Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 20 April 2020: Solutions to Covid 19 & Climate change are same?

This proposition clearly sounds simplistic and seems devoid of science or logic. But the case studies of the epidemics since 1980 and loss of forests, biodiversity and sustainability shows that this is not to be dismissed that easily. In fact the following interview with Dr Aaron Bernstein makes a powerful case to show why this indeed has a lot of science and logic behind it. It also hence makes a case that yesterday (our “normal”), is no longer a good model for better tomorrow.

Solutions To Coronavirus & Climate Change Same Interview with Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital who heads the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health provides a powerful message. He said: “And this is truly mind-blowing to me: A 1 microgram per meter-cubed increase in particulate matter raised the chances of death from COVID by 15%. This is a very small change in air quality, leading to a substantial increase in risk of people dying.”

– “We have lots of evidence that deforestation drives disease (ebola, malaria, etc) emergence. Deforestation is also a major driver of climate change. Preventing deforestation is going to help both the climate and infectious disease risk… climate actions benefit our health right now — especially in ways that get at some of the biggest health problems we face… These are critical parts of addressing obesity. And, of course, the more we use public transit and active (walking, biking) transit, the lower our carbon emissions will be.”

– “It’s entirely possible that the improved air pollution that resulted from China slowing its economy may save as many — if not more — lives than the virus took away. That’s how profound this effect is.”

His conclusion is clear: “So, climate solutions are pandemic solutions… I think it just underscores that we need to refocus our attention on doing what we can to keep these diseases at bay. And that in large part means we have to combat climate change, and we have to combat the root causes of biodiversity loss, the destruction of life on earth.”  https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/why-solutions-coronavirus-climate-change-same_n_5e908f19c5b6260471e0d840  (14 April 2020)

Approaches and frameworks for conservation need to be revamped – This is not the first time the loss in biodiversity and natural resources was linked to a pandemic. The previous pandemics such as Ebola in Africa (2019), SARS coronavirus (2003) in China and South East Asia, Zika (2015) in Brazil and Pacific were all associated with zoonotic viruses linked to a loss in biodiversity and climate change.

– According to a study published in the J R Soc Interface, besides the increase in the frequency of disease outbreaks, the proportion of unknown diseases went on increasing throughout the world between 1980 -2013. There were 12,012 recorded outbreaks infecting 44 million people during this period affecting almost every country on the planet, concluded the study. Deforestation has been linked to 31 percent of disease outbreaks and epidemics of Ebola, Zika, and Dengue were found associated with loss in biodiversity and climate change. https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/science-environment/1001028-biodiversity-post-covid-19-approaches-and-frameworks-for-conservation-need-to-be-revamped  (13 April 2020)  

Lockdown data to guide policy formulation post-COVID 19 -Though the lockdown caused by the ensuing pandemic is cruel and devastating for economies, the data analytics may help to translate the forced lockdown into an economically viable option achieving the SDG 2030 through sustainable environmental policies, management of natural resources and biodiversity conservation. According to Global Commission on Adaption an investment of about $1.8 trillion in building resilience against climate change in next decade in five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient; could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits, globally. https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/technology/1013273-lockdown-data-to-guide-policy-formulation-post-covid-19  (19 April 2020)

Abrupt ecosystem collapse A new study in Nature (April 2020) casts a disturbing light on the prospects of abrupt ecosystem collapse. The report analyzes the probabilities of collapsing ecosystems en masse, and not simply the loss of individual species. (Source: Trisos, C.H. et al, The Projected Timing of Abrupt Ecological Disruption From Climate Change, Nature, April 8, 2020) https://countercurrents.org/2020/04/abrupt-ecosystem-collapse  (15 April 2020)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Power Ministry States may soon get hydro power purchase targets The Centre will soon make it mandatory for states to meet part of their electricity requirement from hydro power plants. The power ministry is soon likely to notify guidelines giving states hydro power procurement targets on the lines of renewable energy purchase obligations, a senior official said. This will be given only to projects commissioned after March 9, 2019 and those plants which did not have power purchase agreements (PPA) on that date. The purpose is to promote new projects and addition of new capacity. Power regulator Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is likely to issue directions on trading of hydroelectric certificates like renewable certificates that will enable discoms with more hydro generation to trade with discoms which do not have access to such plants. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/states-may-soon-get-hydro-power-purchase-targets/75136312  (14 April 2020)

Uttarakhand Govt plans to resume host of activities from April 20, 2020, including Chardham road and some hydro projects, among other works.  

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Basnwara area in Rudraprayag seems to have become another perennial landslide zone in the wake of Char Dham Highway Project work. (Dainik Jagran, 16 April 2020) 

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DAMS

Madhya Pradesh Singrauli’s Fly Ash Flood was an Industrial Disaster Waiting to Happen However, state govt records point to the fact that the management of Sasan UMPP had paid no heed to repeated warnings to upgrade and strengthen the fly ash dykes in accordance with standards. Between October 2019 and December 2019, the district administration of Singrauli sent across five letters to Sasan UMPP, urging its management to strengthen and upgrade the dyke of the ash pond. Following the incident on April 10, the district administration has issued a show-cause notice to Sasan UMPP, asking why its management did not strengthen the fly ash dyke despite notices. The administration has also ordered a magisterial enquiry into the incident.  https://www.newsclick.in/Singrauli-Fly-Ash-Flood-Industrial-Disaster-Waiting-Happen 

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-Before after images of Planet satellite show contaminated fly ash reaching Rihind dam after the dyke breached of 3960 MW Sasan coal power plant, breached on April 10. https://www.planet.com/stories/sasan-umpp-ash-dyke-breach-on-10th-april-2020-in-s-MZiVVwCWR  (12 April 2020)

Criminality of fly ash management – The regulatory compliance of fly ash utilisation has remained unachievable despite high-level government and court interventions. As per the data available with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for 2018-19, of the 195 TPPs, only 103 had managed to achieve their phased out targets of fly ash utilisation and 83 had failed to do so. It must be remembered that official data on the efficiency of environmental management measures such as fly ash use is likely to be only an indicator of a problem of much a greater scale.

These institutions are now complicit in perpetuating a regulatory myth and exposing large human and animal populations in India’s “coal belt” to high levels of harmful heavy metals in their air and water, the basis of all survival. https://en.gaonconnection.com/the-criminality-of-fly-ash-management/  (15 April 2020)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Ken Betwa River Linking Project Threatens Decade-Long Success Story Of Panna Tiger Reserve On Celebrating 10th Tiger Birthday at Panna Tiger Reserve, the author highlight the threat to the PTR from proposed Ken Betwa River Link Project: Ironically, as Panna’s new generation of tigers spread to claim lost ground the government’s Ken-Betwa river interlinking project is set to turn the tables on this success story. The Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) had recommended clearance to the Ken Betwa Link Project Phase I (KBLP-I) in its 39th meeting on Aug 23, 2016.

According to several hydrologists and environmentalists, this is an ill-conceived project, which will drown 6017 ha of forestland, including the destruction of a chunk of the critical tiger habitat in the reserve.

