During a global seminar held on Feb. 25-26, 2017 in Patna experts from across the country have advocated an “urgent review” and comprehensive study of 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 organised by 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 opened during 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.
In the meet, Economist Bharat Junjhunwala read out a six-point draft proposal that was circulated for discussion at the conference. Addressing the meet, renowned water expert Rajendra Singh, advocated for the removal of Farakka barrage. He also talked about the negative impact Bihar would face if it supports National Waterway 1 – between Allahabad and Haldia.
Expressing concern over the rights of the river, author Vandana Shiva said an ecological perspective was required to save the river that was being affected by climate changes, inorganic farming and development in the hills. Gandhian environmentalist and Chipko Movement founder Chandi Prasad Bhatt said Ganga cannot be seen in isolation as it was hugely affected by whatever happened in the Himalayan range. Punjab’s environmentalist Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal said that pollution of river Ganga can also be dealt with if we stop releasing untreated water and putting solid waste directly into the Ganga.
Bihar has been at the receiving end with floods caused by River Ganga and its tributaries becoming an annual affair in the state. The Bihar government has thus convened the conference to find out measures that would maintain the characteristic flow of the river and reduce chances of deluges.
On the other hand, after demanding decommissioning of Farakka dam, the Bihar State Govt. has on 20 Feb. 2017 opposed the Centre’s move to construct dams in the river’s upper stream above Buxar to facilitate commercial navigation of vessels from Haldia to Allahabad. As per Nitish Kumar, the Govt is ‘dead against’ converting the Ganga into small reservoirs by constructing check dams to store adequate water for facilitating navigation of big vessels. Nitish said there was no benefit from the barrage, which has been the genesis of recurring floods. As per report, in late 2014, nine Indians filed a writ petition with the NGT claiming that Farakka was liable for environmental losses of Rs3,226 crore annually. In the 1960s, the then chief engineer Kapil Bhattacharya was singled out and marginalised for pointing out fatal flaws of the project.
Meanwhile questioning Farakka removal demand, former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi on Feb. 21, 2017 has asked the Nitish Kumar Govt to first stop construction of embankments to avoid flooding in the State. He further said that the total length of embankments in 1954 was 160km and the overall area affected by the floods was 25lakh hectare. The length of embankments in 2016 was 3,731km and the area affected by floods was 72.95 lakh hectare. It has been scientifically proved that excessive construction of embankments leads to floods, but the state government is still doing so. It should first correct its own actions.
Interestingly, on the CM’s protest on proposed reservoir at Buxar and in Uttar Pradesh enroute Allahabad-Haldia waterways, Sushil Modi said it has been already been made clear that no barrage would be constructed on Ganga for National Waterways 1. As per, Sushil Kumar Modi, the The World Bank’s Engineering consultant in its feasibility report has completely ruled out any barrages on National Waterway 1 stretch (Varanasi to Haldia)”, he said showing official papers of Inland Waterways Authority of India in this regard.
He also quoted a letter written by Inland Waterways Authority of India Chairman Amitabh Verma to Bihar Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh in January last which said, “The consent of Government of Bihar was duly obtained for the notification of six rivers for declared as national waterway viz MW 37 (Gandak), 54 (Karmnasa), 58 (Kosi), 81 (Punpun) and 94 (Sone). He also said that Farakka dam is guided by an International agreement between India and Bangladesh. This is not an issue of any one particular state. The matter relates to two countries. BJP leaders Sushil Modi is on weak ground where he opposes CM’s demand for decommissioning of Farakka barrage. Farakka barrage is certainly BIG contributing factor in increasing drainage congestion in Bihar. His contention is also totally misleading as Farakka barrage is NOT an international projects, it is entirely an Indian project. However, Sushil Modi is right in raising the issue of encroachment on Ganga riverbed and also role of embankments.
Meanwhile, Patna University geology teacher and JD(U) MLC Ranbir Nandan blamed Farakka barrage in West Bengal for heavy siltation in the lower reaches of the Ganga. He criticised BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi’s statements in favour of Farakka barrage as misleading. Nandan said the barrage causes estimated over 20 lakh tonnes of silt per annum, resulting in the rise of its riverbed and floods in the state. The average depth of the Ganga has reduced by almost 50 per cent from Patna to Farakka in Murshidabad district — a waterway distance of 460km downstream — in the four decades since the construction of the barrage. Technical analysis of the river course also suggests that any obstruction in the main Ganga plays a catalytic role for accentuating the recurrence of floods. Therefore, the only required immediate action is decommissioning of Farakka barrage.
Contrary to Nitish Kumar’s apprehensions that the Farakka barrage is responsible for recurrent floods in Bihar, a Central Water Commission (CWC) report on Bihar floods in 2016 says the man-made structure even in the worst scenario can impact areas only up to about 42km upstream and Patna is located about 400km on the Ganga’s upstream. Based on the assessment of 100 years of floods in the Ganga, the report rather blames heavy banana plantation on the river bank between Patna and Bhagalpur as one of the reasons for the floods. The CWC report also says the sedimentation in Ganga in Bihar is basically due to huge sediment load contributed from its northern tributaries, the Ghaghra, the Gandak and the Kosi. CWC was expected to come to the rescue of Farakka Dam, but not in such an unscientific way.
Amid all this, indication of impending water crisis, Ganga water level has declined sharply even before the onset of summer in Bhagalpur district of Bihar. The fall in the water level has already led to a drift of the river stream. Any further change in its course was likely to affect water supply to the intake well of Barari Water Works (BWW), which maintains the town’s water distribution network.
Karnataka Govt plans first pumped storage hydropower plant The State Energy department has prepared plan to create a 1,200-MW pumped storage plant on Sharavathi river in Shivamogga district. The govt has already issued orders for the Rs 5,000-crore project. As per officials, work on the project will start this year-end and will be completed by 2021. They also say that it should take care of the power demand till 2030. The idea of pump storage is to use the excess energy which leads to shut down of many thermal units. So, the department has decided not to shut down units, but put to use the excess energy generated. The plant will store sufficient energy to meet the power demand of one season. As per the report, the maximum power demand of the state in summer goes up to 10,500 MW. Karnataka to build its first ever pump storage hydropower project at Sharavathi. The 1200 MW Rs 5000 crore project will also involve building an upper tank.
