Dams · Ministry of Environment and Forests · Wetlands

REJECT Draft Wetland Rules 2016: Designed to destroy wetlands

While the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change never implemented Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, it has now brought out a new and seriously watered down Draft Wetland Rules 2016. The New Rules can jeopardise wetland conservation in the country and need to be rejected in entirety. Following is a submission made by SANDRP to the Secretary, MoEF and CC about the same. Last date for sending comments is 6th June 2016. Emails are b.sikka@gov.in, ram.jindal@nic.in,  c.singh@nic.in.

We request you to kindly make similar submissions. Feel free to use our letter below. Our Wetlands need protection, not degradation! Continue reading “REJECT Draft Wetland Rules 2016: Designed to destroy wetlands”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 30 May 2016 (Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that Govt see wetlands as wastelands)

Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that govts see wetlands as wastelands  The draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 which replace the existing Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, are up for public comments till June 6, 2016. While wetlands nationwide are threatened by encroachment, pollution, catchment degradation and mindless development, the Narendra Modi government’s draft rules show no indications of acknowledging this threat. The draft rules, environmentalists say, reinforces the stereotype that governments see wetlands as wastelands. The essence of the new rules is to decentralise wetlands management to states. The Centre will have a say only in ‘exceptional cases’ While the 2010 rules gave some role to states, the draft rules gives them all powers. But in the process, the whole conservation process has been weakened. The period for public comments on the draft notification ends by the month. Several organisations, including BHNS, WWF, LIFE, International Rivers, INTACH, YJA & SANDRP have sent, or are in the process of sending, representations to the environment ministry. Among the concerns is that the 2010 rules itself were barely getting implemented. No state has identified a wetland yet, and few have made state-level nodal agencies mandated by the 2010 rules. In an ongoing case before the NGT, it emerged that states had not notified wetlands under the 2010 regulations. This forced the tribunal to demand that states begin to do so in at least 5-10 districts in a time-bound fashion. The Union meanwhile has proposed to substantially change the existing regulations. The new regulations do away with the elaborate list of activities that are prohibited or restricted. It prohibits reclamation of wetlands, conversion to non-wetlands, diversion or impediment of inflows and outflows from the wetland and ‘any activity having or likely to have adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland’. The need for the environmental impact assessment before permitting such activities is to be done away with. The earlier regulations allowed appeals against the decisions of the central wetlands authority with the NGT. This, too, is to be done away with, though aggrieved entities could continue to file cases against violations of these rules. The concerns were also raised during a discussion organized in Jodhpur on May 23 by three NGOs EIA Resource and Response Centre, Libra India and Life on Draft Wetland Rules 2016 issued recently by the environment ministry seeking suggestions and comments.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 30 May 2016 (Centre’s new wetland protection rules reinforces the stereotype that Govt see wetlands as wastelands)”

Dams

Landmark Supreme Court Order on Govt Failure in Tackling Drought

A PIL under Article 32 was filed by the NGO, Swaraj Abhiyan praying for directions for declaration of drought and relief in affected areas. The apex court came out with a 3 part judgment earlier this month – the first one dealt with the issue of drought and the latter judgments took up the poor implementation of the National Food Security Act, 200513 (NFSA) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA). These directions largely signify the failure of the governance in tackling drought and suggest actions to be taken hence, we need to be thankful to the petitioners and apex court for this. We also hope the apex court continues to monitor the implementation of the directions. 

Continue reading “Landmark Supreme Court Order on Govt Failure in Tackling Drought”

Dams · Hydropower · Maharashtra

“Water is not a private property of some groups”: Bombay High Court directs release of water from Private Dams like the Tata Dams

In a welcome move, Hon. Bombay High Court vacation bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi, while hearing multiple clubbed petitions about drought and the state’s response, has passed a strong order recommending release of water stored in PRIVATE DAMS and sources for drinking water purposes of drought hit region.

