New Hydro Policy: Govt unjustifiably pushing hydro through subsidies A comprehensive policy to promote hydropower generation is set to be announced by September—with viability gap funding for projects, compulsory hydropower purchase obligations for distribution companies and a set of good practices that states have to follow. The idea is to address factors that currently drive hydropower costs up way above those of other sources of power and give policy support in its market development, according to a government official, who asked not to be named. The policy being prepared by the power ministry will have provisions for viability gap funding, which will help in meeting the shortfall in project costs and reducing hydroelectricity tariffs for consumers. Hydropower is expensive and in some cases more than double the cost of power from coal-based thermal plants, which is available at Rs.3-5 per unit.The ministry will also expand the scope of power distribution companies’ renewable power purchase obligations to include hydropower from projects with a capacity greater than 25 Mw. At the moment only power from those with less than 25MW is considered renewable power. According to officials, compulsory hydropower purchase from large projects will either be made part of the existing renewable power purchase obligation of distribution companies or a separate requirement, so that its inclusion does not affect the market for other renewable sources of energy like wind, solar or biomass. Govt unjustifiably pushing hydro through subsidies in proposed new hydro policy can be lead story. It is not going to help push hydro.
According to another news report, the Union ministry of power has asked for proposals from THDC India, SJVN & WAPCOS to conduct basin wise review of hydro-electric potential in the country and preparation of basin reports. They will have to give these by August 16, while a pre-proposal conference is being organized on July 25. The previous such study was conducted during 1978-87. As of April 30, of total installed generation capacity of 302,833 Mw, hydro based generation was 42,783 Mw which is only 14.1%. The review would consider actual site constraints, submergence and the results of cumulative basin studies, including treaty issues, tribunal awards and impacts of these projects on the environment and forests.
National 11% monsoon deficit in June, shortfall to be made up in July: Met By contrast, June normally gets only around 18% of the total monsoon rains. Among the meteorological regions of the country, south India received the best rain bounty, with 22% excess rains in June. The highest shortfall was in east and northeast India, where June ended with a 27.3% deficit. The region where monsoon has been more or less disappointing is central India, which had an 18.2% deficit in June. Except for Konkan and Goa, Marathwada and west MP, rainfall has been less than average in all subdivisions of the region. While Odisha and east MP are expected to get rains in the next days, other subdivisions in the region where the deficit is high Gujarat and Madhya Maharashtra may have to wait a few more days for good rainfall.
National Monsoon Blues: Some cities get flooded, others remain dry Most of the country gets the bulk of its rainfall in the three months of June, July and August. A comparison of rainfall and rainy days in 91 India Meteorological Department (IMD) centre shows that Mangaluru is, on average, the wettest, with the city receiving 2,883mm of rain over 76 rainy days during these three months. According to IMD statement as of June 29, 49% of the country had received normal rainfall, 17% had received excess rainfall and 34% had got deficient or scanty rain. While rainfall deficiency had narrowed to 13% of the long-period average on 28 June from 25% on 16 June, parts of central India such as Maharashtra and east MP are still facing a deficit. Met department officials, however, have forecast a pick-up in rainfall in several parts of India in early July. Normal to above-normal rainfall is likely over central and peninsular India till 10 July and is likely to increase over east India and north-east India from 1 July. However from Maharashtra and MP to Rajasthan and Gujarat, farmers ruined by a devastating drought are still edgy about sowing, despite resounding forecasts of a surplus monsoon. Planting of major crops is 24% lower than what was sown by this time last year. Even state govts are treading cautiously. Maharashtra, for instance, had asked farmers to hold back sowing till June 18. Sowing data until June 24 indicate how India’s worst water shortage in years has altered farmer choices in bigger states such as MP & Gujarat, which have a bigger share in pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals and cotton output. Cotton sowing has fallen 46%, while oil seeds are tracking 34% lower than last year’s levels at this time. All eyes are now on July. Experts say July rainfall is predicted to make good June’s shortfall. Till now, the monsoon has been 16% deficient, which means it has to cover a lot of ground in July. Reservoir levels are still barely 15% of their storage capacity. Region wise, central India got rains 30% below the normal level, while the deficit in the Northeast was 24%. South India received normal rainfall. Earlier IMD has stated that the quantum of rainfall during June 1-June 18 has been 59.7mm against the normal range of 78.7 mm thus making it 24% less than the benchmark. According to agriculture ministry data released last week, kharif sowing so far has been 10% lower than in the corresponding period last year, while water levels at the 91 large reservoirs have fallen to an abysmal 15% of their combined installed capacity. The sowing of rice, pulses and oilseeds have got delayed. By June 18, monsoon deficit this year has grown to 24%, sowing is down compared to last year, though monsoon is now expected to progress. According to one more media report IMD has told farmers to postpone sowing as the monsoon is slowing over Karnataka. On the other hand, scientists from Britain & India are planning to use underwater robots to predict Indian monsoon. The £8-million British project, aimed at more accurate prediction of the monsoon. Meanwhile IMD will also soon officially launch medium rage monsoon forecasts (20 day advance) & in 3 years may advance to block level forecasts from only district level forecasts now. IMD may also soon start using the dynamic model developed by IITM. Another news report says that in the last week of June monsoon has drenched some of the worst-drought affected areas. Parched regions that received good rains over the past few days include Rayalaseema, coastal Andhra Pradesh, north-interior Karnataka, northern MP, parts of eastern UP, Odisha and most of Maharashtra. Despite the forecasts of an excellent monsoon, farmers in drought-hit areas of the country are nervous about sowing crops, fearing another round of debt and poverty. They have been backed by their state govts in some cases, for instance, Maharashtra, which asked them not to sow crops till 18 June. Thus, this year’s planting figures show a drop of 24% compared to last year. As on 28 June, the monsoon has been deficient by 16%& reservoir levels are about 15% of their capacity. As per a media report renowned journalist P Sainath has warned that the country was facing a serious water and farm crisis and the monsoon could only bring relief, not a solution, to drought-hit areas. He has also cited examples of life around Godavari and Krishna in Maharashtra to point out how the sources were drying up due to poor planing, concretisation, unplanned tourism, construction of resorts and hotels resulting in serious deforestation. Meanwhile heavy to very heavy rains in parts of Kashmir and possibly some parts of Himachal Pradesh (Chenab Basin) are in last 24 hours (June 28) as per this NASA Map.
Gujarat Migration in Kutch went down by 57% Samerth NGO has been working in Rapar since 2001, post the devastating earthquake, on health, education, water and sanitation needs of the region. Since 2004, there has been a focused approach to resolving water needs of the community. Rapar Taluka consists of 97 villages and 140 vandhs. With support from individual and institutional donors, Samerth works with 70% or roughly 1.3 lakh of population they are the most resource poor of the area. Samerth’s work has directly impacted 110437 live stock from these families. Till date, 34 ponds, 3 road works, 4 afforestation works, 72 earthen check dams and 70 dug wells have been constructed in the target area. The concluding part of the report, reproduce the case studies selected from a wide number of water structures that NGO Samerth supported to build in Rapar taluka of Kutch district. These water structures helped the rural poor fight drought in the peak of summer this year. Interesting report about work of Samerth NGO in Rapar Taluka in Kutch, it shows that local water systems can help even in this arid area, while SSP, justified in the name of this region has hardly helped.
Telangana Pippalkhoti conquers drought People of Pippalkhoti village in Tamsi mandal have proved that rainwater harvesting is the key to prosperity. The villagers led by village sarpanch Prameela made collective efforts to drive away the drought. They took up desiltation of the tank in the village by making voluntary contributions and with the government funds. The tank which was empty once is full now ushering in all-round prosperity of Pippalkhoti. The village witnessed no signs of drought even if there was a prolonged dry spell in all over the district. Pisciculture was also taken up in the tank due to availability of water throughout the year. About 500 acres are being irrigated under the tank now. Farmers of the village are raising three crops a year.
MP In Dewas farm ponds save village from drought The success of the improvement of groundwater table in Tonk Khurd cannot be entirely dedicated to the farm ponds. In addition to the ponds, the farmers have adopted ways of recharging groundwater like drainage channels around the farm ponds and aquifers, soak pits around tube wells, rooftop harvesting, and more. The Dewas district is a good example of the fact that when it comes to solving water crisis, one size does not fit all. The groundwater recharge depends on the geomorphology of an area. Every village should develop its own groundwater recharge security plan.
Assam Traditional irrigation keeps water flowing in drought-hit Baksa In Baksa farmers have never seen their harvest ruined by drought or delayed rainfall, despite having no access to irrigation pipes or water pumps. Their secret is a 100-year-old indigenous irrigation system called dong bandh a network of canals that uses the downhill flow of the area’s rivers and streams to bring water to villagers and their fields. Built, monitored and maintained by locals, the system gives the district’s residents access to clean water even as droughts devastate many other areas of the country.
Bundelkhand Pipara village realizes piped water dream With the successful implementation of piped water supply in the village, the villagers feel motivated to construct and use toilets. With the increased availability of water for domestic use, the water and sanitation habits of the people have improved significantly.
Expert Speak Even 3 good monsoons can’t end drought: P Sainath The Veteran journalist & author of Everybody Loves A Good Drought while delivering the inaugural lecture of a monthly lecture series planned by Delhi assembly has warned that the country was facing a serious water and farm crisis and the monsoon could only bring relief, not a solution, to drought-hit areas. He also said that the time has come to decide if water is a human right or just a commodity. He cited examples of life around Godavari and Krishna in Maharashtra to point out how the sources were drying up due to poor planning, concretization, unplanned tourism, construction of resorts and hotels resulting in serious deforestation.
