During a global seminar held on Feb. 25-26, 2017 in Patna experts from across the country have advocated an “urgent review” and comprehensive studyof the Farakka dam to revive the Ganga river. The experts were discussing various concerns facing River Ganga and the possible solutions for them. The seminar titled as “Incessant Ganga” was organisedby Bihar’s Water Resources Department, almost week after, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has openly termed the barrage as genesis of floods in the State. Speaking in the program, the CM again expressed deep concerns behind receding water flow in the Ganga and increasing silt deposit due to Farakka dam.
Speaking during the seminar, environment expert Himanshu Thakkar the coordinator of SANDRP advocated urgent need for review of Farakka barrage claiming that it has failed to fulfill any of the purpose – irrigation, hydro electric power, water supply – of the barrage for which it was built. As per, Himanshu Thakkar the dam was built to maintain the navigability of Kolkata port.
Thakkar also suggested that the gates of Farakka be openedduring monsoon to mitigate the intensity of floods in Bihar. As per Thakkar there was an urgent need for a comprehensive study of the Farakka barrage to find out its achievements or whether the barrage fulfilled its objectives. The committee constituted for study must include the Centre, Bihar, West Bengal and all states having Ganga, he said adding that a study should be made on the social and livelihood impact of the barrage, how it affected people’s lives, whether its existence was justified and cost-benefit assessment among other issues.
GUEST BLOG by Muhammad Ali Shah, Dr. Aly Ercelan & Roshan Bhatti
Sindh Peoples Caravan March 1-14, 2017 Protect Our Rivers and Delta
Across the world the greed of capitalism has created water crises. Asia in general and South Asia in particular is no exception. This region is marred with complex and multidimensional aspects of water crises. Not only the brute availability of water has declined, but also the health of water bodies has been badly affected. A deep probe into the issue reveals that water crisis has been created by weak and deliberate mal-governance. Both wrong incentives and lack of penalties have led to major ecological disasters. These include deforestation, destruction of wetlands, dumping of industrial waste into waterways, construction of dams, overexploitation of the major river systems, corporate control on water resources and unplanned urbanization due to increasing population pressure.
All these issues pose serious threats to life and health of people and water systems of South Asian River Systems, including Indus river system. Our analysis reveals that anti-human and anti-environment policies have been applied and imposed in South Asia with the same rapacity as colonial powers did to impose control over citizens. Post-independence, growth policies have become excuses for privatization and in favor of corporate monopolies rather than protection of the commons for public welfare. Among regions around the world, South Asia is the second number in the construction of large dams. Pursuing neo-colonial control over natural resources, the ecological consequences have become hazardous to life and livelihood.
Bihar wants Farakka barrage to be decommissionedThe Nitish Kumar govt has held the Farakka barrage in West Bengal responsible for heavy floods in Bihar and asked the Centre to decommission it to de-silt the heavily loaded upstream of Ganga River. The state has made the recommendation, observing that the dam is the “genesis of severe” flood consequences and responsible for “alarming” silt increase in the river’s upstream. According to sources, Nitish Kumar dispensation has made the demand before an experts’ committee formed by the Centre to work out guidelines for de-silting Ganga following last year’s devastating floods.
As per the statement, decommissioning the barrage will help automatically de-silt the heavily loaded upstream, allowing silt to move to deltas before the sea thus helping in restoration of deltas and its eco-system which is also getting adversely affected due to this barrage. To buttress its point, the state government has referred to Kolkata Port Trust’s data, which suggests that silt dredging at the port has increased from 6.40 million cubic metres annually from pre-Farakka days to four times, i.e. at 21.88 MCM annually, during 2003. The state government has also recommended the panel to come up with ‘National Silt Policy’ to address the problem. Bihar faced one of its worst floods as Ganga swelled in August last year, claiming lives of over 20 persons and affecting 20 lakh people.
Bihar Government has rightly asked for decommissioning of Farakka barrage and held it as the genesis of severe, destructive and prolonged floods that Bihar and other regions upstream from Farakka face year after year. Good to see that Bihar government has officially demanded decommissioning of the Farakka barrage before an expert committee of Ministry of Water Resources. Hope this starts the ball rolling to remove this unnecessary and giant dam on Ganga, which will also help the cause of fisheries (including Hilsa), downstream Bengal and also the river in general. The road cum rail line on the barrage can continue to exist.
Oroville Dam, the tallest Dam in USA was found to have suffered severe damage to its spillway on Feb 7, 2017. A crater of about 180 feet width, 250 feet length and 30 feet depth was found in lower portion of the 3000 ft long spillway on Tuesday when 55000 cusecs (cubic feet of water) was flowing down the spillway.