“Observing that natural resources are property of the entire nation and not just an individual or a private entity, the Bombay High Court directed the state government to consider supplying water from privately operated dams and wells to water-scarce areas.”   Continue reading ““Water is not a private property of some groups”: Bombay High Court directs release of water from Private Dams like the Tata Dams”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 23 May 2016 (WHY LARGE HYDRO IS NOT JUSTIFIED)

Chenab river runs its course amid spate of threats Chenab river’s money-spinner hydropower fate appears to run parallel to that of Sohni-Mahiwal – the legendary lovers who drowned into the river because their love was unacceptable. The govt as usual has shut its eyes to the needs of the river and its catchment area. There are multiple factors hidden below its surface. One is melting of glaciers sooner than anticipated. If glaciers lose their ice cover quicker, the Chenab would swell up abruptly before hitting a cruel, dried-up phase in as much deathly suddenness. There are several hydro projects coming up on the river which don’t have the approval of the Geological Survey of India. Once all the identified hydroelectric projects are installed, it will have a negative impact on the river. It may not get even a kilometre free space for running the course. At that point of time, it will not be a river, but a small stream. Meanwhile scientists have warned of large scale earthquake in J&KThe situation in Arunachal Pradesh is also grim. And yet the Parliamentary committee recommends further sops for Hydr. Misguided recommendations, to put is most charitably. There should be no question of subsidies to destructive Hydropower projects.  Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 23 May 2016 (WHY LARGE HYDRO IS NOT JUSTIFIED)”

Dams

Odisha Drought Profile-2016 

Odisha has many rivers, vast forest cover and it receives above average rainfall annually. But, greed for minerals beneath the land and destruction wreaked by industries hungry to exploit the resources of the state have slowly choked the natural environment of the state. Most farm holdings are small or marginal dependent on the rains for irrigation. The deficit rains in 2015-16 pushed the state over the edge. The state is facing extensive crop loss and severe water shortage. Even after exploiting its resources to the hilt, the people of the state have not been provided with piped water supply. In many ways, the drought in Odisha is man made.

Continue reading “Odisha Drought Profile-2016 “

Dams

Andhra Pradesh Drought 2016

On Oct 28, 2015, the Andhra Pradesh government declared 196 mandals in seven districts, as drought-affected during the Kharif season 2015. The districts were Srikakulam (10 mandals), Prakasam (21), Nellore (14), Chittoor (39), Kadapa (33), Anantapur (39) and Kurnool (40). Consequent to the declaration of drought, the government directed the concerned district Collectors to notify the specific drought-hit areas in the District Gazette to enable farmers to avail credit facilities. On Nov 22, 2015, the Govt. added 163 mandals to the list of drought hit bringing the number up to 359 mandals. This included mandals in Guntur, Krishna, Vizianagaram. Drought was declared in 10 out of 13 districts. Crop loan and relief measures were to be taken up in these mandals as per guidelines. The state demanded central assistance of Rs 2,000 crore.

Continue reading “Andhra Pradesh Drought 2016”

Dams

Telangana Drought 2016

The severe drought in Telangana has caused acute shortage of drinking water and worsened the agriculture crisis in the state.

On Nov 24, 2015, the Telangana government declared drought in 7 out of 10 districts. It declared 231 out of 443 rural mandals (blocks) in the State as drought-affected and sought an immediate assistance of Rs. 1000 crore from the Centre. All the mandals in Mahabubnagar (64), Medak (46) and Nizamabad (36) districts were declared drought-hit.  Other mandals declared drought-hit included 33 out of 37 in Ranga Reddy, 19 of 57 in Karimnagar, 22 of 59 in Nalgonda, and 11 of 51 in Warangal. None of the mandals in Adilabad (52) and Khammam (41) districts were on the list.

