Is there any justification for DESTRUCTION of Panna Tiger Reserve? Can we save our Natural Heritage like the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) from being destroyed in the name of baseless, questionable, non transparent, undemocratic and manipulated projects like Ken Betwa inter linking ? It will facilitate export of water from Bundelkhand to OUTSIDE Bundelkhand. Whatever little benefits are claimed, some of them are already available and much more can become available at much lower costs, faster and without destroying the Forests and Tiger Reserve. The project will actually lead to destruction of Ken catchment and hence the Ken River itself. Watch this FASCINATING, AWESOME story of tigers of PTR. This BBC film where Raghu Chandawat is the story teller and Pradip Kishen is lending his voice, tells the story of Tigers of Panna till 2003, it seems. Please watch and let us all try to save it from destruction that is now writ large in terms of Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP). One more short film by wildlife biologist Koustubh Sharma illustrates how the Daudhan Dam under KBLP will submerge and destroy the PTR.
Meanwhile, a new analysis of rainfall data reveals that monsoon shortages are growing in river basins with surplus water and falling in those with scarcities, raising questions about India’s Rs 11 lakh crore plan to transfer water from “surplus” to “deficit” basins. According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP river basin interlinking should be considered only after exhausting the local potential for harvesting rain, recharging groundwater, watershed development, introducing better cropping patterns (non water-intensive crops) and methods (such as rice intensification), improving the soil moisture-holding capacity and saving and storing water. Raising alarm over significant increase in ground water use, increasing reliance and fast declining ground water table, he warns that inter-basin links would actually reduce groundwater recharge because forests would be destroyed, the river flow stopped and the local systems neglected.
On the other hand, in an interview M K Ranjit Singh highlights the faulty decision making process of the KBLP and how it will destroy PTR. Similarly Prof Brij Gopal has found the KBLP Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) replete with lies. Notably the first assessment report mentions presence of Sangai, an endangered brow-antlered deer, at the Ken basin which has triggered a furore with the environmentalists as the animal is found in Manipur only. This is just an example how there are gross blunders in the report and reflects on scientific incompetence of the EIA consultant. In the mean time, the MoEF’s Expert Appraisal Committee has also raised concerns about the impacts of proposed Barethi Thermal Power Project on Ken River and PTR. In fact there is need for Cumulative Impact assessment and carrying capacity study of all the projects in the region.
INDUS WATER TREATY
SANDRP Blog So who will suffer in the Indus water imbroglio? Diplomatic and military strategies, by definition, are not decided through public debates. So the jingoism around Indus treaty with Pakistan seems more like an attempt at sending threatening signals. But it will have multiple serious ramifications in any case, so it is worth deliberating about. There can be no two opinions that the terrorism originating from Pakistan soil needs to end. But using rivers, environment and people as tools in achieving this objective will be neither effective, nor just. Also see, Using rivers as tools to end terrorism hold no water
Could India & Pak enter into a water war? According to Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP we have to remember that India has relationships with other countries with whom it shares rivers. There’s China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. China could well choose to break some of our river water treaties as well, so we don’t want a precedent for that. India has a reputation as a peace-loving country which doesn’t harm its neighbours. I don’t think we want to lose that high moral ground. UAE’s THE NATION quotes SANDRP coordinator on Indus Treaty.
IWT: An Indian perspective by Ramaswamy Iyer Abrogation of the Treaty, occasionally advocated by some, does not merit serious discussion. Should there be a renegotiation of the Treaty, as is often urged in both countries? It is difficult to envisage an outcome that would be better than before, from the points of view of both countries. Unfortunately, water-sharing is a zero-sum game: One side cannot increase its share without diminishing that of the other. The best course would perhaps be to leave things as they are and hope that, with improving political relations, a more reasonable and constructive spirit on both sides toward the operation of the Treaty will prevail in the future. Ramaswamy Iyer wise take is sorely missed when Indus Water Treaty is being discussed rashly.
Standing by IWT is in our best interests by Prof Shakil Ramshoo Despite several divergences the 2 nations have convergent concerns about water security, food security, energy security, environmental degradation and climate change. We need to rebuild cooperation to remove the distrust and synergize common concerns on the sharing of Indus waters both within the scope of the treaty and outside it through mutual agreement. It is hoped that the cooperation that builds on existing frameworks over the sharing of waters may also offer informed pathways to confidence and peace building to amicably settle political and other issues between the two countries. In light of the fragile ecology and disaster vulnerability of J&K, India should strictly adhere to the environmental guidelines governing the setting up of power infrastructure in the Himalayas. India’s pursuit of contentious issues like the Wular barrage needs a fresh technical evaluation especially after the inundation of Srinagar city during the 2014 Kashmir floods.