National States have failed to comply with SC drought order It has been more than a month that the Supreme Court (SC) gave a series of orders to provide relief to the drought affected but state govts are yet to comply. So far not a single state has universalized the public distribution system in drought hit areas. The centre will have to submit an action taken report to the court by 25 July. The SC will hear the case again on 1 Augt. Earlier Principal advisor of the SC Food Commissioner’s office Biraj Patnaik also has expressed concern stating that despite the clear and unambiguous directions from the SC nothing has happened or moved on the ground. According to one more media report, RTI queries on drought relief were marked by lack of answers, obfuscation, and passing of the buck. According to one more media report, despite resounding forecasts of surplus monsoon, farmers from Maharashtra & MP to Rajasthan & Gujarat ruined by a devastating drought are still edgy about sowing. Planting of major crops is 24% lower than what was sown by this time last year. Even state govts are treading cautiously. Maharashtra, for instance, had asked farmers to hold back sowing till June 18. owing data until June 24 indicate how India’s worst water shortage in years has altered farmer choices in bigger states such as MP & Gujarat, which have a bigger share in pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals and cotton output. Cotton sowing has fallen 46%, while oil seeds are tracking 34% lower than last year’s levels at this time.
Gujarat Villagers know a good monsoon won’t bail them out Saurashtra is a rain-deficit region with largely rocky soil, but during periods of good rainfall, it is well known for its export-quality groundnuts and cotton. When it doesn’t rain well, the region’s towns and villages have to often rely on the water of the Narmada river which is still far from plentiful despite promises made by the State Govt. when it began the Sardar Sarovar dam project more than two decades ago. The state was supposed to construct sub-branch canals that would bring the dam’s water to villages across Saurashtra, but in districts like Jamnagar, these canals barely reach 30 or 40 villages. On the hand Gujarat HC on June 22 has issued notice to the state govt & Chhota Udepur district collector in response to a PIL filed by Navsarjan Trust complaining that though the Narmada canal passes nearby the district, people there do not get drinking water. As the water bodies have dried up in the area, the people here should be provided water from the canal that passes through the district.
INTER LINKING OF RIVERS
SANDRP Guest Blog River Ken, as I saw it by Manoj Misra Rivers are often seen merely as carriers of utilizable water and little more. Such utilization could be for supply of water to meet human domestic, commercial, irrigation or industrial needs or as a motive force to produce electricity. That there could be far more to a river than water flowing in it is rarely appreciated far less investigated. The reason also is that in case of perennial rivers water flowing in them tends to hide from public view a lot residing in their interiors, including their living and non living components. So a drought, notwithstanding its adverse impacts on water dependent people and their commensals, is an opportunity nevertheless to easily see what is otherwise normally hidden.
KBL Linking Ken, Betwa to hurt ecosystem: Govt report A study commissioned by the Union environment ministry has concluded that interlinking the Ken and Betwa would stifle the ecosystem services the Ken provided. The looked at the aspects of the ecosystem services the Ken provided and valued the benefits at nearly Rs 3,000 crore annually. It looked at the tourism potential, the withdrawal of sand, fisheries and the maintenance of the Panna Tiger Reserve, a part of which would be submerged in the interlinking of rivers. As a preface to the set of studies, the environment secretary wrote, “The fourteen factsheets offer authentic insights based on a robust methodology yet startling in their revelation of the true worth of our natural capital.” MoEF study shows how the Ken Betwa link will destroy the Ken River and the services of Rs 3000 Crores that the river provides, but that has not been taken into account. The report also comments on EIA, Public Consultation process and the Appraisal process. Thanks Nitin Sethi, for bringing this out.
Kerala State says ‘no’ to river-linking The State has reiterated its firm stance against the National Water Development Agency’s (NWDA) proposal to interlink the rivers Pampa and Achencoil with the Vaipar in Tamil Nadu. Addressing the 30th annual general meeting of the NWDA on June 22, Water Resources Minister Mathew T. Thomas said both the Pampa and the Achencoil were exclusively intra-State rivers and hence the State’s consent was a must even for considering its inclusion in the Inter Basin Water Transfers project. Mr. Thomas said Kerala had consistently held the view that the primacy of the States with regard to water resources be respected.
RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS
Centre Govt plans incentive to shift cargo transport from roads to waterways The shipping ministry plans to offer companies an incentive of Rs.1 per tonne per km to transport goods, including food grain, automobiles, cement and other commodities, through inland waterways and coastal shipping. The proposal has been discussed with stakeholders in the transport industry and would soon be presented before the cabinet for its approval. It is claimed that transportation of goods through national waterways is cheaper, but now it will need subsidy of Rs 1 per tonne km! The damage to the river, the environment and people are in any case subsidies, but now Inland waterways transport will get financial subsidy.
Uttarakhand Water & Env ministries at odds over hydro projects Even as the Centre wants to present a united stand in the Supreme Court, ministries of environment and water continue to be on different pages over the issue of hydroelectric power projects in Uttarakhand. The water resources ministry has been opposed to new dams meant for such projects, which it believes would affect the uninterrupted flow of the river Ganga – a prerequisite to keep the river clean and allow it to self-rejuvenate. The environment ministry, on the other hand, wants to go ahead with some of the projects, arguing that it would not adversely affect the flow of the river Ganga. More than 70 projects with 9,000 Mw of capacity have been mapped out to be established in Uttarakhand. The Water resources ministry has warned that this potential was assessed without taking in to consideration the carrying capacity of the rivers in the hill state, the environmental flow of rivers, the integrity of rivers and their tributaries and other competing needs in the hills. It noted that existing clearances had been given on a piece-meal basis without assessing the total and cumulative impact of the dams on the fragile hill region. Another page in the long saga to push hydropower projects in Uttarakhand by hook or by crook. As per another media report, the 2013 catastrophe had been long in the making. In 2009, a series of flash floods and landslides killed more than 70 people in the state. This was a warning which was repeated in another killer flash flood in 2012. While govts in Delhi & Dehradun remained indifferent to any course correction, calamity struck in June 2013. 3 years after that catastrophe, govts of the state and at the Centre appear bent on unlearning the lessons. The shaken state govt stood its ground & reiterated its goal to make the state power surplus by 2016. The Power Ministry at Centre has already submitted its affidavit in support of the Environment Ministry’s century-old 1000-cusec formula. If Uma Bharti relents, it may soon be business as usual & work will begin on new dams. “WILFUL AMNESIA” is the diagnosis of Jay Mazoomdaar as he takes us through the twists and turns regarding dams in Uttarakhand and their role in Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013, particularly the role of centre and state govt. One more media report finds that three years after the devastation caused by monstrous landslides in, the Centre and state govt focus only on one thing: how to increase the pilgrim inflow. No one in the govt seems bothered about the very cause of the natural calamity. It further mentions that hydro power projects on the rivers have been blamed for triggering the disaster but it seems that no lessons have been learnt. The 99Mw projects owned by LANCO and L&T at Berubagad were blamed for widespread landslides, but these have been given the go-ahead despite protests from environmentalists. On the other hand, out of the over 4000 villages destroyed, Dewali Bhanigram became a ‘village of the widows.’ With limited resources and charities that would exhaust soon, these women run the risk of falling into the debt trap. Meanwhile, State politicians including CM have nothing to offer but homilies and empty promises.
Himachal CPI-M seeks probe into Himachal hydro project The CPI-M’s State unit on June 25 sought probe into the financial bungling and ongoing unrest for over 3 months in the state-run upcoming 450Mw Shongtong-Karcham hydro power project in Kinnaur district. Strike by employees of the project entered 101 days on June 25. They were demanding implementation of labour laws by Patel Engineering Ltd undertaking its construction. The state-run HPPCL is executing the project with the funding of the Asian Development Bank. Financial bungling, labour unrest, questionable appointments in an ADB funded big hydro in over exploited Sutlej basin. According to one more news Sutlej river is again blocked by landside at Urni village in Kinnaur district in, since last over six days. Himachal Pradesh government officials are saying that National Disaster Rescue Force and Army have so far failed to help and some labourer and an officer of the HPRTDC took risk to manually blast part of the blockage. This site has become very landslide prone due to the Karcham Wangtoo and other hydropower projects. The landslide here had blocked the river almost exactly two years ago, as also on other occasions in the past. In another development a retired block development officer, Balbir Singh Yarki, after seeing big hydro power companies showing interest in tapping the hydro power potential of Lahaul valley, had motivated the people to form a cooperative society to generate hydro power through their own projects. Today, residents of around 30 villages of Chandra Valley in Lahaul-Spiti district have scripted a new story of empowerment as around 850 members have become shareholders of the Chandra Valley Hydro Power Project Cooperative Society Limited, which has bagged a small hydro power project in the valley. According to one more news report the first unit of 65Mw Kinnaur Hydro Project has become operational. The project is expected to generate 35 cr units of electricity annually that will give about Rs 110-cr income. The project had the most difficult logistics and approaches with intake works located at an elevation of 2826 m, making it one of the highest constructed intake structures for a major project in the state. The second unit was expected to be commissioned in July. Each of affected family would be provided 100 units of electricity per month for 10 years. In addition, 1% of revenue from power generation would be contributed towards LADF during the operation stage. On June 30 the CPI-led CITU leaders declared that they would sit on an indefinite hunger strike from July 02 in Shimla. They apprehended that an influential section in the govt was likely to resort to violence at the 460mw Shongtong-Karcham power project site in Kinnaur to crush peaceful strike by project workers continuing since March. The leaders alleged that the district administration of Kinnaur was not serious about resolving the workers’ dispute about pending wages and other issues. The CITU leaders charged that the state government was not serious on the issue & the Labour Officer, who has issued notices to the company, has been transferred.