Sikkim Teesta-III HEP commissioned According to the state govt’s website 1,200-MW Teesta Stage III hydropower project (HEP), has been commissioned. Teesta Stage III was reported to cost more than US $1.4 billion to develop. Teesta Urja Limited has a build-own-operate-transfer contract for 35 years for the project, after which the project will be returned to the State Govt. As per the report, filling of the reservoir was completed on Sept. 15, 2016. Under the original schedule, the plant was to be commissioned in September 2012. The project has done much time over run, cost overrun, corruption and violations.
Uttarakhand अलकनंदा हाइड्रो प्रोजेक्ट पर तलवार पौड़ी गढ़वाल जिले के श्रीनगर में स्थित अलकनंदा पावर प्रोजेक्ट (जल विद्युत परियोजना) के भविष्य पर सवालिया निशान लग गया है। लगभग साढ़े तीन हजार करोड़ लागत के इस प्रोजेक्ट में विद्युत उत्पादन भी आरंभ हो चुका है मगर केंद्र सरकार ने प्रोजेक्ट में तमाम खामियों का जिक्र करते हुए श्रीनगर व आसपास के जन जीवन की सुरक्षा के मद्देनजर अब इस प्रोजेक्ट को दी गई स्वीकृति निरस्त करने के लिए प्रदेश सरकार को विचार करने को कहा है।
On the other hand none of the candidates in the fray seem to be taking up issues concerning the immediate environment and the health of the river like acute shortage of drinking water and detrimental impact of the hydro power projects. The residents of Choras village are unhappy for setting up 330MW Srinagar hydro power project closeby. As per Bhopal Singh Chaudhary, president of Kisan Manch and local resident, Alaknanda river has dried up and looks like a nullah for a patch of 5 km after the hydro power dam has been set up. The residents of the area have begun getting dirty water at home and now suffering from various water-borne diseases. He further adds that many of those who live nearby are facing cracks and water seepage and are demanding rehabilitation, but no candidate has taken up these issues as they are hand in glove with hydro companies.
Similarly, in Pratapnagar, the erstwhile capital of the Tehri Garhwal kings, a major election issue is accessibility. The town which along with its adjoining areas has a voter base of over 80,000 is still struggling with the after-effects of the construction of the Tehri dam whose first phase was commissioned over a decade ago. A bridge has been under construction in the area since 2006 and over Rs 150 crore has been already been spent on it. But all there is to show for progress are two pillars and a ramp. However, as per Vikram Singh Negi, sitting MLA of the area the previous design of the bridge made by IIT Roorkee did not pass muster and now after redesigning, the bridge is being made under the supervision of Chinese and Korean architects.
One more news report on the same line, says that the Ganga was an appealing subject for politicians and environmentalists alike. But it doesn’t find mention prominently this poll season in speeches and manifestos of major the two players — the ruling Congress and the BJP, which ruled the state before. No doubt voters in the Ganga valley are angry.
The BJP had promised to allow Ganga to follow its natural course in the upper reaches but local leaders demanded that the hydel power projects be reinstated. The flash floods swept away suspension bridges that link hillside villages with state roads. One such damaged bridge for Dirsari village across the Bhagirathi was to be replaced by 2016 with a footbridge. The money was sanctioned, but the bridge never happened. Similar bridges over the Pindar, a tributary of the Ganga in Chamoli district adjoining the Badrinath shrine, are yet to be repaired, rebuilt. People are forced to cross the gushing river on driftwood, or small manual and hydraulic trolleys, or take a long detour. Also see, Bandh Katha 27 Impact of tunnel constructions Vimal Bhai of MATU through a series of informative video has been raising awareness against the impacts of hydro power and dam projects on the State’s rivers, people and fragile environment.
Maharashtra Pune resettlement officer should be thrown in the dam: Bombay HC The Bombay High Court (HC) on Feb. 20, 2017 slammed the State Govt for its lackadaisical approach in rehabilitating farmers affected by Chaskaman dam in Pune district. The court has now summoned the district collector of Pune to court on the next hearing. He would be asked to explain the bench as to what steps he proposed to take to resettle the famers displaced by Chaskaman project. The judges also said they will arrange Lok Adalat, if needed, only for Chaskaman-affected persons. As per the report, all 396 applications filed by Chaskaman dam affected families, have been pending since 2013 and some of the families have been rendered destitute, as they can be seen wandering about on streets.
Karnataka Cabinet approves 5,912-cr Mekedatu reservoir project The Cabinet on Feb. 16, 2017 gave in-principle approval for implementing the long-pending Mekedatu multipurpose project utilising the Cauvery river water at a cost of Rs 5,912 crore. The project to be built across Cauvery River in Ramanagaram district involves construction of 66.50 TMCFT capacity dam and will produce 400 MW power. This is clearly unviable project by Karnataka. When there is insufficient water even to fill up existing projects, from where will the water come up to fill up for this 66 TMC water? Hope Karnataka friends will oppose this.
Gujarat Sardar Sarovar dam, drowning out citizens The controversial damming of the Narmada river goes on, even though the project has been plagued by escalating costs, corruption scandals and protests over human rights and environmental abuses. Yet despite financial, social and environmental deficiencies Defne Gonenc writes that the main beneficiaries are multinationals and large contractors, rather than the hundreds of ordinary Indians who need clean drinking water and access to the river for their livelihoods. LSE blogger Defne Gonenc raises important questions here.
On the other hand, in Gujarat Budget for 2017-18, massive allocation of Rs 5100 crores for Sardar Sarovar. There is allocation of Rs 76 crores for taking flood water to Kutch dams. Allocation of Rs 100 Crores for the Rs 4010 Crore Bhadbhut Barrage project on Narmada River downstream from SSP dam, which will be further destructive for the river, people and fisherfolks in Bharuch district and is being opposed by them.