On Aug 30, 2019, The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in its report has raised fundamental questions on the appropriateness of the “wildlife clearance” which has put a spanner in the works.  https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-river-linking-project-threatens-decade-long-success-story-of-panna-tiger-reserve/350870  (16 April 2020)

– In this report Tiger word comes 43 times, Panna 28 times but water, river, Ken is not mentioned even a single time. Let alone even a sentence on impact on Tigers from proposed Ken Betwa river linking. https://www.thebetterindia.com/202329/panna-tiger-reserve-conservation-story-first-department-inspiring-india/  (07 December 2019)

Vultures in Bundelkhand rise, but stray cattle and other concerns persist Vulture population in Bundelkhand has seen a 103% rise in the past decade. However, factors that led to a decline in the vulture population continue, particularly degradation of forests and disturbance of nesting sites. The increase in stray cattle is raising concern of intangible effects on food and habitat for vultures.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/04/vultures-in-bundelkhand-rise-but-stray-cattle-and-other-concerns-persist/  (13 April 2020)

URBAN RIVERS

Vrishabhavathi, Bengaluru Frothing reduces, water clear after decades Vrishabhavathi, the sooty, stinking river (basin area 383 sq km) that is born somewhere in the heart of Bengaluru and flows out of the city has not only turned light green but has also seen a sharp drop in frothing in the lockdown. The river cuts through 96 BBMP wards, 16 assembly and five parliamentary constituencies. It merges into Arkavathi river, a tributary of the Cauvery, in Kanakapura taluk, before which it is impounded at Byramangala.

“Since the lockdown, there is 90% reduction in the formation of froth along the river. The water is almost clear,” said TV Surabhi, a lake activist. With the soot and frothing having all but vanished, stretches of Vrishabhavathi that appear next to Mysuru Road near Kengeri are so clear that pebbles on the river bed are visible to the plain eye.

Silk farmers living near the reservoir said water quality has improved a lot over the past few weeks.  A senior BBMP official said this clearly shows industrial effluents were the sole cause of the river turning toxic and sooty. “We have written to KSPCB and BWSSB numerous times requesting them to close down various industries surrounding the river. They agree and even issue orders but nothing changes on the ground,” he said.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/karnataka-frothing-reduces-vrishabhavathi-water-crystal-clear-after-decades/articleshow/75150777.cms  (15 April 2020)

Another report on this says sewage still flows into this river and hence testing is required, which is true. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/bengaluru-s-vrishabhavathi-river-less-polluted-during-lockdown-experts-weigh-122680  (16 April 2020)

Panchaganga, Kolhapur Lockdown effect: River flows clean According to the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) environment department, there has been a drop of around 30 MLD in total sewage generated in the city. The sewage that is generated is being treated fully at two sewage treatment plants.

According to officials, the Panchaganga river witnesses hyacinth growth due to the increase in sewage flowing into it. Now, the river is hyacinth-free. A senior KMC official said, “We are studying the effect of lockdown on the environment in the city. This is for record purpose and may be used in future. Currently, we have the capacity to treat 93 MLD sewage every day at two treatment plants. The total generation is around 120 MLD, when all hotels, commercial establishments, offices, tourist places are open. Currently, around 60 MLD of sewage is being treated.”

– The district authorities claim the purification expenditure by the villages and towns have reduced significantly mainly due to improvement in the quality of river water. Also, the small industrial units and mills contributing to the river pollution are shut due to lockdown.

– The KMC official said the data they are collecting will help in starting the initiatives to reduce the pollution of the city and the river. “Since the past one year, we have focused on cleaning of Jayanthi nullah which was once a source of fresh water. With the data we are collecting, we have to convince people to use less water or shut down the hotels for some time to rejuvenate the streams,” said the official. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/lockdown-effect-panchaganga-river-flows-clean-air-quality-improves/articleshow/75037513.cms  (15 April 2020)

Periyar, Kochi No respite for river despite lockdown On April 17, the river water near the Irrigation Department shutters at Eloor turned black and emitted a rotten egg smell, angering environmental activists and residents.

– Shabeer O V, member, Jana Jagratha, said several companies were functioning at Eloor during the lockdown. “We approached the Pollution Control Board (PCB) engineer only to be told that the PCB office was closed as it did not come under the essential services category,” he said. He said following the demands of residents and environmental activists, PCB officials arrived at the spot and collected samples. “However, everything ends with sample collection,” alleged Shabeer.

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– PCB engineer P B Sreelakshmi said the blackening of water happens every summer and the blame could not be entirely pinned on effluents from industries. “Water near the shutters and upstream turns black when the natural flow of river gets blocked. Though we have, in several letters, urged the Irrigation Department to implement a procedure to raise the shutters regularly, it has been ignoring our requests,” Sreelakshmi said.

– She said tests of the river’s water quality in the area had revealed that oxygen level was nil near the riverbed. “When this happens, micro-organisms in the river switch to anaerobic respiration, which leads to the formation of hydrogen sulphide, the reason for the rotten egg smell,” she said. Sreelakshmi said to find whether effluents were being pumped, weeds growing along the stretch needed to be removed. “Inspection is needed to check whether underwater effluent pipelines have been laid,” she said.

– The Irrigation Department rubbished the PCB’s allegations. “We have been raising the shutters two to three times daily,” said Sajeed Mohammed, engineer, Irrigation Department. On Saturday, the shutters will be raised at 11:40am, he said. However, there were limitations to opening the shutters, he said. “The shutters can’t be raised as per one’s whims and fancies. It needs to be done scientifically. Shutters are opened based on high tide and low tide as there is a risk of the incursion of saline water,” he said. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/kochi/2020/apr/18/no-respite-for-periyar-from-pollution-despite-lockdown-2131633.html  (18 April 2020)

The District Industries Centre has allowed the functioning of 240 units in Ernakulam district after March 31, following an order from the district collector. These units are engaged in sectors like food and agriculture, oleoresin, packaging and manufacture of soaps, sanitisers, masks and medical equipment.

“The residents, environmental activists and everyone here are at their wits end. It is absolutely maddening that despite years of activism and hardships faced by people because of river pollution, the PCB has not been able to stop the damage being done to the river,” said Mohanan, an environmental activist. “In the last one-and-a-half months, the stretch witnessed several incidents of fish death. Some people have now made a business out of selling these fish,” said Mohanan.

The PCB had asked the irrigation department to maintain average lean flow in the river after their tests found extremely low-levels of DO downstream. But the PCB has currently suspended onsite visits to the lockdown regulations and would resume the same after April 24. “We do make site visits and collect samples if there is a complaint,” said a senior PCB official.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/even-under-lockdown-dark-flows-the-periyar/articleshow/75238971.cms  (20 April 2020) 

Khoh, Kotdwar Waste dump site created on Khoh river bank in Kotdwar is being frequently set on fire creating air pollution and health hazard for residents.

Dainik Jayat Image 

https://dainikjayantnews.com/trenching-ground-ke-bahar-kure-mein-lagi/  (18 April 2020)

RIVERS

Maharashtra Article (Marathi) on April 18, 2020 by Parineeta Dandekar on cleaner rivers in lockdown. https://www.loksatta.com/bara-gaoncha-pani-news/article-on-happy-rivers-in-the-lockdown-abn-97-2135078/ (18 April 2020)  

Himachal Pradesh 5 Baddi units in red zone, booked Managements of five industrial units have been booked for violating directions in the red zone of Baddi and Barotiwala industrial areas where all industries were directed to close their manufacturing operations on April 11.