Continue reading “Telangana Drought 2016”

Dams · Drought · Interlinking of RIvers · Jammu and Kashmir · Uttarakhand

India facing its worst water crisis ever: Himanshu Thakkar

Find below interview of SANDRP coordinator Himanshu Thakkar by Aditi Phadnis, Business Standard. The interview was published in Business Standard on the 14th May 2016 (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/india-facing-its-worst-water-crisis-ever-himanshu-thakkar-116051400704_1.html)

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Environmental activist and water expert Himanshu Thakkar tells Aditi Phadnis that India needs a comprehensive water-use policy immediately.

You are quoted as saying that India is in the grip of its worst hydrological crisis ever. Isn’t that a bit drastic? After all, India has endured endemic in many parts of the country for several years now. What makes you so pessimistic?

I do not think it is statement of pessimism but possibly reflects a reality. What we are seeing this year is unprecedented in many respects: major perennial rivers like the Ganga, Godavari, and have dried up at several locations, which was unheard of earlier. Groundwater levels are at a record low. In many places hand pumps have dried up completely. The number ofimpacted, the intensity of the impact are huge. This is only the fourth time in a century that there has been a back-to-back drought, but on all previous occasions groundwater, an insurance in times of drought, had provided relief. That is no longer an available option in several places. Our rivers are in a much worse situation today than ever in the past, due to all the ill treatment we have meted out to them, including multiple and often unnecessary, unjustified damming. All this makes the situation this year much worse.

You are credited with making public a lot of information and anlysis about the circumstances of the current shortage of water in Maharashtra. What do your findings tell us about the issue of water in the state?

The first thing that strikes you about is that it has, by far, the highest number of big dams in India. According to the National Register of Large Dams of the Central Water Commission, of the total number of 5,100 big dams 1,845 are in Maharashtra. So about 35 to 36 per cent of all big dams in India are in the state. Yet Maharashtra is in the headlines for drought and water scarcity today. While nationally, 46 per cent of cropped area is irrigated, in Maharashtra the figure is hardly 18 per cent. There is a lot of evidence here that big dams have proved to be a failed water resources development model. The current chief minister did say in his famous Assembly speech on July 21, 2015, that farmers need irrigation, not dams, and dams are not the only means to achieve irrigation. Unfortunately, one of the major planks used by his party to achieve power in Maharashtra, the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam, seems to have been totally forgotten by the state government.

Parts of Maharashtra are facing multiple agrarian and hydrological crises this year. Rainfall deficits have been as high as 40 and 42 per cent in the last two years in Marathwada. In some districts and blocks the figure is even higher. So rain-fed kharif crops in many parts have failed for the last two years. The rabi crops were also hit by unprecedented hailstorms in 2014 and 2015. The 2016 rabi season has been hit by unusually dry conditions.

During the 2015 monsoon, we (my Pune-based colleague Parineeta Dandekar does most of our Maharashtra-related work) realised in mid-July that this year is going to be a crisis for most of Maharashtra, in addition to some other adjoining areas. So we wrote to the chief minister in August that the state needed to take certain measures urgently. This included stopping the diversion of about three billion cubic metres of water from the Bhima and Krishna basins to the high-rainfall Konkan area, stopping non-essential water-use activities, taking stock of available water and deploying it for priority needs, and so on.

The did not wake up to this situation then or at the end of the monsoon or even now. While the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan, the flagship scheme of current Maharashtra government, is welcome, leaving aside some problematic work they are doing in terms of deepening, widening and straightening of rivers, it cannot be a fig leaf to hide its incompetence in handling this crisis.

In Marathwada and western Maharashtra (similarly, also northern Karnataka) sugar cane cultivation on about four to five per cent of cropped land takes up about 70 per cent of available irrigation water. We have been saying that considering the rainfall, weather situation and water availability, sugarcane is not a sustainable crop in these regions. However, even when 2014 and 2015 monsoon had major deficits in Maharashtra, the area under sugarcane remained at record levels. This was after the 2012 drought in Maharashtra, when the same issues had cropped up and the government, including the then Union agricuture minister Sharad Pawar promised intervention. We saw no implementation of those promises then. The situation is the same now.