Shooting IWT won’t solve terror problem by Praveen Swami Like so many hawkish memes, Indus Treaty abrogation has been marketed as grand strategy. Held up to the light of day, though, it isn’t hard to see it for what it is: a plan that belongs to the dusty shelf reserved for awful ideas. Even Mohan Guruswamy a right wing ideologue says it is not possible to stop water flowing to Pakistan. He also says that widely-referenced estimates indicate a troubling long-term trend for the Indus river basin’s flow. In fact, so much water is diverted from the Indus before it reaches the ocean that seawater has invaded the river channel miles inland. Based on current projections, the Indus river system is expected to fall below 2,000 flow levels between 2030 and 2050. The drop-off is estimated to be most serious between 2030 and 2040, with a new equilibrium flow of 20 per cent below that of 2,000 reached after 2060. Not only is Pakistan running out of water, it seems it will soon be running out of time. Current situation provides an opportunity to “Pakistan to wake up from its complacent slumber, do a bit of introspection to take its water resource management more seriously. Also see, How India can leverage IWT by Aditi Phadnis.
Revoking IWT could mean a loss of credibility by Nimmi Kurian A review of the Indus Water Treaty could prove to be a double-edged sword for India. Pakistan could just as well use it to signal that the Indus framework is increasingly inadequate, call to question India’s intentions & demand additional international guarantees to ensure uninterrupted flows. India‘s actions as an upper riparian country run the risk of seriously undermining its position as a lower riparian state vis-à-vis China. The exercise of its power as an upper riparian state is seen as legitimate and credible.
Land divided but waters still shared by Haroon Khalid The story of the Sutlej is the story of conflict between India and Pakistan over the rivers. It is the story of Bulleh Shah and the religious orthodoxy. It is the story of Bhagat Singh and his homeland. Flowing at the edge of the walled city of Lahore is the river Ravi. There still stand a few massive bridges that connect this part of the country to the other side, symbolic of the mighty river that once flowed under them. But the river itself is a sad reminder of what it used to be only a few decades ago. What a beautiful story of a river system and a river land, long bygone.
Change IWT for environment by Nivedita Khandekar With extreme climatic events predicted to occur in greater frequency, it makes more sense to take a holistic look at the entire basin. Going beyond the geo-political strategic conditions, it becomes imperative to look at the whole basin through changing climatic exigencies, which will mean the involvement of Afghanistan and China. Perhaps, India – as a middle riparian country – can act as a bridge between the upper and lower riparian countries.
India suspends Indus commissioners’ meeting So 56 years n 112 meetings later, the meetings of the Indo Pak Indus Commission has been indefinitely suspended, Tulbul navigation project, suspended since 2007 may get a push, as also hydro projects in Chenab, An inter-ministerial task force will be set up to look into the “details” and “workings” of the treaty, and members of the task force will be asked with a “sense of urgency”. Meanwhile in a surprising move Pakistan has already approached the World Bank and International Court, this report says, as a pre-emptive strike against India on Indus Treaty.
In a long winding piece in ET the author calls Kishanganga project “a scar” which looks like “unwanted and bad punctuation marks in a beautiful sentence”.
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
SANDRP Blog Inter-state Water Disputes: History & status Water sharing disputes across the country (and even beyond) are only going to escalate with increasing demands, and also with increasing pollution & losses reducing the available water. Climate change is likely to worsen the situation as monsoon patterns change, water demands going up with increasing temperatures, glaciers melt and sea levels rise. The government’s agenda of interlinking of rivers would further complicate the matters. The article was also published in the latest issue of Front Line Dispute Aplenty.
Mahanadi Row States robbing river of water Chhattisgarh govt has constructed 8t major and 34 medium irrigation projects on the upper catchment of Mahanadi river. Four more Major and Med projects each are under construction. No details available about the minor irrigation, groundwater use or barrages and Industrial and Urban water use. Similarly a petition in NGT also says that Mahanadi is dying a slow death due to rampant constructions & unchecked pollution. The petitioner has also highlighted that even Odisha had also lined up over a dozen projects on Mahanadi. Besides, Odisha has allowed at least 44 industries to take water from Mahanadi and its tributaries.
Polavaram Row SC accepts Odisha petition The petition of Odisha against the Polavaram project in Andhra was accepted by the Supreme Court (SC) on Sep 30. Maharashtra & Karnataka were made parties in the case by the SC. Notices have also been issued to Chhattisgarh and Telengana. The apex court further ordered Andhra & Central Govts to keep its points before the court within 4 weeks. The next hearing on the case will be held after 6 weeks. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Janata Congress has extended its support to the ruling BJD in Odisha against the Polavaram project. On the other hand, the German construction company Bauer Group will soon submit a report on the possible erosion that can be caused due to the water flow over the diaphragm being constructed as part of the Polavaram project.
Mahadayi Row Goa calls all-party meeting on Mahadeyi water dispute Karnataka and Maharashtra have planned dams upstream Mahadeyi river, which meets Arabian Sea near Panaji. The Goa govt has raised objections over the diversion, claiming that such an act would hamper the ecology of the coastal state. Karnataka plans to construct at least 7 dams & 3 hydro projects by diverting the water to river Malprabha. Speaking after chairing the all-party meet, the CM Laxmikant Parsekar on Oct 10 said that he would meet CMs of Maharashtra & Karnataka on the issue of Mahadeyi river water diversion, notwithstanding reservations voiced by opposition parties in Goa. The state is currently embroiled in a dispute with Maharashtra and Karnataka over diversion of Mahadeyi river water. The case is pending before Mahadeyi Water Dispute Tribunal.