J&K Megawatts of inefficiency As per official figures the state’s power revenue deficit in is Rs 3,927 cr. The gradual increase in recovery from consumers since 1996-97, from Rs 54.33cr to Rs 1937.27cr (2015-16) is no match for the power purchase cost. A broad indicator of the operational inefficiency is the magnitude of AT&C (aggregate technical & commercial) losses: 59%in 2015-16, the highest in the country. There’s yet another glaring gap: 21 power projects operated by the state power development corporation don’t follow any standard operating manual necessary for energy accounting. The argument that construction of new hydro projects can improve the power supply and prevent human casualties in hospital due to irregular power supply is emotional and irrational. Other sources of renewable energy like solar and wind can easily meet the required energy demand. The hydro power & water issues created a stir in the State Assembly where representatives have accused NHPC to be interested more in profit & depriving the state of the economic benefits of its water resources. An RTI reply has also disclosed that NHPC had earned Rs19442cr in the past 14 years from electricity sales & J&K was the second-largest buyer of electricity produced in its own territory. The assembly also blamed the World Bank-mediated 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India & Pakistan for completely disregarding the economic interests of Kashmiris. Having realized that the termination of the treaty is not legally possible, the legislators, irrespective of party affiliation, now have demanded that the losses to J&K due to the Indus Waters Treaty should be quantified so that compensation of these losses is sought from New Delhi. On the other hand, according to NHPC statement, environment ministry has given green nod to 624Mw Kiru hydro project to be developed on Chenab river in Kishtwar district. Rs4640.88cr Kiru project will be developed by Chenab Valley Power Projects (CVPP) a joint venture among NHPC, J&K State Power Development Corp & Power Trading Corporation of India. The press brief also says that the forest clearance for the project has already been accorded by J&K govt in May this year. Techno-economic appraisal for the project has also been accorded by Central Electricity Authority on June 13. In addition to the Kiru HEP, CVPP Ltd also envisages the implementation of 1000Mw Pakal Dul HEP, 540Mw Kwar HEP & 550Mw Dulhasti (Stage-II) HEP (550 mw) in Chenab river basin. The Kiru HE Project is proposed on river Chenab near village Patharnakki in district Kishtwar. On the contrary, at a time when glaciers & water bodies are shrinking in J&K to a high level of pollution, it has come to light that the Environment Ecology and Remote Sensing (EERS) Department has conducted no study in 3 decades to understand the adverse impact of infrastructural projects on environment. The EERS Department has not conducted any environment impact assessment study of power projects, firing ranges and constructions raised in tourist resorts, officials said. Even the shrinking lakes and rivers have never raised the interest of the department. Scientists and officials concerned of the EERS Department replied in negative to the queries that whether any environment impact assessment study had been conducted by the department. Kashmir’s EERS Dept has done no impact assessment studies for three decades, claiming it has no expertise.
Arunachal Hydropower developers asked to follow pollution norms The Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) has directed hydropower developers to strictly follow the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board for monthly monitoring of ambient air quality, river water quality and environmental noise level. At a meeting convened on June 27 to take stock of the status of the construction activities, APSPCB chairman Techi Tagi Tara emphasised on following the guidelines as quoted in the Environmental Clearance and Consent Order issued by the Centre and the APSPCB. The Board also warned of necessary action against the defaulters. CPCB’s guideline does not include the impact on aquatic ecology of the rivers which is totally destroyed by HEPs. The report also briefs on some under construction and halted HEP projects.
Assam State to be power sufficient by 2018 Minister of State for Power Pallab Lochan Das June 22 said that efforts are on to make the State power sufficient by 2018. According to the minister the State Govt will hold a CM-level discussion with Arunachal Pradesh Govt, besides holding a discussion with the Central Govt on the issue of the 2000 Mw Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project. He also said that it will take into consideration the apprehensions of the people of Assam on the adverse impacts of this mega hydel project.
SANDRP Blog नदी के बदले नदी दे सकते है? on Maheshwar, Narmada & fishing communities of India Riverine fisherfolk find no mention in our decision making surrounding dams today. Even popular movements have ignored this section of the society. Only in Narmada Valley there may be lakhs of fisherfolk who are suffering the impacts of dam development on their rivers. Across the country, the figure is more than 10 million. The Expert Appraisal Committee of Environment Ministry which recommends Environment Clearance to dam projects has consistently ignored issues of fisherfolk and fisheries. The only thing it recommends in terms of fisheries management plan is fish hatcheries, even when there is no assessment of if hatcheries are useful, effective, how hatcheries function, whether they function at all, if at all they benefit the fisheries, etc. It is time we acknowledge the Guardians of the River who are in tune with the pulse, ebb, flow, tide and silt of the river. The fishing community has faced historic injustice at our hands. Also see, Why Narmada fisherfolk have no land rights, no water rights, no compensation benefits
Maharashtra Kalu dam scam: 5 state officials, contractor booked for cheating The Thane unit of the ACB on June 27 booked 5 engineers from the state irrigation department 4 of them have retired & the partners of the controversial firm FA Enterprises that had won the bid to build Kalu dam in Murbad allegedly at an inflated cost and by violating tender norms. An offence of cheating, connivance and wilful fraud on the state was registered against Nisar Khatri of FA Enterprises, former executive director with the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC) Girish Babar, former chief engineer of irrigation department Babasaheb Patil, former superintending engineer Satish Wadgave, former executive engineer of water supplies Jayant Kasar, and former chief engineer of the Tapi water supply project Haridas Tonpe. This is indeed GREAT news! Kudos to untiring efforts from Anjali Damaniya, Indavi Tulpule ane the entire team, including tribals. We had written about this in our report on Dams for Mumbai. Earlier in the week the ACB on June 23 registered a case for amassing disproportionate assets against a former Chief Engineer with the KIDC, who was earlier booked in the irrigation scam that allegedly caused a loss of over Rs. 92 crore to the State government. According to ACB officers, the accused has been identified as Balasaheb Patil. He was among the six former KIDC officials booked by the ACB in Aug 2015 in connection with the alleged misappropriation in awarding the contract for construction of a dam over the Balganga river in Raigad in 2009. This does not sound promising. On the other hand, despite FIRs filed against politically-influential irrigation contractors, the state govt has neither cancelled nor blacklisted any of the contractors. Currently, the irrigation scam is being investigated by the ACB & contractors in three dam projects have been booked for cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy. This is shocking. Govt. has not cancelled contracts even of those agencies against which FIRs have been filed!
Telangana KCR’s key irrigation plan in choppy waters The proposed land acquisition for an irrigation project in CM K Chandrasekhar Rao’s home district of Medak has triggered massive protests by villagers and the opposition parties. The row over land acquisition for the Rs9,800 crore Mallanna Sagar project is turning out to be the first major political test for the CM as he completes two years in office after having successfully spearheaded the movement for separate Telangana state. Over 30,000 people spread over 14 villages in Medak district have hit the streets opposing the land acquisition. The local environmental groups and the opposition Congress and left parties are backing the protesters.
Punjab Cotton crop withers as canals go dry for repair Cotton plants in three dozen villages are dying due to a drought-like situation as the minor and main canals of the southern distributaries have been running dry for the past month in the Fazilka area. The fact that the release of water from upstream have been held due to the cleaning and repair of the canals during the peak sowing and cultivation period has irked farmers. The non-perennial southern distributaries system comprising about two dozen minor and main canals is the lifeline of Fazilka, one of the largest cotton producing belts of the state.
SANDRP Guest Blog Ganga River, dredged to death by Nachiket Kelkar The effect of dredging has made itself felt in an unprecedented manner this season – even as it is just the beginning of works for the inland waterways development program. This effect has been over and above the already poor river flow in the 2015-16 dry season. And it is not that the effects of dredging will go away if there is more water – but having historically low flows certainly worsens the impacts multiple times. Although an above-average flood is expected in this year’s monsoons, how much water will actually reach and stay in the lower Ganga basin is another matter. Irrigation demands and groundwater extraction in the upstream remain insatiable, there is no attempt to optimize or regulate that.
Maharashtra IGPA joins unscientific river dredging drive India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), the apex body for the pulses and grains industry in India, has launched a major water resource revival project in drought-hit villages of the Marathwada region. The project involves widening and deepening of the riverbeds and nallahs in these villages to ensure that rain water is captured in the riverbed for it to percolate into the surrounding soil. This will not only improve the water table in the soil but will also replenish the water in the wells and bore wells of the villages, making enough drinking water available to villagers. Now IPGA is also indulging in widening and straightening of rivers and nallahs in Marathawada without any assessment of impacts. Meanwhile a recent survey has revealed the cause of rampant pollution of Jayanti nullah & suggested ways for the state and central governments to clean up the 14km long stream passing through the city. The 3-month survey undertaken by the Association of Architects and Engineers, Kolhapur, shows that the Jayanthi nullah receives sewage from over 217 minor nullahs along its flow. 26 experts carried out the exhaustive exercise for the first time to map the nullah with its catchment area of 2,500 hectares. The survey is part of the association’s action plan to make Panchganga river pollution-free.
MP Dead fishes float in Ujjain’s Kshipra river Pilgrims reaching banks of Kshipra river in Ujjain on June 23 were shocked to see hundreds of dead fishes floating in the water, where crores of people took bath during Simhastha maha kumbh that concluded a month ago. The dead fishes acted as a deterrent for people following Hindu belief, who take the Kshipra water in their mouths while performing religious rituals. The pilgrims raised an alarm, following which the district administration swung into action, attempting to find the reason for the deaths of fishes. With KUMBH ceremonial situation over, Kshipra river back to its old status, with polluted water of Khan river also entering it.
Karnataka Where the Vrushabhavathy meets the Arkavathy The Vrushabhavathy river rises from the Bull Temple in Basavangudi and meets the Arkavathy, which rises from the Nandi Hills range, at Kudlu. Vishwanath Srikantaiah traces the journey of the two rivers and their relevance to Bengaluru. Couple of lines say it all about sorrow state of our rivers ,” Urban rivers have become ‘nullahs’ carrying sewage, the rural rivers if you can even call it suchare dammed for urban water needs, for irrigation and for electricity.”
Odisha 10 years old girl can name 165 rivers in a minute It’s definitely the season of child prodigies. Making their motherland prouder by the day, these wonder kids will surely take the world by storm one day. This story celebrates a 10-year-old Odisha girl, Meghali Malbika who entered the India Book of Records for naming 165 rivers in one minute.
NARMADA NBA Press Release Massive sea water ingress, till 40 Kms in Bharuch Several Newspapers in Gujarat have reported about the Arabian Sea ingress up to 40 Kms and depleting width of the river Narmada near Bharuch city, exposing the severe environmental impacts of a series of dams built upstream. This clearly indicates the serious impact of Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat on to agricultural land, famers, fish workers as well as the industries in the Dahej coastal areas. It was always an anticipated and expected impact of building a monstrous dam and stopping the huge water flow of Narmada coming from a distance as long as 1300 Kms.
