Above: Anupam Mishra ji at the inaugural session of India Rivers Week 2016
Very sad to say that Anupam Mishra ji is no more. He breathed his last at AIIMS, Delhi at 5.27 am today (Dec 19 2016).
A person with such clarity of thought on water and river issues of India, such effective and simple way of communication, so affectionate and yet so humble will be difficult to find. As Ravi Chopra says, he was truely ANUPAM.
He was chairman of organising committee of India Rivers Week 2016 and also member of of Bhagirath Prayas Samman Jury since inception in 2014 and chairman since 2015. In spite of his poor health and weak body, he came to our organising committee meeting several times, last one in Sept 2016 and also came to the inaugural session of IRW 2016 on Nov 28, 2016 and spoke with characteristic clarity and simplicity and yet effectiveness. He was completely exhausted and pain at the end of it, but that he came in spite of that showed his dedication to the cause.
Personally he was most affectionate and encouraging to me, for so many years. God only knows how can one think of losing someone like that.
450 Cr scam of Arunachal Pradesh: Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju; his cousin, a contractor in Arunachal Pradesh, Goboi Rijiju; and several top officials of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), including its Chairman and Managing Director, have been named in a report by the PSU’s Chief Vigilance Officer that alleges corruption in the construction of two dams for 600 MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project, one of the biggest hydro-electric projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
The report by CVO Satish Verma, sent to the CBI, CVC and the Ministry of Power in July this year, alleges an “elaborate conspiracy” involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud NEEPCO and the government of funds that “may extend up to Rs 450 crore.” West Kameng, the site of the project, falls in Arunachal West, the Minister’s parliamentary constituency.
At the heart of the conspiracy, Verma’s report says, are several fake and inflated bills by contractors to allegedly siphon off money in the name of transporting rocks needed for the dam construction. Not only was the transportation cost decided arbitrarily, the report says, but many transport challans and records provided by the contractor, Patel Engineering Limited (PEL), were found to be fake.
In November 2015, Mr Rijiju wrote to the Power Ministry asking for the stalled bills – red-flagged for corruption – to be cleared. The people whom the Minister claims to be “daily wagers” for whom he wrote a letter for payment of their dues worth “a few thousand of rupees” are actually contractors who have anywhere between Rs 30 lakh to Rs 1 crore pending with Patel Engineering, according to Goboi Rijiju.
Along with the scam, several other issues plaguing the hydro power sectors of Northeast poor quality EIAs, fraudulent environmental clearance processes, non-existent consent of local people, poor quality constructions laden with corruption, conflict of interest while granting the environmental clearances, disregard to the indigenous flora fauna have hit the limelight once again.
In 2015, environmental activist Parineeta Dandekar from SANDRP had written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests alleging gross violations in the Kameng hydroelectric power project. The letter pointed out how the scope of the project changed multiple times, but a fresh appraisal which is a must in any kind of change, was never done.
Himachal Pradesh: Himdhara Environmental Collective (Himachal Pradesh) has recently published a booklet on issues plaguing hydrop power sector of the state and their impacts on the local people. Written in simple language it raises some crucial questions regarding the hydro power projects and also tries to fill gap in the information availability to some extent.
Arunachal Pradesh: Virtuaal Infra Power Pvt Ltd on Wednesday announced that it has entered in to an understanding with Singapore-based Infra Co Asia Development Pte Ltd to raise 5 million (Rs 34 crore approx) for funding two hydro power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
Virtuaal will be developing two run-of- river small hydro projects in Arunachal Pradesh. The company will be producing 23 MW and 14.5 MW energy through its Keyi Hydro Power Project and Pareng Hydro Power Project respectively in the state.
Tamil Nadu: After the devastating floods of December 2015, on Monday (December 12, 2016), Cyclone Vardha made landfall close to the Chennai coast, with wind speeds touching 150 kilometres per hour, allied with heavy rains. The cyclone left a trail of destruction across much of the city, ripping out window panes, rooftops and thousands of trees,. Reports indicate that more than 16,000 people were evacuated to safety in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, besides four deaths. News reports are terming the as ‘way beyond catastrophic’. If December 2015 was historic floods in Chennai’s history, Cyclone Vardah is the worst cyclone in Chennai history.
