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&K. The 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.
World Fish Migration Day 2016
Above: Dr. Rajeev Raghavan addressing the meeting on World Fish Migration Day
Linking Rivers, Barrages and Fish Migration On the 21st May 2016, marking the occasion of World Fish Migration Day, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and ATREE, Bangalore organized a Panel Discussion and Seminar on “Linking Rivers, Barrages and Fish Migration” in KUFOS, Kochi, Kerala. The Seminar was well attended by academics, students, some government representatives from Kerala and Karnataka, etc. Presentations in the Seminar looked at number of issues related to impact of dams on migration of freshwater as well as marine fish and important animals like Lobsters and prawns. SANDRP made two presentations in the seminar focusing in “Impacts of dams on freshwater fisheries and fisherfolk” and “Dams, Interlinking of Rivers and Riverine biodiversity, with focus on fish.”
Nachiket Kelkar from ATREE talked about “Dying Twice: river linking, new barrages and vanishing fish populations in India’s Waterscapes” in which he lucidly illustrated how rivers are being killed twice: once when they are dammed and again when the memory of a living river, which supports activities like fisheries and transport, is wiped out from public memory. Dr. Bijukumar from Department of Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries from University of Fisheries, Kerala talked about the “Climate change, Fish migration and restoration if rivers: A proposal for Western Ghats”, in which he talked about the ignored status of riverine fisheries and how there is no single ecological restoration effort in the country, despite the fact that we are building dams at a high arte. Dr. Rajeev Raghavan, Assistant Professor (KUFOS) and South Asia Chair, IUCN Freshwater Fish Specialist Group talked about the dearth of habitat level information on freshwater fish which makes providing inputs in management decisions difficult. Dr. Priyadarsan Dharmarajan, ATREE also stressed the need for fisheries scientists to be more
Experts speak India’s water shortage owes more to bad management than drought Himanshu Thakkar, of SANDRP being sceptical of big projects which are open to massive cronyism says that simpler & environmentally sounder solutions at hand can be used to conserve groundwater. He suggests that by collecting and storing rainwater more effectively, regulating consumption, treating urban sewage properly and providing credit for drip irrigation to replace wasteful flooding techniques & pricing water properly would be much better than running water train at great expense. He further adds that despite the severity of the current drought the real problem is not a lack of water but mindless overuse and in many places, a lack of sensible water-allocation policies.
Monsoon not the only answer to India’s water crisis Groundwater is central to the entire water use in this country and it is the lifeline. 65% of the total area is by the groundwater. 85% of rural drinking water supply is by groundwater. Almost 60-65% of the urban water needs come from the groundwater. And most importantly in the last four decades, the 84% of the net increase in irrigated area has come from the groundwater. Hence there is urgent need to extensively recharge the groundwater by construction of a large number of percolation tanks, reviving the old tanks, thousands and thousands of tanks which our forefathers had created and constructed which unfortunately either are silted up or encroached upon. Detailed interview of a number of experts on issues related to drought, agriculture and policy including Mathew Rodell, Shashi Shekhar, Arunabha Ghosh and Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP.
Water to be the most contested resource in Asia by Brahma Chellaney Recurrent drought promises to exacerbate Asia’s already-serious water challenges. A drought-laden future will increase risks of water-related conflict. Yet little policy attention has been paid to combating droughts because of their episodic character. Policymakers must appreciate that drought risks cannot be lowered without tackling the serious problem of groundwater depletion as unlike surface water, degradation of groundwater is not visible to the human eye however surface water & groundwater are linked hydrologically and should be managed as a single resource.
Age-old water management skills score over modern methods Modern dams, with their high construction cost, vulnerability to silting and water quality deterioration and lack of biodiversity are no match for the natural laterite formations-based aquifers in terms of cost, lack of silting and water quality. Very low plankton count has been found in case of three dams, Amthane, Mhaisal and Selaulim (Kamat, 2004), which means they cannot support significant quantities of fish. The large dams are situated at long distances and powerful pumps consume a lot of power to supply water to consumers. In conclusion, water management techniques and the resulting wetland systems have been in use for over a millennium. These should be preserved for posterity as human civilization will require them again when our non-renewable resources, like oil, coal and various types of minerals are exhausted.
Conserving the last drop If India is to boldly march into a water-secure future that it builds for itself, then it must also glance backward to learn how our ancestors invested meticulously in conserving water, harvesting rainfall and allowing these savings to nurture the aquifer and water table. Indeed the way forward may be for India to not rely only on large dams, interlinked rivers, and borewell drilling, but also supplant these extraction-focussed projects with more effective and widespread water conservation, storage and groundwater recharge.
SANDRP Blog 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.
SANDRP Blog 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. In Oct 2015, it was reported that 32 farmers had committed suicide in the preceding three weeks in Anantapur district. At least half the kharif crop failed because of the delayed and deficit rains in the South west monsoon season of 2015. Anantapur is not suited for cotton because it a very dry area. Yet, cotton is cultivated in about 2.4 million hectares in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana put together.
SANDRP Blog Telangana Drought 2016 The severe drought in Telangana has caused acute shortage of drinking water and worsened the agriculture crisis in the state. Godavari river has become totally dry for the first time in half a century. Due to lack of rainfall in its catchment areas. Farmers in the area used to raise three crops a year till recently utilising the river water. Paddy, maize and chilli are the main crops. They never experienced irrigation problem. Hundreds of villages in Nizamabad and Adilabad are dependent on the perennial river for their drinking water needs.
SANDRP Blog Karnataka: Profile of 2015-16 Drought Karnataka farmers have been switching from paddy and millets to cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane over the last decade. Cane cultivation has increased 103%, from 2.21 lakh hectares to 4.5 lakh hectares. These crops also consume huge amounts of water which is sourced by the farmers from the groundwater in districts such as Belagavi, Bagalkot and Koppal. The back to back drought of 3 years has further increased exploitation of groundwater. But there have been negligible efforts to recharge the aquifer by planting trees or rainwater harvesting.
SC on Drought SC pulls up Centre for delay in MGNREGA payments Directing the Centre and the States to “make all efforts to encourage needy persons to come forward and take advantage of the MGNREGA scheme”, the SC on May 13 slammed the govt for not giving compensation to workers for delayed payment of wages under MGNREGA even during the current drought. The court said it was also regrettable that the govt cleared the pending wage bill for 2015-16 only during the pendency of this case and underlined that “The Government of India must shape up in this regard”. The SC also directed the drought-hit states to provide highly subsidized grains to drought-hit people under the National Food Security Act. The bench which had delivered the first chapter of its judgment on a PIL over drought on May 11 came out with 3 more chapters to issue several directives to the affected states. In the first chapter, the court had pulled up Haryana, Gujarat and Bihar for refusing to declare drought despite a sharp fall in the monsoon rains. It directed all state govts to present a “realistic budget” for MNREGA and the Centre to release “adequate funds” for the states. The Judges also pulled up Haryana, Gujarat & Bihar for laxity on drought. Acknowledging that the rainfall deficit was more than 25% in 11 districts—Bhiwani, Palwal, Fatehabad, Hissar, Jind, Kaithal, Mohendergarh, Panchkula, Panipat, Rohtak and Ambala the state govt however, pleaded that there was no need for declaring drought in any district as the foodgrain production mainly depended on irrigation through canals, tube wells and wells that met 83% of the requirements. Due to this, the kharif 2015 production was 3.2% more than the output in the previous year. Gujarat and Bihar also cited similar reasons for not declaring drought. Earlier also on April 07 the apex court slammed Haryana & Gujarat for “hazy” presentation of facts and outdated charts on rainfall data. Rapping the Haryana for concealing facts on drought the court observed that Haryana, Gujarat & Bihar were hesitant to even acknowledge the drought-like situation by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions. In stark contrast to a recent ground report by media showing how people in several parts of state were purchasing potable water from neighbouring Rajasthan, the state govt almost denied that there was any shortage of water for irrigation or drinking. The reply by Haryana said the deficit rainfall for June and July 2015 was minus 12.6% & for 2015 it was minus 16.4%. However, the court said, “In terms of deficit rainfall, there is most certainly a drought-like situation in Haryana.” At one point during the hearing the court had to ask whether the Centre & State were even remotely serious about the sufferings of its people. Examining the data provided by the Centre on MGNREGS the apex court termed current allocation insufficient to ameliorate the condition of drought-hit people who would turn up in large numbers to get employment under the scheme. The Centre enhanced budgetary allocation for MNREGA to Rs 38,500cr from Rs 34,699cr last year, but Rs 10,000cr would be for payments of last year’s liability with only Rs 28,500cr available for the current financial year. The court first took to task the Central govt, as the latter sought an adjournment on the ground that its law officer, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, was busy in some other court. “Is this not your priority? Two judges are sitting here. You expect us to do nothing and just keep looking at the watch waiting for time to pass. Two Supreme Court judges have no other job but to come, sit here, stare at the clock and then go back. You are absolutely non-serious,” remarked the bench. The Bench then came down heavily on Gujarat and Haryana governments for filing shoddy statistics on the drought-hit areas. “Why have you filed all this? You found these papers in your office and filed them here? Is this seriousness that you show on this issue? People are dying. This is not some picnic you are having in Haryana,” the court said while trashing statistics filed by the state government. According to another media report after the SC rap Got had asked attorney general not to skip drought hearings During previous hearing the court had found that the Centre was unrepresented and reacted sharply. Within minutes, the ASG had rushed in to apologize before the bench, but the damage was done.