MP The fishing community suffers due to Narmada Dam Listen the radio programme by video volunteers Narmada fishermen explains how dam on Narmada has turned the river flowless and impacted fish population thus resultantly their livelihood.
GANGA Centre Govt invites scientists to showcase tech for Ganga clean-up The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) now plans to carry out “in-situ bioremediation” of drains joining the river. NMCG has issued a “global invitation” for interested scientists or firms to come to India and demonstrate their technological suitability, feasibility, financial & limiting conditions at their own cost for a minimum initial period of one month. The initial experiment will, however, be limited to selected drains only. NMCG has asked interested firms to reach out to them by 5 July and are expected to choose them by July-end or early August. But experts are not very sure about the technology. On the other hand, in its fourth meeting this year, the empowered steering committee (ESC) of the National Ganga River Basin Authority has cleared projects worth Rs580cr, chiefly relating to the development of bathing ghats and to modernise crematoriums that run on electricity. Along with these projects, the ESC also took up a couple of sewerage projects for appraisal that will be executed by UP Jal Nigam in Ramana and Mathura-Vrindavan.
UP Notice to 6 Amroha industries for polluting Ganga tributary Pollution Control Board (PCB) on June 28 has issued notices to six factories in Amroha district for allegedly polluting river Bagad, a tributary of the Ganga. It directed each factory to clean up the river at their own expense. One of the factories is said to be owned by a senior BJP leader. These six industries are located in the Gajraula area of Amroha district which are allegedly discharging pollutants into the Bagad and eventually contaminating the Ganga. The confluence of Bagad and Ganga is near Badaun district. The industries have also been directed to treat and discharge their water. If anyone is found violating the instruction, strict action would be taken against them.
YAMUNA Study Yamuna polluted beyond control A study published in the International Journal of Engineering Sciences and Research Technology concluded that even the expensive water treatment plants were incapable of treating the polluted water, and that the water was unfit for any purpose. With its status close to ‘dead’, the Yamuna river in Delhi sees no signs of healing. The water is toxic and unfit for any purpose even after treatment, a study has revealed. Even expensive water treatment technologies are incapable of treating the polluted river water. And, the conventional water processes based on chemical filtration and biological treatment are not suitable for removing the TDS,” stated the study published in International Journal of Engineering Sciences and Research Technology. The study also found major groundwater pollution in the Yamuna river bed. The researchers have recommended industrial and untreated sewage waste to be checked immediately.
Delhi All new plan to revive Yamuna The State Govt. has drawn up an elaborate plan for Yamuna revival, focusing on the cleaning of drains, development of green areas along the river and creation of reservoirs. Involving several agencies, including the Centre, DJB would supervise the work that’s expected to take about two years and cost over Rs 6,000 crore. There have been plans earlier that haven’t been fruitful, but the govt claims this one would work. According to DJB assessment almost 168 MLD sewage & polluted water enter Najafgarh drain at Chhawla. The total estimated sludge in Najafgarh drain is about 10 million tonnes & the cost of dredging as suggested in plan, would be Rs 300m per metric tonne. Under this plan, drying and disposal of sludge is equally critical. The cost of one such 20K tonne capacity plant is expected to be around Rs 25cr & Govt. has decided to set up plants at the STPs at Nilothi, Rithala, Rohini, Dwarka and Sonia Vihar. The 13 ETPs in industrial areas have a combined treatment capacity of 44.6 MGD, but only 10 MGD is being treated & only 2 plants are biological ETPs. Experts are also upset with Govt. proposal to develop land along drains for commercial purposes. Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan has warned that no development of any kind, including residential, should be allowed up to the highest flood line of any drain or the river. Removing of Millennium Depot would be a positive step but it seems Delhi Govt. is going to legalize big unauthorized construction like CWG Village, old Jaitpur, Sonia Vihar, Jagatpur, Samadhis, Delhi Secretariat and Velodrome by creating a special zone. In one more development, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on June 16 has also asked officials to fast-track Yamuna boat transport project that seeks to start the boat service from Wazirabad to Fatehpur Jat and check if it could be commenced from October. Transport Ministry officials have also raised the issue of building terminals on the banks where boats could berth. Officials from the Centre & Delhi Govt. sides are expected to visit the sites in a day or two. Delhi govt has asked the Centre if 54-km Najafgarh Drain could be marked as an inland waterway. Both sides discussed several pending issues, including dredging of Yamuna River in order to take up the project. Both State & Centre Govt. seems sailing away from the core issues of pollution and lack of low turning Yamuna in a dead river. Unless these problems are addressed running a boat in Yamuna is a bit far fetched notion.Meanwhile, in a set back to Govt., DJB’s contentious interceptor sewage project, delayed several times in past, is stuck again interceptor sewage project, delayed several times, stuck again as the green tribunal has restrained the DJB from spending more than Rs 50 cr till it gives its approval. According report about 82% of project work is already complete. The project, a big step towards cleaning Yamuna, was expected to be completed before the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but was finally inaugurated in 2011. The NGT had observed in Nov 2015 that despite spending heavily, the pollution level in the river had become worse. It then issued directions to the DJB not to spend more than Rs 50 cr on any project related to the cleaning of Yamuna.
AOL Row AOL hints at approaching SC against NGT order Displaying satellite images and photographs during a presser Art of Living Foundation legal experts has refuted the allegations that its 3-day mega event had damaged the Yamuna floodplains. They have also hinted that AOL may approach the Supreme Court against the green tribunal’s order, which asked it to pay Rs.5 crore as compensation. Meanwhile the foundation has deposited Rs.4.75 crore “environment compensation” with the Delhi Development Authority. The Art of Living claimed that there has been no scientific assessment of pre and post situation of the floodplains till now. Surprisingly praising AOL for restoring the Yamuna’s floodplains, Water Minister Uma Bharati on June 06 said the place had become so “beautiful” that she was left wondering if it was the same place.
Haryana State must get its share from Yamuna CM Manohar Lal Khattar on June 21 urged the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) to ensure release of the state’s legitimate share of water from Yamuna and asked the Delhi govt to pay Rs 150 cr on account of the extra raw water supplied. He also sought early execution of the Renuka, Kishau & Lakhwar dam projects to overcome water shortage in the state. Speaking at the 36th meeting of NCRPB in Delhi, Khattar said that large dry and arid areas of Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat districts of Haryana falling in the NCR were being deprived of their legitimate share in Yamuna water as water meant for the areas was not being released at Okhla. The CM said the Upper Yamuna River Board is planning to install telemetry system at different points on Yamuna for accurate assessment of the flow in the river and this will help Haryana get water as per its share in Gurgaon canal.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
SANDRP Guest Blog Threats to East Kolkata wetlands are threats to Kolkata by Chicu Lokgariwar & Usha Dewani The East Kolkata Wetlands support an incredible number of people mostly poor. Ms. Dhruba Das Gupta, an environmentalist in the city, clarifies that about a lakh of people from 32 revenue villages depend on the wetlands; 20,000 are directly employed in fishing or vegetable rearing. According to a study under the ‘Renewable natural resource-use in livelihoods at the Calcutta peri-urban interface’ project, the highly productive fish ponds produce 13,000 tonnes of fish annually, and 150 tonnes of vegetables are harvested daily. In addition to fish and vegetables farming, other sources of employment are garbage sorting, trading, auctioneering, selling, raising fish seed, making nets, maintaining drainage, and reinforcing banks– not the sort of jobs the elite concern themselves with. It is not just livelihoods that depend on the East Kolkata Wetlands. The lives of the people of Kolkata are also dependent on the wetlands.
National Draft Wetland Rule 2016 weaker & ambiguous Wetland conservation experts in West Bengal and Assam have dubbed the Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 as “considerably weaker” and “ambiguous” compared to the 2010 version in terms of offering protective measures to the wetland ecosystem. Describing as “vague” and “generic” the definition of wetlands in the draft rules, conservationist Bonani Kakkar says the wording “would not be of any help in identifying the wetlands which should be included in the inventory and notified for protection”. Stressing for retaining the clauses of the 2010 rules, she also criticised the section that deals with prohibited activities within a wetland. India has over 20,000 big and small wetlands, of which, for inexplicable reasons, only about 115 have been identified for coverage under the current national wetland conservation programme being run in 24 states. Of these, only 26 have been designated formally as wetlands under the Ramsar Global Convention on wetland conservation, which was adopted by over 100 countries in 1971 in the Ramsar town in Iran. Clearly, the attempts made so far to preserve wetlands have been far from adequate. The laxity on this count has already resulted in widespread encroachment of these ecosystems by the land mafia. Their undue exploitation has caused considerable contraction in their economic and environment value, including their role as carbon sinks to clean up the environment.
Karnataka Govt approves measures for conservation of Bengalure lakes The Govt has approved a series of measures for the abatement of pollution and for the conservation and preservation of lakes in Bengaluru. The decision was taken at a meeting jointly chaired by Union Chemicals Minister of Chemicals & Environment Minister on June 14. It has been decided to initiate 24×7 online monitoring of all STPs, as well as lake water quality by concerned authorities. The corporate sector is also being involved in the effort to conserve and preserve the lakes & the progress will be monitored every 6 months. Some of the other actions that have been agreed upon include:
- All residential group housing projects/apartments with >20 units and total build-up area of 2000 sq.mtr. to install STP.
- Re-use of treated sewage for various purposes and dual piping system to be prescribed in apartments/commercial establishments for re-use of treated sewage.
- Regular monitoring of STPs to be carried out by State Pollution Control Board.
- Retrofitting of existing STPs to meet the revised effluent norms.
- Proper management of plastic waste to ensure that it is not dumped in the lakes.
- Madivala lake to be developed as a biodiversity park on the lines of Yamuna Biodiversity Park under the guidance of Karnataka Knowledge Commission.
- Lake Wardens to be appointed for involvement of public in lake conservation.
