BHAGIRATH PRAYAS SAMMAN 2016
All of them are working to ‘let the rivers flow’. The settings in which they work… their convictions and their understanding gives each of their work a unique flavour…
From colourful personality of Dinesh Mishra who has contributed single handedly to a gradually changing perception of flooding rivers as a catastrophe or “something to be tamed”…. to Himdhara’s deep love for mountains and urge to protect them…. to struggle of CCDD to save their rivers from grabs of corporate hydro-power sector in the armed conflict zone of Manipur…. SANDRP captures flavours of relentless efforts of recipients of Bhagirath Prayas Samman of 2016.
NORTH EAST MONSOON 2016
In the early part of the season, even when the India Meteorological Centre had predicted a ‘normal monsoon’, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala seem to have gone under the radar as the south-west monsoon has played truant. Crops have been severely damaged and the States are already gearing up to face the drought like situation which lay ahead.
Kerala: With State rainfall deficit reaching 62% in the first half of the Northeast Monsoon Kerala is gearing up to tackle drought conditions following. The State received only 162 mm of rainfall against a normal of 427.9 mm during the period from October 1 to November 23. Kozhikode, Kasaragod, and Thiruvananthapuram districts are the worst affected. Kozhikode registered the highest rainfall deficit of 87 per cent, followed by Kasaragod (85), Thiruvananthapuram (80), Kannur (78), and Wayanad (76). The IMD has forecast below normal rainfall up to December 8. The observations are at sharp variance with the operational forecast issued by the IMD in September, which had predicted normal (90 to 100 per cent of LPA) rainfall for Kerala during the Northeast monsoon period from October to December.
The drought like situation prevailing for last three months has severely affected the paddy cultivation. Preliminary reports of the Agriculture Department show that in Waynad district alone paddy cultivated on more than 480 hectares in six gram panchayats has been destroyed this season. The Centre’s decision to demonetise high-value currency notes has pushed the farmers further into a crisis. The minimum support price for paddy has been fixed at Rs.2,250 a quintal by the government. But the farmers are forced to sell their produce in the open market at Rs.1,600 a quintal due to the delay in payment by government procurement agencies.
Karnataka: From October 1 to late-November, the rainfall deficiency has been as much as 85% in south interior Karnataka, 81% in north interior Karnataka, 76% in Malnad region and 56% in the coastal belt.
For Bengaluru city, this November month has been unusually dry, receiving a mere 1.5 mm rainfall as against 294 mm recorded last year. The authorities say that the prospects of receiving any more rains before next April are rather bleak and contingency plans have to be drawn up immediately.
The state government has already declared 139 taluks as drought-hit and more taluks may be added to the list. The total loss due to drought during kharif season had been estimated at Rs 17,193 crore.
Mysuru district has recorded its lowest rainfall in 60 years. Mysuru received 213 mm against the average of 685 mm in 2016. This is the lowest recorded rainfall in 60 years. The district had received 685 mm of rain last year despite drought. Though the monsoon had failed in July, August and September the north-east monsoon had brought moderate showers in October and November last year, thus compensating the deficiency in south-west monsoon. However, this year, the south-west monsoon and north-east monsoon failed resulting in record rain deficiency. All talukas in the district had been declared drought-affected. Assessment of the crop loss and drought situation is in progress.
Tamil Nadu: With the failure of both the south-west and north-east monsoons, the farmers in the Madurai district seem to be heading for a crisis. Even drinking water for the ensuing summer (2017) may be a big question mark. Till last month the rainfall deficit stood at minus 36 per cent. With just one-day rain on December 1 the district is set to touch a deficit rainfall of minus 45 per cent by the end of this calendar year. According to the Joint Director (Agriculture) the farmers had already been advised to go for crop insurance. In the absence of rainfall and lack of water availability harvest of 52,000 hectares of cultivated paddy may not be harvested.