-The situation was highly critical in the Baddi Barotiwala Nalagarh (BBN) industrial area and such laxity could prove dear. As many as nine Covid positive cases have emerged in the Nalagarh sub-division.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/5-baddi-units-in-red-zone-booked-71621  (16 April 2020)

Company managements will be held responsible for employees sneaking into workplaces in the BBN industrial belt, police said. Employees, including security guards, were increasingly using trucks and escape routes along porous borders to come into work in defiance of curfew orders that were in place, police said.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/police-to-act-against-companies-after-employees-in-baddi-industrial-belt-caught-sneaking-into-work-73320  (19 April 2020)

Andhra Pradesh Not much improvement in rivers’ water quality APPCB officials on March 31 said there was no significant decline in water pollution levels. “There will be a minimal impact of lockdown on water quality of River Krishna as pilgrimage activities near the river banks have reduced,” read a statement released by the APPCB. APPCB junior scientist BV Prasad said, “The main contributor to water pollution in the State was mixing of domestic sewage water and industrial effluents with the river water. People throwing garbage near river banks and taking bath are seasonal and secondary reasons.” https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2020/apr/01/drop-in-air-pollution-levels-across-andhra-pradesh-2124132.html  (01 April 2020)

Assam PCB collecting river water samples  On April 12, Pollution Control Board has started a collection of river water samples so as to ascertain the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown. It will collect as many as 101 samples from the rivers in the State and conduct tests to ascertain the level of pollutions. Following the COVID-19 lockdown, it is assumed that the pollution levels of the rivers in the State may show improvement. However, similar tests by the PCBA on air pollution do not show any improvement. https://www.sentinelassam.com/guwahati-city/covid-19-lockdown-pollution-control-board-assam-collecting-river-water-samples/  (13 April 2020)

Jammu & Kashmir Dying Devika river Despite the havoc wreaked to the holy Devika river in Purmandal by untreated sewerage , the concerned authorities appear to be quite carefree about how to address the issue concerning the resultant menace of pollution of the river. This has resulted in continuous drop in the water quality of the river. The J&K PCB, despite having raised concern over the quality of water deteriorating at an alarming rate and avoidable lapse in not following the norms by those authorities responsible for it and expected the discharge of untreated sewerage into the river to be stopped, ground realities depict worrisome situation. JKPCB has now asked the Chief Executive Officer, Surinsar Mansar Development Authority (SMDA) to submit a report as to what specific measures had been taken to stop the pollution.

Image may contain: plant, tree, bridge, outdoor, nature and water
Daily Excelsior image 

– The culture of ‘Paper and table work’ must not be the be all and end all of the activities under the Action Plan by the concerned authorities but should be followed practically on the ground, results assessed and reviewed periodically. Authorities have been given enough powers to enforce the laws and procedures. If they do not exercise those powers for the welfare of the people, as pollution free Devika would be for the benefit of the people only, then either it was sheer incompetence on the part of the concerned officers or their unwarranted frugality in mustering enough courage to get things done. https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/water-quality-of-devika-river/  (18 April 2020)

CAUVERY CALLING Karnataka govt’s conflicting stands in and outside court A statement on Isha Outreach’s website quoted the Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announcing that the forest department would set aside two crore saplings for Cauvery Calling. “The Forest Dept is already preparing two crore saplings for distribution. They can be used for this movement. I have already instructed the Forest Department to ready crores of saplings to fulfil Sadhguru’s wishes and stop the destruction of forests and increase green cover so that Mother Cauvery flows again. In order for this movement to succeed, the state govt will support it fully in every possible way because we consider it our duty to do so,” Yediyurappa said.

– However, in an affidavit submitted in the Karnataka High Court, the state govt said that Cauvery Calling was contributing to a government scheme of the Karnataka Forest Dept – Krishi Aranya Protsaha Yojane (KAPY). The affidavit makes no mention of the two crore saplings that Isha can use. “(The state government) is not sponsoring nor is it financing the project by Isha Foundation (Respondent No.2). On the other hand, just like any other private agency who are contributing to the cause of the environment by participating in the scheme of the government, Isha (Foundation/Outreach) is also participating in the scheme of the government,” the state government’s counsel submitted in court.

– This raised doubts over who is leading the project and who is playing a supporting role in it. Isha Foundation also submitted to the High Court in March that its social development branch Isha Outreach was dealing with Cauvery Calling. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/what-karnataka-govt-s-role-cauvery-calling-conflicting-stands-and-outside-court-122528  (14 April 2020)

Karnataka Lockdown plugs flow of effluents to river Data with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) indicates that the quality of water of River Cauvery in some places is at A – a healthy indicator – and at B in many more spots. This is in sharp contrast to the level of purity recorded prior to the lockdown, wherein the pollution level was much worse, at C.

– The quality of water of the River Cauvery is tested once every month, and samples are collected at Bhagamandala, Napoklu, Dubare and Kushalnagar. The latest report, compiled with figures collected after the enforcement of the lockdown, shows that the quality of water is at A in most places in Kodagu, where the Cauvery originates. KSPCB’s regional officer for Kodagu GR Ganeshan attributed the improvement in the quality of the Cauvery’s waters to the decline in commercial activities in all villages and towns in Kodagu. “Consequently, no pollutants are flowing into the river, and the water is very clear in some places,” he said.

– Convener of the Cleanup Cauvery Movement for Karnataka MR Chandramohan said that unchecked growth of the tourism industry in the hilly district, illegal mining operations and thoughtless development projects had resulted in the Cauvery getting overly polluted. Chinnappa, a retired additional conservator of forests, said that it would not be a bad idea to enforce a lockdown for a week once every six months, during which the river could be cleaned thoroughly. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mysuru/lockdown-plugs-flow-of-effluents-to-cauvery-river-flows-pure-again/articleshow/75207190.cms  (18 April 2020)

GANGA Opinion What rivers cleaning projects lack and way forwardKAS Mani The coronavirus pandemic, and India’s subsequent lockdown, offer several lessons in river hydrology, ecological flow, pollution and the role of the community. The increased snow melt combined with lack of industrial production, lower irrigation and commercial use have also contributed to the change.

-The greatest flaw in Namami Gange and similar programmes is that we set out to clean a river system that already works well, just that we keep polluting it with industrial effluents, sewage and plastic. Instead of protecting rivers by blocking pollutants from entering them, we decided to continue polluting them and cleaning them at the same time.

– Another important reason ‘Namami Gange’ doesn’t work is its refusal to understand how the fish and marine plant population, the river banks, the livelihoods of people living nearby and their socio-economic profile are all linked. It’s crucial that we revive the rivers’ hydrology without interfering with the multitude of ecosystems they’re a part of.

– Major river-cleaning projects have received state support in the form of funds, technologies and infrastructure, whereas the cessation of industrial activity as a result of the pandemic clearly indicates their approach wasn’t scientific and environmental, with communities as the principal stakeholders. The technology-heavy team needs to be replaced with multidisciplinary groups of specialists.

– In the medium term – over the next five years – we should ensure the rivers don’t fall back their pre-pandemic state. All urban centres on rivers’ banks should design new business plans to reuse treated sewage water for secondary or tertiary needs, thus reducing the profitability of letting the water flow into the river. Officials should also plan to recharge groundwater, irrigate farmland and derive drinking water from the river.

– It’s true that the lockdown dealt a body-blow to India’s economy but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we stand to reap the effects of cleaner air and water, however temporarily, on the people. So in the longer term – over 10 years – it should be illegal for industrial facilities, business centres, residential projects and places of congregation to be set up on river banks and in catchment areas. Irrigation projects, power projects, mining and tourism activities should also be strictly rationalised, and need to be sacrificed to the extent possible for the good of the environment. https://science.thewire.in/environment/ganga-river-lockdown-cleaner-namami-gange-sewage-treatment-ecological-flow/  (19 April 2020)

Some Ganga stretches now cleaner: CPCB For the first time in many years, several stretches of the Ganga are conforming to CPCB standards for the quality of river waters. In fact, some stretches of the river are recording CPCB’s “fit for drinking water” norm with basic conventional treatment. This will change on April 20 when several sectors start reopening gradually. Water quality experts said the lesson from the lockdown is to strictly ensure industries meet effluent discharge standards.