- CSR funds to be tapped for conserving and developing lakes.
According to another news report, the newly formed Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA), which in its earlier avatar as the Lake Development Authority landed in a soup for leasing out 4 lakes in the city, repitched for contributions from the corporate sector to conserve & rejuvenate lakes. In response, 5 firms Biocon Ltd., Wipro Ltd, the UB Group, Mphasis India, and Sensara Engineering signed the Expression of Interest with KLCDA on June 13. The authority would now work with corporate companies and the civic agencies to draw up detailed project reports for works to be taken up in the lakes. However, commercial activity, advertisements and charging any entry fee were prohibited.
Maharashtra HC raps Govt. for seeking to modify wetland order The Bombay high court on June 27 rebuked the state govt for seeking modification of its March 2013 order which banned construction and reclamation on wetlands. The high court was hearing a PIL by NGO Vanshakti regarding non-implementation of the Wetland Rules 2010. On March 19, 2013, while banning construction and reclamation of wetlands, the court had asked if the state government if it will treat the Centre’s wetland atlas as its brief document until it prepares its own atlas. The high court told Mattos to inform it whether the state govt wants to withdraw or persist with plea for modification during the next hearing on July 4.
Delhi Govt sets up committee to restore Capital’s water bodies The 1000-odd water bodies of Delhi, including village ponds, marshes, lakes and step wells, may finally get a fresh lease of life. Delhi CM has constituted a high-level committee to look into matters related to water bodies following a NGT orders that asked the State Govt., DJB & the Central Ground Water Authority were to submit a compliance report to the tribunal on or before Aug 9. According to another news reports a AAP MLA is also planning to take up the revival of a “75 acre dead waterbody” inside Shankar Vihar cantonment area. As per the news the MLA already has met with the defence minister, Manohar Parrikar to request that the revival be allowed by Delhi Govt. & central agencies. In a significant development, on June 23, the Green Tribunal directed the Delhi govt to revive waterbodies in Dwarka sub-city before the onset of monsoon after a plea alleged that they were in a dilapidated condition. The order came while hearing a plea, filed by activist Diwan Singh, which claimed that enormous amounts of rainwater is wasted due to dilapidated condition of the waterbodies in Dwarka and urgent action was needed for effective utilisation of such bodies to store rainwater which the area received annually. According to latest update he DJB plans to revive the 100 water bodies & use them as recreational spaces as well as grounds for rainwater harvesting. These water bodies are currently either under the Delhi govt’s revenue department or the Delhi DDA. The NGT had ordered the Delhi govt to take over a few water bodies in Dwarka for revival. The first few ponds where the DJB will start work are in Dwarka where the Dwarka Water Bodies Committee has been active for the past few years. Delhi has more than 500 water bodies, though unofficially close to 900 have been identified.
J&K Valley’s floating marvels dying a slow death The number of houseboats on the Dal and Nigeen Lakes is reducing with every passing year and its owners say repairing or renovating the existing ones too was difficult.
Centre Govt’s sand mining guidelines look for alternative sources To promote sustainable sand mining, the Union environment ministry in sustainable sand mining management guidelines 2016 has suggested tapping “alternative sources of sand and gravel” like sand that accumulates at the bottom of dams. The guidelines stressed on “reducing consumption of sand” and focusing on alternative sources of sand. The guidelines also says that because sand is still very cheap—sand itself is freely accessible (and) only extraction and transportation costs need to be covered—there is little or no incentive to induce a change in our consumption. Despite the very high value of minerals found in the sand, it is mostly used for concrete or is buried under highways. The guidelines further said that training of architects and engineers, new laws and regulations, and positive incentives are needed to initiate a shift for lowering our dependency on sand. On June 28, in its latest endeavour to lend transparency to the clearance process, the environment ministry launched a portal to facilitate online submission and tracking of requests to mine sand and minor minerals. According to environment minister the web portal will lead to the empowerment of the project proponent, as it not only enhances transparency of the entire application process, but also enables the proponents to track their applications online.
Haryana Sand Mining set to resume in state Issues pertaining to the resumption of mining, including illegal mining, were discussed at a high-level review meeting of the Mines and Geology Department held under the chairmanship of CM Manohar Lal Khattar on June 23. Minister of State for Mines & Geology Nayab Singh Saini also state that two major mining blocks in the Ghaggar river from Panchkula to Ambala & the other in the Yamuna in Yamunanagar district would be operational soon as environmental clearance was being expected from the Union Environment Ministry. The e-tendering process for the allotment of blocks across the state was also at an advanced stage. Mining resumed in Mahendragarh & Bhiwani districts last year after over 5 years. In a major shift from the earlier policy, the Khattar govt formulated a policy for the allotment of smaller blocks through e-tendering. On the other hand, Deputy Commissioner Sanjeev Verma has recommended action against a private firm, Om Minerals, for illegal mining of gravel along the Krishnawati river at Bhadenti village in Nangal Choudhary tehsil. An inquiry report prepared by the District Development & Panchayat Officer, Narnaul, revealed the firm caused losses amounting to several crores to the state exchequer by carrying out illegal gravel mining in collusion with officials of the Mining and Forest Department. The report also alleged tree felling on large scale by the firm. The DC has reportedly written to the Mining and Forest Department to take stern action against guilty officials besides directing the Mining Officer to recover losses incurred by the state exchequer from the firm.
Karnataka Panel to design modalities for sand extraction in CRZ areas The district administration on June 22 constituted a committee to recommend measures to be taken to reintroduce traditional sand extraction from rivers in Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) areas within a fortnight. Chairing a meeting on sand extraction here, Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim said the committeed be headed by Additional DC Kumar and comprises Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Crime), officials from the Mines and Geology Department & 3 representatives from sand extractors. Only traditional wooden boats (paathi doni) have to be used for the process even as there would be prohibition on using machinery to unload sand from boats and load it to trucks. Regulations formed regarding sand mining in CRZ areas in Mangalore but the committee includes no one from environment or local community background, but includes three from miners.
Kerala Department to intensify raids against sand mining menace The district administration of Kannur is planning to intensify the raid to curb the sand mafia in the district, with the help of police, as they still continue sand mining even after the expiry of the permitted date. The permission to mine sand from the ferry points in the rivers in the district expired on June 16 but the menace of sand mafia is still a headache to the police and the authorities. District collector P Balakiran said that sand mafia was strong and it was difficult for the revenue officials even to check all the vehicles. He also said that even the police officials are not safe from the threat of the sand mafia.
J&K Govt cancels mining lease order, suspends Director The state govt has cancelled its order of granting mining lease to a non-state subject after directions from the Assembly Speaker following an uproar in the House on June 25, seeking its revocation and punishment to officers concerned. This information was given by Minister for Industries and Commerce Chander Parkash in the Assembly today. The issue concerning SRO-105 was raised National Conference members and others, including CPM member MY Tarigami. The minister said the order of mining lease issued on May 12 had been cancelled “with immediate effect”. Chander Parkash said the Director of the Geology and Mining Department had been suspended and the order cancelled. He added that consent by the Pollution Control Board was not under SRO-105.
MP Ex MLA’s grandson sent to judicial custody One of the biggest operators involved in illegal sand mining in Morena, KP Kansana, was sent to judicial remand on June 22. He is grandson of a former Congress MLA. After his police custody ended, he was produced in a court. Accused of thrashing toll booth employees in Morena on June 15, police had announced a reward of Rs 10K for his arrest. Kansana has been involved in illegal sand mining for long. In 2014, he had opened fire on the jawans of special armed force who were deputed to check sand mining. After the incident he had absconded and the police had announced Rs 15K reward on his arrest.
Himachal Roads used for illegal mining dismantled near Nagri Roads, constructed by the mining mafia to lift stone sand and other building material near Nagri, were on June 21 dismantled in the presence of Palampur SDM Ajit Bhardwaj and a heavy police force. He closed all the roads leading to the mining site. Local residents had filed a complaint to the SDM that illegal mining was going on in the area posing a serious threat to the environment. Villagers had also complained that if no timely action was taken, there could large-scale erosion, which could damage residential houses and agriculture land.
Gujarat Illegal sand mining going on unchecked A team of Ahmedabad rural police’s special operations group raided a mining site at Gyaspur near the Sabarmati river, late on June 25 night, after reports emerged of illegal sand mining. The team seized vehicles worth Rs 1.36 crore including 3 earth moving machines, 2 dumpers and 12 tractors with trailers. Sources said that the accused could have already mined sand worth crores as lone officials of the mines and minerals department are often sent threatened into going back by the group.
Delhi Experts seek revival of natural drainage system According to green experts, covered-up and misused natural drains are one of the major contributors to water-logging. With large portions of Delhi’s storm water drains covered or co-opted as sewage drains for unauthorized colonies and slums, the excess run-off during the rainy season has nowhere to go. Similarly, citing examples of how covered drains pose problems with their cleaning and can result in flooding a recent report titled “Functional plan on drainage for NCR” of NCR Planning Board has recommended avoiding building roads or parking lots by covering storm water drains. The report also said that even the bridge/ elevated road running over the drain along the alignment of the drain should also be discouraged as pillars obstruct the flow and movement of cleaning machines and equipment. Meanwhile, unable to get a major drain in south Delhi cleaned despite the Delhi high court’s orders, a resident of South Extension has filed a contempt petition in the case. According to the applicant, the high court after hearing the case on May 27 directed the civic agencies, primarily the South Delhi Municipal Corporation & the PWD to desilt the Kushak drain by June 10. The municipal officials denied the allegations and said the writ wasn’t against the corporation. They blamed their counterpart, PWD, for the delay. While senior PWD officials said the delay had been due to the ongoing construction of the Barapullah flyover.
