanwhile as per news report to tackle the problems of acquiring land for solar park projects and keeping costs down, the ministry of new and renewable energy has come out with fresh guidelines that allow state governments may acquire unproductive and non-farming land for setting up and for solar parks. So far, 27 solar parks in 21 states, with an aggregate capacity of 18,418 MW, have been approved in principle. MNRE’s nodal agency for solar power projects, Solar Energy Corp. of India, makes funds available to companies developing solar parks under the Union government’s programme. The states identify land for such parks. Also see, Solar industry seeks VAT exemption on equipment, incentives for projects
Delhi Pollution fund to push domestic solar power Delhi government has decided to give a generation-based incentive (GBI) of Rs 2 per unit of solar energy produced to domestic consumers and charitable organisations in a month. Experts say GBI, which is meant to be offered only for two years, can be a great boost for domestic consumers. However the incentive will not be given for commercial rooftop projects. Another good news for those investing in solar power is that the Centre has restarted its 30% subsidy on the capital cost of the project. The subsidy had been rolled back to only 15% last year. The focus of the subsidy is to ensure that all existing and proposed Delhi government buildings install solar rooftop systems within three years of notification of the policy.
Abused wetlands dying a slow but sure death in South Asia Considered unimportant and encroached upon, the wetlands that regulate water flow, and act as the living hearts of ecosystems are barely surviving as a crowded South Asia clamours for land. The signing of the Ramsar Convention, on 2 Feb 1971, marked a change in global policymaking. Since then, wetlands have gained some prestige mainly among environmentalists, academics and some policymakers. Globally, over 2,200 wetlands have been listed under the convention, but many of them remain under serious threat. It is estimated that Asia loses 5,000 sq. km. of wetland areas every year to agriculture and building projects. India has over 750,000 wetlands that account for nearly 4.7% of the country’s geographical area but support a full 20% of the country’s biodiversity. With unplanned urbanisation and changing land use, encroachments and pollution are the biggest threats faced by wetlands in India. The result is a rapid deterioration in water quality and reduction in quantity. World Wetlands Day is an opportunity to take stock of how the important wetlands in South Asia are doing. It is very interesting report on status of wetlands in South-Asia.
Pakistan Even after 25 years, Moon dam still a dilemma for local people The dam which was completed in 1994 on the Moon River, a tributary of the Mekong River, has had a severe impact on the livelihood of the villagers in Ubon Ratchathani. As suspected by the communities and NGOs, the dam has damaged the natural and social environments, destroying fisheries and leaving villagers impoverished. After 20 years, the Moon dam is the only case in the whole of the Mekong Basin where people affected by a dam’s construction are demanding decommissioning. As fish are not able to spawn in the Moon River, the dam continues to adversely affect the Mekong ecosystem. The world must see the gravity of the threats the dam continues to pose on the Mekong’s biodiversity. Solutions proposed by the local communities are simple and the effect is guaranteed: all eight gates of the dam must be opened. The local communities have the right to compensation for the losses that they have suffered. It’s not only the government but the World Bank which needs to take responsibility for the compensation. If the World Bank is sincere about its mission to reduce poverty, it should not be allowed to remain silent about the poverty that it has created.
Bhutan Green Bhutan must come clean on its mega Hydropower plan The tiny nation of Bhutan might enjoy world renowned for its environmental record, but it is overlooking concerns being raised by environmentalists over the country’s plans to construct large hydropower plants to generate 10,000MW of surplus electricity for export to India because it is heavily dependent on India’s financial assistance. According to a 2009 protocol to a 2006 Bhutan-India agreement, New Delhi will provide grants and soft loans to Thimphu to produce 10,000 MW by 2020 and import all the surplus electricity. According to SANDRP about 98 percent of Bhutan’s exports and 90 percent of its imports are with India. New Delhi reportedly insists that EIAs be done by WAPCOS, a consulting company under India’s Ministry of Water Resources, which has been accused of shoddy work and overcharging Bhutan. Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP coordinator stated that governments and industry players need to take decisions concerning hydropower in a democratic fashion with the involvement of local inhabitants, in terms of discussing compensations for displacement and other impacts. Transparency is equally important so that projects’ compliance with environmental and safety norms remain verifiable, he added.
