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DRP News Bulletin 20 June 2016 (MoWR invites suggestions on National Water Framework & Model Ground Water Bill)

Centre Suggestions invited on Draft National Water Framework Bill and Draft Model Bill for Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Ground Water   Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has uploaded the draft national water framework bill and draft model bill for conservation, protection, regulation and management of ground water on its website (http://mowr.gov.in). The  Draft  National  Water  Framework  Bill  provides  an  overarching  national  legal framework based on principles for protection, conservation, regulation and management of water as a vital and stressed natural resource, under which legislation and executive action on water at all levels of governance can take place. The comments/suggestions/views from all Individuals/Experts /Organizations/Institutions on the above bill may be sent to jspp-mowr@nic.in or sjcpp-mowr@nic.in latest by June 25, 2016. The Draft Ground Water Model Bill is based on the principles of subsidarity, equitable distribution in an integrated approach. The State should act as a public trustee of ground water, which should be treated as a common pool resource to make sure that groundwater is protected, conserved, regulated and managed. The comments/suggestions/views from all Individuals/Experts/Organizations/Institutions on the above bill may be sent to dirgw-mowr@nic.in or pratul.saxena@nic.in latest by June 25, 2016.


Tamil Nadu  Vadavathur village fights drought with rain water harvesting plan Located on the foothills of Thalaimalai forests, Vadavathur village in Namakkal district is seldom bestowed with the mercy of the rain god. About 5 years back a Centre-sponsored scheme named National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) was introduced in the village which has changed the fate of many in Vadavathur through interventions on natural resource management, crop production & protection to combat drought, livestock & fisheries production to withstand drought & institutional approach for group activities. As many as 18 temporary ponds were dug up under the NICRA scheme. Rainwater could be harvested in these ponds. As a result, groundwater table went up by 12-20 ft in 45 open wells and 156 borewells. Another positive story from low rainfall area. A lot of complicated phrases are used here, but basic idea is simple, Rainwater harvesting. 

Andhra Farm ponds a boon for farmers With the directive from CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, Vizianagaram District Collector M.M. Nayak is monitoring the progress on a day-to-day basis as the government targeted 70K farm ponds in the district. Around 20,000 farm ponds have been planned in Srikakulam district. Although, farmers are aware of the concept, many are unable to take up them as they needed huge investment. Now, the government sanctions between Rs.64000 and Rs. 3.4 lakh for both wages and material for the construction of farm ponds in various sizes. Big claims made here, if true, it can bring big change. 

Gujarat Govt. releases check dam figures 1,66,082 check dams with water storage capacity of 28,408 million cubic feet (mcf) nearly equivalent to that of the big dam in Dharoi – have been built in the State so far. This was revealed by the govt through an official release on June 15. Under other programme, 1,246 check dams have been deepened by removing 174.5 mcf of silt. This has created additional water storage capacity over the past three years. Similarly, deepening of 1,837 talavdis (farm ponds) created additional water storage capacity of 363.4 mcf. Govt. has also claimed that it has removed 174 mcf of silt from 1,246 check dams resulted in creating as much additional water storage capacity during the last three years. Similarly, deepening of 1,837 talavdis (farm ponds) created additional water storage capacity of 363.4 mcf. These are very interesting set of figures. 


Drought situation dismal: SC food panel member The Principal advisor of the Supreme Court Food Commissioner’s office (mandated to monitor the food schemes of the government in the ‘right to food’ case) Biraj Patnaik has expressed concern that despite the recent tough, clear and unambiguous directions from the Supreme Court regarding the drought-affected areas, nothing has happened or moved on the ground. Excellent, straight forward responses about the reality of drought response. One more media report highlights that Centre is stonewalling RTI queries on drought measures According to report NDTV had filed a series of Right To Information or RTI applications in key Central ministries meant to tackle drought, framing questions based on statements by ministers and official guidelines on combating drought. The responses, however, were marked by lack of answers, obfuscation, and passing of the buck. See how various arms of the Govt of India stonewalls the RTI questions to hide its complete callousness in dealing with the worse drought of decades. 