Reports also highlight that events like the Chennai floods and Vardah – the worst cyclone to roll through the city in 22 years – are not anomalies. They are the new normal. Extreme weather events are going to be a regular occurrence, and they will hit our coastal cities and towns the hardest. A 2014 study suggested that severe or extremely severe cyclones are going to become an annual ritual in the Bay of Bengal.
Vardah has brought the vulnerability of Chennai to the fore again. Though the government did undertake de-silting of water bodies and removal of encroachments, they were not full-fledged measures. In spite of 2015 floods, no strong policies have been effected to future-proof our cities and make them climate-resilient.
The weather phenomenon produced only 11cm of rainfall. Not adequate to replenish the city’s water reservoirs, at Poondi, Red Hills, Chembarambakkam and Cholavaram.
Maharashtra: Maharashtra government has decided to hand over 1,055.64 hectares of forest land to state Water Resources Department for the Jigaon dam project in Buldhana district. The dam will have total water storage capacity of around 25 TMC and is estimated to cost about Rs 500 crore.
The project, conceived in 2000, became controversial because of allegations of corruption. Former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and MLC (then with NCP) Sandip Bajoria are named in a petition before Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court which alleges misappropriation of funds in the project.
A government resolution brought out in this regard said that for the construction of the dam and water storage, 1,055.64 hectares of forest land would be handed over to the Water Resources Department. Since the project is “site specific”, it was necessary to hand over the forest land, the GR said. The total area that will be submerged is 12,000 hectares. There are 32 villages which will be rehabilitated completely while another 15 villages will be rehabilitated partially.
While the state is expediting the Jigaon project, almost 50 per cent of the work in the Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project still remains incomplete. According to the news reports total project cost had gone up to Rs 18,500 crore, of which Rs 9,000 crore work remained to be completed. Of the total 2.5 lakh hectares of irrigation potential, they said, 49,000 hectares had been brought under irrigation.
At a meeting held last week, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis gave a warning to officials to complete the rehabilitation of project-affected villages. Of the total 93 villages, of which 35 were submerged due to the project. Provision of basic amenities arising out of relocation and related aspects are yet to be resolved for eight villages.
Sikkim: The Teesta Samajik Sangharsha Samiti, which is an organisation of people living in Teesta and adjoining villages, has vowed to oppose tooth and nail the proposal for the combined Teesta Low Dam Project (Stages I and II) on the Rangit river by the NHPC Limited. The project will affect not only the villages near the site but also the entire hills since the area where the dam is slated to come up is a biodiversity hotspot.
The 81MW hydel project is at an initial stage with a detailed project report yet to be fully completed. A dam is proposed to be constructed on the Rangit river about 2.5km upstream from Tribeni (in picture), which is the confluence of the Rangit and the Teesta, as part of the combined project.
INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES
Krishna Water Dispute: The Telangana government has been expressing severe discontent over the failure of the Krishna River Board Management (KRBM) in making proper distribution of Krishna water among two Telugu states. Both the states failed to reach into an agreement over water sharing at the Board meeting held on November 30. The Telangana irrigation department has rejected all six options suggested by the Board regarding sharing of water in Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar reservoirs. Accusing all those options are favouring interests of the neighbouring state AP, the Telangana Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao is preparing to seek intervention of the union water resource minister Uma Bharti by complaining against attitude of the Board.
TS government on Wednesday (14 Dec 2016) filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court challenging the Justice Brijesh Kumar Tribunal’s recent verdict on confining fresh distribution of 1,004 tmc ft allotted to undivided AP state among residuary AP and Telangana states.
The government has also asked the apex court to issue orders to the Central government not to rush with notifying the Tribunal verdict to make it enforceable. It also demanded constitution of special tribunal to deal with allocation of Krishna waters afresh amongst the four riparian states — Maharashtra, Karnataka, TS and AP, applying equal criteria and treatment.
Meanwhile the southern bench of National Green Tribunal at Chennai on Wednesday (14 Dec), stayed the construction of Telangana’s flagship Palamur-Ranga Reddy Lift Irrigation Scheme (PRLIS). Andhra Pradesh objected to diversion of Krishna water from Srisailam to PRLIS, saying this would hit farmers in the region. The green panel asked Telangana to suspend work on a petition by B Harshavardhan. The petitioner said Telangana was going ahead with the project without mandatory environment clearance, environment impact assessment, forest clearance and assent of National Board for Wildlife. The project eats into Rajiv Tiger Reserve Park in Mahabubnagar district, said Harshavardhan. RTI query revealed that Telangana government did not even apply for a Central nod, the counsel for petitioner told NGT bench.