Cauvery Row High level technical team constituted Union Water Ministry has constituted a high level technical team to visit the Cauvery basin area to assess the ground realities in the basin. The expert team has been constituted in pursuance to the SC order of Oct 04, 2016. GS Jha, Chairman, CWC will be the Chairman of this team.
Centre Hydromet instrument to prevent inter-state water disputes Of the Rs 3600 cr World Bank aided National Hydrology Project, Rs 2300 cr would be used for Hydromet instrument testing, calibration and training facilities. To be implemented between 2016 to 2024 the instrument will help the decision makers get real time data about release, flow, rainfall etc, which can lead to judicious sharing of water resources.
INTER-LINKING OF RIVERS
Maharashtra Water grid will be complete in 4 years: Water Minister Maharashtra’s ambitious 15000 Crore+ Water Grid project involves transferring water from Ujani Dam in Solapur to Manjara Dam in Beed/Latur in phase I Seriously? And this will cost more than 6500 Crores! In the past several years, Ujani has been below dead storage. It does not have water enough to cater to its command, it has a slew of illegal projects and backwater irrigation based on it. How can it serve one more additional use? When Ujani is nearly full today, Manjara is also full! So how is the Grid supposed to work? Compare these long distance transfers with Solapur’s model of reviving local water sources, which was cheaper, faster and much more effective even in one of the worst droughts! On the other hand, in a sad decision Bombay high court on Sep 25 has directed the state govt to take a decision in 6 months on a proposal to divert water from west-flowing rivers to the Godavari and Tapi sub-basin to alleviate water scarcity in Marathwada. It seems Court itself pushing Govt of Maharashtra about transferring water from West Flowing rivers into Godavari and Tapi Basins for Marathwada. For one, Marathwada has much better, cheaper and faster options than this transfer and secondly, we are actually transferring water into Godavari Basin, without even understanding what is happening with all that water! Meanwhile there is an interesting report on the Godavari Basin Water Resources Draft Final Plan by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority. Although it misses many crucial aspects, it offers a glimpse into the dismal state of basin level planning, perhaps the first such attempt in Maharashtra. It is also sad to see that the major part of the outlay for Marathwada through the recent Cabinet Decisions has been for Krishna Marathwada project, which does not even have a secured water Source. Meanwhile experts have rightly questioned & found both the Krishna Marathwada and Water Grid Project as unviable.
Goa Congress against nationalizing state rivers Stating that nationalisation of six rivers in Goa was ‘anti-Goan’ and a ‘pro corporate’ decision, which will have far reaching adverse affects on the demography and livelihood of the local people, the opposition Congress said it would strongly oppose any move of BJP-led government to nationalise state rivers and cautioned to desist from doing so as it would destroy the Goan rivers. Good to see this is becoming a political issue in Goa.
Uttarakhand DM halts recruitments for Lakhwar project Indudhar Baudai DM Tehri has halted the job appointment process for the Lakhwar Byasi hydropower project being carried out by project manager Rajesh Kumar during Tehsil Divas on Oct 04. DM’s move came after public representatives aired their concerns regarding appointment of outsiders, instead of locals. He directed Rajesh Kumar to ignore the previous orders, assess the land of the villagers and identify the beneficiaries before starting the appointment process. He aired his anger at the PWD for not granting compensation for the land used for road construction in the region.
Odisha Villagers vow to oppose dam project With the Manibhadra dam project set to displace lakhs of people and submerge fertile lands, thousands of villagers resolved to oppose it on Gandhi Jayanti. They took the resolution at a meeting organised under the banner of Manibhadra Pratirodh Sangram Samiti at the proposed project site in Barmul village of Harbhagna block of the district. Pointing out that those displaced by Hirakud and Rengali dams continue to be homeless, the speakers said both the Centre & State Govts should stop displacement of people in the name of development. The villagers pledged not to leave their home and hearth and fight against displacement.
Telangana Villagers battle dams that will submerge their homes The peacefulness of the lush green fields of paddy and maize lining the road to Vemulaghat village belies the anger of villagers protesting against the state’s plans to acquire about 21000 acres of land for Mallanna Sagar reservoir. Nearly a dozen villages will be submerged in the process, displacing more than 25,000 people, including those in Vemulaghat who have been protesting for more than three months.
CWC Water level of 91 major reservoirs The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on Oct 06, 2016 was 118.431 BCM, which is 75% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This was 125% of the storage of corresponding period of last year & 98% of storage of average of last 10 years. States having better storage than last year are Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, W-Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP, MP, Chhattisgarh, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states), Andhra, Telangana & Karnataka. States having lesser storage than last year for corresponding period are Himachal, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Kerala & Tamil Nadu.
RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS
Centre Govt starts river-transport project with 8 waterways The shipping ministry has identified 37 of the recently notified 106 inland waterways to develop them for transport of cargo and passengers in the next 2-3 years. These include rivers in UP Bihar, Goa, Assam and W-Bengal. According to sources, the tendering for Barak, Ghaghra, Gandak and Kosi rivers has already been initiated for fairway development. Since the IWAI was set up in 1986 Rs 1500 cr has been spent till last year.