The CPCB’s assessment of Ganga water from Jan 2020 had shown that most stretches of the Ganga from Garhmukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh to W Bengal were not only violating drinking water standard but also recorded hardly any DO and extremely high levels of total coliform (bacteria from human and animal waste). Many of the same stretches in UP and W Bengal, according to CPCB’s real time water quality monitoring of the Ganga on April 19, met drinking water standards. CPCB will soon release its analysis of Ganga and Yamuna water quality during the lockdown period from March 25. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/some-ganga-stretches-now-cleaner-cpcb/story-kpWW5DuCMJJHwa9ds7XNqJ.html  (20 April 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Lockdown results in sharp decline in pollution in Ganga, Yamuna Although, the UPPCB had stopped collecting the samples during the lockdown period, but after seeking special permission by the higher authorities, the first samples during the lockdown period were collected on April 9, 2020 from different locations, including both upstream and downstream of River Ganga.

– Regional officer, UPPCB, JB Singh says the results of the collected samples show the BOD level of Ganga at Sangam (the point just before it meets Yamuna) has declined from 2.8 mg/l (as recorded on March 13) to 2.4 mg/l (as on April 9). Likewise, the same parameter as recorded at Rasulabad ghat (around 5 km u/s of Sangam), the BOD level on March 13 was 2.8mg/l which has come down to 2.5mg/l. The permissible limit of BOD in the river water should be less than 3 mg/l.

– Likewise, the other 2 vital parameters, which defines the quality of water in the river—the reading of total Coliform and Fecal Coliform—also shows the sharp decline in pollution in the river. The total coliform in river Ganga at Sangam, as recorded on March 13, was 34 MPN/ml (most probable number) and the same came down to 26 MPN/ml during lockdown (on April 9). Similarly, the fecal coliform at Sangam was 13MPN/ml on March 13 and it declined sharply at 8.2 MPN/ml as on April 9. The maximum permissible limit of fecal coliform is 25 MPN/ ml.

– The quality of water has improved much more. “The BOD at Yamuna was 2.4mg/l prior to lockdown (March 13) while on April 9, it came down to just 2mg/l”, said Singh. The ideal quality of water in Yamuna could be gauzed by the fact that the fecal coliform in Yamuna has come down to 3.10 MPN/ml from 13 MPN/ml, as recorded pre-lockdown. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/prayagraj-lockdown-results-in-sharp-decline-in-pollution-in-river-ganga-and-yamuna/articleshow/75203355.cms (17 April 2020)  

Uttarakhand Ganga water potable in Haridwar, Rishikesh Ganga waters at Rishikesh and Haridwar have become very clean according to BD Joshi, Environmental Scientist and Ex-professor at the Gurukul Kangri University. It is after a long time that Ganga water has become good for achaman (ritual sipping) in Haridwar. Tanmay Vashishth, Ganga Sabha General Secretary, told that Ganga has never appeared this clean. RK Kathait, PCB regional officer said that there is a visible difference in the quality of Ganga water.

A PCB chief scientific officer SS Pal told that the Ganga water in Haridwar is worth bathing in and good for drinking after necessary treatment. In Rishikesh, the water is good for drinking after disinfection. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/destinations/ganga-water-turns-cleaner-during-lockdown-fit-for-achaman-in-haridwar-rishikesh/as75079848.cms  (15 April 2020)

Jerome Armstrong, one of the few foreigners to stay back in Rishikesh during the lockdown, notices that the Ganga is cleaner.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/books/lockdown-diaries-mirrored-in-the-ganga-by-jerome-armstrong/story-W5rbiBpSc62okNS05yBjpI.html  (17 April 2020)

Centre to monitor lockdown impact on Ganga, Yamuna The NMCG and the CPCB are expected assessing river water quality. Water samples have been collected from Delhi (Yamuna) and all Ganga basin States, and are in the process of being analysed. While this was also part of the routine water quality monitoring in the river, there was a “special focus” on the impact of lockdown, said D.P. Mathuria, senior NMCG official in charge of water quality management. Measuring the COD and ammonium nitrate would point to whether the lockdown has had an impact. Effluents from industries as well as sewage discharge would impact COD levels, Mr. Mathuria added. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/centre-to-monitor-lockdown-impact-on-ganga-yamuna-pollution/article31330805.ece  (13 April 2020)

YAMUNA Delhi BBC Hindi report on Yamuna River in Lockdown, also quotes SANDRP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ih7ksjWci8&feature=youtu.be  (13 April 2020)

No effluents, river water is much cleaner DJB had picked up samples from the river from five locations between Wazirabad and Kalindi Kunj and the results have shown a DO level above 4 mg/l across the stretch. An analysis done by the CPCB showed that between 2015 and 2019, the level of DO failed to exceed 1mg/l at four locations below Wazirabad.  https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-no-effluents-yamuna-water-is-much-cleaner-6361296/  (14 April 2020)

Uttarakhand Following hailstorm and rains water level has again risen in Yamuan river in Uttarkashi. (Dainik Jagran, 16 April 2020) 

Hailstorm has caused significant damages to food and vegetable crops in Yamuna, Ganga valley in Uttarkashi.

https://dainikjayantnews.com/barish-v-olavarishati-ne-fasalo-ko-puri-tarah/  (16 April 2020)

Panoramic view of Yamuna river at Vikas Nagar. Image by Nishant Panwar.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

Haryana Najafgarh BOD reduces during lockdown: GMDA affidavit Najafgarh drain’s BOD has reduced by 40 points during the lockdown, stated the GMDA affidavit submitted to the NGT on April 15.The NGT was to review the affidavit on April 15 but deferred it after the lockdown was extended till May 3. The NGT said it would review the affidavit after the second phase of the lockdown is lifted in May. The NGT has been monitoring Gurugram’s sewage discharge for the past four years. It has questioned the GMDA’s treatment quality & capacity.

– Officials measured the BOD at 15 mg/litre on April 14, which is the lowest-ever measurement of the drain so far, according to Pradeep Kumar, chief engineer, GMDA. The officials measured it at 55 mg/litre on March 21. There are 10,000 small and medium-scale industries in Gurugram and Manesar, which engage 18 lakh employees. The effluent is supposed to discharge towards CETPs and STPs before being released into the Najafgarh drain.

– “Domestic discharge of 355 MLD from the city continues, while factory discharge is nil. The CETP at Manesar gets effluent discharge measuring around 55 MLD from industries, while the Gurugram industries’ effluent goes to STPs at Behrampur and Dhanwapur for treatment. That the BOD level has gone down establishes the fact that several industries must flout rules and discharge effluent or waste directly into drains leading to the Najafgarh drain through private tankers. The HSPCB can confirm that,” Kumar said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/najafgarh-drain-s-biochemical-oxygen-demand-reduces-40-points-during-lockdown-gmda-affidavit/story-6GSyjhwvrDQTu3y0b7YTsN.html  (16 April 2020)

A chance to find out water quality minus pollutants “This is a unique study which can be referred for policy making in the future. With all industries off the radar now, the quality of water in Haryana can be evaluated. This is a rare phenomenon. We are analysing the data on pollutants. The study will examine changing patterns in rivers and waterbodies during this period,” HSPCB member secretary S Narayanan said.