Telangana Opposition growing to irrigation project redesign plan The state govt plan to redesign irrigation projects burdening the state exchequer adding Rs 1.5 lakh crore, saw the opposition from Vedire a BJP leader. Vedire has asked the Govt. to abandon the redesign projects and concentrate on completing Krishna and Godavari rivers with fiscal prudence. Vedire is part of several centrally sponsored water projects including inter-linking of rivers. As per the Vedire, there is no need for 50 tmc reservoirs like Mallannasagar, spending some Rs 7000-8000 crore, submerging habitations of thousands and lakhs of people. Meanwhile, a 3 member team of Telangana Joint Action Committee has also demanded an independent committee to review the economic viability of redesigned irrigation projects and award contracts after review. Asking the govt to make the DPRs public, the panel asked it to stop coercive land acquisition for redesigned projects.
Andhra Pradesh Chintalapudi LI scheme going ahead without securing environment nod Serious violations in the implementation of the Chintalapudi Lift Irrigation project in West Godavari district has cropped up. Disputing the Govt’s claim that it is acquiring land as per Land Acquisition Act (2013), the NAPM fact finding panel has alleged violation of rights conferred by the Act for the project-displaced and affected people. NAPM says that the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for any of these villages, as per the provisions of the Act, had not been made public and forest lands were being acquired before settling the claims of adivasis to their cultivation rights on them under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
Initiated in 2008 with a capacity of 8 tmc ft, the scheme was later upgraded to 20 tmc ft. The project will submerge 11,200 acres of revenue land and 6,600 acres of forest land in 127 villages, displacing 16 adivasi villages and depriving 70,000 people of their livelihood entirely or partially. The displaced include land-owning farmers, landless labourers, tenant farmers, and people engaged in rural occupations. Severe environmental impact generated by the project is yet another key issue. Indeed there are so many violations in this project, but those who are supposed to ensure compliance are least bothered.
Govt. moots water Resource Corporation While addressing the weekly review meeting on the Polavaram project CM N Chandrababu Naidu on Feb. 20, 2017 has said that the Govt is contemplating to establish a water resources corporation that will meet the financial requirement of water projects. The officials concerned have been asked to prepare proposals for linking the rivers of Vamsadhara and Nagavali. He has also instructed the officials to release Rs. 425 crore immediately to small and medium irrigation projects and mobilise an equal amount in the near future. On the Polavaram project, the officials told the CM that 1.48 lakh cubic metres of earthwork of the spillway was completed from Feb 13 to 19, 2017. It was targeted to finish 18.97 lakh cubic metres of earthwork in coming week.
Kerala Innovators fight drought drop by drop Amidst the increasing drought impact, there are also soul-stirring attempts by very ordinary people to conserve water and beat the heat with traditional and innovative ways of water harvesting, purification and distribution. In Wayanad, a project envisaging digging of 10,000 ponds in various parts of the district is on with public participation. In Thiruvananthapuram, grama panchayats in the district are engaged in a desperate bid to restore local water bodies that have fallen into disuse and neglect. In Kattakada grama panchayat six ponds have been cleaned up so far, resulting in improved water levels in wells in their vicinity. Interesting set of examples from various parts of Kerala towards water conservation in this drought year.
Karnataka Farmers being encouraged to construct farm ponds Agriculture Department is promoting the construction of farm ponds to recharge the ground water table and enable farmers to provide water to domestic animals in summer. Farmers will be provided with the complete unit cost of farm ponds under the MNREGA. As per officials the Govt has set an amount of ₹87, 000 for each pond. The zilla panchayat and the Rural Drinking Water Supply Department have also taken up certain measures to recharge the groundwater table in villages across the district. Hope it is NOT Maharashtra style farm ponds at elevated level and filled with groundwater or river water.
Tamil Nadu Neglect of traditional water systems main reason behind water scarcity Tamil Nadu wound up with a paltry 168.3 mm of rainfall during the northeast monsoon season as against the normal 440.4 mm, leaving the state with an overall deficit of close to 62% of the long-term expected average precipitation. But poor monsoon alone is not responsible behind the severe water scarcity. Mismanagement of traditional water management systems is one of the main reasons. The state is neck-deep in crises ranging from tricky interstate water sharing disputes to wretched centre-state relations that caring for and sustaining local water resources often takes a backseat.
Karnataka Bengaluru may soon go thirsty as massive drought looms over In 42 years, the State has not seen a drought so bad. Even the ragi crop, which requires little water compared to paddy and sugarcane, is now failing. On Feb 20, 2017 the water levels in the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Dam – which provides drinking water to Bengaluru – hit an all-time low of 78.42 ft, of which only 5.71 ft can be used. On the same day, the inflow of water in the dam stood at 105 cusecs, whereas the outflow was 242 cusecs. If pre-monsoon showers fail, the KRS dam will soon reach dead storage – which is the water in the dam that cannot be used for any purpose. Drought impact in Karnataka is showing up. Krishnaraj Sagar is close to dead storage level.
SANDRP Blog on Indian rivers in Marathi Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP has been writing about rivers in free style in Marathi for the past few months, these remarkable writings, each of them got huge response on her Face Book page, have now been collectively put up at this site. Please do read, post comments (on the blog preferably) and share. Help us spread the word.
National SC orders closure of industrial units without ETPs In a major step to bring down pollution of water bodies including major rivers, the Supreme Court today directed state pollution control boards not to allow industrial units to operate if they do not have effluent treatment plants. The governments have been permitted to shut those units after giving them proper notice. Significantly the pollution control boards have also been asked to direct the concerned discoms or electricity supply boards to disconnect the power supply to the defaulting units. The apex court also said that on expiry of a three-month notice period, state PCBs should carry out inspection of the industrial units to ascertain the status of their PETPs. It further directed authorities to resume their functioning only after functional PETPs. The apex court also asked the local or municipal authorities to set up CEPTs within three years after acquiring land and completing formalities.
During last hearing of the case on Feb. 20, 2017 the SC rapped the West Bengal Govt for not filing a reply to a PIL on release of untreated effluents by industries and other entities into rivers across the country and asked its environment secretary to appear before it on Feb 22, 2017. The apex court had earlier issued notice to the Central Govt and 19 States on the plea highlighting pollution in water bodies, including ground water. Initially, the plea was restricted to Gujarat and later its scope was widened by the apex court which had granted last opportunity to states on Jan 16, 2017 to file their response. As per the report there has been rise of 300 to 400 per cent in release of untreated liquid wastes in rivers across the country.