Centre Stalled hydro power projects to get policy push In a bid to boost hydro power sector, the govt is planning to formulate a policy to push stalled projects and extend the benefits for renewable sources like wind and solar to hydro projects beyond 25 MW capacity. According to a proposal of the Power ministry, projects with capacities of up to 25 MW have been categorized as small hydro-power projects and would get the benefits as extended to other renewable energy projects. On Oct 07, inaugurating two day Conference of States Power Ministers in Vadodara, Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal said that discussion will be held on policy interventions for Hydro Development, including small hydro under the broad aspects of progressive Hydropower Policy. On the concluding day the Minister detailed out a number of issues pertaining to hydro power sector that were discussed and on which consensus was achieved during the conference. Most important of these were, forming of a new committee which would work in mission mode to get the 22 stalled large hydro power projects started and inject fresh investment to make them viable in the next 3 months. Further, with a wide consensus, it was decided to give Hydro power a renewable energy status and a separate Renewable Energy Purchase Obligation (RPO) should be set up for the hydro sector. The decision is bound to severe repercussion on river ecology and environment as there have been many incidents where small hydro have had detrimental impacts on local environment.
Uttarakhand Govt plans to tweak ESZ rules on upper Ganga According to 31 Aug meeting minutes of environment ministry committee on Ecologically Sensitive Zone, it “could consider inserting a transitional clause to permit the 10 hydro projects less than 25MW capacity of a total combined capacity of 82.3MW which were approved prior to the date of notification,”. Ever since the 2012 notification, Uttarakhand has opposed it, repeatedly seeking central govt permission for hydro projects. The comments from MoEF committee came while it was considering the zonal master plan of Bhagirathi ESZ submitted by the Uttarakhand govt.
NGT penalty on GVK inadequate Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP finds NGT order on imposing fine on GVK company for causing devastation in Sri Nagar during 2013 floods, good & hoped it would set a precedent to make companies more responsible when it comes to environmental issues which have a direct impact on people’s lives. But he felt disappointed by the meagre amount awarded as compensation & wished NGT to go “deeper” when issues of this nature came up before it.
Himachal 35 hydro power projects find takers After extending the deadline for the 5th time till Oct 31, as many as 29 independent power producers have moved applications for 35 hydro power projects hanging fire since 2014. Most of the projects are located in remote areas of the state. Out of the 37 projects, as many as 11 power projects are located in the Chenab basin, 7 in the Ravi basin in Chamba district, 11 projects in the flood-ravaged tribal Kinnaur district, where the tribals are already up in arms against the power projects. Other projects advertised for allotment are in the Yamuna and Beas basins.
NTPC keen on Jangi-Thopan project Even as Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd & the NHPC have kept their card close to their chest, the NTPC has evinced interest in the 960-MW Jangi-Thopan power project. NTPC officials had talks with officials from the Directorate of Energy here on Wednesday showing willingness to take up the project. They sought details and terms and conditions. State government officials reiterated to the NTPC that the project would be allotted as per the term and conditions of the Hydropower Policy.
Melted glaciers give rise to 110 new lakes in 2 years A report prepared by the State Council for Science, Technology and Environment has revealed that there is a considerable increase in the number of moraine-dammed lakes caused by GLOF in each basin. In the Chenab basin, there were 116 lakes in 2013 which have now been increased to 192 in 2015. It is almost four times than the number of lakes identified in the 2001 study that revealed presence of 55 lakes in the basin. In the Beas basin, there were 67 lakes in 2013 whereas 89 lakes have been delineated from the satellite data in 2015. Likewise, the Ravi basin wherein a total of 22 lakes were mapped in 2013 has now increased to 34 in 2015.
HIMANSH, India’s Remote, High-Altitude Station opened in Himalaya In order to better study & quantify the Himalayan glacier responses towards the climate change, Ministry of Earth Sciences has established a high altitude research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH situated above 13,500 ft at a remote region in Spiti. The station houses many instruments to quantify the glacier melting and its relation to changing climate. The ongoing initiatives by would contribute to the integrated study the glaciers in the upper Indus basin (Chandra basin) in Himachal & their contribution to discharge. Some of the bench mark glaciers that are already being studied under this project include Bada Shigri, Samudra Tapu, Sutri Dhaka, Batal, Gepang Gath and Kunzam.
POSITIVE DROUGHT STORIES
UP Farm ponds turn out game-changer in parched Bundelkhand The UP govt’s farm pond initiative launched in April this year in all the 7 Bundelkhand districts falling in state namely Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda and Chitrakoot. Initially, 2,000 farm ponds were sanctioned, of which 500 were earmarked for the worst-hit Mahoba district. The fact that 1,900 ponds got built by end-June before the onset of the monsoon was proof of the farmers’ enthusiastic response to the scheme, in which NGOs and officials also played major roles. Many farmers, in fact, even invested extra money to construct ponds of larger size. Riwai village in Mahoba’s Charkhari tehsil alone saw 25 ponds of 2,000 cubic meters each getting built by farmers. The state govt has subsequently sanctioned 2,500 new farm ponds for Bundelkhand. Of these, 1,200 will be of 3,100 cubic meters size that can store enough water to give one irrigation over 2.5 hectares. Great to see this UP Govt initiative in seven Bundelkhand districts of UP leading to multiple changes. There are some limitations of doing such vertical pits using machines, but hopefully lessons will be learnt to evolve and overcome them.