Cauvery Water Dispute: Supreme Court on Friday (09 Dec 2016) agreed to hear the appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala government against the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s (CWDT) verdict Supreme Court order asserts that the court has the jurisdiction to hear its (Karnataka) appeal against the 2007 Cauvery Tribunal award “Appeals are maintainable, will be heard from December 15,” said the Bench.
Karnataka had contested the final verdict, arguing that a major share of the water will go to Tamil Nadu, leaving almost six Karnataka districts, including Bengaluru, without enough water for drinking and farming.
Central Government: The government has decided to constitute a permanent tribunal to adjudicate on all inter-state disputes over river waters, doing away with the current practice of having a separate tribunal for every dispute that arises.
All existing tribunals will be subsumed in this new permanent tribunal, government. Last week, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 to allow for the setting up of a permanent tribunal, and a few regional benches based on requirement.
Under current provisions of the law, an affected government has to make a request to the Centre, which, after having convinced itself that the dispute cannot be settled through negotiations, can constitute a tribunal. So far, eight tribunals have been set up under this law, including one on the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. All of these tribunals have already given their awards. While these disputes are still dragging despite the awards the Centre has already received a request to set up one more tribunal as a new dispute has emerged between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over Mahanadi river water.
Interlinking of Rivers
Ministry of Water Resources: While Interlinking of Rivers face growing skepticism and criticism from water experts, environmentalists and civil society groups Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti is hell bent on promoting it.
Uma Bharti has recently remarked that the backward region of Bundelkhand will become like Switzerland and Germany after completion of Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP)
She said that the financial approval for the project, likely to be completed in six years, may be given soon.
A dam at Dhaudhan in Panna district, two power houses, two tunnels and a link canal are proposed under the project, which had an initial estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore.
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by Union environment minister Anil Madhav, gave the nod to the project on August 23 this year.
Reacting to Bharti’s remark, Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, said, “The KBLP will destroy forests, catchments, rivers, biodiversity, protected areas and livelihoods. It will also mean Ken basin will remain under developed permanently. Most importantly, there has been absolutely no assessment of options or any democratic process in consultation with the people of Bundelkhand.”
Nagaland: National Concerns Initiatives (NCI), an NGO working for the welfare of the farmers in the state has alleged mismanagement and lack of transparency in the department of Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) on the implementation of Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in the state. The mismanagement was brought to light when NCI volunteers from 11 districts conducted inspection and accumulated reports during the three years period, said NCI convener Atiba Ao in a press statement.
It claimed that genuine beneficiaries were denied work orders on the implementation of water resources schemes- AIBP, Common Area Development Water Management Programme (CADWMP), FMP, tube wells, rain water harvesting, artificial recharge structures through dug well from ground water etc. NCI also alleged that the RTI reply furnished by the department contained serious anomalies. It stated that the information provided by Public Information Officer failed to furnish the work orders of the 946 (out of 1775) sanctioned by the Government of India.
Telangana: Silapuram Rajanarasimha Lift Irrigation was inaugurated by Telangana Irrigation Minister T. Harish Rao releasing water to M. Baga Reddy canals from Singur reservoir. Singur water is presently being released for about 30,000 acres under canals and 8,000 acres under tanks, the Minister said water will be provided for another 10,000 acres by February 2017. Stating that only two tmcft water was allotted for irrigation from Singur earlier, Mr. Rao said that from today it is being increased to four tmcft to cater the needs of farmers in Pulkal, Andol, Sadashivapet and Munipally mandals.
Tamil Nadu: The combined storage in the four reservoirs supplying water to the city is expected to last just 25 days and a serious crisis is staring the city.
The TN public works department has approached its counterpart in Andhra Pradesh to release 4tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of Krishna water at the earliest, while Metrowater has drawn up a contingency plan that includes use of agriculture well fields in Tiruvallur district to quench the thirst of the city with eight million.
West Bengal: Both India and Bangladesh are trying to expedite signing the Teesta river pact for sharing water. The pact could not be signed in June 2015 when Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamta Banerjee accompanied PM Modi to Dhaka and before that during the 2011 Dhaka visit of the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. The state seems to be in disagreement over issues like the percentage of water from the Teesta River that will be shared between the two countries. Centre is likely to start a fresh dialogue with the state government on the Teesta pact after March next year.