Maharashtra Appoint committee to look into water schemes: High Court The Bombay HC on Feb. 21, 2017 has asked the State Govt to appoint an expert committee by the end of this month to look into the possible ecological impact of water management schemes initiated by the state. A report is being sought to ascertain if the implementation of the Jalyukta Shivar Scheme and the River Rejuvenation Scheme can cause large scale destruction of the eco-system. This seems like useful order from HC, hope it takes it to logical conclusion.
West Bengal Damodar desiltation project to remove flood threats: Govt As per the State Govt it has brought in an additional 3 lakh acre of farm land under its irrigation program. Interestingly around 1 lakh acre out of this newly-acquired 3 lakh acre land is in the Jangalmahal area. As per the State Irrigation Minister, the World Bank has given its clearance for de-siltation of lower Damodar river and its channels and after completion flood in parts of Howrah, Hooghly, Bankura and Burdwan districts will become a thing of the past. Wow, floods will become thing of the past due to desiltation of Lower Damodar river?
Maharashtra Activists call for ‘Jal Satyagraha’ to protest river exploitation Activists and members of River March a citizens group that has been fighting for the rejuvenation of Mumbai’s four rivers have decided to take to Jal Satyagraha in Poisar river. The group is protesting against the concretisation work on the river bed being carried out by the municipal corporation. Good to see the citizens’ actions to revive rivers in Mumbai.
Goa Work on wall along River Sal halted With the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) issuing a stop-work order, a fisheries department project to construct a 400-metre-long wall along the mouth of the River Sal to regulate the flow of sand deposits has run into rough weather. As per sources said wall was being constructed sans any approval from the authority and was in total contravention of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. The river-training project in the form of a wall in the east-west direction on the mouth of River Sal, overlooking the Arabian Sea together with the renovation of the Cutbona jetty a little upstream, is part of the Rs 100 crore development project of jetties at Betul and Chapora.
Indus Dolphins; very few but very threatened British explorers discovered the South Asian river dolphins that inhabited the rivers of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in the early 19th century. However, the dolphins’ movements were affected when the British began building barrages and dams. The Indus was no exception; work on the barrages commenced in the early 1900s. With India’s independence and the ensuing partition, Pakistan became home to the fragmented river stretches where the Indus river dolphins dwelled. Research shows that as of 2011, around 1,450 individuals remain in Pakistan in five fragmented populations split between six barrages on the Indus, while dolphins in the tributaries of Jhleum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej have been completely wiped out. This is a detailed article about the state of Indus Dolphins in India.
GANGA NGT CBI probe against UP Jal Nigam Finally the NGT on Feb. 21, 2017 has directed the CBI to probe alleged irregularities in the cleaning up of river Ganga by the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam. The tribunal found that projects worth Rs 31.82 crore on STPs and sewerage lines were executed without prior and post facto analysis of verification of pollution load in Garhmukteshwar and Brijghat. After finding that the money spent and preparation done to construct STPs over Garh and Brijghat drain was “dubious”, the tribunal directed CBI to launch an inquiry against the UP Jal Nigam General Manager. The Tribunal directed the CBI director to appoint a senior officer for the investigation.
NGT orders inspection over burning of e-waste on Ramganga floodplains The National Green Tribunal has directed officials from MoEF & CBCPB including UPSPCB to jointly inspect the Ramganga flood plains to probe dumping and burning of waste after a plea alleged illegal processing of electronic waste on the banks of river in western UP. The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by scientist Mahendra Pandey seeking action against illegal processing of electronic waste in Moradabad, Bareilly and Shahjahanpur districts of along river Ramganga, an important tributary of the Ganges. The plea had sought setting up a monitoring committee to ensure prohibition of illegal electronic waste processing along the river and placing on record all relevant material and documents relating to the steps taking by authorities to prevent the pollution in the river.
Centre New committee to speed up Ganga cleaning Chairing the first First Meeting of the Empowered Task Force on River Ganga, Union Water Minister on Feb. 08, 2017 has announced setting up of a Committee (comprising of secretaries from Rural Water, Environment Ministry) to speed up the implementation of Namami Gange Program. The Committee will meet at least once in a fortnight. As per the release, Presently 42 sewage infrastructure projects envisaging create 327.93 MLD sewage treatment capacity are under execution. Till Dec 2016, 253.50 MLD sewage treatment capacity has been created. Currently, eight projects of STPs envisaging creation of 109.40 MLD treatment capacity are under execution at a total cost of Rs. 348.76 crore. Till December 2016, treatment capacity created was 33.40 MLD. Again it is infrastructure heavy agenda of work on Ganga with no attention to governance.
YAMUNA SC asks DJB to file status report After 22 years of SC monitoring and around Rs 5,000 crore being spent, the Yamuna continues to stink like a sewer in Delhi. Observing the fact, the Apex Court on Feb. 20, 2017 has asked the concerned authorities to act fast and sought a comprehensive report from the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) on operation of interceptor sewage projects (ISP) and STPs within two weeks giving details on the status of all projects aimed at checking pollution of the river.
From 1994 when the apex court took up monitoring of steps to reduce pollution in Yamuna to 2012, Uttar Pradesh has spent Rs 2,052 crore, Delhi government and its civic bodies Rs 2,387 crore (including 315 crore by NDMC and MCD and Haryana Rs 549 crore to clean the river, taking the total to Rs 4,988 crore. As per the report the amount of untreated sewage flowing into Yamuna had grown exponentially over the years, which is now at 1500-1600 MLD.
Under phases I and II of the Yamuna Action Plan, launched in 1993, Rs 576.73 crore has already been spent. Under YAP-III, an additional Rs 1,600 crore has been allocated, which is yet to be used.
Apart from Yamuna Action Plans on which the bulk of funds were spent, the NGT, in its 2015 judgment, had ordered augmenting the functioning of sewage-treatment plants that are running under capacity and constructing 32 smaller STPs in a decentralised manner. There is no implementation of this order so far. Delhi Jal Board claims that it has the capacity to treat 604 million gallons per day of sewage, of which it is treating about 75%.