Gujarat In rainfall deficient districts, farmers sow water-intensive crops Farmers in the districts of Vadodara, Mehsana, Ahmedabad, Kheda, Surendranagar, Anand, Bharuch and Narmada have sown water-intensive crops in over 10.39 lakh hectares during the kharif season. If the state’s average rainfall is considered, then the deficit is about 10% however, these 8 districts have received only 56-68% of their Long Period Average rainfall. A sizable portion of the land covered under the kharif crop in these districts consists largely of cotton and paddy.
National SC disgusted with Govt inaction On drought relief At the end of the monsoon season 2016, at least 149 districts of the country are reeling under drought, going by rainfall data of the IMD. These districts had either a shortfall of 50% in the first two months or 25% or more over the entire four months of monsoon. As Swaraj Abhiyaan continues to push for contempt of SC orders in Drought 2015 case, many districts face drought like situation this year too.
Study Marathwada drought man-made, not caused by climate change A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology-Pune and the Indian Institute of Science-Bengaluru has revealed that the 2015-16 drought in Marathwada was caused not by climate change but poor management of water resources. The two institutions analysed 145 years of monsoon rainfall data to arrive at the conclusion. The study categorically stated that the flow of irrigation water, exploitation of ground water, and allocation of water for cultivating water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and pulses have to be examined properly. It also said the administration must identify and promote sustainable strategies that adapt to varying rainfall patterns in the region. Interestingly, the region did not witness a single drought between 1940 and 1970, and there were no droughts between 1999 and 2011 despite rainfall slumping below normal levels. VERY INTERESTING indeed. The study by IITM-IISc says in 1972 Marathwada received 54% rainfall deficit, but had no farmer suicides. In 2015-16, the rainfall deficit was 44%, and yet over 1000 farmer suicides. It blames unsustainable sugarcane cropping pattern.
Karnataka Govt declares 42 more talukas drought-affected The latest addition takes the total number of drought-affected talukas to 110 (68 were announced drought-affected last week). There are 177 talukas in Karnataka across 30 districts. Karnataka has declared drought in 42 more talukas, taking total number of drought talukas to 110 (68 were declared drought hit last week) out of total of 177 talukas of state, the government is expected to declare drought in 50 more talukas. Last year too Karnataka was the first state to declare drought, as also this year. Last year 140 talukas were declared drought hit. The rainfall deficit in state was 17% in July and 39% in Aug.
Karnataka Dams in full, flood alert sounded Due to copious rains in the Hyderabad Karnataka region and also in the upper catchment areas, all major and minor reservoirs are full to the brim. With the heavy inflow of water, the irrigation authorities have decided to open the gates of major reservoirs such as Karanja in Bidar, Bennethora and Gandorinala in Kalaburagi districts. A flood alert has been sounded in the lower areas following the opening of gates since Saturday afternoon. Perhaps for the first time in the history of Tungabhadra dam, there are apprehensions that that the dam would not be able to supply water for even one kharif crop. Going by previous records, the dam has always had water every year, except for around eight to nine years, and supplied water for two-three crops.
Gujarat 5 days pour 6% of annual rainfall In the first 5 days of Oct, the state has received nearly 48 mm of rain. This is nearly 6% of Gujarat’s annual rainfall of 797 mm. State revenue department statistics reveal that Gujarat has received 701.48 mm of rainfall which is 88% of the total annual rainfall of 797 mm. Till September-end, the state had less water in the dams as compared to 2015. But the fresh spell of rainfall has raised the water level in the dams to 76.48% of their total storage capacity of 15,774.24 million cubic meter. Also, the water in the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam was also 282 MCM more as compared to last year. The dam was flowing at 122.32 meters and had a storage of 5264.84 MCM.
Maharashtra Region to get 7tmc from Krishna Basin CM inaugurates Ashti (BEED dist) Lift Irrigation Scheme, a component of Krishna Marathwada Irrigation Project, when, as SANDRP has repeatedly written, there is no guarantee of water available for this scheme, nor is there any proper impact assessment or options assessment. Is such costly scheme with such questionable benefits justified? Another cow for the contractors to be milked?
National NGT issues notices on Mahanadi pollution The Green Tribunal on Oct 06 sought response from Odisha & Chhatisgarh Govts & the Centre on a petition demanding immediate halt on all construction activities on river Mahanadi to protect it. The petition contends that Chhatisgarh govt has constructed atleast 8 major and 34 medium irrigation projects on the upper catchment area of Mahanadi while atleast 4 more projects are under construction. The petitioner has also highlighted that even Odisha had also lined up over a dozen projects on Mahanadi. Besides, Odisha has allowed atleast 44 industries to take water from Mahanadi and its tributaries.
Kerala Tracing 44 rivers, from the source to the mouth Amazing website on Kerala rivers. Mr. Kundassery (who created the site) defines river literacy as the ability to appreciate the many functions of riverine ecosystem so as to initiate and embark on an informed process of river conservation, restoration and rejuvenation. Thanks to Latha Anantha sharing this on FB, here is the web link to the maps: http://orgin.in. On the other hand, a group of environmentalists have protested in front of PCB office Oct 03 demanding action against the Cochin Minerals and Rutile Ltd (CMRL) for allegedly releasing toxic substances into the Periyar river. They alleged that the PCB was remaining silent on the matter thus extending support to the company which is found guilty of polluting Periyar. They added that the statements made by the Kerala Water Authority favouring the CMRL days after the incident have drawn the ire of the local residents.