Monsoon pauses down south & IMD has advised farmers in interior Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha not to begin sowing as the soil is heated and the seeds require rainfall. As of 10 June, farmers had planted 7.1 million hectares with crops such as rice, pulses, coarse cereals, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton. But the area cultivated so far is smaller than the 7.7 million hectares sown by this time last year. A slowing monsoon in parts of the country may affect the sowing of rain-fed kharif crops. As feared, monsoon has taken a pause. The monsoon has started off on a shaky note with a 22% rainfall deficit in mid-June, delaying crop planting and triggering a rise in the price of food, particularly vegetables, but the vital weather system is poised to strengthen quickly and cover more parts of the country. The 2016 kharif season began at a sluggish pace across the Gujarat state also with sowing down by over 64% compared to the same period last year. Sowing was done in 83,500 hectare of land in the state till June 13, against 2.3 lakh hectare during the same period last year. Most of the sowing has been done in districts of north Gujarat and Saurashtra. Amid the above normal monsoon forecast, farmers in parts of Saurashtra have commenced kharif sowing taking advantage of the ground water and availability of surface water in form of Narmada canals.



SANDRP Blog Govt. gambling with the Himalayas Its two years since Uttarakhand faced its worst ever flood disaster during June 15-17, 2013. We remember such tragedies to ensure that we learn the necessary lessons. So that in future such tragedies are not repeated or their dimensions are reduced. One of the enduring debates since that the Uttarakhand tragedy has been about the role of existing and under construction hydropower projects in increasing the proportions of the disaster. A lot of water has flown down the Ganga in these two years. This blog revisits the important milestones of that debate. Hridayesh Joshi of NDTV has come out with an excellent book on Uttarakhand disaster, called RAGE OF THE RIVER, published by Penguin, it exposes the reality of the irresponsible behaviour of the hydropower project operators in Uttarakhand among othersOn the other hand, in her latest report Mallika Bhanot also finds that Govt. has learnt no lesson from Kedarnath disaster She says that 3 years after a devastating flood destroyed several parts of Uttarakhand, the state & the central govt have not formed a policy to protect rivers and to deal with such calamities. Amid this Skymet has predicted more cloudburst threat & heavy rains in Uttarakhand. Just as we remember the flood disaster that started this day three years ago, Skymet has predicted heavy to very heavy rains accompanied by cloudburst, flashfloods, landslides over the next 2-3 days in the State.

Centre Scaling up hydel’s share in energy mix The government is redoubling its efforts to scale up the share of the hydro energy sector in the country’s overall energy mix. Two new sub-committees have been formed to specifically look at ironing out the legal and regulatory framework that is throttling the sector. The focus on hydro generation comes at a time when the sector has plumbed to its lowest in the overall energy mix since Independence. Will all this help push unjustifiable projects? May be they will manage to push one or two a bit, but it cannot change the objective reality that big hydro is no longer viable. According to power minister Govt. will soon come up with a  proactive hydro power policy to push stalled projects and explore possibility of extending benefits for renewable sources like wind and solar to hydro projects beyond 25 MW. The decision was taken at the state power ministers’ conference chaired by the Power Minister Piyush Goyal. Big question is, Is it justified to give more and more subsidies to some how or other push hydropower projects? and will it succeed? Whom will it help? 

Arunachal MoEFdrops time frame for crane habitat study The environment ministry has asked the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to conduct the study on black-necked crane habitat, located on the site for the proposed 780Mw Nyamjang Chhu hydropower project in Tawang district, without any stipulated time frame. MoEFCC’s latest order is an apparent climb down from its April order when it asked the WII to conduct the study on the wintering habitat of black-necked crane within 45 day. Many of the activists, especially the Buddhist monks of Tawang who are opposing the hydropower project, made a hue and cry following MOEFCC’s earlier time-frame of 45 days. They termed 45-day study period a “farce” for assessing the impact on the winter habitat of black-necked crane. Good to see this, but hope this is not only for public consumption. 