Uttarakhand Cloudbursts in Pithoragarh & Chamoli kill 29 people At least 29 people have died and over 15 are missing after cloudbursts and landslides triggered by heavy rain. In Pithoragarh district, 11 people including 3 children have lost their lives. Many are feared missing around the Didihat area where six houses caved in due to heavy rain and mudslide late last night. More than 100 mm rains were recorded in just two hours, leading to flooding of most of the rivers in the hill state. The Met department had issued a 72-hour warning from late last night for incessant rainfall in the region including 7 hill-districts of Garhwal and Kumaon Region. Landslide triggered by torrential rain killed 10 people, including 2 women, & injured 4 others at Bhalukpong in West Kameng district of Arunachal on June 30. According a PTI report 5 officials of the Intelligence Bureau are missing following the landslide in Bhalukpong, 220 km west of state capital Itanagar. Incessant rains in Manipur claimed 2 lives, inundated many areas in several districts and led to landslides which have blocked both highways connecting the mountainous state to the world, cutting of supplies of food and medicine. Also see, 5 recent incidents of cloudburst in India
Assam 9000 hit in year’s 2nd wave of floods Assam was hit by a second wave of floods on June 23, a week after the south-west monsoon arrived in the northeast on June 14. Nearly 29 villages have been inundated in the affected districts, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Karbi Anglong, and over 2,000 hectares of crop area flooded, the authority added. More than 8,000 people have been affected in Dhemaji alone. The eastern district, located on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, is usually the worst flood-hit district every year. A flood warning has been issued for Majuli island. The first wave of floods in April affected nearly one lakh people and killed nine. In a related report, repeated landslides on the Lumding Silchar hill section of the Northeast Frontier Railway have cut off a large part of the northeast for the past 36 days. Also see, Guwahati becomes first city to conduct mock drill for tackling urban floods
Himachal Artificial lake puts Kinnaur at flood risk Parts of Kinnaur district are reportedly at risk of heavy flooding after several boulders brought down by a landslide crashed into the Sutlej at Urni and blocked its flow, creating an artificial lake. According to Kinnaur MLA Jagat Singh Negi, it is feared heavy rains in the high hills may cause flooding, with the river already swelling at Urni. The district administration, which alleges the NDRF & the Army ignored their calls for assistance, has engaged labourers to clear the blockade through blasting. The blockade has been partially cleared.
Rajasthan Village fights off fluoride with water harvesting Life was hard till few years back, but changed for the better for the people of Charasada, a hamlet near Dudu in Jaipur district. Just four years ago, some 850 people living in 150 households here were highly distressed by the saline effect of the Sambhar Salt Lake in the hamlet’s groundwater. Women and children walked up to 3-km daily to fetch water from an open well and a bore well situated downstream of the village main pond. Due to high fluoride content in groundwater, the hand pump located nearby the main pond in the village did not yield potable water but people did not have options. Things began to change in 2012 when the villagers started harvesting rainwater at their homes. Gradually, the small intervention freed the villagers from the burden of fetching drinking water from long distances daily.
Centre Workshop on Palaeochannels held Palaeochannels evoke interest in view of its geological/ tectonic history, sediment domain and ground water prospects. Palaeochannel deposits are unconsolidated fluvial sediments, often coarse grained than adjoining flood plain deposits, and are valuable from ground water point of view. This was stated by Union Water Minister for State Sanwar Lal Jat while inaugurating a workshop on “Palaeochannels – Evolution and Ground Water Prospects” on June 15. The workshop synthesized views, ideas, information through deliberations by pan-India experts, stakeholders etc. The focal points of the deliberations were geologic/ climatic/ tectonic reasons for disappearance of rivers, location, alignment and geometry of palaeochannels, sedimentological characteristics, ground water prospects and recharge potentials, developing priorities for future investigation and research.
National Global water brands operating illegally in India: FSSAI Out of the 6,000 packaged drinking water bottling units in India, over 4,300 are operating without proper licences including the global names such as Bisleri, PepsiCo’s Aquafina & Coca-Cola’s Kinley. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex food and water regulation body, has put a number of large and small packaged water-selling firms under the scanner. According to the regulator, any packaged drinking water unit has to obtain two licences -one from the Bureau of Indian Standards & another from the FSSAI which ensures the safety of the water content and quality standard of the packaging material. According to industry estimates, the packaged water market, dominated by six players, including Bisleri, PepsiCo, Dhariwal, Tata Global Beverages, Parle and Coca Cola, is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 22% to ₹16,000 crore by 2018.
Kerala Coca-Cola bottling plant in troubled waters again Beverages major Coca-Cola is again in troubled waters. While it has for quite a while faced questions on over-usage of groundwater in its bottling plants, there is now a First Information Report (FIR) registered by the police in Kerala against company officials, on charge of exploiting and polluting groundwater sources. According to a report, one of the charges, and against top officials, including its India head, is for causing distress to the Scheduled Caste community in the Plachimada region. The plant that is the centre of the latest controversy is operated by the cola major’s bottling subsidiary, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages.
Delhi Deadline to install RWH systems extended DJB extended the deadline given to property owners to install rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems from June 30 to September 30. DJB officials say they want to make sure that the policy takes off not just on paper but in reality. For over a decade, policy makers in Delhi have tried to encourage rainwater harvesting. Policies have made the construction of RWH pits mandatory in buildings constructed on an area of more than 100 metre square. But the ground reality hasn’t changed. For around five years now, Delhi has only 500 approved RWH structures. The new dispensation wants to change this. How successful they are remains to be seen. According to the latest groundwater survey of Delhi, south Delhi is the most parched. Water is found only at a depth of 40 metres. The new policy does not stop people from building RWH structures using the old design. Permission to dig borewells, however, will have to be obtained. Also see, Reviving waterbodies, best bet for rainwater harvesting
Op-Ed Understanding aquifers by S. Vishwanath Wells and now increasingly borewells have become common features of water supply in our lives. With nearly 85% of drinking water needs in rural India and nearly 50% of urban domestic water needs coming from borewells and wells, it is but natural to see the rigs come and drill, making a lot of noise and raising tremendous dirt. Often not discussed is what is groundwater and where are we drawing the water from when we drill borewells. Here is a simple explanation, though in reality things are complex. Building bye-laws and city development plans should base decisions on aquifers and groundwater potential and availability and work towards protecting them. India is a groundwater-based civilisation. Understanding aquifers, wells, borewells and the linkage of rain, surface water and aquifers is crucial to sustainable water supply and water wisdom.
SANDRP Blog CWPRS: A 100-year-old institute has no achievement to show It is unfortunate that even after 100 years and witnessing too many disasters like Kosi floods in 2008 which breached the embankments, Uttarakhand floods in 2013, J&K floods of Sep 2014 with disastrous the consequences on cities like Srinagar, Chennai Floods of Dec 2015 Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) is not ready to acknowledge the limitations of the engineering approach when dealing with rivers. Nor do they seem to take the responsibility of the too many shortcomings and on ground malfunctioning of the projects which they have been technical consultant to.
Centre Govt. to release water conservation report To ensure majority of the funds allocated under the MGNREGS is spent on water conservation-related works, the Centre is planning to come out with a performance outcome report of such works done in 2015-16. That apart, the rural development ministry is planning to approach the finance department for more funds over and above the Rs 38,500 crore allocated in the 2016-17 Budget for such works. Of this, around Rs 23,000 crore has already been released with the remaining to be exhausted soon. The outcome report, meanwhile, will list out the initiatives that states have taken towards building farm ponds, canals, bunds, revitalising traditional water resources, and other such projects. The Union Cabinet chaired by the PM Narendra Modi has also approved the signing of a MoU between India and Tanzania for bilateral cooperation in water resources management and development. The areas of enhanced cooperation include techniques in water harvesting, surface and groundwater management and development and aquifer recharge. Collaboration and sharing of expertise on the areas mutually agreed will benefit the country in techniques in water harvesting, water conservation, surface and groundwater management and development, and aquifer recharge.
Maharashtra PMC eyes Mulshi water to meet crisis Drawing water for the city from the Mulshi reservoir, controlled by Tata Power, has been a long-pending demand. Even the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority recently issued an order, stating that water from the dam might be utilized for drinking purpose if necessary. Parineeta Dandekar & Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP demanded in a letter to the PM and the National Human Rights Commission that the Mulshi Dam water must be released for drinking purpose and all the documents related to the water lease agreement between the Tata Power and the State Govt must be put in the open domain. The Tata Power is steadfast on its stand that its officials are in touch with the irrigation officials from Pune & Raigad districts to decide on the water usage pattern, considering all the stakeholders and the power generation requirement.
Himachal Single authority to end water woes in Shimla The State Cabinet on June 22 approved the creation of the Greater Shimla Water Supply & Sewerage Circle as a ring-fenced single authority under the local civic body. The creation of the entity will help in building a financially viable and self-sustaining water utility under one single agency the Shimla Municipal Corporation & help tide over the shortage that the town is perennially plagued with. It will also fix responsibility as often the MC and the Irrigation & Public Health (IPH) Department are engaged in a blame-game for water woes. As of now, the MC & the IPH Department are jointly responsible for the water supply to the town and its suburbs.
Tamil Nadu Scarcity no reason to deny water connection: HC Madras Local bodies cannot refuse to provide drinking water connection to houses within their territorial jurisdiction on the ground that there was water scarcity in the locality, the Madras High Court Bench here has said. Disagreeing with such a stand reportedly taken by Eriyode town panchayat in Vedasandur taluk of Dindigul district, Justice M. Venugopal said: “Drinking water is a basic necessity of people and an integral part of the fundamental right to live with dignity guaranteed to the citizens of the country under Article 21 of the Constitution.” The observation was made while disposing of a writ petition filed by Chinnasamy, a resident of the town panchayat, accusing the local body of not providing water connection to his house despite making several representations since last year. Interesting order from High Court.
Uttarakhand Green groups prepare spring revival proposal A staggering 12,000 natural springs in the State have dried up. In order to work towards their revival, a number of NGOs and other organizations have prepared a proposal which would be forwarded through the state govt to the union ministry of drinking water & sanitation asking for a Rs 500cr grant in order to revive these water bodies. The proposal was prepared after 2-day marathon deliberations on the topic ‘Reviving springs in Uttarakhand’ at a workshop organised by the Dehradun-based NGO PSI which concluded on June 22. This will be done over a period of eight years through a steering committee consisting of members from the forest and rural development department, Central Soil & Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, IIT Roorkee, Central Ground Water Board and few other bodies. Some 300 organizations and experts would lend technical support.