Gujarat Town planning schemes mulled for river front Vishwamitri River front development project in Vadodara is on, it seems, with plans to take over land of around 500 m distance on both sides of the 16.5 km long stretch of river flowing through the city.
GANGA Uttarakhand Govt plans to tweak ESZ rules The comments from MoEF committee came while it was considering the zonal master plan of Bhagirathi ESZ submitted by the Uttarakhand govt. The plan was prepared following a case in the NGT regarding non-implementation of the 2012 notification. Ever since the 2012 notification, Uttarakhand has opposed it, repeatedly seeking central govt permission for hydro projects. The Gaumukh-to-Uttarkashi stretch is the only free-flowing, pristine part of Ganga, which is otherwise heavily polluted. The zone is ecologically fragile and has suffered several natural calamities in the last decade.
UP 10 MLD waste dumped in Ganga daily The Mirzapur municipality has informed NGT that 5 big drains are dumping almost 10 million litres of untreated waste water into the Ganga every day. At present, the municipal corporation has a sewage production of 28.8 MLD & 2 STPs with a total capacity of 18 MLD. The affidavit filed by the executive officer of the municipal body further said that it had no role in framing schemes for sewerage disposal as the UP Jal Nigam had prepared plans for sewage management.
YAMUNA Delhi Yamuna to have ferries; work on terminals, dredging by Dec The Inland Waterways Authority of India has floated three tenders for ferry vessels, dredging and the setting up of terminals on 16 km stretch of the Yamuna in the national capital. It has also sought permission from the NGT for the works on the river. So tenders for starting navigation along 16 (or is it 160?) km of Yamuna out even as NGT clearance is awaited. Also on anvil is new dredging policy (after only Market consultation, no need for people to be consulted!) and vessels act.
Plea to protect Yamuna As part of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, National Highways Authority are planning to construct two pseudo bridges on the Yamuna 1 on either side of the existing Nizamuddin bridge. According to YJA pseudo bridges severely impact a river’s ecology, including its ability to freely convey flood water downstream. This involves constructing a bridge only over a river’s lean season flow, leaving the flood plains obstructed and cut-off because of embanked roads approaching the bridge severely restricting a river’s ability to meander and increases the ferocity of floods.
DDA demolition drive going on The DDA is carrying out a massive demolition drive on the Yamuna banks behind the pretext of NGT order which according DDA permit cultivation of only flowers & not edible crops. So far about 800 acres of public land has been cleared.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Kerala India’s largest wetlands system may disappear in 50 years According to a study conducted by the National Centre for Earth Science Studies Vembanad Lake, the hub of backwater tourism in Kerala and the largest wetland system in the country, may cease to exist in another 50 years as climate change aggravates the complex threats posed by land use changes. The study also found urbanization, pollution and reclamation had whittled down the water mass by 40% in area & 65% in depth. Presenting the findings former scientist AK Verma said that 55000 ha of backwaters had been reclaimed & converted into polders for paddy cultivation. The carrying capacity of the lake had gone down from 2.45 to 0.56 cubic km, registering a decline of 78%, while the urban agglomeration had increased 5 times over the last 50 years. On the other hand, in an important development, on Oct 02, CM Pinarayi Vijayan while presiding over an all-party meeting convened to formulate the State’s feedback on the Wetlands (Protection and Management) rules 2016, stated that the State govt will urge the Centre to make Environmental Impact Assessment mandatory for construction activities in wetlands. He also called for provisions to ensure deterrent punishment for destruction of wetlands. The meeting welcomed the proposal in the new rules to set up a State-level Wetland Authority and empower it to notify wetlands.
Karnataka Once a wetland, now buried under construction debris According to civic officials, these lakebeds and the wetland between the lakes have turned into hotspots for dumping construction debris from north and east Bengaluru. The dumping has been going on for over a year, but the pace appears to have picked up recently. Senior civic officials concede that the debris-dumping exercise is the standard method to “morph” the topography of nala lands, wetlands and lakebeds for encroachment. They also suspect that lobbies were at play here. The legislative committee on lake encroachment has recorded more than 20 acres of encroachment in the revenue area.
Centre Cabinet approved India-EU MoU on water cooperation The MoU envisages strengthening the technological, scientific and management capabilities of India and the European Union in the field of water management on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit. It provides technical exchange on water issues, including on integrated water resource management plans within river basins and through study visits. The MoU aims to identify key environmental issues and approaches to sustainable development. A Joint Working Group shall be formed to monitor the activities to be carried out in fulfillment of the MoU. Meanwhile according to Union Water Minister India may soon be designated as a ‘water scarce’ nation. She also said that rising demand, infrequent supply and misuse of water would bring India closer to such a situation. According to her the per capita water availability in India has been on a continuous decline, which has put our country in the water-stressed category, bringing it closer to the water scarce category.