Maharashtra Marathwada dams to be interlinked The state govt has decided to interlink all major dams in Marathwada for effective use of water in drought-hit regions. The dams, which would be interlinked, are Jayakwadi, Ujjani, Terna, Vishnupuri, Manjara, Yellara & Siddheshwari. The govt also proposes to constitute a central water grid to manage the water. The budget proposed for the project is Rs 2500cr. CM Devendra Fadnavis, at a departmental review meeting, has directed officials to evolve a separate water grid for Marathwada to determine water distribution across eight drought hit districts through scientific management and robust logistics. According to sources in the Ministry of Water Resources the concept of water management had never been taken into account in the last six decades. It’s unclear how this ‘grid’ will be developed. 

1.5cr aid for Khadakwasla dam desilting Desilting of the Khadakwasla reservoir has received a shot in the arm after Rs 1.5 crore from the CM’s relief fund was allotted for the work. District collector Saurabh Rao said on June 13 that the work would start immediately and continue even after the monsoon. The district administration plans to desilt a 10km stretch along the dam’s boundary. Another dam desilting effort in Maharashtra, would like to know what is happening on ground, where the silt is going. 


Centre Agri output to double with Rs 80K cr irrigation scheme: Nitin Gadkari Union Roads and Highways minister advocating big irrigation projects in Maharashtra, River Linking, and agriculture. Even the most charitable interpretations could raise eyebrows. He of course talks about pulses and oilseeds, but as a replacement of paddy and wheat, not sugarcane. He talks about spending 80000 cr on AIBP projects, the same language used by UPA ministers including Sharad Pawar. He mentions spending 18000 cr on waterways to deepen the rivers through dredging, and claims it will help capture rain? 


KBL A bend in inter-linked rivers Attempting to alter the natural courses of rivers at a scale that has never been attempted anywhere in the world may have consequences that not even the most rigorous scientific study could foresee. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP pointed out that the expert committee constituted by the Ministry of Water Resources failed to share the hydrological data based on Ken river is considered surplus & the surplus- deficit claim has no scientific backing. Moreover, he alleges that the govt is aware of this and is therefore reluctant to share the data publicly. Thakkar feels that the govt is not only exaggerating the benefits of the project for the Bundelkhand region, but also misleading the public thus bowing to the will of “lobbies that want to push the interlinking plan”.

Tamil Nadu Green groups seek Cauvery River development funds Olirum Erodu Foundation has teamed up with Annai Cauvery River Protection Trust to carry out remediation of environmental pollution in the Cauvery River. The two organisations have resolved to organise a ‘padayatra’ from Talacauvery on the Brahmagiri hill in Kodagu district, Karnataka, to Poompuhar, in Tamil Nadu on July 10 to create public awareness on the need for Central and State governments to earmark funds for Cauvery River Rejuvenation Project. They have taken the expertise of Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to implement their action plan. A. Sridhar, Regional Project Officer (South India) with National Water Mission & TISS- Water Project, the special invitee for the meeting, joined other speakers in calling for nationalization of rivers and linking of the rivers in the Southern States to begin with. It’s very shocking that TISS is now advocating for Nationalization of Rivers and River Linking. 

Centre Saving every drop of rainwater is the way forward In an interview, Sriram Vedire, chairperson of Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority and advisor to the Union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, spoke about the scheme, why interlinking of rivers is important and measures to tackle water crisis. Big talk, but very little convincing here, the govt expert is putting rainwater harvesting and ILR on the same footing.


SANDRP Blog Has religion helped Rivers at all? It is most surprising is that religious sentiments have not lead to betterment of rivers neither Ganga, nor Godavari, nor Kshipra. On the other hand, they have led to knee jerk, short term, costly, environmentally and socially destructive and at times problematic short cuts, holding no benefit for the river. Pilgrims and devotees seem to be bothered only about water in the river. Is the religious importance of rivers in India so limited as it looks like? Today it seems that religion is counterproductive to the health of rivers as ecological systems. Perhaps future may not be so bleak.

