DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 9 Nov 2020: Welcome water initiatives

Nature in Focus features India’s 12 water heroes. This is an interesting exercise. We also add some interesting stories from this week that should possibly feature in such efforts.

Nature in Focus 12 heroes redefining the landscape of water conservation This is the final story in a series of articles launched by Astral Pipes and Nature in Focus to create awareness about the ongoing water crisis and to encourage necessary action to address it. The names include Vishwanath Srikantaiah, Veena Srinivasan, Aabid Surti, Aabid Surti, Kalpana Ramesh, K.J.Joy, Rajendra Singh, Shishir Rao, Parineeta Dandekar, Ajya Mittal, Nachiket Kelkar, Aditi Mukherji. Links to interviews with each of them can be found here: https://www.natureinfocus.in/save-every-drop. Great to see that Parineeta Dandkear of SANDRP is also there! https://www.natureinfocus.in/save-every-drop/the-answer-to-india-s-water-crisis (4 Nov 2020) 

Puthenvelikkara panchayat launches flood mitigation work Excellent initiative to map the flood inundation area in Puthenvelikkara panchayat in Kochi district in Kerala with community involvement, led by Dr C.G. Madhusoodhanan, CEO, Equinoct. In collaboration with the students and faculty of the Civil Engineering Department of SNM Engg College, Malyankara, near North Paravur. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/puthenvelikkara-panchayat-launches-flood-mitigation-work/article33025821.ece (5 Nov 2020)

Smartphone Apps for Smarter River Monitoring In a move towards enabling stronger flood-preparedness, Neethi Mahesh, with support from The Habitats Trust, recently launched a smart-phone based application and website, Our River Our Life. The app allows a user to monitor the health of rivers, while the website offers a real-time flood mapping system, called Flood Watch.  https://thebastion.co.in/politics-and/smartphone-apps-for-smarter-river-monitoring/  (02 Nov. 2020)

Worm collectors of  Mutha river  SANDRP’s photo-blog by Abay Kanvinde on worm collectors of Mutha river is republished here. https://en.gaonconnection.com/photo-feature-the-worm-collectors-of-punes-mutha-river/  (04 Nov. 2020)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Uttarakhand Singoli-Bhatwari HEP facing leakage in tunnel Even as a case relating to the Singoli-Bhatwari hydroelectric power plant in Rudraprayag is ongoing in the Uttarakhand high court (HC), Bharat Jhunjhunwala, in a letter written to the Union ministry, MoEFCC, Central Electricity Authority, and the district magistrate of Rudraprayag on Oct 27, 2020, has claimed that the Head Race Tunnel (HRT) of the project has developed a leakage. The letter adds that the leakage can lead to tunnel bursting, endangering the lives of several people. Jhunjhunwala had earlier filed a PIL in the HC alleging that the construction of the Singoli-Bhatwari hydroelectric power plant went on despite the expiry of the environmental clearance issued for the project by MoEFCC. While hearing the petition on October 12, the HC had given four weeks’ time to the Centre, state government, and L&T to file their counter affidavits in the case.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/singoli-bhatwari-hydroelectric-project-facing-leakage-in-tunnel-may-lead-to-disaster-alleges-activist-firm-executing-project-terms-allegations-baseless/articleshow/79103799.cms  (08 Nov. 2020)

Himachal Pradesh Centre okays HEP on last flowing stretch of Sutlej CCEA approves 210 MW Luhri project on last remaining flowing stretch of Sutlej river, at cost of Rs 1810 Cr, but the cost is surely going to be much higher. What will be the cost of electricity from the project and how does it compare to other alternatives? Why is the govt out to destroy the rivers at such huge costs, at public expenses? https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/centre-approves-rs-1810-cr-investment-for-himachal-hydro-project/79040887  (04 Nov. 2020) https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/centre-okays-210-mw-power-project-on-sutlej-in-himachal-166041  (05 Nov. 2020)

Notices to Centre, Punjab over handing over hydro project to Himachal The Himachal Pradesh High Court issued notices to the Centre, Punjab and Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd on a petition to demand handing over of the ₹100-crore Shanan Hydropower Project in Jogindernagar to the hill state and providing free power to the public. A division bench, comprising chief justice L Narayana Swamy and justice Anoop Chitkara, passed these orders on a petition filed by one Laxmender Singh of Mandi district.