Op-Ed There are flaws in the SC drought ruling by PG Dhar Chakrabarti There are many examples of executive ineptitude, legislative imprudence & judicial overdrive that are compounding the challenges of governance. SC directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund which is not a third fund as claimed by Finance Minister, in fact it is provided in Section 47 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. But the govt did not notify this section. The SC should have considered this issue before directing the constitution of another fund & the executive should also have considered the difficulties of creating a new fund before proposing it in the Bill and the legislature should have scrutinized it before approving it. The SC’s second direction to the Centre is to set up the National Disaster Response Force as mandated under the Act. It is surprising that the court passed such a directive when the force is in operation for over a decade. Similarly it is not necessary that a state government declares drought in the entire state when only parts are affected.
Centre By June Centre to spend Rs24K cr to tackle drought The NDA govt may spend more than half of its annual rural development budget by June to tackle drought and unprecedented shortage of water across the country. According a senior officials of rural ministry the rural development ministry was allocated Rs 87,765cr in the last general budget & the annual MGNREGA budget is of Rs 38,500cr. Out of that govt have released Rs19,340cr under MGNREGA primarily to tackle drought & by June it may infuse another Rs 24,000cr to give relief to distressed rural sector. On the other hand the Centre has directed all states to prepare weekly action plan on shortage & scarcity of water, conservation efforts, and usage of existing water resources optimally. The directive was issued by PM Narendra Modi during a series of meetings with CM of the 10 states facing drought and drinking water shortage. The PM also directed rainwater harvesting in buildings be made compulsory in urban areas and states should encourage alternative sources of income for farmers like bee, pearls and prawn cultivation. According to a PMO statement PM Narendra Modi on May 10 reviewed drought situation in Telangana & MP, during which several historical examples as well as global best practices in the area of water storage & irrigation were discussed. The report says said an amount of Rs 712.62 cr had been released to Telangana under the National Disaster Response Fund which was in addition to Rs 205.5cr released as central share of State Disaster Response Fund for 2015-16 to the state. Earlier the PM while reviewing drought & water scarcity situation in worst-hit UP & Maharashtra with respective CM Akhilesh Yadav & Devendra Fadnavis asked the drought hit State’s CMs for focusing on long-term plans for drought proofing. In the meeting opposition-ruled UP faced BJP ire when Yadav sought additional drought relief package from the Centre to deal with the perennial problem in the Bundelkhand region as state administration had recently noted that it spent only 5% of a previous package of Rs 850cr. In his Mann Ki Baat address on May 22, the PM has made a strong pitch for a mass movement to save forests and conserve “every drop” of water during the monsoons. See some worth mentioning excerpts from the Mann Ki Baat “I also found that there were many states which had taken on very big targets, especially, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat- these three states have done massive work in the field of drip irrigation. And they are striving to bring every year 2 to 3 lakh hectares additional land under micro- irrigation. If this campaign gets underway in all the states, then not only will it benefit cultivation, but more water will also be conserved. Our farmer brothers in Telangana, through ‘Mission Bhagirathi’ have made a commendable effort to optimally use the waters of Godavari and Krishna rivers. In Andhra Pradesh, ‘Neeru Pragati Mission’ has been using technology for ground water recharging. People are devoting hard work and contributing financially as well to the mass movement that has been started in Maharashtra,. ‘Jal Yukt Shivir’ is one such people’s movement which is really going to be of great help in saving Maharashtra from water crisis in the future- this is what I feel. Chhattisgarh has started the ‘Lok-Suraj, Jal-Suraj’ campaign. Madhya Pradesh has started the ‘Balram Talaab Yojana’- and dug nearly 22,000 ponds, which is no small figure, work is also being carried out on their ‘Kapil Dhara Koop Yojana.’ In Uttar Pradesh there is ‘Mukhya Mantri Jal Bachao Abhiyaan’. In Karnataka water conservation efforts are in the form of ‘Kalyani Yojana’, under which they are trying to revive wells once again. In Rajasthan and Gujarat there are many ancient baodis – deep tanks or masonry wells with steps going down to the water. These states are making a very big effort to revive these as ‘water temples’. Rajasthan has started the Chief Minister’s Jal Swawalamban Abhiyan – Water Self Sufficiency Campaign. Jharkhand, although being a predominantly forest area, still has some parts which face water problem. They have launched a very big campaign for building ‘Check Dams’. They have started an exercise to check and stop the flow of water. Some states have started a campaign and made a number of small dams at distances of 10 to 20 kilometres in the rivers themselves to check the flow of water.”
25% of India’s population hit by drought On the second day of discussion on drought on May 10 Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh informed the Lok Sabha said that 25% of India’s population was reeling under drought. Replying to the debate in the din, Birender Singh said 313 districts, 1,58,205 villages and 4,44,280 dwellings in the country have been hit by drought. While 13 states are affected by drought, only 10 have declared themselves drought-hit & Rs1360cr had been allocated to states like Andhra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, UP & Karnataka well before the drought. He also said the govt wanted “national consensus” on contentious issues like inter-linking of rivers. Less than 100 members were present slightly better than last week, when 80 MPs attended the discussion on drought.
116 farmer suicides in first 3 months of 2016 In response to a Parliament question, the govt on April 26 informed the Lok Sabha that as many as 116 famer suicides were reported during the first three months of 2016. It also said that of the 2,115 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 1,163 were driven by debt, and the remaining by crop loss. The figures for farmers’ suicide were shared on a day Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh alleged that dams were constructed in Maharashtra to serve interests of the sugar industry and not farmers.
RS Members suggest to include water in central list During a short-discussion debate in the Upper House on severe water crisis exacerbated by drought conditions across several states Rajya Sabha Members urged the govt to take long-term steps, such as bringing water to central list and giving impetus to irrigation projects. Referring to the water crisis, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav said moving water to the central list would help conserve it and effectively resolve disputes related to rivers between states. He also sought a ban on dam construction in the Himalayas. Members underlined farmers’ suicides and migration as consequences of the crisis & stressed the need for immediate redress from the Centre, including expediting release of funds to affected states.
India likely to revoke compulsory sugar export order India will soon scrap an order that requires sugar mills to export excess supply, two govt officials said on May 09 after back-to-back droughts look set to turn the country into a net importer next season and open the door to rival suppliers. Late last year the govt asked the mills to export as much as 3.2 million tonnes to deal with what was then a glut that dragged prices down and put mills under financial pressure. Without the production subsidy, Indian mills are expected to struggle to export profitably, potentially boosting global sugar prices and allowing rival suppliers like Brazil, Thailand and Pakistan to increase their shipments.
Drought hit States to 88lakhs farm ponds under MGNREGS According to data presented in the Lok Sabha the central government has planned to build 882,325 farm ponds across the country in 2016-17 through MNREGS. Andhra will build the highest number of ponds, 250,000 while Karnataka & Jharkhand plan to build 111,340 and 128,132 ponds, respectively in FY17. Maharashtra, which is struggling with acute drinking water crisis, has targeted to build only 1K farm ponds through MNREGS funds in FY17 & UP targeted to build 5,705 farm ponds in the same period. Together, the two drought-hit states will build only 6,700 ponds.