Maharashtra Petition filed in NGT against unauthorised Manjara river excavation The State Govt.’s flagship scheme Jalyukt Shivar, touted as the remedy for drought, is allegedly being misused by private entities for unscientific methods of river excavation and deepening. Launched with fanfare in 2014, the scheme was hailed as the panacea for the State’s water woes as it aimed at improving the groundwater and water-holding capacity of nullahs and river streams. While concerns were building up on the scheme’s execution, a petition challenging the poor monitoring of water works under way in the State has now been submitted to the NGT. The petitioner sought immediate stay on the ongoing excavation citing serious environmental threat to the existence of the Manjara river.  Good to see this. While it’s great that many entities are coming forward to “rejuvenate” the river, the actions need to well planned and within ecological limits. Deepening, widening and straightening a river is definitely not rejuvenation.

Uttar Pradesh प्रतापगढ़ का पानी  स्थानीय नेताओं को समझना चहिए कि नदी जल के कारण आई बाढ़ नुकसान नहीं करती। यदि जल प्लावन यदि एक स्थाई समस्या ही बन गई है, तो समझना चाहिए कि जल निकासी मार्गों को बाधारहित बनाना, छोटी वनस्पति वाले क्षेेत्रों का विकास तथा जल संचयन ढांचों के रूप में तालाबों का पुनर्जीवन करना जल प्वालन का भी समाधान हैं और जलाभाव का भी। नदी गहरीकरण, उचित समाधान नहीं है। नदी के तल की रेत एक ऐसे स्पंज की तरह होती है, जिसमें पानी सोखकर रखने की बङी क्षमता होती है। यदि तल की वह रेत निकाल बाहर की जाये, तो नदी यह क्षमता खो बैठती। क्या नदी की इस क्षमता का खो जाना किसी भी नदी किनारे के वासियों को मंजूर करना चाहिए? Arun Tiwari as usual raises very important questions about the deepening, straightening of rivers in UP, including Pratapgarh & Amethi districts and also in Bundelkhand. 

Rajasthan A river comes to people Nanduwali in east Rajasthan started flowing again when the villagers decided to work with nature and not against it. The river is now lifeline to those settled on her banks. Thankfully, nature responded very well to villagers’ efforts. A credible indicator of this transformation is that while the out migration has stopped, the in migration has started. Many people from villages as far as 50km, are taking fields on lease here. “Now only youth go out for higher education or jobs. Very important success story from Rajasthan, it received Bhagirath Pryas Samman 2015. 

J&K NGT bans dumping of debris in rivers The Green Tribunal has taken exception to indiscriminate dumping of soil in rivers Chenab and Tawi for construction of road on the Udhampur to Banihal stretch of the national highway and restrained authorities from throwing any debris in the water bodies. The court has issued notices to Environment Ministry, Ministry of Roads Transport and Highways, J&K Govt. Hindustan Construction Company Ltd, Gammon India Ltd, state pollution control board, District Magistrates of Ramban and Udhampur and others while seeking their reply within two weeks. The NGT passed the order while hearing a plea filed by Ramban resident Amaresh Singh against rampant dumping of soil in Chenab and Tawi rivers without taking prior environment clearance. The matter is now listed for next hearing on August 5. 

Report How rivers flowing into the Bay bring rain inland Thin layers of freshwater on the surface of Bay of Bengal are known to influence weather as they make the ocean surface warmer. But the mechanism sustaining this low-salinity layer has for long remained a puzzle. When a team of researchers from India and the US ventured into the Bay to study its surface and improve weather prediction models, they found first evidence of ‘fronts’ on the surface of the sea.