Industry and agriculture are both responsible for the water crisis. But industries can’t be shut and farmers can’t be told to stop farming. So what is the answer?

I won’t say industry and agriculture are responsible. The kind of industries we set up and the kind of agriculture we do in any region has to keep in mind the various factors prevailing in the region, including water. When we conduct water-intensive activities in water-starved regions, that is an invitation to an inequitable, unsustainable, conflict-generating situation and sooner or later we will face the consequences. We have seen this happening in Maharashtra over the last decade most starkly.

Shouldn’t everyone be made to pay for water? Punjab has 98 per cent irrigation. It has spent money over the years, setting up irrigation channels, etc. Nobody has paid for those. Worse, the water running in those channels is not paid for either. By contrast, Maharashtra has barely 18 per cent irrigated land. What is the solution?

About 80 per cent of the water we use is supposed to be used by farmers, and I think there is national consensus that farmers in most places are not in a position to bear additional input costs in the current situation. Farmers need to be guaranteed much better returns on their produce than they are getting now. Say, if the Bharatiya Janata Party is able to implement the promise it made to farmers in its election manifesto that they should get 50 per cent return on investment, then maybe we can start talking about making farmers pay for the water, as that cost will then be included in the input cost calculations.

Moreover, a lot of users of water even in urban and industrial areas are not paying for the water they use or pollute. For example, a lot of groundwater gets used up by them, but there is no payment or regulation of this. Nor are they being made to pay for the pollution their effluents lead to.

We also need more participatory decision-making in water resources development before we can start asking farmers to pay for all the wrong decisions that are being taken now.

In the midst of all this gloom over lack of water, some states -Telangana and Maharashtra, for instance – have signed a pact to interlink rivers (ILR). Andhra Pradesh and Telanagana have already effected the interlinking of two rivers. Is this the way forward?

Today groundwater is India’s water lifeline, as most of our water comes from it and in every water sub-sector the dependence on groundwater is increasing with each passing year. So whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, groundwater is our water lifeline. Our water policy, programmes and projects need to focus and prioritise how to sustain the groundwater lifeline. Will ILR help achieve that? The answer is no. In fact, we also need to prioritise optimisation of use of our existing water infrastructure; second, making rainwater harvesting the central focus as that can help sustain groundwater. ILR is costly, environmentally destructive, socially disruptive and a non-optimum option, particularly in view of the changing climate, in addition to other issues.

In hill regions like Uttarakhand and Kashmir, the frenzy of the floods can hardly be forgotten. What is happening there?

Yes, all across the Himalayas, the high disaster vulnerabilities (to earthquakes, floods, landslides, erosion and flashfloods) have deepened because of the changing climate and the kind of interventions we are doing there. Our disaster management infrastructure remains a rather weak link, as the Supreme Court order on on May 11, 2016 about the current drought pointed out. We seem to have learnt little from the Uttarakhand disaster of June 2013 and the Jammu and K ashmir floods of September 2014 and March 2015. As the Nepal earthquake of April-May 2015 showed, these regions are prone to major seismic shocks. All this demands urgent action and possibly course change.

Original link: http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/india-facing-its-worst-water-crisis-ever-himanshu-thakkar-116051400704_1.html

Maharashtra

Medigadda Kaleshwaram Project: Prompt Repetition of Old Mistakes

A lot has been happening with waters of Godawari on Maharashtra-Telangana border. Telangana has proposed a series of dams in order to harness water allocated to it by the Godawari Tribunal Award. Many of these projects are being proposed hastily without carrying out detailed studies as well as obtaining requisite clearances like environmental clearance. One such project named “Kaleshwaram Project” was recently inaugurated in first week of May by Chief Minister of Telangana K. Chandrasekhar Rao. The project is being proposed as a part of “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Sujala Shravanti Project” or ‘Pranahita-Chevella Project’ as it is popularly known. Continue reading “Medigadda Kaleshwaram Project: Prompt Repetition of Old Mistakes”