National Delhi, Punjab, Raj & HR headed the Latur way as groundwater extraction soars As water trains and tankers help battle Latur’s worst drought ever, rampant extraction of groundwater could soon push Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan towards a similar harrowing shortage of water. Analysis of water use by different states shows that a gradual decline in per capita availability could leave these states in the same precarious position as the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, which has faced two consecutive years of drought. The latest assessment of the country’s dynamic groundwater resources, performed by Central Ground Water Board, shows that these states, in fact, consume much more groundwater than their rechargeable limit every year, making them vulnerable to severe water scarcity.
Uttar Pradesh Govt banks on tourism to glide over drought The State has proposed para gliding and other tourist activities to mitigate the impact of the agrarian crisis in Bundelkhand. The State government is in touch with a local company, which operates in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, for the contract. On the contrary State Govt. and the ASI have not given any response to INTACH, proposal of Restoring the numerous Chandela-era ponds within the fort could also play mitigate the water crisis in the area.
Op-Ed Don’t blame nature for the drought in Bundelkhand The Centre has spent 15,000cr in the past decade to create water-harvesting structures. With this money, over 116,000 harvesting structures were constructed in Bundelkhand between 2006 and 2015. But the impact of such structures in harvesting rainwater has been limited because of the bad construction quality and wrong location. The water harvesting structures created by Bundelas & Chandelas were also damaged and encroached due to State Govt. apathy. The agriculture department’s extension services, which could have helped farmers to decide on crops that take less water, are almost non-existent. Delay and corruption in MNREGA wages which could have checked migration are among the human factors making the Bundelkhand a permanently drought ridden region. Interesting the report says that it was 13th drought in the region in last 15 years. Also see, Hunger, cattle deaths haunt Bundelkhand
Telangana ‘Unusual’ drought The State, where ground water availability has always been a challenge, has rarely seen a worse situation in terms of water levels as early as March in the past one decade. If Hyderabad is excluded, for which data is available only since 2005, the average ground water level of the State in March plummeted to a 17-year low this year. Officials from Groundwater department describe the drought as “singularly unusual” with special reference to ground water situation. Over 140 mandals in the State are severely stressed, with water levels plunging to more than 20 metres below the ground level for the past 6 or 7 months, while 90 more are in a critical condition, with water availability at 15 to 20 metres below the ground level.
Haryana Villagers forced to buy water from Rajasthan Residents of many villages in Mahendragarh located near the Rajasthan border are forced to buy drinking water from the neighbouring state to meet the daily requirement as tubewells have dried up in the area. According to Narender Sing headman of Kheri village 2 of the 4 tubewells have desiccated due to deficit monsoon last year, while the remaining ones have started producing bitter water on account of depleting water table. In the given situation, villagers depend upon Rajasthan-based private suppliers who charge Rs 500 to 600 per tanker. In adjoining Naavdi & Rampura villages a canal was dug more than 30 years ago to supply drinking water, but villagers have never seen water in the canal. However, it is repaired every year.
J&K Kathua village rationing water from its only well At Badanaal village in Ghatti panchayat, 25 km from Kathua district headquarters, villagers are rationed 15 liters of water per day from the well & a register is maintained to specify quantity of water provided to each family. Besides rationing of the water, the villagers have been made to take an oath that they will not take any water other than what is provided to them in the morning. If anybody is caught stealing water from the well, his or her family is not provided water from the well for the next five days. In such a scenario, the family is left with no option but to fetch water from the Ujh river almost 6 km from the village.
Ground Report Drilling for their lives This year’s drought-like conditions are taking a serious toll on the water table. Parched villages and cities, driven to desperation, have plunged headlong into a borewell-digging spree. From Mumbai to Hyderabad, borewell operators are frenetically drilling, sometimes against municipal regulations and bans, to below 400 or 500 feet, yet not always hitting water. In most of these parts a vicious cycle has taken root, where deeper borewells are driving water even further beneath the ground. In part this is because in the Deccan area, unlike the Gangetic plain, there is less alluvial soil but there are more rock formations that are not conducive to water table recharge.
Report India’s drought foretells of greater struggles as climate warms An analysis carried out for the World Bank in 2013 found that India is already feeling the effects of a warming climate & India’s attempts to get its agriculture into a state where drought has no negative impact on the economy are patchy. India has national crop insurance schemes for drought-hit farmers but there has been little take-up as many are too poor to pay the premium & even if they do, the process required to verify crop losses can be too cumbersome to complete. Similarly, rainwater harvesting schemes are neglected despite policies to make them mandatory. And while experts recommend that the govt should encourage farmers to grow crops that need little water such as hardy millets, water-guzzling crops like sugarcane continue to be subsidised to keep the politically powerful sugar barons on side.
Op-Ed Use technology to fight droughts & floods by Giriraj Amarnath & James Clarke We need to protect & conserve natural water storage in rivers, lakes and wetlands. At the same time we also need to explore more high tech solutions to cope with increasing floods & drought events. The remote sending data from space satellites is remarkable as it enables us to see what is going on in our landscape in incredible detail like a supercharged Google Earth which can be helpful to measure how well plants are performing & even estimate how much water is underground. By combining all this information we are able to monitor and predict water shortages and depleting soil moisture field by field, to a hitherto unimaginable degree. This will allow us to warn of impending drought well in advance.
India’s water settlement dispute mechanisms remain opaque & ambiguous by Varun Gandhi. With a plethora of stakeholders state Govts, Parliament, courts, water tribunals, central ministries and civil society water disputes have remained a persistent phenomenon. With growing consensus that many such disputes are increasingly intractable, existing institutional arrangements have clearly failed to generate outcomes that focus on growth and the national interest. As rivers generally cross state boundaries, the construction of equitable mechanisms for allocating river flows has been a constitutional legacy.
Sloshing in the dugout by Gopal Krishana Gandhi The use, misuse and abuse of water in the Maharashtra IPL matter is not about water alone. It even goes beyond money to our priorities as a nation. The issue is not also about cricket but it is about the stakes and investments in the 17 matches of the IPL which are far too big, far too deep, to suffer any risk. An IPL pull-out will hurt money. And money must not be hurt.
Water trains bring scant relief here Locals had been hoping a 50-wagon daily water train would ease shortages, but they were disappointed as the 25 lakh litres carried by the train and ferried by tankers to villages was not enough to meet the needs of Latur’s five lakh people and Marathwada’s 1.9 crore. Water is set to get scarcer over the next two months as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius, drying up Marathwada reservoirs that are now just 3 per cent full. Parineeta Dandekar, of SANDRP says that Maharashtra would face a water crisis was clear when monsoons failed, yet the state took no action to curb supplies to water-guzzling industries like beer and sugar. There are limits on how much water the government can supply by train. Had it reserved water sources for drinking last year, the situation would have been much better now.
Railways withdraw Rs 4 crore water bill sent to Latur Railways on May 12 withdrew the Rs 4 crore water bill sent to the Latur district administration and promised to continue to run water trains to cater to the need of the people in the parched areas of Marthahwada region till the crisis is over. A Month after it was praised for coming to Latur’s rescue by dispatching a water train, the Railways has sent drought hit district a bill of Rs 2.16cr for the service rendered. According to Latur District Collector Pandurang Pole who received about ten days ago the bill of Rs 2.16 cr was for the initial fortnight & he assumed that the total bill till date would be around Rs 4 cr. Also see Warna dam repair work delays Latur water train
Drought hit Shahapur residents march to Mumbai Around 1,000 people from Shahapur, the largest taluka of Thane district, took out a procession to Mantralaya on May 17, demanding that the taluka get its rightful share of water. The protesters, who walked 100 kilometres to meet CM, said while 3 dams in Shahapur cater to Mumbai, they are facing a shortage back home. The Mumbai gets a daily supply of 455 million litres of water each from the Vaitarna and Tansa dams in Shahapur, and 2,050 million litres from the Bhatsa dam. Protesters say that Shahapur can survive almost a year with the amount of water Mumbai consumes in a day. Irked by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation drawing water from reservoirs in their area, villagers also threatened to stop water supply to Mumbai if govt fails to ensure adequate water for them. Submitting their 10-point demands to CM, the group, including women, requested him that they be adopted by the BMC so that entire Shahapur taluka will become tanker-free.