– HSPCB officials have collected the data of pollutants in more than 500 waterbodies in Haryana. “I have asked officials to collect as many samples as possible. We have already collected samples during the first phase which was till April 12. Now, we are analysing the data. We will collect more data from April 14 to May 3 when the government will allow some industries to function. The third phase will be carried out after the lockdown gets lifted completely,” he said. “We have collected samples from drains, waterbodies, groundwater and rivers in Gurugram. During the lockdown, the analysis will throw some light on how it has improved. Within a week, the results of samples of first phase will be out,” said Shakti Singh, regional officer, HSPCB, Gurugram.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/a-chance-to-find-out-water-quality-minus-pollutants/articleshow/75149458.cms  (15 April 2020)

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The CPCB directed it to collect samples before April 14 and submit reports by April 21. Following the CPCB directions, HSPCB member secretary S Narayanan directed regional officers to collect samples of all water bodies before April 14 to assess the impact of lockdown. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/pollution-board-takes-9-samples-of-river-waters-70241  (13 April 2020)

SAND MINING

SANDRP Blog J&K Riverbed Mining 2020: Rivers exposed to mechanized mining

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Malik Yasin, KL Artwork 

Unsustainable, unscientific excavation of riverbed minerals has been having significant impact on river eco-system and riparian communities for the past several years. Since 2016, to develop better understanding and highlight the problems SANDRP has been preparing state wise annual overview of riverbed minerals (RBM) mining activities. This compilation covers situation in Jammu & Kashmir over the last one year. https://sandrp.in/2020/04/18/jk-sand-mining-rivers-exposed-to-mechanized-mining/  (18 April 2020)

Jammu & Kashmir Illegal sand mining poses threat to Uri’s oldest power project Rampant illegal sand mining being taken up in large scale, on Jhelum River poses a grave threat to 105MW Lower Jhelum Hydroelectric Project (LJHP), officials of the electricity department said on April 12.

– “Sand mining is posing a serious threat to the power project and the dam. It can lead to catastrophic damage to the project anytime,” said Abdul Rashid Bhat, executive engineer of the project. He said though they have blocked the passage leading to the project, the mining still continues on the riverbed. “We have taken up the issue with the district administration in Baramulla,” he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/illegal-sand-mining-poses-threat-to-uri-s-oldest-power-project/story-uUID4m1yqv5bM0YrG2FqgM.html  (12 April 2020)

Punjab Govt allows sand mining, stone crushing from April 20 Sand and gravel mining and stone crushing have been permitted as part of the construction-related activities in Punjab from April 20, according to the state home department. The Centre in its revised guidelines to states for containment of COVID-19 has allowed construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings, water supply and sanitation, renewable energy projects. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/punjab-allows-sand-mining-stone-crushing-from-april-20-73318   (19 April 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Andhra Pradesh Fisherman Mugi Raju on illegal destruction of Kakinada Mangroves The Govt of is destroying 100 acres of Mangroves in Kakinada from the mid-night on 14th March after declaring the lockdown by Hon’ble Prime Minister. Thousands of people who were sincerely following the lockdown and confined to their homes have come out to safeguard their livelihood and protect Kakinada from disasters like tidal waves and Tsunamis. The videos taken on 7th April: https://youtu.be/724cV2wPCTc &
https://youtu.be/amGgUAIos6w   (15 April 2020)

Chandigarh Demolition on hold till pandemic is under control This puts the High Court order of March 3, 2020 on Sukhna wetland in Chandigarh ineffective indefinitely. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/04/demolition-of-illegal-construction-in-sukhna-lake-area-put-on-hold-till-the-pandemic-is-under-control/  (16 April 2020)

Mumbai 

URBAN WATER

Bengaluru Water Bodies Look Cleaner, 3 Weeks Into Lockdown Leo Saldanha, of the Environment Support Group said, “It is amazing that most of our rivulets, rivers, lakes are flowing clean. This is how it should be. But we dump our industrial waste and sewage there without a thought about tomorrow…” “That it doesn’t happen at other times is because of regulatory failures, corruption,” Mr Saldanha said. “Tackling this has to happen ground up. It can’t happen just with the Prime Minister’s lockdown…” he added. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-news-bengaluru-water-bodies-look-cleaner-3-weeks-into-coronavirus-lockdown-2212489  (15 April 2020)

Hyderabad Osmansagar rippling with pollutants The water quality index (WQI) of Osmansagar was recorded at 52.84 — just a shade above the “bad” category. A WQI of between 50 to 70 falls under the “medium” category. Another study published in the International Journal of Recent Technology and Engineering (IJRTE) reveals that, of the 16 water quality parameters, the Osmansagar passed the test in only parameter — pH.

– Furthermore, analysis of the water collected from Osmansagar by the Telangana SPCB since 2011 shows that only twice — in 2017 and 2019 — had it passed the DO test. The water also fails the BOD test. The levels often ranges between 6 to 10. A BOD level below 3.5 is deemed desirable. The CPCB has put Osmansagar under “B” category which means the water is fit for outdoor bathing but not for drinking unless treated through conventional means. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/ageing-bad-100-year-old-osmansagar-rippling-with-pollutants/articleshow/74233246.cms  (21 Feb. 2020)

Kochi Monsoon woes likely as flood mitigation measures remain incomplete Operation Breakthrough, a project started to tackle the urban flooding of Kochi, has been stalled since the nationwide lockdown commenced. The project was aimed to fix clogged drains, widen canals and construct new drains to allow water to flow out to the Vembanad Lake. The project designed to be held in two phases, started on January 1, with the declaration that it will be completed within 90 days, that is before the commencement of the year’s monsoon. But as the country went into a lockdown on March 25, the works were stalled.

– But the project was going at a snail’s pace even before the lockdown. Even officials of the project admitted that the first phase could not be completed during Jan-mid March (before lockdown), mainly due to financial crunch. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/monsoon-woes-likely-kochi-flood-mitigation-measures-remain-incomplete-122756  (17 April 2020)

Tirupati Corona Virus outbreak: groundwater exploitation comes to a halt Amidst corona virus outbreak, groundwater exploitation has drastically come down in temple city of Tirupati. All the hotels, rest houses and lodges, corporate colleges and hostels had been closed down for the last two weeks. April in fact is the peak groundwater exploitation period. It is not just the beginning of the summer season but also the season for pilgrim flow. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/tirupati-coronavirus-outbreak-groundwater-exploitation-comes-to-halt-616399  (09 April 2020)

Gurugram Work on hold due to lockdown  The ongoing lockdown has indefinitely delayed piped water connections to the city’s newer sectors, 81 to 99, which currently rely on private tankers and borewells. Residents of these sectors are growing increasingly worried, with private tanker facilities also having reduced their supply in the absence of labour. Sectors 73 to 80 and 100 to 115, which were to receive piped canal water by the year-end, will also have to wait till next summer.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/work-on-hold-newer-sectors-will-have-to-wait-for-piped-water/story-j06mDPidZQZCSiJ4x9DgaO.html  (14 April 2020)  

Ambala Water train on Kalka-Shimla section A water train will run on alternate days to cater to water needs of 20 stations, level crossings and railway residential facilities enroute the 96 km Kalka Shimla line, this was earlier done along with the passenger trains on this narrow gauge world heritage facility. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/ambala-starts-water-train-on-kalka-shimla-section-70699  (13 April 2020)

Mohali STP stench peeves residents The STP in sector 66 is run by Chandigarh Municipal Corp. Out of 48 MGD sewage received about 35 MGD is treated upto secondary level and of this 10 MGD is treated upto tertiary level which is recycled for irrigation of open spaces, gardens. The rest secondary treated waste water is discharged into open nullah. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/stench-from-sewage-plant-peeves-mohali-residents-72711  (18 April 2020)   

WATER POLLUTION

MoEF EIA changed for bulk drugs The ministry on 27th March 2020, has made an amendment to EIA Notification 2006 making all projects or activities in respect of bulk drugs and intermediates, manufactured for addressing various ailments, re-categorized from the existing Category ‘A’ to ‘B2’ category. Projects falling under Category B2 are exempted from requirement of collection of Base line data, EIA Studies and public consultation. This amendment is applicable to all proposals received up to 30th Sept 2020. The states have also been issued advisories to expeditiously process such proposals. https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=202284

WATER

National Prolonged lockdown could make summer water crisis worse “It is tragic that more than 70 years after Independence access to water remains an “aspirational” goal for millions in India. But aspiration can become reality only when implementation of existing laws, policies and programmes is backed by the political will to bring about transformational change in the way water is used and valued.”  https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/prolonged-coronavirus-lockdown-could-make-india-s-summer-water-crisis-worse-120041301562_1.html  (14 April 2020)

Karnataka Govt partners with Art of Living sources The Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department on April 16 inked an agreement with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led Art of Living to rejuvenate water sources and improve groundwater recharge in nine districts. RDPR Minister K S Eshwarappa held talks with Ravi Shankar. It seeks to take up works through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Shivamogga, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Chitradurga, Ballari, Kolar, Yadgir, Kodagu and Tumakuru districts. Under MGNREGA, works such as construction of check dams, construction of contours, bunds, and so on, will be taken up.