That water release down the damaged spillway was stopped the same day. But the water level in the Oroville dam was than already over 80%, fast climbing to over 90% by the evening of Feb 9, 2017 and with inflow of 128000 cusecs on Feb 7, rising to 191000 cusecs on Feb 9, the officials of Department of Water Resources (DWR) of California decided to first test the damaged spillway by releasing 20000 cusecs twice on Feb 8, 2017. This further damaged the spillway, increasing the depth of the crater to upto 300 ft as per some reports and not only increasing the length and width, but also eroding the adjoining hills. Continue reading “Oroville Dam Spillway Damage in USA: Worst is yet to come”→
Above: Illegal Sand Mining in Pune (Photo: Indian Express)
At State level the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) is the regulatory authority for granting environmental clearance to the projects falling under Category ‘B’ in Schedule of EIA notification, 2006, which receives projects recommended by State level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC). SEAC is constituted for the purpose of assisting the SEIAA. Both SEAC and SEIAA are constituted under the EIA notification. For Maharashtra there are three SEACs. SEAC-I looks after appraisal of all the projects related to Industries, Mining, Irrigation and others, excluding building projects. SEAC-II looks appraises all the building projects falling under Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and SEAC-III appraises the building projects falling under Non-MMR region.
SANDRP looked at the decisions of SEAC-I (hereafter referred to as SEAC) for 17 meetings (of year 2015-16) specifically for projects which involve rivers, water bodies and also which have large water footprint e.g. sugarcane. The projects related to rivers and water bodies mainly consisted of sand mining projects, medium irrigation projects, dredging of rivers for proposed waterways, newly proposed or capacity enhancement of sugar factories and few other specific projects such as solid waste dumping site proposed by Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) which is close to the river etc.
At the outset it has to be said that the minutes for all the meetings are highly generic with little or no project specific elaboration especially of the environmental impacts. For most of the projects especially sand mining the remarks and conditions are standard. If one is trying to understand the rationale behind sanctioning some projects it finds no mention. Many of the projects like sand mining, river dredging or solid waste management sites near flood lines have been approved despite of evident grave risk. ‘No project’ does not seem to be an option at all.
Minutes of the meetings reflect how the project proponents (PP) have taken rivers for granted. Despite repeated violations SEAC has bestowed tremendous faith in PP that the conditions it stipulates will be complied with.
Remarks made by the committee give an impression of inadequate impact assessment of the projects. There is enough room to question if any serious impact assessment happened at all.
Summer of 2016 saw thirteen Indian states grappling with severest drought greatly fueling the ongoing depletion of aquifers. Then the supposedly surplus southwest monsoon also fell short by 3 per cent further stressing the falling groundwater table. At the same time the pollution of surface water sources, which function as recharge point for ground water, went uninterrupted.
All through the year, Central and many State Governments unveiled several new plans and projects targeting the sustainable consumption of groundwater. The judiciary made various orders to reign in illegal extraction of the finite resource. However, the situation continued to deteriorate.
At least since 1994, ever increasing pollution of River Yamuna had ballooned into a national concern, with Supreme Court of India taking up the case of Mailee Yamuna. The authorities lacked a holistic view of a river system. Essential issues like unhindered flow and intact floodplain were seldom discussed and debated. Thus, cleaning of pollution through infrastructure and technologies had become the central theme of saving Yamuna River. As a result, the cleaning efforts got no success and Yamuna River health kept worsening.
Amid this scenario, a group of Delhi citizens in 2006 woke up to impact of a 10 days shopping event to be organized on annual basis in the floodplain of Yamuna River at Delhi- Noida, Uttar Pradesh border. The event faced criticism and was resultantly called off.
But the incident just proved a tip of iceberg for the concerned group who after sometimes came across a list of permanent and commercial structures, being proposed within ecologically valuable and sensitive floodplains of River Yamuna in Delhi as a part of Common Wealth Games 2010.
The prevailing ignorance towards importance of floodplains of River Yamuna in Delhi and blatant encroachment of it, led to formalization of the group into Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan (YJA) on 07 February 2007.
As per the latest power generation figures released by the Central Electricity Authority, the hydropower generation during the current Financial Year 2016-17 is likely to be lower than the previous year’s generation even though the installed capacity has gone up. Average generation per MW of hydro capacity in India in 2016-17 is likely to be about 30% less power than what our average generation was in 1994-95. More worryingly, the hydropower generated per MW installed capacity continues its downward slide, the downward slide has been going on for now over two decades. Continue reading “Diminishing Returns from Large Hydropower projects: Opportunity for a pause”→
MaharashtraSPCB cuts 40% water supply to Taloja industriesAfter the pollution board identified that chemical effluents from common effluent treatment plant (CETP) at Taloja were polluting the Kasadi river, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) have directed to Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to cut 40 per cent of the water supply to industrial plants from February 1.
According to the letter issued to the industrial plants, earlier they were receiving 24-hour water supply but after MPCB’s directive, the plants would not receive water from 12am to 8am, effective from February 1.
To highlight their plight, the fishermen then collected water samples in August 2016 from the Taloja CETP pipeline areas discharging treated waste and samples from the banks of the Kasadi river, and submitted them for a water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (NMMC) environmental laboratory.
The samples were found failing several crucial parameters and having high levels of chloride , which is toxic to aquatic life and impacts vegetation and wildlife. Several reports had also mentioned that the pumping of industrial waste into the river had raised pollution levels 13 times higher than the safe limit.
Taking cognizance of the complaints, MPCB issued a notice to MIDC highlighting the pollution problem on Jan. 31 2017 and informing the MIDC that until the Taloja industrial area does not start online pollution monitoring, adequate water supply would not be provided to them. The plants have two months to comply or else further action would be taken.