Uttarakhand: The Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority is planning to generate solar energy as a part of the riverfront development project on rivulets Rispana and Bindal. The aim of the project is to generate 40 megawatts of energy and also to make sure that people do not litter the rivers.
The riverfront development project aims to connect the rivulets, flowing through Dehradun, with a single bridge, to rejuvenate them and to curb encroachment by slum dwellers. Assistance from IIT Roorkie is sought in preparation of DPR.
However, few NGOs in the city support the initiative and doubt the benefit of using rivers for generating solar energy. Florence Pandhi, secretary of the Friends of Doon society said, “Generation of solar energy should be mandatory in every building but constructing walls around a river will destroy its character. Authorities should remove encroachments from the river banks and that in itself will take care of the garbage problem. The idea of retaining walls doesn’t seem well-planned.”
Godavari: Concreting of river bed, free flow of effluents, encroachments and deforestation right from the origin at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik and along its course through Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have changed the natural flow of the mighty Godavari.
Experts fear that such human interferences have also tampered with the ground water recharge, besides increasing the river water flow speed. The irony is the river has become shallow and there is minimum flow of water beyond monsoon.
WETLANDS & WATER BODIES
Gujarat: Khajadiya Bird Sanctuary, 10 km from Jamnagar has virtually turned into a picnic spot as a result of rampant construction inside the sanctuary in the name of beautification and chopping of bushes and shrubs that were natural nesting sites.
As a result this year migratory birds are rarely visible at this place that once was sprawling wetland and a paradise for bird watchers with thousands of flamingoes, pelicans and cranes flock. Ornithologists and wildlife experts are aghast at such construction within the sanctuary. Asad Rahmani, former director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), has actually called for criminal action against those responsible for these actions.
Rajasthan: The central zonal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.
A bench headed by Justice Dalip Singh and expert Satyawan Singh Garbyal directed the state wetland authority to review the allotments made so far after the submissions of the Vinod Kapoor and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Committee reports and asked it to submit the compliance report within six months.
Gujarat: Gujarat, according to experts, has the maximum (22.7%) wetland area in the country. Wetlands along Gujarat’s 1,600km coastline, will be in focus at the Asian Waterbird Count (AWC) beginning January 2017. According to experts Gujarat is on the top among all participating states in AWC programme with reference to number of wetlands counted, total bird count as well as number of participants. However though the guidelines were mandated in 2011 by the central government, Government of Gujarat has failed to even constitute the committee under the National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWLP). Each state was directed to form a state steering committee and a state and district level wetland conservation authorities.
Ministry of Water Resources: The union ministry of water resources, which is going to revive dry springs across the country including the Himalayan region and western ghats, has also included the project of revival of 12,000 dry springs in the state under its project.
The experts believe that the revival program will resolve the paucity of water in most pockets of the hill state. National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), People for Science Institute (PSI) and Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) have been asked to prepare the concept note.
NORTH EAST MONSOON 2016
Karnataka: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is pursuing Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, to sanction at the earliest drought and flood relief funds of over Rs 5,000 crore to the state. The Chief Minister had also sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but he failed to get it. In the meeting with the Union Home Minister, the Chief Minister informed that the state had already submitted a memorandum seeking a central aid of Rs 4,702 crore for drought-hit farmers in the 2016 kharif season and Rs 386 crore to take up relief works in flood-hit areas of the state. A central team, which visited the state last month to assess the situation, has already submitted the report and based on which the Agriculture Ministry has prepared a note.
In the past three years, as many as 2,182 farmers have ended their lives in Karnataka state, a statistic that reflects the bleak conditions of a farmer’s existence. A recent study conducted by the Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC) and Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), under the leadership AV Manjunatha and KB Ramappa, revealed that crop failures, along with personal reasons, contributed to the large number of suicides. The study, commissioned by the Union agriculture ministry, is being carried out across 15 states.
Indus Water Treaty: The World Bank has taken a step back and asked both India and Pakistan to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements over the Indus Water Treaty Dispute 1960. The bank said it is temporarily halting the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India, and the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus Rivers system.
Bowing to demands from both sides, the World Bank said it would appoint a neutral arbiter and a court of arbitration. But officials feared the arrangement could produce conflicting rulings that risk unraveling the treaty.