Experts also say that policies to clean Yamuna have only been STP-oriented when the biggest issue is the fact that the river has no water or ecological flow. SC, in a 1998 order, had directed that 10 cumecs of water be released into the river through the year. Experts feel that 10 cumecs is inadequate, but as of now even that is not being released. Following NGT’s 2015 judgment, about 10 cumecs is being released at Hatnikund, but that reduces significantly as it flows downstream. Meanwhile both Centre and Delhi government have announced several cosmetic measures.
Uttar Pradesh Hindon holds secret to saving India’s sacred rivers The location of the Hindon river flowing between two major rivers — the Ganga and the Yamuna — has proved to be its undoing. While the entire government machinery is focused on the revival of the two major rivers, this beautiful 400-kilometer river which has its origins in the Shivalik hills, north of Saharanpur and flows into the Yamuna near Noida, has received a step-motherly treatment. The extent of which, can be gauged from the fact that the river has completely lost its aquatic life and has acquired a red colour thanks to the toxic pollutants being dumped on it.
Delhi Filthy flows the Sahibi The story of Najafgarh Nehar or Nullah, which originates in the Sahibi river in Rajasthan before snaking its way through Haryana into Southwest Delhi and then emptying into the Yamuna, is a record of abysmal neglect by policymakers and Delhi Jal Board. Reduced to a smelly carrier of untreated sewage and industrial effluent, it still manages to attract thousands of migratory birds during winter from other states as well as countries beyond India’s northern borders. Local thorn brush and wetland birds are found in all seasons. Neelgai, monkeys and other forest creatures seek refuge in the thick tree cover lining the nehar while birds cluster together in the murky water. This serene spectacle is marred by floating garbage and refuse piled up on the slope leading down to the nullah.
In an interesting development, after claiming there was no natural lake in the Najafgarh area, the Haryana Govt has now taken a U-turn by telling the NGT that it has been accepted as a water body. The re-designation would enable the State Govts of Haryana and Delhi to check construction and other activities in the dried up water body and restore its natural beauty.
The Haryana Govt informed the Green Tribunal that the matter however has still to be approved by the competent authority of the state government and it was under process. The state government had earlier claimed that there was no natural lake in Najafgarh but only a “low-lying area” existed.
Noting the submissions, the NGT directed Delhi government to take “appropriate steps in accordance with law” with regard to the Najafgarh lake in view of the statement made by Haryana govt. The submission came in response to a plea filed by an NGO Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural heritage (INTACH) seeking directions to Delhi and Haryana governments seeking revival of the ‘jheel’ (lake in Urdu), as almost equal parts of it fell in the two states. INTACH had alleged that the large-scale construction work done in the floodplain of the Najafgarh nallah and the lake had drained the area. It had claimed that sectors 106, 107,108 of Gurgaon were being constructed in the “high flood level” area of the lake, while some construction was also going on in the Delhi side.
NGT issue notices on East Delhi canal pollution The Green Tribunal on Feb. 20, 2017, has sought replies from MoEF, CPCB and Delhi Govt on a petition highlighting failure of civic authorities in checking solid waste dump in an East Delhi canal in Dallupura in East Delhi led the NGT to seek replies from the Centre and the Delhi govt. The court also directed the authorities to immediately remove waste from the canal and file a compliance report stating the methodology adopted for cleaning the canal. The order came on the plea filed by Vikrant Tongad seeking immediate removal of municipal waste and plastic bags from the canal. The plea has also sought directions to form a committee to inspect all polluted water bodies in the city and submit a report including a time-bound action plan. This shows such a total failure of the MCD, Delhi Govt, MoEF, NGT and higher judiciary.
Uttar Pradesh NGT directs Gonda DM to file affidavit on illegal mining The Green Tribunal on Feb 21, 2017 directed District Magistrate of Gonda to file an affidavit on the issue of illegal sand mining. The green bench also slammed the officer for not appearing before it despite specific orders passed thrice. On claiming that no illegal mining was being carried out, the bench directed the officer to file a personal affidavit and posted the case for next hearing on March 7. The NGT was hearing a plea by Lok Sabha MP Kirti Vardhan Singh from Gonda who had written to it seeking ban on large-scale illegal sand mining going on in Kalyanpur and Chak Rasool areas under Tehsil Tarabganj in Gonda.
Bihar HC stays probe into illegal mining Hearing a plea, the Patna high court on Feb. 20, 2017 has temporarily stayed the probe into illegal sand mining in Patna and Bhojpur districts that was being conducted by DIG (central range) Shalin. As per the petitioner advocate, the petition had been stayed for the time being and the original case would be converted into a PIL, which would be listed for hearing before a division bench. Police sources said illegal sand mining is rampant in many parts of Bihar, including Patna and Bhojpur districts. It is to be noted that in January this year, over 700 trucks carrying illegally mined stone and sand were seized in different districts of Bihar.
Madhya Pradesh Panna admin cracks whip on mining mafia In one of the biggest action against mining mafia, more than 200 trucks have been seized by the administration in Panna in the last two days. In all more than 300 trucks were seized in a campaign against the mafia in the last one month. However, truck operators alleged that even the trucks operating legally were also seized. The trucks were confiscated from different parts of the district bordering Uttar Pradesh.
WETLANDS AND WATER BODIES
West Bengal Govt was kept in dark over Ramsar status of EKW: Env Min Immediately after being anointed chairman of the East Kolkata Wetland Management Authority (EKWMA), environment minister Sovan Chatterjee, who is also the city’s mayor and the state housing and fire minister, has proposed a review of the Ramsar site and argued in favour of “proper utilization” of the land that currently lies barren. On assuming charge, he showed no let up in his plans and continued to argue against the curbs placed on EKW by the Ramsar Convention. The minister also questioned the chief secretary’s role as past chairman, wondering why he never questioned the rationality of EKW’s inclusion in Ramsar convention. The minister has also alleged that KMC had been kept in the dark when EKW was included as a Ramsar site in 2002.
The minister’s remarks have alarmed environmentalists, who were quick to point out that the environment department had sent the application to the Union environment ministry in 1994-95. On Feb. 20, 2017, the EKW (Conservation and Management) (Amendment) Act, 2006, was amended to make the environment minister the chairman of EKWMA in place of the chief secretary. Incidentally, the central govt bill on the basis of which the amendment was introduced is still in the draft stage.