Uttarakhand Floods of 2013: On November 19 2016 the Uttarakhand High Court during a petition has issued mandatory directions to the state government regarding the reconstruction of infrastructure that faced damage due to 2013 floods in Kedarnath valley of Uttarakhand. 2,072 roads and 258 bridges damaged in June, 2013. Noting that the general public was still facing enormous difficulties using the unrepaired infrastructure, directions for speeding up the process of construction was issued in public interest. The court has issued timeline for various construction activities and also for completion of formalities for the construction works which are being funded by the WB and the ADB.
While the decision in the public interest is welcome, the court has not chosen to probe if the efforts taken by the state authorities are in right direction. Reconstruction works undertaken by the state and its authorities such as the Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (UJVN) and the Public Works Department (PWD) include mainly river training works on the banks of Bhagirathi River. In fact in response to the prayer of the petitioner the court itself has directed to construct RCC walls on the vulnerable points of River Bhagirathi by preparing DPRs within a period of one year from November 19.
However for the river banks which are devastated during floods ‘river training’ and ‘RCC wall’ for protection may do more harm than good. It is unfortunate that the court has failed to acknowledge this. RCC embankments for Kosi among other rivers have time and again demonstrated failure of such ‘engineering approach’. Even the ongoing works in Uttarakhand are facing hindrance due to flash floods. The authorities have admitted that unexpected deluge of 16th and 17th June, 2013, Assi Ganga and Bhagirathi rivers caused hindrance to the progress of ongoing work.
Chennai Floods turn one: After the devastating floods in Chennai last December, Greater Chennai Corporation formulated plans to prepare the city to face any future calamity. After carrying out a detailed survey the stormwater drain department wants to emphasize on connecting the city’s 1,660.31 km long network of stormwater drains to several lakes and ponds, desilting the drains, desilting of Cooum River and other water bodies and convenient relocation for people along with suitable compensation.
MoWR: According to a written reply given by Union Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan in Lok Sabha on Dec 01, 2016 National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) funds will be utilized for completion of 99 ongoing irrigation projects under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) in the country. These projects have been prioritized in consultation with States, for completion in phases by Dec., 2019.
Maharashtra: An earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded with its epicentre 10km north of the Koyna dam in Satara district around at 12.57 am on Friday 25 November. The epicentre of the earthquake was away from the Koyna dam. According to the officials the tremor has not caused any damage to the dam. This was the fifth tremor of magnitude below 4.5 on Ritcher scale reported in seven months in the dam area. In May, four moderate medium intensity earthquakes of magnitude between 3.6 and 3.9 on the Richter scale were reported in the area south of Koyna dam.
The dam, with a capacity of 105 TMC, constructed in 1964 is considered to be the world’s best site to prove the correlation of dams and earthquakes. In fact Koyna Dam is said to be the unique example in world to study the reservoir-induced seismic activity. Seismologist emphasise that the reservoirs such as Koyna and Warna are responsible for the earthquakes in south Maharashtra region which has officially experienced more than 1.19 lakh quakes in five decades.
On this background it is important to note that Maharashtra despite being the highest dam building state of India is not included in the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Programme (DRIP). DRIP is being implemented with financial assistance from World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs. 2100 Crore, in seven states of India, namely, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand (DVC) and Uttarakhand (UJVNL). The Six years project had started with effect from 18th April, 2012.
New dam near Godavari origin? Maharashtra State Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam’s suggestion of building a new dam in the upper Godavari stream above the Gangapur dam, to resolve the problem of pollution faced uproar from the environmentalists. Activist pointed out that according to the water sharing plan of Godavari, Gangapur dam built in 1956 has the first right to water of the Godavari. Activists also state that there is no permission to build a dam bigger than five TMC in the upper Godavari basin. When there are already two PILs going on for the river in High-Court; one against concretization of the river bed and other for pollution of Godavari, suggestion to build a parallel dam heavily criticized by activists. It is ironic that instead of suggesting release of environmental flows the minister is suggesting another dam to abate the pollution.
SANDRP report ‘Fish and us’ on fisheries highlights India’s apathy towards fish when our rivers are home to nearly 1000 fish species and provide livelihoods to over 11 million people.