After the bank has postponed its intermediation Pakistani and Indian officials said Wednesday they would consider resuming direct talks over water sharing after the World Bank halted a process to arbitrate a long-standing dispute over two Indian hydroelectric projects.
Meanwhile INDIA has constituted a high-level task force under Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra to decide on measures to be taken to ensure full utilisation of its share of river waters under the Indus Water Treaty. This comes amid a fresh round of bickering with Pakistan over an old issue relating to a hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the news reports India was not considering the option of walking out of the Indus Water Treaty in the near future, but was keen to ensure that all the water it was entitled to was fully utilised for development.
Pakistan: A severe water crisis looms over the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as the Khanpur Dam is drying up fast owing to the prolonged dry spell. According to the Dam officials due to the decrease in the inflow of water, prolonged dry weather and no major rain in the catchment areas, underground rocks and the dam’s bed had become visible at some points, which was an alarming sign.
Nepal: All set to produce as much as 10,000MW in the next 10 years, Nepal may end up being energy surplus if the under-construction and under-consideration projects are completed by the scheduled date. Currently, hydropower projects of installed capacity of around 850MW are online, while under-construction projects with installed capacity of over 3,000MW are scheduled to generate electricity within next few years. Similarly, projects with installed capacity of over 5,000 MW to be developed by the national and international developers are under consideration.
Bangladesh: National River Convention-2016 was organised on 25 Nov 2016 by Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolan (Save the River Movement, Bangladesh); a green group which brought their representatives from 45 districts at Supreme Court Bar Association in Dhaka city.
Bangladesh Nodi Bachao Andolan President Anwar Sadat chaired while its general secretary Advocate Anwar Hossain, some central leaders and representatives from different districts also spoke.
The government must take effective steps to save the country’s rivers from grabbing and polluting for the sake of the environment and people’s livelihood, said speakers at this national convention on saving the rivers today.
New Delhi: At a panel discussion held recently at the Indian Social Institute (ISI) here, prominent social activists and media persons deliberated on the connect between global warming and the life patterns of rural communities. The panelists included Bharat Dogra, Nagraj Adve,SANDRP Coordinator Himanshu Thakkar and Vimlendu Jha. The discussion, “Our planet is warming up: How can rural communities cope?” was held to celebrate the 22nd Founder’s Day of a Delhi- based NGO, Charkha Development Communication Network on December 7. Himanshu Thakkar, who also steered the discussion threw light on the concept of “common but differentiated responsibility” upheld by the Government of India at international forums of climate change negotiations. By the same logic, this should extend to all segments within the country. The truth however is that most vulnerable sections are not included in the steps to strategize or plan for addressing climate change.
USA: Scientists from Columbia University in New York are trying to reveal the environmental changes in the Himalayas using Cold War spy satellites. They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt. The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco. Among the spy images are pictures of the Himalayas, an area for which historical data is scarce. By comparing them with more recent satellite imagery from Nasa and Jaxa (Japanese Space Agency) scientists have been able to see how the region has changed. The researchers have found that the extent of the ice loss has been great.
According to the study at every point on the glacier surface across the whole of the Himalayas a quarter of a metre of water is being lost each year!
Tibet: Tibet which is called ‘roof of the world’ becomes warmer, wetter due to global warming, shows report jointly released by the climate centre of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and the regional remote sensing applications research centre. The average temperature in Tibet during the flood season (from May to September) has seen a significant increase from 1981 to 2016, up 0.3 degrees Celsius every decade on average. Tibet has become warmer and wetter, registering a steady increase in the average temperatures in the last three and half decades due to global warming which is having an adverse impact on its glaciers, according to an official report released on Sunday. The report was.
Uttarakhand: The Landscape Ecology and Visualization Laboratory (LEVL) under National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE), was inaugurated by Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary to the environment ministry at Wildlife Institute of India (WII) on Saturday. NMSHE is a program under the National Action Plan for Climate Change by the Prime Minister’s Office, which is being coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
The facility has been established under taskforce of ‘Micro flora and fauna, Wildlife and Animal Population’. Total six of such task force are being implemented by six national research institutes including WII under Mission of Sustainable Himalayan Ecosystems under National Action Plan on Climate Change. Whether such a centre will help those suffering from impacts of climate change remains a question.