Maharashtra Take steps to stop encroachment on wetlands: HC SEE HOW THE HIGH COURT IS OPENLY PARDONING ILLEGALITIES: “I have no doubt that there are encroachments on wetlands. Nobody can deny that. The only thing that remains is, what the authorities are doing to prevent, restore and restrain such destruction in future,” the court said, while hearing a PIL. “Now, we cannot do anything in places where buildings have already been constructed on wetlands. However, in future, in places like Mira-Bhayandar and Panvel, we have to see to it that mangroves are saved. We should ruthlessly stop further destruction,” Justice Kanade said. THERE IS NO WAY THE COURT CAN SAVE THE REMAINING MAGROVES IF THEY REFUSE TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ILLEGALITIES ALREADY COMMITTED.
National Urbanization eating into wetlands–at their own peril The huge process of urbanisation will have a direct effect on wetlands and in response the wetlands will end up determining the quality of life in the cities as well. But the Govt has downplayed the impact of, saying that only a few have been affected. The effects of badly managed urbanisation can already be seen in the other Asian giant, China, where wetlands decreased by 23% in the decade 2003 to 2013. In India, no reliable data exists, although according to some estimates the damage may be greater, with one third of all wetlands severely degraded or wiped out.
Karnataka Explain Bellandur lake fire: NGT Taking suo motu cognizance of the fire at the lake, Bengaluru’s largest water body, he Green Tribunal on Feb. 21, 2017 issued notices to the State Govt and its agencies seeking their replies on action taken to rejuvenate water bodies in two weeks. Prior to the hearing, Mahendra Jain, additional chief secretary to the State Govt’s urban development department, submitted a report on the status of lakes in Bengaluru. The next hearing is on March 20, 2017. Will NGT bite? NGT says: “We issue show-cause notices to all authorities as to why we should not direct their prosecution under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Punjab Drop in migratory birds at Harike wetlands There has been a 12% drop in the number of migratory birds flying to Punjab’s famed Harike wetlands since 2016. Harike wetlands are spread over 41 sq km and were declared a sanctuary in 1962. Harike divisional forest officer (wildlife) Baljit Singh said habitats of migratory birds had been gradually vanishing due to intensive agricultural activities and excessive pressure on the wetlands. However, Harike is not the only wetland witnessing depletion in the habitat for migratory birds.
Tamil Nadu Wetland under threat in Manjoor town A piece of pristine wetland in Manjoor town is facing an existential threat as the TANGEDCO plans to dump sand collected from desilting the Kundah Dam at the spot. The wetland, located along the Manjoor to Coimbatore Road, is rife with native species of trees as well as grasslands. An access road to the swamp has already been dug with the use of an earthmover. Some of the varieties of grass found only in wetland swamps have already been removed. Desilting works on the Kundah Dam is about to begin shortly, and it has been said that the TANGEDCO plans to dump the soil from the desilting operations on the swamp, irreparably destroying it in the process.
80% fall in arrival of birds to wetlands As per the 7th edition of Tamirabharani Waterbird Count (conducted in the wetlands of Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts between Feb 03-07, 2017) there has been a drop of over 80% in the arrival of birds in the wake of failure of northeast monsoon which has turned most of the wetlands dry in the district. The researchers have also found that invasive plants have encroached many wetlands. De-silting has not been done in any tank. Moreover, the tanks are used for dumping garbage and wastes. Loads of plastics dumped in Nainarkulam in Tirunelveli has made it inhabitable for birds.
Delhi Bird population rises in Yamuna wetlands The findings from Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2017 have revealed an increase in bird population in the Delhi stretch of Yamuna. Around 2,641 birds belonging to 24 species have been spotted this year. As per the census around 590 birds belonging to 23 species were spotted in 2016, while in 2015, 641 birds belonging to 19 species were seen. According to the ecologists, the presence of black-winged stilt shows the foul quality of the river in the city. However, not all think the number of birds spotted is too big and if one leaves out the gulls, the number of birds is not too much as out of the birds spotted, over 2,000 are gulls.
The AWC earlier had also revealed that bird population has doubled in Okhla in the past one year. Nearly 53 species with a total of 6,183 birds were counted at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary compared to last year’s 3,113 with 46 species. According to ecologist TK Roy, most of these birds, however, belonged to primarily four species. This year, six birds which are “threatened”, according to the IUCN red list, were also spotted. The census is carried out simultaneously in 27 countries from January 7 to 21.
Expert Speak Let’s go back to the open well The open well made groundwater visible. It provided water but also communicated the availability of the resource varying by the season and by the year of good rainfall or bad. Humans had to change their behaviour based on the resource availability. Water had to be used with discretion in summer time till the advent of the rains and recharge. The open well also rewarded good behaviour. If a percolation tank was dug close by and rainwater harvested, the well would fill up and stay full for a longer time. This was in fact a common practice. It’s a very interesting report on open well from Vishwanath, the Rainman.
Maharashtra Govt goes Doha for water Doha is a low-cost, eco-friendly water impounding structure built in a stream with no casting material used. As per Mansur Khorasi, programme director, Dilasa Sansthan, they have deepened and widened the streams in sections of 300 metres each with a gap of 100 metres in between., the structure helps in storing water and recharging groundwater and the construction cost for Doha is Rs 70000/TCM whereas the government estimate is Rs 1,50,000/TCM for the same work. Dilasa built more than 600 Doha structures in eight districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada in the last four years. These structures created a storage capacity of about 300 crore litres which benefitted more than 20000 farmers through crop irrigation facilities. It has also helped more than 70,000 people by improving drinking water availability in 75 villages in summer. This sounds very similar to the controversial Jalyukta Shivar program.
Centre Punjab, Tamil Nadu have opposed NWF draft bill As per the Union Water Ministry statement in Rajya Sabha on Feb. 20, 2017, Tamil Nadu and Punjab have opposed the draft National Water Framework Bill (NWFL) 2016. It was also revealed that only a few States have responded to Ministry’s proposal seeking suggestion and support to the bill from different states. As per the report, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have agreed to the bill with certain amendments. The draft Bill proposes to consider a river basin as the basic hydrological unit for planning, development and management of water. Interesting that no state seems to have agreed to the draft bill, some states have suggested amendments and TN and Punjab have opposed it. Contrary to this, Bangalore Sustainable Development Group a local think tank formed by TERI has called on stakeholders to reach an expeditious consensus on the provisions of the bill. Why is TERI pushing for adoption of the framework bill is a bit strange?