Karnataka Refugees idea of water bank benefits farmers Interesting positive story, about farmers of East Bengal resettled in Raichur and Gadag districts. But not clear what exactly the Water Bank here means. Similarly there is one more positive story in which a household benefit by recycling the kitchen and bathroom wastewater (minus the human excreta) is used to irrigate kitchen garden, this practice is fairly widespread in peri Urban areas in India.
Agri-Ministry Organic farming more important in view of climate change Good to see this appreciation of role of Organic Farming in Climate Change context. GOI has sanctioned under PMKY 10000 clusters of 20 ha each, with provision of Rs 50000 per ha too achieve that. Seems too much money, and hope it does not lead to corruption, but some real benefits to farmers.
Rajasthan Water scarcity makes rose farm in Pushkar wither Sad story of how the traditional Rose flower production in Pushkar has dropped from 40 000 kg per day in 1995 to 3000 kg per day now, affecting livelihoods of large number of people, who are now rightly demanding compensation since, the report says, it is Railways that is responsible for the depletion of groundwater, which is the cause of this crisis.
Study Cash-strapped discoms backtrack on renewable power contracts As renewable energy capacity additions gather pace and more green power is offered to power distribution companies, offtake is far from encouraging. A study by Mercom Capital Group says solar power offtake is seeing curtailments in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, impacting developers. Several factors are leading to this situation insufficient evacuation facilities; the quality and intermittent nature of renewable energy; and the achievement of renewable purchase obligation in some states.
Bhutan Hydropower cooperation with India fraying at the edges A new report “Study of the India-Bhutan Energy Cooperation Agreements & the Implementation of Hydropower Projects in Bhutan”, points out that the hydropower development has failed to build local capacities, with most of the contracts going to Indian companies. The report says that hydro sector responsible for the huge debt, is also not creating the right kind of jobs. Moreover, hydropower has contributed to a steep rise in Bhutan’s debts, and the report notes Bhutan is “among 14 other countries that are fast heading towards a debt crisis.” Thus, the hydropower program has lost a lot of its financial sheen. At the same time the hydropower projects are also having massive environmental impacts.
Pakistan claims India completes Kishanganga project without resolving differences According to news learnt from reliable sources India has completed its 330Mw Kishanganga hydropower project on the western waters in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, while Pakistan is still constructing 969MW run-of-river Neelum-Jhelum power plant downstream at the same tributary. Indian Indus Waters Commissioner PK Saxena told his Pakistani counterpart about the completion of Kishanganga hydropower project. Interestingly, Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Mirza Asif Baig and power ministry has yet to make this fact public. Pakistan media has reported that India has completed the Kishanganga Hydropower project, no news in Indian media as yet?
Bangladesh wants India as ‘stakeholder’ in Ganga barrage project According sources 2 Chinese firms were keen to wholly finance the $4 billion Ganga barrage project & even Japan was willing to fund at least $2 billion. The Ganges barrage will be a 165-km long reservoir running from Rajbarhi to Chapainawabganj districts, with a depth of 12.5 metres. It will hold a phenomenal 2.9 billion cubic litres and cost Tk 314 billion. The barrage will retain the water of the trans-boundary river Ganga, known as the Padma in Bangladesh, during the monsoon and feed small rivers during the lean season.
Nepal GMR signs land acquisition accords The developer of the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project has sealed land acquisition deals with residents of Achham and Dailekh districts, completing the process of pooling around 75% of the private land required for the scheme. GMR Upper Karnali Hydropower Project signed the agreements last week after landowners of 2 village development committees accepted its offer of a compensation amount of Rs 805,000 per ropani. The 900Mw hydro project is spread over Surkhet, Achham and Dailekh districts in western Nepal. On the other hand wth Chinese FDI 25 MW unit of the 50 MW Upper Marsyangdi HEP commissioned was on Sep 26.
2.5 metres of water drained from Imja glacial lake The surface area of the lake is said to have expanded from 0.4 to 1.01 square km between 1984 and 2009 due to rapid melting snow. An estimated 96,562 people are living in vulnerable areas downstream of Imja Lake. Nepal is ranked the fourth most vulnerable country in the world to the impacts of climate change. A total of 3,808 glaciers and 1,466 glacial lakes have been identified in Nepal. These include 21 potentially dangerous lakes, out of which six are at very high risk. Thso Rolpa and Imja Lakes are among them.
Myanmar The plan to dam Asia’s last free-flowing, international river Thousands of protesters gathered in Myanmar’s North Kachin state on October 4, as fresh violence and clashes between ethnic groups continue to mar the ongoing peace process. The Salween is Asia’s last free-flowing international river, home to 7,000 species of plants, 80 rare or endangered animals and fish in China, as well as about 7 million people who depend on its ecosystem for their livelihoods. Currently, a total of 15 hydropower dams are planned on the mainstream of the Salween, eight within Myanmar.