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
Mahadayi Water Dispute: Owning to suggestion of Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal for effort to resolve the dispute outside its purview, the Karnataka Assembly at the end of its two- day debate on the Mahadayi river dispute, on Thursday (Dec 01,2016), adopted a unanimous resolution seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in resolving it.
Stating that “This is the right time to seek Mr Modi’s intervention.”, Karnataka Water Resources Minister, M. B. Patil further added “We are open to an out-of-the-court settlement on the issue,”
Mahadayi alternative proposal: With the state government unable to implement the Kalasa-Banduri project for last 10 years and the issue further getting embroiled in litigation, an alternate project to draw 7.5 tmcft of water from the Supa Dam has been proposed by a hydro-electric expert and former executive director of Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. According to the proposal this water can be pumped from upstream of the Supa Dam catchment area through a pipeline, a canal or a tunnel and the distance will only be 20km. The proposal assumes that since the distance between Supa Dam and Malaprabha River is less than 60 km, there won’t be much impact on the environment nor will it involve clearance of green cover.
Mahanadi Water Dispute: Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik informed the State Assembly on December 03, 2016 that the Odisha government has sought an injunction suit from Supreme Court against Chhattisgarh government for construction of projects and planning upcoming projects in upper catchments of Mahanadi. In reply to a question during Zero Hour, he said the Odisha government has filed an original suit in the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution of India on December 02, 2016 seeking an injunction against Chhattisgarh government from continuing with the construction of ongoing projects and from taking up future projects in the upstream of Mahanadi. Odisha government has claimed a minimum flow of 12.28 million acre feet of Mahanadi water at Hirakud Dam as per the DPR of Hirakud project of 1947 and a further utilisation of 3.67 million acre feet in the surplus flows. A statutory complaint has been filed by the state government before the Water Resources Ministry on November 22 under Section 3 of the Inter State Water Disputes Act of 1956 for the constitution of an Inter State Tribunal to adjudicate the water disputes arising from planned utilisation of 27.48 million acre feet of Mahanadi water by the Chhattisgarh government as against a total availability of minimum flow in Mahanadi river of 20.61 million acre feet.
INTER-LINKING OF RIVERS
Interlinking Mahadayi-Malaprabha: When it comes to Mahadayi Water remarks of Karnataka State Government are rather astounding.
Expressing displeasure the Karnataka government on Thursday blamed Union water resources minister Uma Bharati’s “fascination” with the Ken-Betwa river linking project for delay of other river interlinking projects, including the state’s Mahadayi-Malaprabha project. Referring to Uma Bharati’s remarks about delay in the execution of the Ken Betwa project “I consider causing delay to the project as a national crime.” Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister of Karnataka H K Patil said, “Why isn’t she (Bharati) considering the delay in execution of the Mahadayi-Malaprabha as a national crime?” On the other hand shockingly Karnataka’s water resources minister M B Patil has said “Unlike the Ken-Betwa project, the interlinking of Mahadayi and Malaprabha rivers isn’t complicated. Yet, it is not being given priority,”.
RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATERWAYS
Goa: In June 2016 Union minister of shipping, road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari put forward a proposal to the state government to develop a satellite port for Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) at Betul , South Goa. Estimated to cost Rs 1,500 crore, the port would be developed by forming a joint venture company between the state and Union government. The proposed port will handle bauxite and iron ore and will have the capacity to handle 50 lakh tonnes of bauxite and 10 lakh tonnes of iron ore per year. The proposal is being opposed by environmental activists of the state. Referring to the protests by state’s environmental activists Gadkari has asked the Goa government to promptly take a call on setting up a satellite port in the state saying that Maharashtra and Karnataka are keen on shifting it to their regions. However according to recent news reports social impact study for the proposed Satellite Port in Betul, South Goa has not been done, nor have any statutory clearances required for the purpose been obtained.