Himachal WB to study viability of Kol Dam drinking water project Officials of the World Bank will evaluate the viability of Rs 1,000 crore Kol Dam lift drinking water project before giving in principal consent to fund the same. The project aims at supplying additional 60 MLD water increasing the water supply to 105 MLD to ensure 24×7 water supply in Shimla and its adjoining areas. At present, Shimla has installed capacity of about 42-45 MLD of daily water supply from Giri, Guma, Churat, Been-Koti Bharandi and other sources. But, as per the officials the SMC is able to supply water on alternative days as it gets about 32 MLD daily. As per report, the Chanshal Water Supply Project was put in cold storage as it involved construction of over 100-km long pipeline. One can Bank on the World Bank to choose the most expensive and destructive project. So they have chosen this 1000 crore project for Shimla’s water supply without any attempt at exhausting local options.
Madhya Pradesh A water down scheme Manthan review of the Madhya Pradesh Urban water supply scheme is highlighted in this report. The implementation of CMUWSS have not so far brought any positive results in the delivery of water services in Madhya Pradesh and there is a need to understand that privatisation is not the solution to address the water problems in the state and for improving water services, strengthening municipal bodies is the need of the hour.
Kerala Govt to focus on water projects Inaugurating the Ramankayam drinking water project the Water Resources Minister Mathew T. Thomas has said that the govt has embarked on executing Rs. 1,500 crore drinking water projects envisaged to supply an additional 750 million litres of drinking water a day in the State in a span of five years. So far, the State is able to supply safe drinking water to 30% households. The minister also has promised to give special attention to complete the Bavikkara drinking water project by building a check-dam across the Payaswini river, a tributary of the Chandragiri river, to meet the water requirements of residents in and around Kasaragod town.
Madhya Pradesh Power cheaper in market but costlier for consumers As it is, power tariffs in the state are higher in comparison to other states. For example, a family in Bhopal pays Rs 556 for consuming 100 units of power every month and will pay Rs 650 if tariff hike, proposed by distribution companies, comes into force. While the Govt seeks a 10 per cent tariff hike at Rs 4.80 per unit to an already burdened domestic consumer, it is selling surplus power in open market at just Rs 2.43 losing revenue of Rs 2,400 crore each year.
Pakistan Sindh People March to Protect Indus River In continuation with the PFF’s yearly campaign for the restoration for River Indus and Indus Delta, the PFF has decided to organize Sindh Awami Caravan in the form of a 14-Day long campaign that will start from March 1, 2017 and will culminate on March 14, 2017 in the form of a massive people’s assembly that will be participated by thousands of peoples fishing and peasant communities, civil society members, academia, government officials, media and other stakeholders. The 2017 Sindh Awami Caravan will be carried out under the theme; Protection of our rivers and delta. Taking into consideration the aims and objectives of the Caravan, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has planned to highlight the restoration of rivers in general in the River Indus in particular, the fresh water flow of 35 MAF Kotri downstream, the protection of Indus Delta and provision of fresh water in all the inland fresh water natural lakes. The PFF demands that the natural flow of rivers especially River Indus be restored.
India Bangladesh Mamata pours water over Indo-Bangla Ganges Dam treaty After having scuppered the Teesta river water sharing agreement between India and the neighbouring country, CM Mamta Banerjee is now opposed to an ambitious Bangladesh plan to build a dam across the Ganga proposed to solve the water crisis in south western Bangladesh but also improve connectivity between the south and north of the country. After consulting several river water specialists, Mamata Banerjee is not too enthusiastic about the project, saying that damming the Ganga at the spot would increase the risk of flooding in Murshidabad and Nadia districts and also hand over the reins of water control to Bangladesh.
India-Nepal Centre clears Rs 5,700-cr hydro project to be set up in Nepal The Cabinet on 21 Feb. 2017 approved setting up of 900 MW Arun-III project at an estimated cost of Rs 5,723.72 crore. As per Power Minister Piyush Goyal, the project is expected to achieve financial closure by September this year. The projected will be implemented within five years. The project is being implemented by a 100 per cent subsidiary of state-run SJVN Ltd. SJVN Ltd is joint venture between Central and Himachal Pradesh governments with shareholding of 64.46 per cent and 25.51 per cent, respectively. The subsidiary SJVN Arun-3 Power Development Company Pvt Ltd (SAPDC) was incorporated and registered on April 25, 2013 as a private limited company under Nepal’s Companies Act. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project was signed with the Government of Nepal on March 2, 2008. The project is located in the Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal, 657 km from Kathmandu via Birat Nagar. The survey licence for generation was issued by Government of Nepal during July 2008. Survey and investigation works were completed in January, 2011. The DPR (detailed project report) was vetted by Central Electricity Authority on June 9, 2014.
The 170 km/h Sanxicun landslide On 10th July 2013 the catastrophic Sanxicun landslide, located at 30.917, 103.565, occurred during heavy rainfall in the Dujiangyan area of Suchuan Province. This was a large landslide – the estimated volume is 1.9 million cubic metres – and parts of the landslide travelled as a highly mobile flow for about 1000 metres. The landslide struck 11 buildings in a tourist resort, killing 166 people.
THE REST OF THE WORLD
US Groups sue EPA to protect wild salmon from climate change U.S. fishing and conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 23, 2017 seeking to protect wild salmon threatened by rising water temperatures attributed in part to climate change in two major rivers of the Pacific Northwest. The groups’ legal bid on behalf of salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers hinges on the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate excessive temperatures in those rivers as pollutants. The lawsuit seeks to compel the EPA to thus require dam operators in the Columbia and Snake watersheds of Washington state, Oregon and Idaho to control river flows in such a way as to keep water temperatures cool enough for the salmon to survive. LAND MARK PETITION AGAINST US EPA TO SAVE SALMON FROM HIGHER TEMPERATURE WATER DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE.