– The govt hopes to recreate what the Art of Living’s water experts claim to have achieved in the drought-hit Maharashtra, at 40 locations. However, there is no credibility to these claims in absence of independent assessment. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/govt-partners-with-art-of-living-to-rejuvenate-water-sources-826262.html  (16 April 2020)

DELHI Pre-monsoon desilting takes hit

Delhi: With all hands on corona deck, pre-monsoon desilting takes ...
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It is already April but none of the three municipal corporations in the capital has even managed to finalise a plan for desilting drains before the monsoon. The majority of sanitation workers are busy in activities related to Covid 19. Usually, 80-90% of the desilting work is supposed to be over by May 31 and the rest by June 15. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/with-all-hands-on-corona-deck-pre-monsoon-desilting-takes-hit/articleshow/75149866.cms  (15 April 2020)

AGRICULTURE

Maharashtra Satara Farmers’ Revolutionary New Model GREAT story that started from Satara district in Maharashtra and then spread to Solapur, Sangli and Akola and now possibly to Pune and Mumbai too, where farmer produce is sold directly to consumers in cities during lockdown, thanks to Paani Foundation. https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/in-lockdown-satara-farmers-revolutionary-new-model-2213476  (17 April 2020)

Report Grim Warning To Govt P Sainath, India’s rural affairs expert says that it seems govts are simply not willing to feed people, as they think it may set a deadly precedent on feeding people, but if they don’t make an announcement now that they will distribute food where people are, the next “clanging and banging of pots will signal food riots, not solidarity.”  https://www.ndtv.com/video/news/left-right-centre/cotton-is-hard-to-digest-p-sainath-s-grim-warning-to-government-545767  (15 April 2020)

https://www.ndtv.com/video/embed-player/?site=classic&id=545767&autostart=false&autoplay=0&pWidth=420&pHeight=315&category=embed

COVID-19 lockdown locks down farmers’ income India’s lockdown is threatening the agriculture sector as it overlaps with the time of harvest. The lockdown has derailed harvest preparation and lack of agricultural labour to help in harvest and restrictions on transportation of produce despite being given waivers as essential services. Farmer leaders and agriculture experts criticised the relief package announced by the govt to aid farmers. Once the lockdown is lifted the crash in prices would severely impact the income of millions of farmers. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/04/covid-19-lockdown-locks-down-farmers-income/  (3 April 2020)

The Supreme Court on April 15 asked the Centre to consider a plea by Prof Trilochan Sastry of IIM Bangalore, for immediate movement of requisite labourers across districts and states for the harvest of rabi crops and sowing of Kharif crops, adversely affected due to countrywide lockdown on Covid-19 pandemic.  https://www.deccanherald.com/national/coronavirus-lockdown-sc-asks-centre-to-consider-plea-by-iim-prof-on-allowing-use-of-labour-for-rabi-harvest-825818.html  (15 April 2020)

Even though a record crop is expected this year, the lockdown may have robbed farmers of the chance to get proper returns. There are no migrant labourers to help with harvesting and procurement, & no transport facilities to take the produce to markets in many parts of the country. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/farming-under-lockdown-short-on-labourers-a-long-harvest/article31370176.ece  (18 April 2020)

Sowing of paddy crop up 37% so far in Kharif season Farmers have sown paddy in 32.73 L ha so far during the current Kharif (summer) season, up 37 % from the same period last year, as the govt has allowed farm activities during the lockdown period. “About 32.73 L ha under summer rice has been reported compared to 23.85 L ha,” an official statement said. The sowing area has been reported mainly from W Bengal (11.25 L ha), Telangana (7.45 L ha), Odisha (3.13 L ha), Assam (2.73 L ha), Karnataka (1.64 L ha), Chhattisgarh (1.50 L ha), Tamil Nadu (1.44 L ha) and Bihar (1.22 L ha).

– Sowing area of pulses rose to 4.67 L ha area compared to 3.55 L ha last year. Tamil Nadu reported sowing of 1.46 L ha, while Uttar Pradesh 1.28 L ha. Area under coarse cereals has increased to about 8.05 L ha so far compared to 5.23 L ha last year. Sowing of coarse cereals in Gujarat stood at 2.58 L ha, Uttar Pradesh (2.19 L ha) and W Bengal (1.21 L ha) so far.

– Area under oilseeds has increased to about 7.33 L ha from 6 L ha in last year. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/sowing-of-paddy-crop-up-37-so-far-in-kharif-season-5161611.html  (17 April 2020)

MONSOON 2020

Opinion Normal Monsoon EDIT in Business Standard (soft copy not available) of Apr 17, 2020 highlights that with new arrival and withdrawal dates, the length of the monsoon has increased by 15, days to Oct 15, 2020. The Edit is critical of credibility of IMD’s long range forecast of monsoon, saying how it has been proved wrong in the past including the stage 2 forecast. Moreover, the distribution of rain, the most important aspect for farmers, is forecast when monsoon is well underway already: “That is too late to be of much avail for the farmers and policy planners.” The Edit thus concludes: “A good deal, therefore, stil needs to be done to sharpen the IMD’s monsoon rainfall foretelling models and improve the utility of its predictions for the various stakeholders.” https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/a-silver-lining-120041601865_1.html  (16 April 2020)

 IMD‘s 1st Long Range Forecast for SW Monsoon 2020 on Apr 15, 2020:– Rainfall to be normal (100%), Neutral El Nino Southern Oscillation prevails in Pacific ocean and Neutral Indian Ocean Dipole conditions prevail in Indian Ocean, likely to remain throughout the monsoon as per most models, some indicate weak La nina conditions in Pacific Ocean in second half of monsoon. FORECAST BASED ON MONSOON MISSION COUPLED FORECASTING MODEL There is high probability (70%) of monsoon rainfall being above average to excess (over 104% of normal). FORECAST BASED ON OPERATIONAL STATISTICAL ENSEMBLE FORECASTING SYSTE: 9% probability of Deficient monsoon (Over 10% below normal); 20% probability of below normal (90-96% of normal) rainfall; 41% probability of normal monsoon (96-104% of normal rains); 21% probability of above normal (104-110% of LPA rains) and 9% probability of excess (over 110% of normal) rains.  https://mausam.imd.gov.in/Forecast/marquee_data/1st_Stage_LRF_apr_2020_English.pdf 

In Hindi https://mausam.imd.gov.in/Forecast/marquee_data/1st_Stage_LRF_apr_2020_hindi.pdf   (14 April 2020)

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-likely-to-have-a-normal-monsoon-this-year-predicts-imd/story-GxpqUKnG4k7ERftizG1IMK.html  (15 April 2020)

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-to-have-normal-monsoon-this-year-imd-comes-out-with-new-onset-and-withdrawal-dates-for-cities/articleshow/75159202.cms  (15 April 2020)

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/monsoon-2020-may-be-late-in-many-indian-states/article31350500.ece  (15 April 2020)

https://www.livemint.com/news/india/imd-to-release-first-long-forecast-of-southwest-monsoon-tomorrow-11586875665394.html  (14 April 2020) 

Japanese forecaster sees above-normal S-W monsoon

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/japanese-forecaster-sees-above-normal-s-e-monsoon-extending-into-n-e-monsoon/article31353722.ece  (16 April 2020)

Kerala TN “Weatherman” forecasts floods According to Pradeep, known as the Tamil Nadu Weatherman, Kerala may receive over 2300 mm rainfall for the present year. In 2018, the state witnessed extreme rainfall of 2517 mm during the SW monsoon while the rainfall in 2019 was 2310 mm. Both years recorded much higher rainfall than the normal rainfall of 2049 mm.