Jharkhand Fluorosis cripple villagers, ‘hapless’ Govt. counts bodies Around 220 km north of Ranchi, in Gatiyahi & Harijan villages have lost 60 people to fluorosis. While several others are living with crippled bones and damaged joints, many bedridden with multiple fractures, slowly dying in the absence of treatment. There are a few families that have lost more than 2 to 3 members & the remaining ones too are counting their last days. The list of sufferers is endless but the State Govt. is yet to wake up and treat it as a calamity. No major effort is evident to rescue and rehabilitate the remaining people. Villagers, however, complained they have nowhere to go to fetch water when the govt has failed to make alternative arrangements as the entire area has a high fluoride concentration in groundwater. An ambitious effort to provide piped drinking water to this village from a nearby river also lies in limbo for the last three decades.
Delhi Use STP water in stadiums, washing of Metro trains The green tribunal has directed DJB to prepare a scheme in consultation with IIT-Delhi and Central Pollution Control Board on using the water released from STPs in stadiums and for washing Delhi Metro trains and DTC buses. The green panel asked DJB to conduct a study in this regard and find out the best possible way to re-use the water generated from the STPs. It also directed DDA to hold a meeting within 2 weeks with DJB, municipal corporations of Delhi, CPCB, CPWD & Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to find ways for possible end-use of treated sewage and identify activities for its re-use. According to one more news report Delhi has put its sewage plant data online & has become India’s first state to implement real-time online monitoring system of STP. The performance of all 36 STPs will be monitored and the data will be published online for analysis by the public. The decision was taken by DJB to fulfill the long-standing demand of water activists and NGT technical committees from across the country. On the other hand, the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2014-15 has found that 3 new water treatment plants were commissioned last year by the DJB without making provisions for adequate raw water & the sewerage infrastructure remained under-utilised. The audit found that the DJB failed to plan for the raw water needed for the plants. The DJB’s financial management was also questioned by the CAG, which found “avoidable expenditure” of Rs.15.33 cr in the laying of the Wazirabad sewer and that Rs. 104.20 cr less than the amount supposed to be withheld in penalties were kept from contractors. The audit found several irregularities and delays in both awarding contracts and executing them. Meanwhile the fact find report of DJB investigating the tanker scam cites many irregularities stating that lower rates were passed up in favour of higher prices and the process for floating tenders was not followed and a senior official provided misleading information.Also see, May 2016 issue of Jankirti magazine is focused on water.
Centre Need to rehabilitate the water logged areas Union Agriculture Minister of Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh on June 27 said that there is need to rehabilitate the water logged areas in the region which accounts for 41 lakh hectare through integrated farming system approach while addressing the Steering Committee meeting of Second Green Revolution at ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Patna.
National Can Govt. double farmers income NDA’s existing agricultural policies are ill-equipped to achieve the stated goal of doubling them in five years. In sum, unless the whole agri-system rises to the occasion, the dream of doubling farmers’ income in five years may remain a dream. And a farmer may still have to look up to the sky for any hope of revival, or even survival. This report shows how it is impossible to achieve the NDA target of doubling farm income in five years in REAL terms, in nominal terms even business as usual situation will achieve it.
Gujarat Strong anti-Modi sentiment brews among disgruntled farmers So strong is his personality cult that even 2 years after Anandiben Patel took over following Modi’s move to Delhi, the masses in Gujarat still associate the state’s BJP govt with Modi alone. After 3 consecutive years of poor rainfall, farmers are experiencing a severe scarcity of drinking water, fodder for cattle, affordable food grains and employment opportunities. Instead of declaring a drought, the State declared “semi-scarcity” in 1100 villages starting April. Also, at govt ration shops, subsidized wheat and rice are being distributed only after verifying villagers’ identities using a thumbprint scanner. These scanners work through online databases, so poor Internet connectivity often means no ration for those waiting in line. For affected, this is a clear failure of Modi’s highly-publicized Digital India campaign that seeks to improve Internet connectivity across the country. Villagers also hit out at the Sardar Patel Statue of Unity that the Modi govt plans to build near the Narmada dam, at a cost of nearly Rs 3000 cr.
Op-Ed Off-Farm Steps to decide fate of farmers by Ajay Vir Jakhar Doubling incomes depends more on what happens off the farm, in corridors of power. The Sangh parivar opposes farm policies their own government seems wanting to propagate. Chaotic confusion is apparent in policy inconsistencies and flip-flops. Fasal Bima Yojana, National Agricultural Markets, Soil health cards are bold visionary initiatives that are lacking without an enabling structure. Starting a year later after resolving contradictions and improving policy fine print would have been wiser than having to justify failure by expounding implementation hurdles in private while simultaneously conjuring success stories for public consumption.
Centre NTPC revising business plan to add more renewable projects According to India’s thermal power giant NTPC’s Chairman and Managing Director Gurdeep Singh NTPC is taking a giant leap in renewable energy although it believes that for the next 10 to 15 years coal will remain the country’s primary source for generating electricity. He also said that the company is revising its corporate plan to add more wind and solar power projects to its portfolio. On the other hand National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) has outlined plans to develop 600Mw solar PV project at the site of a huge hydropower dam in the state of Maharashtra. The location identified is the Koyna hydel power complex, which is a 1.9Gw hydro dam run by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board. According to reports, NHPC has begun the process of carrying out feasibility and financial viability tests on the location and the project. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has also launched Scheme for setting up of 1000 MW Wind Power Project connected to transmission network of Central Transmission Utility with an objective to facilitate supply of wind power to the non-windy states at a price discovered through transparent bidding process. As per the latest development, with the increasing share of renewable energy in the grid and the likelihood of it disturbing the existing power systems, the govt is preparing a separate power trading platform. It is to be jointly developed by the ministry of new and renewable energy and Power Trading Corporation of India the latter a joint venture of several entities with the govt. The envisaged platform would help states buy, sell and trade renewable-based power. India is the fifth largest country globally, in terms of wind power capacity. In the past decade, RE has grown by 89%, while hydro has staggered at 28%. On June 30, the World Bank Group and India signed an agreement for over $1 billion to develop solar power generation. More specifically, $625 million will go toward the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Program. India also leads the International Solar Alliance, a group of 121 countries, which also signed an agreement with the World Bank “with the goal of mobilizing $1 trillion in investments by 2030.”
Haryana Gurgaon more than doubles its solar power target, aims higher Gurgaon has crossed its installed solar energy capacity target for summer, which was set at 5Mw. Officials of the Haryana Renewable Energy Department said the district’s installed solar power capacity has crossed 12Mw (as of last week) and they are all set to achieve the 20Mw milestone by August 2016. According to officials, the major chunk of the installed solar capacity comes from commercial buildings driven by the state’s Solar Power Policy 2014 that mandated necessary installation of solar water heaters in buildings above 500 square yards. The major force in the residential area has been the net-metering policy and the subsidy on it.
Op-Ed Biomass could be hotter than solar energy by Varun Dhamija & Arun Dhamija Biomass based energy generation is advantageous because the disadvantages associated with solar power generation like the menace of e waste generation and disposal and requirement of costly technological inputs are relatively absent. Technology inputs and processes required in this case i.e. combustion, pyrolysis or gasification are widely used in India. This obviates the need of technology dependence upon other nations which will be good for the trade balance. Moreover, unlike solar and wind, biomass is a more reliable source of renewable energy and is relatively free of rapid fluctuations.
UNEP Report Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna is the world’s most vulnerable delta A global assesment report of transboundary rivers shows that the river deltas in Asia are the most vulnerable to climate change and other pressures. Of the 286 transboundary rivers in the world, 218 are polluted; 70% of animals and plants in these rivers are at risk of extinction and governments around the world are building dams and diversions without adequate cooperation and with disastrous consequences. These findings, in a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme, have sounded a dire warning. The report, “Transboundary River Basins: Status and Trends”, covers iconic rivers such as the Nile, Mekong, Amazon and Indus, all the way to the Conventillos, a tiny river basin shared between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. According to one more media report climate change and vicious river bank erosion in the post-Farakka Barrage period have blurred the lines between the rich and the poor and are pushing successive generations to grinding poverty along the lower stretches of the mighty Ganga in West Bengal. The frequent nature of erosion is induced by hydraulic control by the commissioning of the barrage in 1975 and Indo-Bangladesh water sharing treaty of 1977 and 1996, experts say. And the famed weaver’s colony (taantis) in Shantipur block of West Bengal’s Nadia district along the left bank of Bhagirathi-Hooghly, a distributary of the Ganga, is one glaring example of the cascading effects of international water policies and diplomacy. The town is around 75 km from the state capital Kolkata. Meanwhile according to experts the Farakka Barrage constructed on the Indian part of Ganges river in 1975 has largely contributed to the rapid decline of gharial population in the lower riparian Padma river in Bangladesh.
Pakistan 8 killed in Tarbela dam shuttering collapse On July 04, six Chinese engineers & 2 Pakistani nationals were killed as the shuttering of the Tarbela Dam collapsed in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The shuttering collapsed during construction work on the Tarbela Dam extension project. Many other people are reported to be injured during the accident. The dam built on the Indus river is the largest earth filled dam in the world and fifth largest by structural volume. On the other hand, according to researcher the Indus River, which supports the lives of 300 million people, is supplying Pakistan with less water than it did 50 years ago, particularly in the spring and summer. The news comes as demand for water is projected to rise sharply. The findings contradict previous predictions that the river’s volume would stay the same, or even grow, as climate change kicks in, although that increase is likely to occur in the next several decades, another team has found.