Study Amazon reef: ‘a mega biome’ Scientists have discovered the river reef is far bigger, and more important, than first thought – a biodiversity hotspot on a par with the Great Barrier Reef. At a time, when most of the world’s shallow reefs are in trouble due to bleaching, climate change and fishing, but this one is pristine. But the scientists are now racing the oil companies. Even as the Amazon reef is found and gives up its secrets, BP, Total and Brazilian oil companies are preparing to start exploratory drilling for what they estimate to be 15-20bn barrels of oil at depths of more than 1,000 metres. The Brazilian govt has already licensed 80 blocks off the coast of Amapá, with the closest just five miles from the reef.
Study Hydropower boom adds to climate change With 847 large (more than 100 MW) and 2,853 smaller (more than 1 MW) hydropower projects currently planned or under construction around the world, a new global study has shown that dam reservoirs are major greenhouse gas emitters and raises the question as to whether hydropower should continue to be counted as green power or be eligible for UN CDM carbon credits. Importantly, the study found that methane is responsible for 90 percent of the global warming impact of reservoir emissions over 20 years. In fact, methane’s effect is 86 times greater than that of CO2 when considered on this two-decade timescale.
Research Tiny natural ponds can speed up global warming Tiny natural ponds pose an overlooked danger for speeding up global warming, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. In experiments designed to simulate moderate future warming, scientists in Britain found that such ponds a metre across gradually lose the capacity to soak up one kind of greenhouse gas and give off even more of another. While covering only a tiny fraction of Earth’s surface area, they are responsible for about 40% of methane emissions from inland waters, earlier research has shown. This sounds VERY controversial to me, and certainly needs more studies and explanations why this is specific to small ponds and not larger water bodies.
Maharashtra Flood risk assessment of Panchganga River According to Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) analysis, high flood risk area includes nearly 17 villages. In the case of agricultural land, about 42 sq. km is flood vulnerable area. Also, some major roads in the study area come under the high flood risk zone. All the above mentioned infrastructure, agriculture and settlement areas are located in high flood risk zone and it immediately requires proper attention to avoid socio-economic losses.
Brazil Govt races against time to save drought-hit city, dying crops Brazil’s arid northeast is weathering its worst drought on record and Campina Grande, which has 400,000 residents that depend on the reservoir, is running out of water. After two years of rationing, residents complain that water from the reservoir is dirty, smelly and undrinkable. Those who can afford to do so buy bottled water to cook, wash their teeth with, and even to give their pets. The reservoir is down to 4 percent of capacity and rainfall is expected to be sparse this year. Rainfall has decreased and temperatures have risen, increasing demand for agricultural irrigation just as water supplies fell and evaporation accelerated. While experts blame lack of planning by Brazil’s govt for persistent and repeated water crises, shocking for a country that boasts the biggest fresh water reserves on the planet. As per scientists, climate change has worsened the droughts in Brazil’s northeast over the last 30 years.
Mexico City faces a severe water crisis Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point. Mexico city is facing multiple disasters, including water shortages, groundwater depletion, pollution, sinking due to over extraction of groundwater, a major one among these.
California Oroville dam crisis could have been averted The officials in Butte and Plumas rural counties, which surround Lake Oroville, had challenged the state’s environmental review of dam operations in a 2008 lawsuit, arguing the state “recklessly failed” to properly account for climate change in its long-term dam management plan. As per the counties, the hydrologic models DWR used are based on the colder decades of the 1940s and 1950s—“a hypothetical future that DWR knows to be dangerously false.
As per report, Northern California is in the midst of its wettest rainy season on record – twice as wet as the 20th century average, and 35% wetter than the previous record year. And the hydrological changes that provoked the Oroville crisis are likely to affect other dams throughout California and the West. Scientific models project a climate that is more variable, with hotter, longer droughts and bigger precipitation events—specifically, more rain and more intense rainstorms as well as less snowpack.
Similarly, marking another milestone in what is shaping up to be the state’s wettest year on record for the first time in almost two decades, water was released on Feb. 22, 2017 from the topmost gates of the dam impounding Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir. The gates have only been used twice in more than a generation, in 1983 and 1997. They might have to be used again later this year for snowmelt. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at levels never seen before, and when it melts in the spring and summer, it will likely send a massive flow of water into the lake.
Jammu & Kashmir Govt unaware about number of glaciers Despite melting of glaciers at an alarming rate, which experts say could have serious fallout in the Valley, the government has been least bothered for their preservation with no preventive measures being taken to restrict them from further shrinking. Although, experts have expressed serious concern over the melting of glaciers in the Valley especially the Thajwas and Kalohai glaciers, sources said the authorities have left them at the mercy of the God without taking any preventive measures. Sources said government has failed to take any measures in preserving glaciers which are melting at the fast rate. Good to see that the govt recognises that local activities can have impact on glaciers, besides the global factors and have suggested use of electric vehicles.
National La Nina out, forecasters now fear El Nino The rain-boosting La Nina phenomenon is completely ruled out this year and conditions are likely to remain neutral or turn toward the feared El Nino, which is not good for the monsoon, but forecasters said that a clear picture would appear only after a few months. So now La Nina is out and El Nino a possibility this year. This is not a good sign for Indian monsoon.
Western Ghats Newly found frogs, threatened by hydro projects Scientists exploring the forests of the Western Ghats have come across four new species of tiny frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail, which make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to the one of a cricket. These species are among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Department, who spent five years surveying the global biodiversity hotspot. The scientists were surprised by the relative abundance of the previously unknown species at their collection localities. The discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are diminutive in size (less than 18 mm). As many as 103 new amphibian species have been described from the Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.
While turning the spotlight on the amphibian diversity of the Western Ghats, the discovery also highlights the threat posed by human activities to the species. The Athirappilly Night Frog was found close to the Athirappilly waterfalls, the proposed site of a hydroelectric project, while the Sabarimala Night Frog was discovered near the hill shrine which receives lakhs of pilgrims every year. The Radcliffe’s Night frog and the Kadalar Night Frog were reported from plantation areas. 5 new frog species discovered in Western Ghats, but they are threatened by the hydropower and other such projects proposed.