Villagers take on Anna Hazare over borewells Drought has pitted residents of social activist Anna Hazare ‘s village, Ralegan Siddhi, against him over his water conservation model. The residents have supported him in all his agitations, but are now resisting his drive to fill up borewells to improve the water table. The drive comes as water crisis in Ralegan Siddhi has worsened with residents being dependent on tankers much to the shock of visitors, who visit the village to study its famed water conservation model.
Water supply to breweries in to be cut The Aurangabad district administration on April 16 decided to reduce the water supply to liquor and beer manufacturing units as well as leading industrial houses to tackle the acute shortage of drinking water. Aurangabad collector Nidhi Pandey said the decision to impose a water cut of 10% on industries and 20% on liquor and beer manufacturing units was taken after a high-level meeting of officials from the revenue, excise, irrigation and industries departments. In addition, the stock in the Jaikwadi dam will now last till the end of July. Currently , 4,012 tankers provide water to 3,069 villages in Marathwada.
Doctors put off surgeries in drought-hit Marathwada The Manjra dam & the Dhanegaon river, that used to supply water to the 5 lakh people of the district, have gone dry and lack of water has severely compromised cleanliness at hospitals and clinics. With water from private tankers being far from clean, water-borne diseases are on the rise. The situation is so dire that even the doctors who know better are using unsafe short cuts. For every surgery, a surgeon and her assistants are required to wash their hands with soap for 10 minutes in running water. Now, they do that in a minute and then use betadine or other disinfectants to clean their hands.
As jobs dry up, migration on the rise in Marathwada According to Bhartiya Khet Majdoor Union nearly 50 lakh people have migrated from the State. Labour activists have rebuked the numbers put out by the govt at the end of March as ‘fake’, claiming that lakhs of people are migrating from the State in the absence of farm jobs. On the contrary the Govt. claims that it has 4,14,624 ‘shelf’ jobs, as of now, to be handed out in distressed areas, with drought-hit Marathwada alone accounting for 1,10,634 available jobs which is the highest under MGNREGS. According to one more media rural jobs scheme fails in Marathwada. It says that according to data compiled by the relief and rehabilitation department only 6,744 works are being carried out in Marathwada as against the shelf works totaling 1,10,634. The implementation of MGNREGS is not much better across the rest of the state either. As of 16 April, 34 districts in Maharashtra had only 30,447 MGNREGS works underway, employing 395,000 people. The shelf works, meanwhile, are more than 414,000 which can generate employment capacity for more than 120 million people.
State to shun water-intensive crops, to support pulses production The State Govt has taken steps to promote pulses over other crops as the clamour to bring down water-intensive farming in the State grows following 3 consecutive years of drought. The proposal to grant additional incentives from the State’s side has been prepared by the Agriculture Department, which is now seeking to answer questions raised over growth of water-intensive crops in drought-hit regions like Marathwada, where some experts have pointed out excess consumption of water, attributing to crops like sugarcane, banana, grapes and oranges, which are mostly groundwater dependent. However, experts said the State intervention is too little too late. With market prices for pulses hovering two times the MSP or even adding an incentive over and above that will not serve as a motivating factor for the farmers, experts said. Also see, Maharashtra may see shift in cultivation towards food grains
Cropping patterns: Game pulses, match sugarcane Although sugarcane covers just about a quarter of the area devoted to pulses in this belt, its consuming roughly four times more water in a low-rainfall area has agitated most environmentalists and economists. Even the present BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra has favoured “weaning away” farmers from cane and encouraging them to grow more pulses. But all this well-meaning advice isn’t really shared by farmers like Modi, for whom assured returns and well-established marketing channels makes sugarcane far more attractive than pulses. The only constraint in the case of cane is the availability of irrigation water, whether from underground via tube-wells or from canals hence pulses aren’t the first choice of Marathwada’s farmers despite higher prices this time. If the government is serious about promoting pulses cultivation, it should substantially hike their minimum support prices.
Centre Govt planning financial scheme to revive power projects Listing out priorities for his 3rd year in office Power Minister Piyush Goyal said that the Govt. soon offer a long-term financing scheme to revive stalled hydropower projects & subsidies to encourage local manufacture of solar panels. He further revealed that the Govt. wants to fix the stressed areas of the power industry such as hydropower & is working out a scheme for providing long-term funds to hydropower projects. He also said that he would speak to state power ministers on how they could help stalled hydro power projects revive. The power ministry is also working on a comprehensive policy to encourage hydropower generation.
Himachal Pay damages to Thana villagers: NGT to HPCL The green court on April 23 has directed the Himachal Power Corporation Ltd to assess and pay damages to Thana villagers within 90 days. The tribunal has also ordered the plugging of the 424 m additional Adit tunnel with concrete after the 111Mw Sawra-Kuddu project is complete. Disposing of the complaint filed by project affected villagers of gram panchayat Thana in Jubbal, the NGT ordered that the HPCL with the help of a senior scientist of the Central Ground Water Authority would survey the project site to prepare the revival plan for dried up natural springs or aquifer zones by providing adequate rain water harvesting system within 60 days.
State heading for debt trap According to a CAG report Himachal state runs the risk of getting entangled in a “debt trap by 2018-’19,” as it has borrowed more than Rs 38,000cr from the market, which the audit claims is “excessive” and a “violation of the Constitution.” The borrowed money is the highest in the state’s history and the CAG claims that the burden is not showing any signs of lessening. Principal Accountant General (audit) also said the govt borrowed money at high rates to repay earlier loans. There was also a delay in furnishing utilisation certificates to the tune of Rs 2,387cr by end of March 2015.
Arunachal Amitabh Bachchan was shareholder in hydro project firms According to this report actor Amitabh Bachchan played a part in 7 proposed hydropower projects in the State, 2 of them in Tawang. It says that Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL) had in Jan 2008 signed an agreement with the State Govt. to develop 5 hydroelectric projects of various sizes aggregating 201Mw in East Kameng district. A year later, EDCL signed MoU for 2 more projects the 24Mw Tsa Chu-I and 36MW Tsa Chu-II in Tawang district. Bachchan was a shareholder in EDCL but resigned as the independent director of its board in July 2011.
INTERLINKING OF RIVERS
KBL No scientific study done to implement ILR: Experts Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her govt’s top priority. Critics say the project is not viable financially, environmentally or socially. The govt has also been accused of granting environmental clearances without proper assessments. According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP that ILR is even more impossible in the context of climate change as no one knows what will happen to the rivers’ flows. He further said that the project is based on the idea of diverting water from where it is surplus to dry areas but there has been no scientific study yet on which places have more water and which ones less. On May 16 also while submitting a crucial a team of wildlife experts warns of dangers to ecology and animal life that would be caused by the first-ever inter-State river linking project since India’s independence. The report neither endorses nor disapproves of the Ken-Betwa project but notes that if the govt were to go ahead it ought to ensure that the proposed canal does not hinder tiger movement and that there should be enough habitable forest land developed to compensate for the loss of tiger reserve land. Apart from threats to the tiger habitat, there are also threats to gharial, hyenas and vultures that live within the sanctuary. On more media reports says that the project is yet to get formal environmental & green clearances which hinge on the ability of the Water Resources Ministry to address ecological concerns and satisfy the National Board For Wildlife. According to Environment Ministry, Phase I of the project would result in direct loss of 58.03 sq km (10.07%) of Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) of Panna Tiger Reserve due to submergence, indirect loss of 105.23 sq km of CTH due to fragmentation and loss of connectivity. Conservationists have alerted the govt about the impact of the project on the Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary. The project has also drawn flak for being put up in parts, and not in its entirety, for green clearances. On the contrary the water resource ministry says that the project will benefit tigers apart from irrigating 6 lakh hectares in MP & UP. According to this report MP Govt. had promised 8,000 hectares of alternate forest land as compensation. But the wildlife experts aren’t convinced. On another Op-Ed by M.S. Menon favouring the interlinking of rivers proposes that the solution of water scarcity due to climate change and weak monsoon lies in expediting the project. It concludes that the long-term solution to water scarcity lies in making the IRL project work by building a network of dams and canals across the length and breadth of the country.
INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES
SANDRP Blog 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. SANDRP has written extensively about the mammoth irregularities that the project harbors and has also sent a letter to CM of Maharashtra pointing out the irregular nature of the project and Maharashtra’s mum over the issue. Even after eight years of proposal the project has failed to obtain the requisite clearances. Central Water Commission is skeptical about its feasibility and reluctant to give clearance.
SYL Row SC can’t be bypassed on inter-State disputes: Haryana The State Govt. on April 01 invoked judicial precedents in the Cauvery river water sharing dispute case involving Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka to submit in the Supreme Court that no State Assembly can pass a law to negate the apex court’s constitutional powers to adjudicate and decide inter-State disputes. In a hearing of the Presidential Reference on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act of 2004 senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Haryana, said a law passed by the State legislature to circumvent or render in-fructuous a SC verdict was a clear encroachment by the lawmakers into the judiciary’s terrain.
AP&TL Will use our share of river water at any cost: Telangana The CM of the State Chandrasekhar Rao while laying the foundation stone for the 84000cr Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project across Godavari river in Karimnagar district on May 02, ignored the objections by leaders of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and said Telangana will go ahead with the project at any cost and that the state was well within its right to use waters from both Godavari and Krishna rivers. Meanwhile, the Andhra Govt. has decided to complain to the Centre about the irrigation projects being built “illegally” by Telangana.
National Panel slams govt over poor funding for River cleaning A Parliamentary panel has pulled up the Govt. for its “self-defeating” approach of not allocating adequate funds for cleaning rivers and water bodies and castigated the Environment Ministry for not spending even resources at its disposal for the purpose. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forest in its 283rd report of Demands for Grants (2016-17) of Environment Ministry has recommended that adequate budgetary provisions should be made to the National River Conservation Plan. It noted that the Environment Ministry utilized only Rs.37.35cr out of the allocated Rs. 66.73cr upto Dec 2015 during 2015-16. The committee observed that against the target of 117mld of sewage treatment capacity, only 77mld capacity could be created in 2015-16.
Karnataka The link between groundwater and rivers In the semi-arid region that is Karnataka, where 80% of the geographical area is drought prone, there is an inextricable link between rivers and groundwater. Hydrologists say that when the stream or river receives water from the aquifers because the groundwater table is high, it is called an effluent stream. Such streams tend to be perennial. When the groundwater table is lower than the stream or river bed and the river actually discharges into the aquifer below, it is called an influent stream. Such streams tend to be intermittent in flow during the year. The same analogy can be read into lakes and tanks. Some of them are effluent and some influent.
GANGA NGT calls meeting of stakeholders on Ganga The green court has convened a meeting of all stakeholders involved in cleaning of River Ganga from Haridwar to Kanpur to deliberate on the mechanism to make the river pollution-free. The meeting would take place on May 20 at 1:00 PM in the conference hall of NGT with all the stakeholders who are involved in Segment-II of Phase- of the Ganga Cleaning Project in terms of the judgement of the Tribunal. It directed UP Chief Secretary, other secretaries concerned of UP, Managing Director of UP Jal Nigam, CEO of UP Jal Sansthan and other senior most officers of public authorities directly or indirectly concerned with the Ganga cleaning to be present in the meeting.
National Japanese consultancy firm stops services for GAP Japanese consultancy company providing technical consultancy for Ganga Action Plan phase-II since 2012 has stopped its services over non-payment of Rs 6.5cr dues and indecision over extension of its contract. A senior official of the Japanese consultancy company said that delay in renewal of its contract compelled the company to stop providing its services. Divisional manager of UP Jal Nigam also admitted that the Japanese company had made correspondence with the Union govt. to extend its contract. On the other hand, highlighting the achievements of NDA govt. Piyush Goyal stated that the projects to make Ganga river free from pollution is at the planning level & govt. will disclose the progress once the implementation are started. His statement made it clear that projects to make the holy Ganga clean will take more time.
Uttarakhand With Centre’s nod, mining in Ganga to resume The Union Environment Ministry has cleared the state forest department’s proposal for resumption of mining activities in the Ganga a month ago when the state was under President’s rule. The State Forest Development Corporation will soon open bids for mining leases for more than 1,200 hectares along the Ganga catchment area, mainly in Haridwar district. The State govt banned mining of riverbed materials in the Ganga in July 2015 after protests by environmentalists and a fast-unto-death by seer Swami Shivanand, who called the activity illegal. The NGT took up the case too and sent a notice to the state. The corporation will have to respond to the green tribunal’s notice on mining in the Ganga by May 26.
Uttar Pradesh NGT notice to UP over threats to ‘whistleblower’ On a claim of an environment activist that he was being threatened after filing case against illegal sand mining in Sambhal district, the NGT on May 16 issued notices to the UP Chief Secretary, UP State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police of the district. On April 8, the NGT had issued a notice to the UP Govt on a petition by Modi Nagar resident Phirey Ram alleging that illegal mining was being carried out in the close vicinity of the Narora atomic power station and on the banks of Ganga and its floodplains in the area. The petition had further alleged that “despite notices being issued to the State Govt. by this tribunal, the sand mafias are continuously and consistently carrying on illegal mining at the bank of Ganga, village Ishampur, tehsil Gunnor, district Sambhal and that too without fear of law.
Industries dumping effluents into cane fields Barred from dumping water into tributaries of the Ganga, paper mills & distilleries in Bijnor are now dumping effluents into sugarcane fields. There are 4 distilleries & 2 paper mills in the district. Each industrial unit discharges 40,000 to 50,000 litres of effluents every day. Due to a lack of awareness about the harmful effects of waste water on their crop, farmers do not object to the practice. Meanwhile, the administration plans to identify such units and send notices. On the contrary AK Tiwari, PCB’s regional officer in Bijnor claimed that industrialists treat the water before taking it to the fields. Experts, however, said use of effluents for irrigation can severely impact health of both land as well as human beings depended on it. There are more than a dozen tributaries and nullahs in Bijnor district. Most of the industrial units are situated on or near these are releasing their chemical-laced water into these tributaries and nullahs which flow into the Ganga.
State to get 7000cr from Namami Gange project According to Uma Bharati more than Rs7K cr from the ‘Namami Gange’ programme will be spent in UP. The project is starting from October this year and will be completed by 2017. Seeking cooperation from the State Govt. Ms. Bharti alleged that the UP CM was not granting time to officers of her department to give a presentation on the project for granting of NOC. Ms. Bharti also said that Rs825cr would be spent in Mathura-Vrindavan area for the project.
YAMUNA Uttarakhand Lakhwar dam touted as big fix for Yamuna flow Union water minister Uma Bharti announced on May 07 that the Yamuna river in Delhi will receive “ecological flow“ from the Lakhwar Vyasi dam project to ensure that the flow of the river downstream to Mathura Vrindavan is always “aviral“. Calling the Lakhwar Vyasi project “a disaster Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has reacted strongly to the announcement & said that govt should first carry out an assessment of the impact of Tehri dam on the Ganga before going ahead with such a high dam and a large reservoir. According one more news report the Central & Delhi Govt. have launched Yamuna revival project worth around Rs 825cr to rid Yamuna of its filth within two-and-half years The Yamuna Action Plan I and II, implemented at the cost of Rs 1,500cr, have shown no visible results. Plan III, now under way, has an initial funding of Rs 815 crore, with 80% coming from the Centre. The NGT too has ordered a “Mailey Se Nirmal Yamuna Plan 2017“ that emphasizes decentralizing sewage treatment in the city. Under the plan Rs 2.5 crore will be spent on STPs to curb its pollution, create a new riverfront, repair Chhat Ghat spending. Rs 4.5 cr will also be spent to deploy trash skimmer.
Uttar Pradesh Baraut girl face of Hindon rejuvenation plan 10-year-old Manassangyini Chaudhary will campaign to save west UP’s heavily polluted Hindon river as the face of Hindon River Rejuvenation Project. Born to an environment loving couple from Baraut in Baghpat district, Manassangyini is passionate about saving glaciers and rivers. The Hindon project is a joint initiative of Tarun Bharat Sangh (an NGO involved in community mobilisation for environment conservation), Water Resources Group (experts in low-cost water treatment technologies) & UP Govt.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Uttar Pradesh Notify wetlands in two months or face action: NGT According to NGT order bigger states like UP, Tamil Nadu and smaller states like Haryana or Delhi have directed to identify & notify all wetlands in 10 districts in the next two months. The court has pulled up the union environment ministry for not taking effective steps to protect wetlands & directed UP Govt. to identify & notify wetlands in their respective areas in the next two months or be ready to face punitive action against the officials concerned. The UP Govt’s advocate told NGT that the state has 1,34,000 wetlands and thus it cannot notify them in two months.