Kerala Tracing Nila’s majesty during monsoon Though they were born in two different places on the banks of Kerala’s second largest river, the Bharathapuzha, their common passion for reviving the dying river and infusing a new lease of life into the vibrant cultures it nurtured brought Kochi-based travel photographer Ajay Menon and Pondicherry-based responsible tourism campaigner Gopinath Parayil together. They are now on a mission to fuel a conservation campaign for the river, which reduces to a trickle during summer due to large-scale encroachments and deforestation. As part of a photo-documentation initiative, more than a dozen travel photographers from across the world would reach Palakkad by July second week to initiate a monsoon journey through the river from its origins in the Anamalai hills to its merging point at Ponnani. The drive will last 14 days and the outcome will be exhibited globally.

GANGA Why plans to clean the river have come a cropper One of the first announcements of PM Narendra Modi pertained to cleaning the Ganga. But this is not the first time an attempt has been made to clean the river. River cleaning schemes initiated in 1974, 1985, 1993, 1996 and 2008–09 have been monumental failures. While the Prime Minister’s announcement was followed by a lot of rhetoric and initial moves towards the goal were frantic, two years later, there has been little improvement in the state-of-affairs. This article looks at some of the problems that have dogged programs designed to clean the river and suggests measures to address the pitfalls. The article provides a lot of numbers, but not much analysis of the numbers; there is no analysis of the governance; the recommendations are most disappointing, no clear direction for way forward except more of the status quo.


Kerala  The metamorphosis of wetlands Even as more wetland and coastal areas are reclaimed in the name of development, paleontologists have excavated evidence of evergreen forests that were submerged in swamps, marshes and coast lands. A series of studies, based on excavations of wood from wetland areas, showed that these lands are one of the best carbon sinks (natural systems that suck in and store carbon dioxide) in India. The studies pointed out that accumulation of fossil wood and logs in large quantities in south Kerala coastal plains holds immense significance, when ecology , environment and geological history are being studied. It is likely that extensive floods caused massive destruction of coastal forests, which in turn buried the huge tree trunks. 


Assam Govt. to take a leaf out of China’s flood control measures The CM Sarvanand Sonowal said that the ‘knowledge-driven’ study in association with the World Bank would also prepare a road map for taming the Brahmaputra and its tributaries to control flood and erosion. The study will encompass basin characteristics, river engineering, hydrology, channel morphology, floodplain evolution within its ambit and submit its report. Emphasizing on the need of a well-coordinated document for the rivers in Assam, the CM directed the department to do the needful for preparing a ‘River Atlas’ and asked the department to use the expertise of the North Eastern Space Applications Centre for preparing it. Some interesting statements by new ASSAM CM however, the strange urge to control the river, the way China did to Yellow River is NOT going to help, Brahmaputra is significantly different river in many respects. 


Centre CSIR mulls national water mapping program The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) is mulling over a National Water Mapping Programme aimed at finding groundwater hot spots, mapping the structures, and measuring salinity and other characteristics. CSIR-National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) has already carried out pilot surveys using helicopter-borne transient electromagnetic technologies in six regions across India. With a funding of Rs.25 cr from the ministry of water resources, the regions were mapped by the institute are the Rajasthan desert, Indo-Gangetic Plains in Bihar, the Deccan trap region in Maharashtra, South Indian granites in Tamil Nadu, and the east coast sedimentary zone in Karnataka. India’s per capita availability of fresh water has declined sharply from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past 50 years.  Will this lead to increased exploitation of groundwater. 


Renewable energy to attract two-thirds of power plant investments Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will attract two-thirds of all investment in power-generating plants between 2016 and 2040 in spite of persistently cheap coal and gas prices, a new report has found. The forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the energy research unit of information company Bloomberg, expects some $7.8 trillion to be invested globally in renewables over the period, compared with $1.2 trillion for new coal plants – largely in India and other Asian emerging markets. Decline of large hydro, coal and gas will continue globally in future. According to bloomberg, over two third of all investment from 2016 to 2040 will happen for renewable, of which less than 12% will be for hydro. On the other hand, in last nine working days, NTPC has been able to sell only 8.9% of the power it offered for sale at open exchange, there were no takers for the rest of 91.1% power, even when NTPC offered the power only at variable energy cost, not including fixed cost which it was already recovering from the discoms that had signed PPA. 