Nepal Govt plans to shorten EIA from 120 to 39 days The government plans to slash the time taken to complete an environmental impact assessment (EIA) by more than two-thirds in a bid to speed up approvals for major development projects. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment said that the regulation would be changed to shorten the EIA process for national pride projects and other schemes the government thinks need to be rushed. Green reviews currently last more than 120 days, and the government wants to bring it down to 39 days. An official reported that lengthy EIA process and complicated land acquisition and forest clearance have emerged as big hurdles to the development of major infrastructure projects in recent years. Calling Environment Impact Assessments and public consultations as obstacles would not help.
West Seti hydro project hits roadblock The government’s plan to build the 750MW West Seti Hydroelectric Project has hit a roadblock, as delay in signing the joint development agreement has prevented formation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop the project. Nepal Electricity Authority and CWE Investment Corporation, a subsidiary of China’s Three Gorges Corporation, which is developing the West Seti project at a cost of around Rs 160 billion, must sign the JDA to form the SPV. But before signing the JDA, NEA must agree to acquire 25 per cent stake in the project. The test case of Nepal’s Hydro sector continues to hit road blocks.
REST OF ASIA
Stop building dams on the mother of rivers The greatest of all South-East Asia’s waterways and the world’s 12th-longest river, the Mekong, is a natural wonder that ties together the destinies of half a dozen countries. Tens of millions of people—much of the population of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam—depend on the Mekong. Its fish are their protein and its delta is the world’s rice basket. No wonder its name, in Thai or Lao, means “mother of rivers”. But Mekong River Commission (MRC) has no enforcement power, struggles to promote good river management and is woefully short of cash. Besides, China, the Mekong’s biggest threat, refuses to be a member. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam-building, and has urged studies of hydropower projects, such as run-of-the-river schemes, that would not block the Mekong’s flow. That is prudent advice; but few governments are listening. The scale of the harm that damming the Mekong might cause is huge, and would be irreversible. Without giving enough thought to what they are about to undertake, governments are messing dangerously with the mother of all rivers. Worth reading about MEKONG
REST OF THE WORLD
US Elwha River roaring back to life The Elwha watershed is booming with new life, after the world’s largest dam removal. The first concrete went flying in September 2011, and Elwha Dam was out the following March. Glines Canyon Dam upriver tumbled for good in September 2014. Today the river roars through the tight rock canyon once plugged by Elwha Dam, and surges past the bald, rocky hill where the powerhouse stood. The hum of the generators is replaced by the river singing in full voice, shrugging off a century of confinement like it never happened. Nature’s resurgence is visible everywhere. It took an act of Congress in 1992 to finally free the Elwha, taking down the pair of dams that had blocked the 45-mile mountain river for a century. The big idea in all three cases was to get rid of hydropower dams no longer worth their maintenance and repair. The dams also had no fish passage, as required by modern environmental laws. Dam removal is restoring 70 miles of spawning habitat in the Elwha.
Zimbabwe Kariba dam running out of water after drought Zimbabwe’s main hydropower dam could stop producing electricity in six months if water levels keep falling after the nation’s worst drought in more than two decades. Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia both rely heavily on the Kariba dam for electricity, and falling dam levels at the plant raises the threat of deeper power cuts in the two countries which are already faced with frequent power shortages. According to officials power supplies from Kariba, which has an installed generating capacity of 750 MW, were at 285MW now as dam levels were at 12% of capacity, a level last recorded in 1992 during a severe drought. Zimbabwe is importing 300MW of electricity from South Africa’s power utility Eskom and another 40MW from Mozambique to ease the power cuts. The drought has left 3 million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe, and farmers in Zimbabwe have lost cattle and crops to drought but fear the worst is yet to come.