Delhi Building power grid over a pond Residents of Fatehpur village in Asola are an angry lot after engineers started dumping mud in a nearby water body to reclaim land for the construction of a power grid. Around 15 years ago, before the privatisation of power distribution in the Capital, the Delhi Govt had allotted the pond land for the power grid. With confusion over jurisdiction of the land, as both Saket and Mehrauli SDM’s claim that the land is not theirs, the NGT had on May 09 ordered a bailable warrant against the SDM of Mehrauli, DS Verma.
Karnataka To save a lake, Bengaluru digs a trench around it Officials of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike have deployed a time-tested battle strategy to stop waste from entering Kundalahalli lake in the city – they cut deep trenches to block all entry points to the water body. In a first, home guards have also been deployed to stop the illegal dumping of construction debris. Members of the local community have launched a campaign to rejuvenate Kundalahalli. The wetland is threatened by a 100-foot high “hillock” of garbage that continued to grow. Construction material was being dumped right on the tank bed, causing silting and encroachment. Moreover, three inlets bring sewage into the water body. Out of more than 800 lakes that once dotted India’s IT capital, only about 200 survive.
Uttarakhand Kalagarh Dam posing threat to nearby villages The fate of hundreds of villages surrounding Kalagarh Dam in, considered to be the largest mud dam in Asia, hangs in balance as its air vent tube a vital component is in a dire need of replacement. The officials fear that the faulty vent tube may hamper the operation of the gates of the dam. During the peak monsoon season, the dam is full to the brim and if the gates fail to open due to the tube, it may explode flooding the nearby villages as well as big portion of Jim Corbett National Park. Located in the midst of the national park, the dam is in Pauri district bordering Bijnor. But its management is in the hands of UP govt. During the last week of May, the dam becomes virtually empty and it is at this time, the repair work is done. For the last three years, the authorities at the dam have been sending repeated requests to the UP govt to get the air vent tube changed but nothing has been done so far.
National Reservoirs dip to 18%: CWC With the onset of the monsoon still about 3 weeks away, water levels in the country’s major reservoirs dipped to 18% of their storage capacity, well below their 10-year average. The levels were 19% a week earlier. The levels of reservoirs in drought-hit Marathwada declined to a mere 2%, with water being reserved only for drinking purposes. The overall storage position is less than the corresponding period of last year in the country as a whole and is also less than the average storage of last 10 years during the corresponding period. The Krishna river basin is driest while the brewery industry in Aurangabad in Maharashtra is getting its water from the dead pool of the Jayakwadi dam.
Himachal HC seeks status report on clean water supply The HP High Court on April 01 directed the Chief Secretary and other Govt. functionaries to file fresh status report on the issue of supply of clean and safe water in the Shimla town and other parts of the state. In order to ensure that there is no recurrence of jaundice in the state, the court directed the state to inform it about the steps taken in this regard. While on April 10 officials of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) stated they have found negligence by the staff of Irrigation & Public Health Department in supplying contaminated water to the people responsible for the jaundice outbreak as per their initial findings. As many as 770 cases of jaundice were detected in Solan and its surrounding area since Jan this year. The SIT officials were, however, focusing on the cases which had emerged since Nov-Dec last year along with the cases detected this year by the health authorities. Water supply from the Ashwani Khud Scheme, which was put on hold on Jan 23, was yet to be resumed though reports from the Pune-based National Virology Lab had declared the water free of hepatitis-E virus after hyper chlorination of the water was undertaken by the IPH staff. The SIU arrested a Junior Engineer and an Assistant Engineer of the local Municipal Committee for negligence in failing to provide safe drinking water to the people of the town. The duo were, however, bailed out after the token arrest as the FIR has been registered under bailable sections of the IPC. According several media reports the residents of Palampur, Kasauli & Mandi towns have been facing an acute water crisis for over a week as the supply schemes have failed to meet the demand-supply gap.
Telangana Water pollution a perennial problem in Konaseema region The Amalapuram canal the main source of irrigaion & drinking water in east Godavari disctict has become grossly polluted due to sewage and waste. At Kothapeta, Ravulapalem, and Amalapuram the major drains are connected to Central Delta main canal. In Amalapuram, hospital waste, water from restaurants, hotels and households are let out in huge quantities into the main canal. Important drains in Gandhinagar, Vittanalavaripalem, Abbireddyvari Veedhi are being connected to the main canal. At places there are outlets from municipal dumping yards and burial grounds. Though the officials are aware of it, they express their inability to address the issue.
Delhi Four weeks of dry run triggers water wars in Sangam Vihar Residents of Sangam Vihar ‘captured’ DJB tankers on May 19 and shouted slogans to protest irregular and inadequate water supply to the colony for the past four weeks. The residents started their protest at 10am and blocked the way of the jal board tankers with their plastic cans. Their protest continued till 6pm despite the sweltering heat. Police had to be called to deal with the situation but the residents resisted the police who tried to remove the cans. Several areas in Sangam Vihar have no piped supply and completely depend on water tankers for their daily supply.
RO water used to maintain Feroz Shah Kotla ground, NGO tells green court The plea filed by an NGO Friends claimed the Delhi and District Cricket Association was using reverse osmosis-treated water for the upkeep of the Feroz Shah Kotla ground and power discom TPDDL was wasting 7,500 litres of water per day through the RO water plants it installed at 31 educational institutions. Citing a news report, the social organisation, said that at a time when the Indian Premier League was being shifted out of Maharashtra due to severe drought in the state, DDCA was using RO-treated water for ground maintenance.
NGT notice to police over unpaid water bills worth Rs. 232 crore The green court on May 18 issued a notice to the Delhi Police over the findings of an RTI application that water bills worth Rs.232 crore has allegedly not been paid. Seeking the Delhi Police’s response, the move came after the green bench heard a petition filed by an activist Sanjay Kumar, which revealed that several police stations have not paid their water bills for years and their outstanding charge run into several crores. Some of the bills are so old that even their late payment charges are in crores.
Haryana 9 districts facing water crisis in state The latest figures of the availability and demand of potable water in Haryana show water shortage in nine districts of the state. Authorities concerned said there was shortage of water supply from the Yamuna. They said the supply had been increased through tankers in water-deficit districts. As per sources, the overall demand of Haryana is 2,111.37 MLD, including 1,081.66 MLD from the urban side and the remaining from the rural side. But the state authorities have been able to ensure the availability of total 1,913.22 MLD, including 968.86 MLD to the urban side and the remaining 944.36 MLD to the rural side. The report shows that the demand of water is more in Sonipat, Jind, Sirsa, Hisar, Bhiwani, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Mahendragarh and Rewari districts.
Punjab Water-guzzling distilleries on radar Alarmed by the reports of depleting groundwater in the state, Local Bodies Minister Anil Joshi on May 13 has told the Industries Department to regulate the use of groundwater by the plants manufacturing beer and distilled spirit used in alcoholic beverages. Joshi has also written to CM Parkash Singh Badal, seeking an audit on the water consumption by these units. Official figures for the 2015-16 financial year reveal that around 3 lakh kilolitres of distilled spirit was produced at 16 distilleries across the state. On an average, for each litre of distilled spirit, 20 litres of water is consumed. On the whole, about 60 lakh kilolitres of water is used up to manufacture distilled spirit. Earlier the body has also restricted the use of water across the state. The restriction came with penalties for wasting water. Apart from the shortage of water during summers, the restrictions come in wake of the alerts by the Central Ground Water Board, Punjab Irrigation Department and Agriculture Department over the rapidly declining water table for the past many years. Official statistics reveal that the water level had dipped in 80 per cent of the total area in the state. The scant rainfall had an adverse impact on the water table. The penalty for first, second & third times are set as Rs. 1000, Rs.2000 & Rs. 3000 respectively.