South Asia creates regional groundwater forum At a recent conference, scientists, experts, activists and policymakers agreed that better management and governance of the groundwater is key to ensuring sustainable development.The conference was organized by the Govt. of India in collaboration with the International Water Association & the World Bank on from 1-3 June 2016 in Rajasthan. It focused on the water future of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and was attended by senior officials. The conference has led to the creation of a South Asian Groundwater Forum, with representatives from all the countries involved.  This initiative from actors, none of whom can claim any success on this important issue, is likely to remain symbolic as the last line says, “ The real test for the forum will be, of course, in what they manage to do, and although this is a creditable first step, regional cooperation mechanisms in South Asia have, so far, been high on rhetoric and low on delivery.” 

India-Bangladesh Financial analyses of Rampal power plant The Rampal Power Plant is a proposed 1,320-megawatt imported coal-fired power plant promoted by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited, a joint venture of the Bangladesh Power Development Board and India’s largest power producer, NTPC Limited. The project is being designed around outdated supercritical technology and is being heavily subsidised by the Indian and Bangladeshi governments. This report highlights a number of risks to taxpayers and electricity customers as well as to project backers in India—not the least of which is the Indian government itself. This report describes ten flaws in the Indo Bangladesh Joint 1320 MW Rampal Thermal Power Plant near Mangroves forests, using outdated technology close to protected area, and using coal, also impacts water resources, livelihoods, adaptation capacity and biodiversity. 

Myanmar Saving the Salween The free-flowing Salween is the last big undammed river in Southeast Asia, home to a flurry of endangered species including tigers and clouded leopards in Hpa-an, Karen. And thanks to support from both the indigenous Karen people, and senior officials in China who see the huge ecotourism potential of the river and its dramatic gorge, it could just stay that way. There is not too much hope though, but would be great if that was possible, Brahmaputra is another candidate. 

Nepal WB, ADB ‘to extend’ $1b line of credit The World Bank (WB) & the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have expressed interest to provide $1 billion (Rs107.89 billion) to Nepal under Development Policy Credit in Energy in the largest ever loan for the energy sector through a single window. With this scheme, the WB has returned to help the government in the energy sector after Arun III debacle in 1994, and it could be the largest ADB funding through a single window although it has accumulated portfolio of around $1 billion in the energy sector. Officials of both the donors said that it is probably the first time they joined hands to lend in Nepal’s energy sector. Will this help Nepal? 


A meta-synthesis of the research on the social impact of dams Scholars have been exploring the social impacts of dams for over 50 years, but a lack of systematic approaches has resulted in many research gaps remaining. This paper presents the first systematic review of the literature on the social impacts of dams. This sounds like Highly biased in favour of Big dams, with several inaccurate statements. Researchers at Oxford University prepared and published the paper, Cleaning up the big muddy: A meta-synthesis of the research on the social impact of dams A summary was published here. 


Centre Movie theaters to show messages on biodiversity conservation National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is set to write to all state authorities and other stakeholders to include messages and videos aimed at promoting biodiversity conservation before the start of movie shows or during intervals. Environmentalists have also welcomed NBA’s approach to popularizing biodiversity conservation using innovative methods. According to Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP as an idea, if it will be customized, it is definitely a good idea. There is so little information around biodiversity that anything that is done is a good idea. It can be done state-specific. It should be welcomed. She, however, slammed NBA for failing to take hard and tough decisions. 

NDA cleared more projects in wildlife habitats in 2 yrs than UPA did in 5 yrs While the UPA rejected 11.9% projects due to wildlife concerns, the rejection rate during NDA rule has been less than 0.01%.  The CSE analysis of minutes of the meetings of the standing Committee of the NBWL shows the board approved 301 projects in seven meetings in past two years while during the five years of UPA rule it approved 260 projects in 17 meetings. The figures here speak for themselves, how destructive current environment minister’s regime has been for the protected areas. 

You may like to see DRP News Bulletin 13 June 2016 & DRP News Bulletin 06 June 2016

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