Nepal The Koshi River: a journey down the lifeline of Nepal The Koshi River drains a large part of east-central Himalayas, flowing from Tibet and through Nepal before joining the Ganga in northern Bihar in India, which eventually flows to the Bay of Bengal. As one of the largest tributaries of the Ganga, the Koshi drains about 75,000 square km almost the size of Bhutan. It is one of the largest sediment-carrying rivers in South Asia. The basin boasts the world’s tallest mountain peaks including Mount Everest. In Nepal, it is called the Sapta Koshi or 7 Koshis because 7 Himalayan rivers merge to create it. The Koshi is well known for its floods and capricious behaviour, having displaced millions in Nepal and India in recent years. To read II part of the series kindly explore the link roaring rivers, thirsty people. According to one more media report Nepal has applied for AIIB loan for the 80Mw Sharada Babai hydro power project that plans to divert Sharada river to Babai, among other projects.
Myanmar Hydropower and the cost of life More than 8,000 people from 23 villages were forcibly displaced by the Thein Sein government during the construction of the Upper Paunglaung Dam, which began in 2006. Relocation has led to poverty, hunger and suicides among the thousands who live in the govt-built relocation sites. On April 1, the National League for Democracy party was sworn into office. The change of govt is expected to spur foreign investment into the country, contributing to its rapid development. But among the myriad issues facing the country, including decades-long civil wars, the new govt has inherited 43 planned hydropower projects from its predecessors. Although the future of controversial hydropower projects remains undecided, some in the NLD have expressed their opinion that hydropower is not a viable solution for Myanmar, particularly for a civilian government whose main concern is maintaining the wellbeing of the people and their land.
REST OF THE WORLD
Europe’s last wild rivers could soon drown Albanian govt looks to implement a plan to build an enormous dam on Vjosa river. Touted as green energy, the dam would back up the Vjosa and its waters would rise up the hillside, destroying farmers’ livelihood and eliminating the last, large, free-flowing river system in Europe. The Vjosa is not the only river valley facing hydropower projects. Across the Balkan nations, 1355 new hydroelectric plants are either under construction or planned. Many are located on pristine rivers that have never been exploited for their energy potential, and about half are in protected natural areas, according to a Dec 2015 report by finance watchdog Bank watch. Some 200 recent projects have already been completed and 113 are being built, says the report (prepared for environmental groups Euro Nature and River Watch).
Research Gravel-bed rivers safeguard biodiversity A recently published scientific paper is changing how gravel-bed rivers work in their environment. Instead of acting like water running down a gutter, the rivers push and pull water through cobbles and boulders underground sometimes hundreds of yard beyond their banks, and in turn influence the wildlife and plant life of the area. This illustration shows the complexity of the shifting habitat mosaic and interactions among organisms from microbes to grizzly bears, and the importance of gravel-bed river floodplains in glaciated mountain landscapes.
US Elwha River revives after largest dam removal project in history In Aug 2014, workers completed the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, as the final part of the 210-foot-high Glines Canyon Dam was dismantled on the Elwha River in northwestern Washington State. The multistage project began in 2011 with the blessing of the US National Park Service, which administers the surrounding Olympic National Park. The goal was to remove unneeded, outdated dams and restore a natural river system, with presumed benefits for fish and other wildlife. Indeed, salmon have already returned to the Elwha after nearly a century of absence, and other fish and marine creatures are thriving. Similarly the terrible drought afflicting the American West has sparked soul-searching about water management in the region. For the first time in many decades, the viability of dams and other infrastructure that supply water to cities and farms throughout the region has entered the conversation.
Global ‘Environment is new battlefield’ According to NGO Global Witness, 2015 was the worst year on record for environmentalists at least 185 people struggling to protect their land, forests and rivers through peaceful actions were killed across 16 countries last year. This represents a 59% increase from 2014 and the highest toll on record. The report said mining alone accounted for 42 deaths; agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging were also sites of violence, and since many of the murders occurred in remote villages in rainforests, the actual toll might be higher. The report also says that Colombia, Peru and Philippines were the hardest-hit for mining activities.
Uttarakhand Govt. launches State Action Plan of Climate Change State Action Plan of Climate Change (which has been approved by the Government of India was formally launched in Uttarakhand on June 20 with a workshop held among the stakeholders. The plans which would require Rs 8800 cr will be implemented in two phases, 3 years each. International agencies, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will facilitate expert guidance and fund at international level while United Nation Development Program will monitor the implementation. According to G Padmnabhan, project officer of UNDP, all the states in India have prepared SAPCC and got it approved from GOI but none of them actually are implementing it. Trouble is that none of the SAPCC has been done though any credible participatory process, almost all of them have been prepared by foreign consultants. Can this really help?
Centre Govt proposes new rules to give retrospective nod to green law violators The Union Environment Ministry has proposed a way to retrospectively grant clearances to industries, miners & others who began operations without the mandatory prior clearance, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The ministry put out a draft notification under the law on May 10, which would empower it to grant retrospective clearances to those who illegally build new industries or expand them without a clearance, or violate the clearance by changing the nature of their product. The Ministry states that this notification has its basis in two judgments, one by the NGT and the other by the Jharkhand High Court. It leads one to believe that this draft notification is not a product of government conviction but legal diktat. On the other hand the environment ministry has made public its draft National Forest Policy, to replace the one crafted in 1988. Incorporating consequences of climate change but entirely ignoring one of the 3 forest related laws, the Forest Rights Act, the policy brings new focus to plantations, growing trees outside forest lands and wood industry. Meanwhile in an unusual sequence of events around a research paper that claimed air pollution was responsible for reducing life expectancy in Delhi by 6 years, the environment minister not only condemned the study but in an e-mailed public statement that “the timing of the release of the study seems to be motivated as it has been done at a time when PM Narendra Modi is on a visit to the US.” Then within hours of the statement issued late evening, the Environment Ministry withdrew it. On the other hand a Parliamentary Commissioner in New Zealand sends a “show cause” notice to Govt itself on Environment. Can the Ministry of Environment and Forests think of taking an independent stand?
Centre disowns its own forest policy draft The environment ministry has distanced itself from the recently released draft National Forest Policy and claimed it was not meant to be put in the public domain. It said the draft was merely a study report from a government institute. A press release from the environment ministry on June 25 said, “The ministry has not issued any draft notification on the National Forest Policy. What has been uploaded on the website was a study done by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. The study has not been evaluated by the ministry. The ministry has not taken any decision on the draft forest policy. The study report prepared by IIFM Bhopal was inadvertently uploaded as the draft forest policy on the website.” The ministry has withdrawn the draft but it has given a good sense of the direction forest-related policy is poised to take. On the other hand, in a move that is expected to have far-reaching consequences for protection of forests while ensuring ease of doing business for mining sector, realty sector and industry, the Union environment ministry has defined what constitutes a forest under the Forest Conservation Act 1980 (FCA). The legal definition, pending since 2006, will help in identifying areas where development and industrial activity can take place without statutory clearances under the FCA. At the same time, clearances, compensatory afforestation and payment of levies would be compulsory for the areas now defined as forests. According to one more report the NDA govt is pushing the process of revising the 1988 policy to “make it more relevant”. The govt has also set a target of increasing the forest cover to 33% as well as give impetus to wood-based industries. Environmentalists are not happy with the changes, saying the new rules will harm environment & indigenous communities.
Report Occurrence of ornamental fishes: a looming danger for fish diversity The ongoing ornamental fish trade and introduction of exotic fishes in the wild pose a serious threat to India’s native aquatic diversity. Recent studies from several parts of India have revealed the presence of several ornamental fishes in inland water bodies, including the biologically sensitive areas such as Chalakudy River in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot which harbours 16 endangered and 4 critically endangered species. So far, 27 ornamental species have been reported in the inland wetlands of India. Among them, 15 have already established a good breeding population and have emerged as a threat to the native species. The invasion of ornamental fishes may demolish the inland aquatic diversity of native Indian breeds. Rare occasion, it seems that someone from National Biodiversity Authority speaks up about aquatic biodiversity in India and threat to exotic fish.
Gujarat HC panel pulls up Adani Group over damage to mangroves Adani Port and Special Economic Zone needs to replant mangroves on at least 200 hectare in Mundra and Dhrab forests in Kutch where the Adani Group has caused “extensive environmental abuse”, a two-member committee appointed by High Court has recommended. The committee, comprising Goa-based environmentalist Claude Alvares and ecologist Subrata Maity, has also recommended that the company be directed “to remove all embankments, bunds or obstructions to creeks in the entire belt of 5,333.73 ha of mangrove forest at Mundra & 250 ha of forest land at Dhrab”. This is the third such committee in the past six years that has established large-scale environmental damage in the region, known for its mangrove forests. The division bench of the high court had ordered the setting up of the committee on a petition moved by an NGO, Kheti Vikas Seva Trust.
Kerala Greens up in arms against check dams The title is misleading, the study only says that there should be proper impact assessment, it does not say no to check dams, the need for impact assessment cannot be denied.
Op-Ed Over the long term and across generations by Shyam Saran The concept of sustainability has been endorsed but its implications have not been understood. Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a transformed mindset and a different economic strategy with appropriate institutions and practices. It is hoped that the Niti Aayog, which has been mandated to oversee the implementation of the SDGs, confronts these challenges head-on rather than fall back on existing approaches and mechanisms that will yield sub-optimal results. Here is an opportunity to chart a new economic trajectory aligned with ecological sustainability. Very interesting implications of SDGs, but NITI Aayog is certainly not equipped to include this in India’s development trajectory as the author recommends.
Op-Ed Smart Cities Mission: Flaws in a flagship programme by Bhanu Joshi Indeed, one of the big issues of our cities is that land, as a resource, hasn’t been fully exploited. The mission is arguably trying to articulate this particular aspect of our cities that is, to suggest that land monetization has not been addressed and there needs to be some thinking on this. One of the ways of doing this is to begin a project-based development, something that Smart City mission proposes. But to present a land monetization plan in the garb of national urban policy and encourage it as a model for the entire city is inappropriate & deeply worrying. Second, the mission also fails to articulate an institutional framework for urban development a sustainable blueprint for governance for our cities. Bypassing political chaos and employing participation shortcuts to produce aggrandizing structures of glass and steel, thinking that our cities would become inclusive and sustainable, is clearly not a very smart idea.