Canal water for drinking, toxic groundwater for irrigation While Punjab is increasingly increasing using canal water for drinking on account of high toxicity in the ground water, it will now pump out ground water for irrigation purposes. The new tubewell connections – 1.25 lakh – will not just deplete the state’s already depleted water table, but water pumped up from these tubewells pose a risk of contaminating the food grains and vegetables grown in the fields. Sources in the Water Supply and Sanitation Department said that with high concentration of heavy metals in water pumped from the tubewells – lead, fluorides, nitrates, selenium, arsenic, iron, aluminum and mercury- they are sourcing canal water for drinking purposes in many parts of the state. A sum of Rs 310 crore has been set aside for this purpose for 140 villages in Moga and 36 villages in Barnala.
Use rainwater to reduce your water bills In fact, while both Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been facing drought-like situations, the latter’s water conservation through rainwater harvesting has helped villages get surplus water despite the lack of rains. And doing it isn’t very complicated either. It requires pits in the ground or pipes from the terrace to collect rain water, a filter for treating the water, a tank to collect the water and a borewell to draw out the water. It can reduce dependence on supplied water by up to 40%.
Andhra Need for plans to shield Amaravati from freak floods Even as the Capital Region Development Authority clarified that floodplains in the Krishna River will be demarcated before taking up the construction of new capital Amaravati, there are suggestions that the govt should take into account once in 1000 years flood flow for identifying the floodplain area. Allaying the concerns raised by petitioner E.A.S. Sarma, former IAS officer and social activist in the NGT that the capital construction in the ecologically sensitive area was against the guidelines of Environment Ministry, CRDA submitted that it would take 100 years flood flow into account and demarcate the zones. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for July 7. The State govt, along with Environment Ministry are yet to submit its affidavit. Also see, Environment panel seeks detailed plan on Amaravati plan
J&K Flash flood kills 3 children returning from school Three schoolchildren were swept away in a flashflood that struck Batote area of Ramban district, 125 km from Jammu, on May 12 evening. Areas of Kud, Patnitop, Batote and Ramban have been witnessing torrential rains since the early hours of May 12, but things took a turn for the worse fatal around 4pm, sweeping away houses, damaging roads and also leaving the three kids dead. The Batote-Kishtwar highway was blocked and the administration was making efforts to clear it.
Himachal 5 missing in HP cloudburst 5 persons, including 4 tourists from Punjab and a Nepalese guide, were on May 07 reportedly washed away as a cloudburst triggered flash flood in the Loti Nullah (a tributary of the Sutlej that flows into Kol Dam) and Mongri when a Scorpio with eight persons on board was washed away in the Loti Nullah waters near Chaba. Three of them had a miraculous escape, while five could not be traced. The incident occurred on the Sunni-Luhri road, 60 km from here. Sources said the cloudburst occurred over the Ganvi hills and the floodwater headed towards Loti Nullah and Mongri.
Haryana Mining mafia fires at raiding govt officials Mining Officer Rajesh Sangwan had a narrow escape on the night of May 12 when the mining mafia not only opened fire at him and accompanying staff, but also rammed a tractor-trailer into his official vehicle probably to kill him. The incident occurred around 11 pm when Sangwan along with Mining Inspector Rajesh Kumar and other officials conducted raids at Nangal Peepa village following a tip-off about illegal mining there during night hours.
Maharashtra Raigad is hotbed of Illegal sand mining operations According to activists illegal sand mining operations under the cover of darkness in various parts of Raigad district has become rampant & wreaking havoc on the coastal belt including a few beaches near Alibaug. They also alleged that mechanized tools are being used for sand mining at Mahad, Mhasala, Mandwa & also at Pirwadi in Uran, among other sites. Abdulali has already sent letters of complaint to the Raigad district collectorate. But the illegal activities are reportedly still taking places at many spots.
Kerala Ban on sand-mining in Valapattanam river lifted The ban on sand mining in most of the riverine sand-mining locations (‘kadavus’) on the Valapattanam river was lifted with effect from May 23. District Collector P. Bala Kiran in an official press release announced here that the sand mining would resume on May 22 in the ‘kadavus’ on the river except the ones at Kummayakkadavu in the Narath panchayat and Mankadavu in the Pappinissery panchayat. The Collector instructed the secretaries of the respective local bodies to ensure that the sand mining in the kadavus comply with orders of the Govt. & NGT and provisions in the environmental clearance.
Punjab Largest rooftop solar power plant inaugurated World’s largest single rooftop solar power plant of 11.5 Mw capacity was inaugurated in Beas near Amritsar in Punjab on May 17. Spread at a single rooftop stretch of 42 acre at Dera Baba Jaimal, the project was synchronised earlier this year. In addition to single largest rooftop solar power plant, seven rooftop solar power plants of 8Mw capacity were also inaugurated in Beas Dera campus making this place the highest single campus generating solar power of 19.5 Mw at multiple rooftops in the country. Punjab is generating 470 Mw of solar power and with projects of 500Mw in the pipeline, the state would be able to generate solar power of close to 1000Mw by the end of FY 2016-17.
Karnataka State to get 500 MW from Pavagada solar park next year The green energy consumption level of Karnataka is set to increase as the State will start getting 500Mw of solar power from the 2000-MW solar park at Pavagada in Tumakuru district from September 2017. Karnataka Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar said the State would get the remaining 1,500 MW of power from the solar park from September 2018. The Pavagada solar park, which is the country’s biggest, is coming up on nearly 12,000 acres of land. Of the total capacity of 2,000 MW, the NTPC itself will develop 1,600 MW. The land for the Pavagada solar park has been taken from farmers on lease of Rs. 21,000 a year.
On the other hand, addressing industry leaders at a conference Energy Minister Piyush Goyal said that while India is committed to reducing carbon emissions, affordability of energy was one of the pillars of the future of electricity, along with sustainability and energy security. Brushing aside concerns that solar power developers were bidding for projects at “aggressively low” power tariffs, he said that based on price competitiveness and prevailing investor sentiments, the Govt. could consider raising its own renewable energy target of 175Gw of renewable energy capacity by 2022. In a separate interview the Power Minister stated that in March 2016 Thermal generation grew 15.8% Hydropower is down from 8.6 billion units to 6.9 billion units because of a three-year drought. He further told that the Electric Power Survey conducted among states has lowered the power demand projections for 2022 to 239Gw from 289Gw as the demand projection earlier did not anticipate the saving which will come from just one programme and the govt will get 22000 Mw from one energy efficiency initiative & with Uday scheme, there will be a saving of ~1.8 lakh crore on cost of power annually from 2019-20 in a business as usual scenario. He also said that in the third year as Power Minister he wound now focus on hydropower and wind.
Renewable energy gets new lease of life If all goes right and India issues solar power project tenders worth 10Gw, it would be on the way to become the 4th largest solar power market. India is likely to cross the Japan’s growth in solar by 2018. According to industry estimates, last year, 35 solar power project tenders were issued with a cumulative capacity of 15.5Gw. 40 banks and non-banking financial companies have sanctioned Rs71202cr to finance the various renewable energy projects and disbursed Rs29,530cr against the sanctioned amount between Feb 2015 & March, 2016, according to a recent government release. Solar panel prices have crashed globally and developers claim that is reflected in the cost of setting up power plants. The interest rate for renewable power projects has come down by at least 50 basis points in the past financial year. The second part the story focuses on the tough challenges ahead for renewable energy sector
Bangladesh to invest in Bhutan’s hydropower According to news report a trilateral cooperation among Bhutan, Bangladesh & India that will enable Bangladesh to invest in the Bhutanese power sector to re-import the electricity could soon be a reality. A draft memorandum of understanding on the trilateral collaboration is being circulated among the three friendly countries. The trilateral cooperation will provide an opportunity for both the countries to diversify their energy markets. Bhutan is dependent on the Indian market for sale of its surplus power, as does Bangladesh for electricity import.
Sri Lanka landslides and rain kill 37 people with over 150 still missing Torrential rains across Sri Lanka have forced more than 137,000 people from their homes. The death toll from three days of torrential rain and landslides has risen to 37, with more than 150 people missing & rescuers still pulling bodies from the mud. The area had received more than 100mm of rain between 15 & 16 May and at least two nearby villages had been evacuated due to fears of a fresh landslide. Heavy rains also struck the neighbouring Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. More than 100 houses were damaged in coastal Kerala and about 50 families had been moved to a relief camp in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram.