West Bengal: The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), in end of November, awarded the work for the construction of the navigational lock at Farakka Barrage, to Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), at a cost of Rs 359 crore, under Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP), which is being implemented in National Waterway-1 (River Ganga). A navigational lock is a device used for raising and lowering ships/vessels between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways.
The Jal Marg Vikas Project is being implemented with technical and financial assistance of the World Bank at an estimated cost of Rs. 5,369 crore for plying of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tons. Phase-I of the project covers the Haldia-Varanasi stretch which includes development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.
Himachal Pradesh: The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet on November 28 decided to allot 95 small hydro-power projects, with capacity of up to 5 MW, to 95 investors, including 74 from the state. The total capacity of the 95 projects is 197.695 MW, of which 74 projects with 126.695 MW were allotted to investors from the state and 21 projects of 76 MW to investors from outside Himachal Pradesh.
News Report by The Guardian: Shockingly, the Guardian report on Small Hydro in India flawed with too many inaccuracies.
- Almost ALL Small hydro are grid connected, so they providing power to the local people is rare exception, rather than a rule. Totally contrary to what this article tries to suggest.
2. It quotes Bharat Sheth saying:”There is need for better scoping and appraisal of sites, as well as monitoring of environmental management plans which are almost always violated by project developers.” But there are NO EMPs made for small hydro, so where is the question of violating them?
- It claims small hydro needs so many clearances, when it does not need any Env Clearance, EMP, Env Appraisal and monitoring!
- It says: “small-scale plants, which use much smaller quantities of water, can operate without heavily affecting the river flow, or disturbing the agriculture and wildlife around them.” This is totally wrong. Every small hydro affects river flow and biodiversity around them.
Maharashtra Irrigation Scam: The Nagpur bench of Bombay high court (HC) on Thursday restrained the Maharashtra government from cancelling contracts of irrigation projects awarded to Mumbai-based FA Constructions. Nisar Fateh Mohammed Khatri of FA Constructions had moved to judiciary through counsel Shyam Dewani challenging the government’s decision to cancel 94 irrigation contracts. The petitioner firm’s contracts were a part of these contracts cancelled after allegations of massive irregularities in the allotted tenders came to the fore in the aftermath of the Rs70,000-crore irrigation scam. The High Court bench directed the respondents not to assign work allotted to the petitioner to any other agency until further directives.
Maharashtra, Jayakwadi Dam: The Jayakwadi major irrigation project which happens to be the fulcrum of Intra-State water disputes over Godavari River in Maharashtra has recently started releasing water for rabi crops in some parts of the region, as per the decision to supply in rotations. The canal advisory committee decided at a meeting in Mumbai to offer four rotations of water supply each of around 21 days with planned discharge of 2,000 cusecs for agricultural purpose. The discharge will be on for two weeks, followed by a week’s gap. Whether it could be executed remains to be seen considering time constraint. Each rotation is expected to witness discharge of 120 MCUM to 130 MCUM water.
Water for irrigation needs was not released from Jayakwadi since four years ago and the canals in downstream areas are in a wild state of disrepair, which could cause considerable transmission losses. Locals have expressed fears that up to 50% of the water could be lost in transit. Local activists have blamed “deep nexus” between a section of irrigation department officials and contractors who have been awarded work of doing maintenance of the canals.
Cleaning Ganga: The Government has availed financial assistance in the form of developmental loans granted by Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), amounting to Rs. 496.90 Crore for projects on Yamuna.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and GIZ Germany have signed an Implementation Agreement for Ganga Rejuvenation on 13th April, 2016. Germany, has committed 3 Million Euro for information, knowledge exchange, capacity building and data management. At national level, the key focus areas are Indo-German Knowledge Exchange, Information & data management, and Public Outreach. At State level, the focus areas are Indo German Knowledge Exchange, Capacity development at SPMG, Industrial and Municipal waste water treatment.