– “2007 was one great year with 2786 mm rainfall. Then things went quiet till 2013 when Kerala got 2562 mm rainfall. There was a reducing trend seen then, but then came 2018. Most of the rainfall in 2018 and 2019 fell in short period creating worst floods since 1961 and 1924. There was other close by massive rains too like in 1946 and 1947 followed by 1959 and 1961,” observed Pradeep John in his Facebook post. Three years stand out as great flood events in the history of Kerala they are 1924, 1961 and 2018. “The massive rains in Valprai belt in 2007 can’t be forgotten,” he added. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/180420/tamil-nadu-weatherman-forecasts-chances-for-hat-trick-floods-for-keral.html  (18 April 2020)

FLOOD

Bihar Ahead of Monsoons, Lockdown Delays 122 Flood Control Works A senior officer of the Water Resources Department said works on122 projects worth Rs 704 crore for flood control measures came to a halt the day Modi announced the Janata Curfew (March 22) followed by the lockdown. “The lockdown has badly affected projects related to annual flood control measures because contractors were forced to stop work due to labour crisis. The work may start next month if situation improves”, he said. Another official said a deadline of May 15 had been fixed for the completion of all these projects, but most of the projects were only half completed when the lockdown was announced.

– Dinesh Prasad, superintendent engineer, flood control planning and monitoring circle, said the department had directed all district magistrates particularly in Kosi, Mithilanchal and Seemanchal regions, to ensure that work is not halted. But the main problem was availability of labour.

– The department is likely to extend the period of completion of these projects by June second week. The monsoon usually arrives in Bihar after June 15. In Nov 2019, the Bihar State Flood Control Board in its meeting cleared all the projects that were supposed to be completed by May 15. Experts have pointed out to the department the weak and poor maintenance of embankments in Bihar, which run for 35,199.86 km.

– However, Rajeev, a river activist, said for decades, loot of public money in the name of flood control measures was taking place in the state. The government has been investing crores of rupees for flood control measures by repairing and strengthening embankments, which either get washed away or damaged by swollen rivers during monsoon. Embankments in itself will not solve the problem of floods, which affects lakhs every year in Bihar. https://www.newsclick.in/index.php/ahead-monsoons-lockdown-delays-122-flood-control-project-works-bihar  (14 April 2020)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Opinion Reality of ‘must run’ status of renewable energy projects by Pallavi Bedi Currently, electricity from renewable energy sources i.e., solar, wind, small hydro projects, biomass gasifier, biomass power, urban and industrial waste power is approximately 86,759 MW (with solar at 34 GW roughly) which constitutes approximately 23.5% of the total installed capacity of electricity in the country. Among other incentives, CERC has given these projects MUST RUN status. In practice things have been slightly different; with the distribution companies (Discoms) deciding to curtail renewable energy power at times without communicating any reason (so making it difficult to ascertain if it is for a prescribed reason). Many times this is to allow continuous operation of base load thermal power projects.

– TNERC in its order of 25 March 2019, stated that renewable power cannot be curtailed at convenience. Backing down on ‘Must Run Status’ power should be resorted to only after exhausting all other possible means. TNERC held that in the absence of any provision in the PPAs executed with the Discoms which provided for levy of deemed generation the same cannot be provided.

– Even in the current COVID-19 scenario certain Discoms (such as, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh) started curtailing renewable power in the garb of claiming relief for this force majeure event under their PPAs. MNRE on 1 April 2020 issued a clarificatory office memorandum, inter alia stating that renewable energy power has been granted ‘must run status’ under the Indian law and this status should continue even during the lockdown period. Surprisingly, on 9 April 2020, it appears that Transmission Corporation of Andhra Pradesh has issued a telephonic message to certain solar power generators to back down 100% of their solar generation with immediate effect till further instructions.  https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/energy-speak/the-reality-of-must-run-status-of-renewable-energy-projects-in-india/4160  (14 April 2020)

ENVIRONMENT

Arunachal Pradesh New species of pit viper found The new species, Trimeresurus salazar is the fifth variety of reptile to have been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh in a little more than a year beginning with the crying keelback followed by the impressive tortoise, so named because of the striking pattern on its back. The Salazar’s pit viper, collected from the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Pakke-Kessang district, and was identified as a separate species. The specimens were collected during a herpetological expedition between June 25 and August 5, 2019. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/new-pit-viper-in-arunachal-pradesh-named-after-harry-potter-character/article31356892.ece  (16 April 2020)

SOUTH ASIA

Bhutan 20-year economic development and transition to democracy This has details of hydropower cooperation between India and Bhutan, but there is no sense of independent perspective here, it’s  totally non critical. https://www.orfonline.org/research/bhutans-20-year-economic-development-and-transition-to-democracy-an-assessment-of-indias-role-64630/   (15 April 2020)

Pakistan Sea gets a breather from toxic industrial waste amid lockdown At least 11 main sewage channels and rainy rivers, including Lyari, Malir and Sukhan, flowing from different parts of Karachi city, enter the sea. Now, either they have been closed or are carrying low water, which the experts term a better sign for turning black water into blue water.

– Reports from coastal area activists & marine experts show that it might take 1-2 months to witness a complete change in seawater. During regular days, toxic waste & effluents received in the sea through these sewerage channels, affect the coastal people, while threatening the overall environment in the surrounding area. The coast, reportedly before the lockdown was receiving around 500 MGD waste, mainly flowing from both industries and municipal sewerage lines. That has hugely reduced because of the economic, as well as social lockdown.

– Shaikh pointed out that the sea has been under pressure for a long time because of overfishing by commercial fishing vessels, including factory trawlers, increasing exploitation of resources like precious mangroves, and destruction of fish reserves. “Now, the sea is taking a rest, which may continue for some time, depending on the situation,” he added. Fishermen expect better catch once normal activities are resumed. Fayaz Rassol, manager, Marine Pollution Control Department, Karachi Port Trust (KPT), also agreed that there was some change in seawater as well as improvement in air quality. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/638542-sea-gets-a-breather-from-toxic-industrial-waste-amid-lockdown  (03 April 2020)

The Swat River is a vital source of water for Pakistan’s northern region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But local authorities, residents and tourists have been dumping raw sewage and trash into its waters affecting the environment and health of residents in the district. Officials say they lack the funds to stop the problem from getting worse. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X_hQcSjOBM  (17 April 2020)

ASIA

MEKONG Did China’s dams contribute to drought in Lower Mekong countries? US study (by Eyes on Earth, a research and consulting company with funding from the US State Department’s Lower Mekong Initiative) finds large volume of water held back during 2019 when downstream flows were at their lowest level in 50 years. China disputes findings as ‘unreasonable’ and says drought also affected its portion of the river.