Global March temperature smashes 100-year global record Feb was far above the long-term average globally, driven largely by climate change, and was described by scientists as a “shocker” and signalling “a kind of climate emergency”. But data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency shows that March was even hotter. Data released later by Nasa confirmed last month was the hottest March on record, but the US agency’s data indicated February had seen the biggest margin. The UK Met Office expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature record is set to have been broken for three years in a row.
Expert Speak Water, Forest conservation crucial but the Govt. listens to Yes-men Good to see the interview of Chipko movement & Tehri dam crusader Sundar Lal Bahuguna. The seasoned environmentalist speaks on environmental & social issues offering valuable solutions. Its so disappoining to learn that Govt only wants to talk to people who are in agreement with their policies and even benign ideas of Bahuguna’s ji are not popular with the government.
Study 3 of India’s world heritage sites face threat from harmful activity According to a latest survey ‘Protecting People Through Nature’ by WWF, activities such as mining, illegal logging, oil and gas exploration threaten 114 out of 229 natural world heritage sites, including Sundarbans known for iconic Royal Bengal tiger, Western Ghats, one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, and the Manas Sanctuary in Assam, home to many endangered species including Indian rhinoceros, it said. While ecology of Western Ghats covering six states—Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—is threatened by mining and oil and gas exploration, Manas Wild Life Sanctuary faces threat from dams and unsustainable water use. Sundarbans in West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh have been hit by various activities including unsustainable water use, dams, wood harvesting, over-fishing and shipping lanes. Also see, Only 60 left: World’s smallest porpoise nears extinction
Centre We are providing ease of doing responsible business: Prakash Javadekar In this interview the environment minister finds 100 yr old British Era document still relevant. He also says that the misunderstanding among ministries has been resolved and now all the ministries Power, Water & Environment are on same page on the issue of dams on Ganga. One more media reports covers the minister saying that the Govt. will amend green laws as & when required but stressed that there was no plan to make any substantial changes to these laws “at present” & there was no plan to demarcate ‘Go/No-Go’ areas as was done a few years ago to keep certain forest areas completely out of bounds for any mining, industrial or infrastructure activities. The minister in a separate news report also stated new norms for abatement of pollution and stringent action against the violators has brought down amount of industrial waste flowing in Ganga by 35% over the past one year. According a news report Prakash Javadekar has also asked citizens to email of illegal sand mining activities directly to the environment ministry.
Watchdog revises pollution index for industrial clusters India’s apex pollution watchdog has finally come out with new norms to help authorities decide whether an industrial cluster is “critically polluted”. Announcing the norms, the Central Pollution Control Board also ordered strict air and water quality monitoring. But in the process of updating the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index, the board has done away with criteria such as the potential impact on the health of people as it felt that these cannot be measured objectively, are time consuming and cost too much. Experts say doing away with the criteria of “potentially affected populations in a cluster” and replacing it with health data drawn from major hospitals will not give a complete picture.
National Grasslands are not wastelands According to the Planning Commission’s report the value of these grasslands in terms of their biological diversity is yet to be fully documented. Grasslands evolved under a system of grazing, drought and periodic fires—almost all the existing grasslands are maintained by one or a combination of these factors. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize the ecological, hydrological, economic and sociological role of grasslands as a source of survival for millions of livestock and rural people, as protector of soil and water, of rare wildlife species and in biodiversity conservation in general. Misguided afforestation drives over the years to increase the green cover on barren drylands have done more harm than good to wildlife and livestock dependent on grasslands. It’s a very enlightening report on the ecological, social, economical importance of grasslands.
National CIC asks green ministry to make coastal area expert panel report public Noting that suppression of an expert committee report regarding India’s coastal areas gives rise to many “suspicions”, the Central Information Commission asked environment minister office to make the report and the action taken on it public within a month. The report was submitted to the environment ministry in Jan 2015. CIC also reiterated its earlier order to the effect that every central govt minister is a public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The decision came on an application by environmentalist Kanchi Kohli who in Feb 2015 sought a copy of the Shailesh Nayak Committee report but was denied one by the environment ministry, which said that it could not share the report “until accepted”.
Maharashtra Green armour under threat Conservationists say that the proposed Rs.17,500cr Mumbai Trans Harbour Link threatens the biodiversity of mudflats in the Sewri-Mahul and Nhava creeks, where the sea link will take off and land. The 22km-long route will connect Mumbai with Navi Mumbai. In 2014, the Bombay Natural History Society has listed the area as one of the top 10 threatened Important Biodiversity Areas in the world, the BNHS estimated that the mudflats were home to 150 species of resident and wintering birds, including the Black-headed Ibis, Black-tailed Godwit, Western Reef-Egret, River Tern, Common Greenshank, heron, crane and wagtail.
Haryana Land should be given back if the project does not take off: SC The apex court has forbidden the State Govt. from using its powers of compulsory land acquisition to strip poor farmers of their livelihood only to transfer such land to private builders to feed their business interests & ordered that land, acquired in the name of residential or commercial projects, should revert to its rightful owner the farmer in case the project does not take off. No third party has any rights on the land. The judgment exposes how the Haryana Govt. violated guaranteed fundamental rights of equality and right to property and life by transferring the titles of over 250 acres of land acquired from farmers in Rohtak to a private builder. The apex court termed the relationship between the Govt. & private builder, Uddar Gagan Properties Limited, an “unholy nexus.” The judgment concluded that the builder would never have been able to pull off the transactions on acquired land without assurances from the State. Another landmark judgment by SC after drought verdict on Rohtak land acquisition case.
Save Aravalli to save wildlife The Aravalli area, besides a good leopard habitat and rich in floral and faunal diversity is also exploited by human greed, mainly because of its proximity to Delhi. “As many as four roads, including two highways, pass through the Aravalli range bifurcating the natural habitat of the leopard. And two more roads — Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway and the Dedicated Freight Corridor — passing through the mountain range are in the pipeline. Neither the departments concerned have provided safe passages to the animals to cross these roads nor any signages have been put for the motorists to drive slow in this area. As many as seven leopards, including an eight-month-old cub, have been reported dead in Gurgaon over the past two years.
WHO Report Of 100 Smart Cities, 17 figure in the list of most polluted While Delhi managed to shrug-off the tag of the most polluted city in the latest WHO ranking on pollution levels, 34 Indian cities figured in the list of the 100 most polluted ones, and 22 Indian cities found their names among the top 50 most polluted in the world. Interestingly, out of the 100 cities that have been shortlisted to be built as smart cities, 17 of them figure in the 100 most polluted cities in the world. Importantly, a majority of the most polluted cities in India are from the Western and Northern states. There is not a single city from the four Southern states in the list. Citing the same report another media report writes that half of world’s 20 most polluted cities in India. The top spot is taken by the Iranian city of Zabol replacing Delhi which in 11th place. Gwalior in MP & Allahabad in UP take the 2nd & 3rd spot, respectively. Ups 4 other cities Kanpur(15), Firozabad(17) & Lucknow(18) also got mentioned in the list. Bihar’s capital Patna is 6th, Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur 7th. Punjab towns of Ludhiana & Khanna are 12th & 16th respectively. UP has largest number of polluted cities followed by MP & Rajasthan. The northern Indian plains have again come into focus as one of the globe’s most-polluted regions, with 9 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities in the 2016. Punjab, among all Indian states, is the top contributor to outdoor air pollution burden in the world with four cities — Ludhiana, Khanna, Amritsar and Gobindgarh — ending up on the list of 25 most polluted when it comes to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels in the air. India also continues to have the highest number of cities with the poorest air quality in the world.
Op-Ed Making a hollow in the Forest Rights Act by Chitrangada Choudhury In years of travelling through mineral-rich areas, I cannot recall an example of an Adivasi community telling me they are better off because of the way the company took over their forest and land for mining. But there have been countless accounts of villagers being beaten up, swindled, having bulldozers pulverise their homes, sacred sites, food and livelihood sources, being incarcerated, and even killed in police firings. These are fates that national elites would be loathe to accept for ourselves in the name of “development”. Also see, Will empowering gram sabhas derail development?