Saving Gangetic Dolphins: The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) set to develop a conservation action plan for the Gangetic River Dolphin to save the national aquatic animal from extinction. The project would develop monitoring protocols for River Dolphins and river fauna, quality assessment of river habitat and assessment of invasive species and involve stakeholders in River Dolphin and associated aquatic animal conservation. The project with a duration of five years would be carried out in partnership with respective state forest departments, national and state academic institutions and NGOs, Mathur said.
Bengaluru: A remarkable endeavor to revive a lost river has begun at Sidlaghatta, a town about 60 km from Bengaluru. The river, Dakshina Pinakini, could well save the city and its citizens from water shortages. The Dakshina Pinakini River Rejuvenation Project, spearheaded by some of India’s finest watershed experts, provides Bengaluru an opportunity to look beyond the Cauvery for water, along with the Thippagondanahalli reservoir on the city’s outskirts. If the Dakshina Pinakini is revived, it can feed water to the southeast, northeast and east parts of Bengaluru.
Groundwork to revive the river started from a field office near Sidlaghatta ten months ago. Watershed expert T Pradeep started connecting drains on 4,700 hectares of farmland, ending with the Belluti lake, which is now the base of the Dakshina Pinakini.
For Water Resources Minister M B Patil, who is fighting the fire on the Cauvery and Mahadayi river fronts, the Dakshina Pinakini is not a priority. “Where’s the water in that river,“ he asks. “That’s why we are focusing on west-flowing rivers. The Dakshina Pinakini is dead.”
Arunachal Pradesh: The sacred Black-necked cranes arrived once again in its wintering abode in the Pangcheng valley along the Nyamjang Chhu river on November 15. While on Thursday leading wildlife magazine, Sanctuary Asia, has announced that Lama Lobsang Gyatso of the Save Mon Region Federation will get its prestigious Wildlife Award on 2nd December 2016 in Mumbai.
Chambal River: More than 85% of the total global population of gharials, which are critically endangered, live in the Chambal region. However, they are facing a major threat from the organised sand mafia.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Jammu & Kashmir: The famous Shalbugh wetland in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district has virtually turned into a ‘wasteland’ due to the lackadaisical approach of the Wildlife Department concerned. Its deteriorating condition has kept the migratory birds from it as according to locals not a single bird was seen in this wetland this year. This wetland which would host lakhs of avian birds every year, presently wears a deserted look with no migratory bird around, though flock of sheep and other animals can be seen grazing in the dry fields.
Assam: After Deepor Beel, its time for the Diplai Beel and the Laoti Beel in the Bodoland Territorial Council area to be declared as the second and the third Ramsar Site wetlands of the State of Assam. The Diplai Beel has an area of around 414 hectares of land, while the Laoti Beel has an area of around 400 hectares of land. Both the wetlands are located in the district of Kokrajhar of Assam. The Diplai Beel may fulfill all the nine criteria required to be declared as a Ramsar wetland site, while the Laoti Beel fulfills eight criteria out of the nine in this regard.
Telangana: Officials of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) have been turning a blind eye to encroachments of lakes across the city. Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authorities (HMDA) had constituted the ‘Lake Protection Committee’ in February 2015 identifying 168 water bodies in the GHMC limits, but no concrete steps have been taken towards removing encroachers by officials.
MoWR: The government will soon come out with a draft model law to conserve ground, surface and rain water and increase use of treated water for non-potable purposes, Union Minister Uma Bharti said on Tuesday. Water being a state subject, the act will, however, not be binding on states for implementation. A committee will be formed to suggest ways to conserve fast depleting groundwater levels through aquifer recharge, particularly in drought-hit areas such as Marathwada and Bundelkhand. Secretaries of Water Resources, Rural Development, Environment and Agriculture will be part of the committee, which is expected to submit its report in a month, she said.
The Water Ministry is also planning amendments to a Bill on groundwater management that will impose restrictions on how companies, farmers and various groups can use groundwater. Industries can only use recycled water, and activities such as gardening would require the use of treated sewage water.