Brahmaputra Dam Row China dam raises hackles in Assam The All Assam Students’ Union & Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, the two leading indigenous organisations that are spearheading a movement against the construction of big dams on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, on Oct 04 demanded that the CM must impress upon PM Modi the need to urgently take up the matter with China and prevent the neighbouring country from doing anything on the Brahmaputra that would hamper its natural flow in Assam. Meanwhile according to Third Pole report, the far bigger problem with Lalho project is that it will hurt Tibet more than India as the dam will more or less dry up a long stretch of the Xiabuqu river in an area that is already suffering from rapid desertification. As most of the water is diverted through a tunnel to produce electricity, the already serious water shortages faced by herders living along its banks will worsen. The Chinese govt blames a combination of prolonged drought and overgrazing, while the herders blame dams upstream in various rivers of the Brahmaputra basin. On the other hand, justifying the project, China sought to allay apprehensions that it would effect the river flow into India saying that there will be no adverse impact on downstream areas. Terming the Lalho dam project on the Xiabuqu river as an important livelihood project to address food security and flood safety in Tibet, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the tributary river is located completely within the Chinese side. According to, one more news, China is willing to have multilateral cooperation with India and Bangladesh to share the waters. The proposal is significant as China has no water treaty with India to share the river waters. If true this must be classified as the news of the day, week, month and year, though the veracity of the claim is seriously doubtful.
REST OF THE WORLD
International Rivers Will climate change sink the Mekong Delta? Scientists say the 1-meter sea level rise expected by century’s end will displace 3.5-5 million Mekong Delta residents. A 2-meter sea level rise could force three times that to higher ground. Shifting rainfall and flooding patterns are also threatening one of the most highly productive agricultural environments in the world. The onus is now on Vietnam’s government in Hanoi to approve a comprehensive adaptation and mitigation plan. Mongabay has begun publishing stories for a series on the social impacts of dams on the Mekong, beginning with a four part series giving the perspective from Vietnam: Part one: Vietnam sweats bullets as China & Laos dam the Mekong
US Mississippi’s claim that Tennessee stealing groundwater A dispute over an aquifer that crosses political boundaries could expand water rights law. The Sparta-Memphis Sand Aquifer lies beneath Mississippi and Tennessee, land east of the Mississippi River that is shown in this Landsat image. Mississippi’s lawsuit against Tennessee is the first lawsuit over a shared aquifer to be heard by the US Supreme Court.
Study Hydro power in not Carbon Neutral after all In their paper to be published next week in BioScience, the researchers reported that reservoirs of all sorts are important sources of the potent greenhouse-gas methane. Collectively, reservoirs created by dams produce about 1.3% of total annual global human-caused emissions. The findings are expected to shift the way the IPCC tallies greenhouse-gas production by human activities to include flooded lands in those calculations. The synthesis paper is the largest of its kind to date, pulling together findings not only from hydropower reservoirs, but any sort, such as reservoirs for flood control, navigation or irrigation. The study also is the first to examine the flow of all three major greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from reservoirs to the atmosphere.
Op-Ed India’s climate future at stake by T Jayaraman Following such statements little has been done to inform Parliament, civil society or the people at large what these detailed considerations were that the government considered so relevant. As long as ratification was awaited, one could have hoped that a process of consultation would be initiated. But the abrupt volte-face by the govt clearly needs some serious explanation. But its careless and compromising handling of the post-Paris scenario has taken away that indulgence, and handling that has resulted in pushing India to the point of seriously foreclosing its options within the emerging global climate policy regime.
Op-Ed Time to fix pollution control boards by Ritwick Dutta The pollution control boards have been mute spectators to the declining environmental quality across the country. I think Ritwick will agree that they are really active agents and not mute spectators! More seriously, I think the governance reforms need to change the transparency, participation and accountability norms in the functioning of PCBs, with management committee at block level and above involving at least 50% members from outside the govt.
MoEF Green clearances won’t hinder development: Dave Addressing a press conference during his maiden visit to Mizoram on Sep 28 Union Environment Minister Anil Dave said that environment & forest clearances will not hinder infrastructure development. The minister also said his ministry would expedite all necessary clearances for infrastructure development like construction of border roads and hydroelectric projects. This is a very shocking statement from India’s Environment Minister. It seems Anil Dave is in competition with former environment minister Prakash Javdekar as to who is the worst Environment Minister.
Report Mapping Dilutions in a Central Law Read the full working paper produced by the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program on the dilutions made to the central law of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, over a period of two years. This paper attempts to trace and analyse how the state governments have modified and built upon the central Act, and especially at how they have diluted the applicability of progressive clauses like consent, Social Impact Assessment, food security provisions, clear compensation related provisions, as well as clauses which allow for unused land to be returned to original owners. Also see, How Indian states are diluting Land Acquisition Act, 2013, “amending” consent and SIA clauses
Documentary Broken Landscape: Confronting India’s Water-Energy Choke Point In India’s resource-rich Meghalaya State, demand for coal is transforming the environment and the people who depend on it. Coal mine owners are prospering from booming production, but few laws regulate the dangerous and polluting practice known as “rat-hole” mining. A new govt tribunal recently banned all coal mining in the region, effectively shutting down the economy. Mine owners and workers staged protests, while people living downstream are struggling to cope with dead rivers that once provided their livelihoods, food, and drinking water. Nepalese migrants who crossed the border to work in the mines are stuck in the middle. Broken Landscape examines the lives of those on the front lines of India’s water-energy choke point.