NASA 4 billion people at risk as ‘water table dropping all over the world’ A new analysis reveals that global water scarcity is a far greater problem than previously thought, affecting 4 billion people—two-thirds of the world’s population—and will be “one of the most difficult and important challenges of this century.” Previous analyses looked at water scarcity at an annual scale and had found that water scarcity affected between 1.7 and 3.1 billion people. The new study, published on 12 Feb.16 in the journal Science Advances, assessed water scarcity on a monthly basis, more fully capturing the specific times of year when it could be an issue. The study found that almost half of the 4 billion affected by severe water scarcity for a month or more are in India and China. Millions of others affected live in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico. Also see, 4 billion people face severe water scarcity
US Flint’s poisoned water was among the most expensive in the country By January of last year it was starting to become clear that something was wrong with the water in Flint, Mich. After nine months of drawing water from the Flint River, residents were complaining about odors and bad tastes. General Motors had stopped using the river water at its Flint plant over concerns about corrosion. State officials had quietly started shipping bottled water to state workers in the city. The rest is history — poisoned water, shocking levels of lead, a spike in Legionnaire’s cases and other untold health effects that may not be fully understood for years. And during it all, Flint residents were paying more for their water than just about anyone else in the country. That last finding comes from a report issued 16 Feb.16 by Food & Water Watch, a non-profit working to improve food and water quality in the United States. Also see, San Francisco the first American city to ban plastic water bottles
Study Better water management could halve the global food gap by 2050 For the first time, scientists investigated systematically the worldwide potential to produce more food with the same amount of water by optimizing rain use and irrigation. It is especially under ongoing climate change that water management becomes increasingly important to reduce food risks. They found the potential has previously been underestimated. Investing in crop water management could substantially reduce hunger while at the same time making up for population growth. However, putting the findings into practice would require specific local solutions, which remains a challenge. The reason is that global warming is likely to increase droughts and change rainfall patterns, so water availability becomes even more critical than before.
Research Climate change will affect western groundwater According to scientists of University of Arizona, by 2050 climate change will increase the groundwater deficit even more for four economically important aquifers in the western U.S. The new report is the first to integrate scientists’ knowledge about groundwater in the U.S. West with scientific models that show how climate change will affect the region. Climate models predict that in general, wet regions will become wetter and dry regions will become drier. The Southwest is expected to become drier and hotter. Groundwater is already being withdrawn from the aquifers of California’s Central Valley, the central and southern portions of the High Plains and Arizona’s San Pedro faster than the groundwater is being recharged. Climate change will make the groundwater deficits worse in those aquifers, the researchers report.
Chhattisgarh To allow Adani coal mining, State govt cancels tribal rights over forest lands Forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district have been taken away by State govt. to facilitate coal mining of Prasa East and Kete Besan coal block. The block has been allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) and Adani Minerals Private Limited. The Govt. passed the order on 08 Jan.16 cancelling the community land rights of the tribals in the village, given under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) stating that the villagers had been using their legal rights over the forest land to stop work of mining in their village. The FRA does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. It is the first such order to come to light in India, where community rights of tribals have been cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the FRA. The Chhattisgarh government and the district authorities did not respond to the queries.
Centre Environment Minister launches ENVIS portal Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Portal http://envis.nic.in a new initiative was launched by Environment Ministry on 17 Feb.16. ENVIS a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry has been implemented since 1982. The purpose of the scheme is to integrate country-wide efforts in environmental information collection, collation, storage, retrieval and dissemination through ENVIS websites, which are dedicated to different interesting themes. The network presently consists of 69 Centres, of which 29 are hosted by the environment/forest department of State governments/UT Administrations and deal with “State of the environment and related issues”, while 40 Centres are being hosted by environment-related governmental and non-governmental organisations/institutes. Major users of ENVIS include Central and State Governments, institutes and individual scientists, researchers, students and agencies carrying out environmental impact assessment of projects, as well as public.
Environment ministry to cut clearance red tape In its effort to sync environmental goals with the Centre’s agenda of improving ‘ease of doing business’, the environment ministry will come out with a fresh classification of industries by early next week. Under the new classification, 241 industries will be classified under four categories — Red, Orange, Green and White (a new class) based on their air-, water and soil- polluting potential. It is expected that the move will help deal with red tape. Though the first three categories have been in existence for long, the categorisations were made mainly on the basis of the size of an industry and consumption of resources. The fresh ‘uniform’ classification is, however, done by Central Pollution Control Board on the basis of pollution index criteria and environmental issues such as generation of emission, effluent and hazardous waste.