Tami Nadu: In a major development, the Madras High Court has ordered that water from the river Tamirabarani in Tamil Nadu must not be diverted to Coca-Cola and Pepsi producing plants in Gangaikondan due to the severe water shortages in the area. The Madras High Court passed the interim injunction disallowing river water to the bottling plants for two months on November 21, 2016.
The court order came as the result of a public interest litigation filed by FEDCOT, a statewide consumer organization, which had sought to stop the use of river water for production of Coca-Cola and Pepsi product because water scarcity has diminished both drinking water as well as water for irrigation in the area.
Acknowledging the ongoing water crisis and taking note of a decision made by the Indian Supreme Court, the Madras High Court in its November 21, 2016 order noted that, “It is the duty of the State as well as this Court to ensure the livelihood and the welfare of the general public, by making these natural resources available to them, instead of diverting the same for commercial purpose.”
Maharashtra: State Government has announced to set up a State-level Water Literacy Centre at Yashvantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) in Pune, and three divisional centres at Nagpur, Amravati, and Aurangabad. The division-level Water Literacy Centres will be set up at Forest Academy, Chandrapur; Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI) at Aurangabad; and Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Vidarbha Administrative and Development Training Prabodhini at Amravati. These centres are being set up by Water Resources Department to create awareness about various emerging issues like limited availability of water, increasing population, rise in industrialisation, irregular rainfall, water-stress, water use planning. The Government plans to implement a permanent water literacy campaign. Water Literacy Centres will help create a chain of volunteers willing to work as ‘Jalnayak’, ‘Jalkarmi’, and ‘Jalsevak’ at State, district, tehsil, and village levels.
Nepal: The Government of Nepal has allowed Nepal Electricity Authority, the single power off-taker of the country, to sign the power purchase agreement on ‘take or pay’ basis. In doing so, the NEA would have to pay for the generated electricity whether it consumes electricity from the concerned hydropower project or not. This would guarantee return to the investor.
The arrangement has come to being owning to the fact that the NEA’s provision of dispatchable (take and pay) basis in the power purchase agreement was hindering the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) from floating loans to the hydropower projects.
However, the NEA board has not yet approved this provision. Few board members have been saying that the demand for electricity will not rise as per the projections made by the Ministry of Energy, and NEA may have to face huge losses if the ‘take or pay’ provision is implemented without proper study of the demand.
Indus Water Treaty: Prime Minister Modi has warned Pakistan that he was determined to stop the flow of river water “on which India has its right” into Pakistan and supply it to farmers of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. In 1960 India signed Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan that allocated Pakistan most of the Indus river system waters. The treaty has been successful because India continues to uphold it even after numerous repeated aggressions by Pakistan. Water is also one formidable weapon. According to experts Pakistan’s continued use of state sponsored terrorism against India constitutes reasonable grounds for India to unilaterally withdraw from the Indus Water Treaty. Though Pakistan puts brave face, the real issue is concerned with water. Closing the water tap, even partially, could result in famine and agrarian economic crisis for Pakistan that can lead to internal unrest.
Prime Minister electioneering in Punjab recently said that every drop of water flowing down to Pakistan would be accounted for. Vis-à-vis IWT Modi has been seeking feedback from his officials on how best could he put constraints on Pakistan, abrogating the 1960 Indo-Pak treaty on water being a non-starter, for obvious reasons.
Strategic ramifications of competition over transnationally shared freshwater resources are ominous. Already, the battle is underway, with China as the main aggressor. Indeed, China’s territorial grab in the South China Sea has been accompanied by a quieter grab of resources in transnational river basins. Re-engineering cross-border riparian flows is integral to China’s strategy to assert greater control and influence over Asia. China is certainly in a strong position to carry out this strategy. The country enjoys unmatched riparian dominance, with 110 transnational rivers and lakes flowing into 18 downstream countries. China also has the world’s most dams, which it has never hesitated to use to curb cross-border flows. In fact, China’s dam builders are targeting most of the international rivers that flow out of Chinese territory.
REST OF THE WORLD
United States of America: This year in April the government has paved the way for the removal of a whopping four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon through Northern California in the US.