Last year’s drought, which saw the Lower Mekong at its lowest levels in more than 50 years, devastated farmers and fishermen and saw the massive river recede to expose sandbanks along some stretches. At others the river turned from its usual murky brown to bright blue because the waters were so shallow. The effect of China’s 11 dams on the upper Mekong has long been debated, but data has been scarce because China does not release detailed records of how much water the dams are using to fill their reservoirs, which Eyes on Earth says have a combined capacity of more than 47 BCM.  https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3079661/did-chinas-dams-contribute-drought-lower-mekong-countries  (13 April 2020)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Report Hydropower over next decade Views of members of hydropower industry. These are generally pushing more hydro, this will all change in post Covid 19 crisis & hydro is likely to be even less of an option. Mr A K Mishra of Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority of Bhutan agrees there is less support of hydro in view of other renewables & less support for storage projects.  https://www.waterpowermagazine.com/features/featurehydropower-over-the-next-decade-7874055/  (15 April 2020)

Africa Uganda loses power nationwide after hydropower dams clogged Uganda lost power countrywide on April 14 after weeds clogged the intake from its three largest hydropower dams which generate most of the country’s electricity, the Ministry of Energy said in a statement. It happened just as President Yoweri Museveni was getting ready to address the nation as its 14-day national lockdown is set to expire. “The water weed island migrated last night and has caused choking/clogging of intake gates for Nalubaale, Kiira and Bujagali and the three have tripped.” The ministry said it was working to restore power from alternative power plants. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/uganda-loses-power-nationwide-after-hydropower-dams-clogged/75142162  (14 April 2020)

Impact of Guinea’s Souapiti Dam on Displaced Communities – Souapiti’s output has a human cost. The dam’s reservoir will ultimately displace an estimated 16,000 people from 101 villages and hamlets. The Guinean govt had moved 51 villages by the end of 2019 and said it planned to conduct the remaining resettlements within a year. Forced off their ancestral homes and farmlands, and with much of their land already, or soon to be flooded, displaced communities are struggling to feed their families, restore their livelihoods, and live with dignity.

– The Souapiti project is an example of China’s support for global hydropower and the role of Chinese foreign investment in large-scale infrastructure projects in Africa. China International Water & Electric Corporation – a wholly owned subsidiary of the world’s second largest dam builder, state-owned China Three Gorges Corp – is constructing the dam and will then jointly own & operate it with the Guinean govt. https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/04/16/were-leaving-everything-behind/impact-guineas-souapiti-dam-displaced-communities  (16 April 2020)

US Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater California’s Central Valley—one of the richest agricultural regions in the world—is sinking. During a recent intense drought, from 2012 to 2016, parts of the valley sank as much as 60 centimeters per year. Now, California has launched a landmark effort to save its groundwater. In 2014, deep in drought, the state passed a law to protect its aquifers; since then, local water managers have developed sustainability plans for those deemed the most imperiled. The plans for some particularly hard hit regions, just released for public comment, call for ending the groundwater deficit mainly by allowing precipitation to refill aquifers, but also by curtailing demand. The state is funding scientists to gather better data on the crisis; researchers estimate that in the Central Valley, half of the aquifers are dangerously depleted, but they don’t know the extent of the damage. Meanwhile, geologists are working to identify the best places to replenish aquifers by flooding farm fields, including some with especially permeable geology.

– The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in September 2014, was “an incredible step” for a state that had long resisted groundwater regulation, Famiglietti says. But it only requires California’s some 260 groundwater sustainability agencies (new organizations set up under the law, often made up of local water districts) to stabilize, not to increase, groundwater levels. And it allows increased pumping if needed during drought, as long as no major problems result. Still, the law has forced a statewide rethink of groundwater policies. In January, the new agencies in 21 basins deemed critically overdrawn had to submit plans for achieving groundwater “sustainability” within 20 years.

– “There has to be policy innovation or financial innovation to get people to move away from this myth that we still have an unlimited groundwater supply and that we’re just never going to hit bottom,” Famiglietti says. Bridget Scanlon, a hydrologist at the University of Texas, Austin, is optimistic that innovation will occur. “California has opportunities to move towards more sustainable management, and I think they are,” she says. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/droughts-exposed-california-s-thirst-groundwater-now-state-hopes-refill-its-aquifers    (16 April 2020)

Mega drought underway According to the authors of this new paper, a mega-drought in North America refers to a multi-decade event, that contains periods of very high severity that last longer than anything observed during the 19th or 20th centuries. The authors say there have been around 40 drought events over the period from 800-2018 in the western US. Of these, only four meet the criteria for a megadrought. These were in the late 800s, the mid-1100s, the 1200s and the late 1500s.

– The key to this new study is the use of tree ring records to reconstruct soil moisture data for the past 1200 years. The team were also able to use supporting evidence such as medieval tree stumps growing in normally wet river beds, the abandonment of settlements by indigenous civilisations at the peak of the 13th century drought, plus evidence from lake deposits indicating wildfire activity was enhanced during these drought periods.

– The researchers discovered that when they compared the worst 19-year drought events in the past to soil moisture records from 2000-2018, the current period is already worse than three of the four mega-droughts recorded.

– The fourth one, which ran from 1575 to 1603 was likely the worst one of all, but the difference with the present event is slight. “The first two decades of this drought look just like the first two decades of all of the mega droughts,” said lead author Dr Park Williams, from Columbia University in New York. “In fact, it is essentially tied with the worst two decades of the worst of the mega droughts.”

– The authors say that undoubtedly the current drought situation is a natural event but is being made much worse by climate change. The key event seems to have been the El Niño/La Niña weather phenomenon. “We know from many lines of evidence that when you have La Niña type conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, then the southwestern US and northern Mexico get dry. And that’s what we’ve seen over the last two decades,” said Dr Williams. But climate change has super-charged the current drought.

– The authors say that in the western US, temperatures have gone up by 1.2C since 2000. Hotter air holds more moisture and that moisture is being pulled out of the ground. They believe that climate change is responsible for about half of of the pace and severity of the current event. “It doesn’t matter if this is exactly the worst drought ever,” said co-author Benjamin Cook, who is affiliated with Columbia University and Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “What matters is that it has been made much worse than it would have been because of climate change.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52312260  (16 April 2020)

-The longest drought on record in Chile is drying up the country’s main reservoirs, including El Yeso near Santiago, the capital city. NASA satellite images show a massive drop in the amount of water in the reservoir during the past few years.  https://weather.com/en-CA/international/videos/video/megadrought-drying-up-chiles-reservoir  (16 April 2020)

A river runs through it About the socio-politics of fly-fishing & freshwater conservation in US. https://www.economist.com/united-states/2020/04/11/a-river-runs-through-it  (11 April 2020)

UK  Covid lockdown blamed for a pollution in River Neb Regular emptying of the leachate collection tank at the former Raggatt tip was reduced in frequency due to the coronavirus emergency. The tank filled up and started to overflow out of the manhole cover, from where potentially toxic effluent ran into a nearby surface water gully that discharges into the River Neb. http://www.iomtoday.co.im/article.cfm?id=55088&headline=River%20pollution%20incident%20is%20blamed%20on%20current%20coronavirus%20lockdown&sectionIs  (15 April 2020)

Report Creating a sustainable sand industry requires greater regulation Many industries rely on the sand trade, but the valuable resource is often exported at the expense of local communities and the environment. Experts are warning that regulation must improve, or we risk pushing the material to the point of exhaustion. https://www.worldfinance.com/featured/creating-a-sustainable-sand-industry-requires-greater-regulation-heres-why  (15 April 2020)

Compiled by SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 13 April 2020 & DRP News Bulletin 06 April 2020

Follow us on: www.facebook.com/sandrp.in; https://twitter.com/Indian_Rivers  

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