– The petitioner said that prior to the freedom of India, the said project was in the territory of the then Mandi State. However, from August 15, 1947 to April 9, 1965, Punjab occupied the project without any justification despite it being in the territory of Himachal Pradesh. “In 1965 and 1975 agreements were executed and a notification was issued in favour of Punjab Electricity but the interests of Himachal and its public was not taken into consideration,” the petitioner alleged. https://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/notices-to-centre-punjab-over-handing-over-hydro-project-to-himachal/story-6r7h67y9h2YTI6L51UrXXJ.html  (07 Nov. 2020) https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/hc-seeks-stand-of-centre-punjab-on-plea-to-transfer-power-project-to-hp-167502 (07 Nov. 2020)

Sikkim Tribals speaking up for silenced rivers– It’s hard to fully comprehend then, how it must feel for Mayalmit and her community to witness a river so revered fall silent, the once free-flowing Teesta and its tributaries now choked by hydropower developments built over the past 30 years, among them two mega-dams in Sikkim State, the 1,200 MW Teesta Stage III and the 510 MW Teesta Stage V. Mayalmit lists the projects off one by one; all, she says, are an act of desecration for the Lepcha people—and environmentally unsustainable.

-These disasters have already begun, with the people of Sikkim witness to several flash floods, landslides and earthquakes, which are increasing in frequency and severity. Mayalmit attributes many of these “natural” disasters to the concentration of hydropower dams on the Teesta, which have aggravated the river’s existing propensity for flash flooding and further destabilized the surrounding valley, which was already prone to landslides. Add to this the impacts of climate change in the region—rapidly melting glaciers, less snowfall, drying streams and springs—and it’s a stark reminder, if one were needed, that the natural world is out of balance.  https://www.internationalrivers.org/news/speaking-up-for-a-silenced-river/   (19 Oct. 2020)

Tamil Nadu Concerns over Sillahalla HEP in ecosensitive Nilgiris  Environmentalists and local communities are opposing the project on the grounds that it will be an environmental and livelihood disaster submerging nearly 800 acres of dense forests and prime agricultural lands, along with displacing over 10,000 people. An ecologically fragile land, the Nilgiris is already facing enormous threats from illegal constructions and large scale encroachments.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/11/is-the-sillahalla-hydroelectric-project-an-environmental-disaster-in-the-making-in-the-nilgiris/  (03 Nov. 2020)

Odisha CM inaugurates SHP in Keonjhar Naveen Patnaik on Saturday (Nov. 7)  inaugurated the 24-MW Baitarani Small Hydro Power Project of The Hyderabad-based Baitarani Power Project Pvt Ltd at Singhanali in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Keonjhar district.  https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/odisha-cm-patnaik-inaugurates-small-hydropower-project-in-keonjhar/79108096  (08 Nov. 2020)

DAMS

Polavaram Project CWC to study risk of Polavaram dam flooding Bhadrachalam The Central Water Commission will carry out a study to find out if some areas of Bhadrachalam will be submerged if the water level is maintained at Full Reservoir Level (FRL) in the Polavaram dam in Andhra Pradesh after it is completed. The CWC will furnish a report by Feb 28, 2021. Telangana & AP will have to provide all the requisite data for conduct of the study and the cost of study will be borne by the AP govt. This decision was taken following discussions in the first joint meeting held on Oct 14 and participated by senior officials of CWC, Polavaram Project Authority, Central Pollution Control Board, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Odisha State govts, held on the directions of the NGT. The issue of submergence in Bhadrachalam was raised by Telangana.

– Telangana pointed out that if the water is maintained at FRL for some days in the Polavaram dam, it may cause stagnation of water in the streams joining Godavari and Kinnerasani rivers that flow adjacent to Bhadrachalam, and also of water in drainages, leading to submergence of some areas in the town for short periods. Other issues were also raised and discussed in the meeting, including the allegation by Telangana that the scope of Polavaram dam was revised after obtaining sanction from the CWC and Environmental Clearance from Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, and that the backwater studies need to be conducted again for Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) of 50 lakh cusecs, in view of inundation of areas in Telangana. It also pointed out that it got a backwater study conducted by IIT Hyderabad.  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2020/nov/08/cwc-to-study-risk-of-polavaram-dam-flooding-bhadrachalam-2220819.html  (08 Nov. 2020)

Telangana govt seeks study on Polavaram impact Telangana government has asked the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) to conduct a detailed study on the water spread area while expressing concern over Polavaram backwater, which is likely to submerge the famed Sri Rama temple, Bhadrachalam town, Manuguru heavy water plant and nearby 100 villages. The state government said the PPA will have to address the issues raised by it. Water resources department engineer-in-chief C Muralidhar wrote a letter to the PPA a couple of days ago. At a PPA meeting held here on Monday the issue was raised, sources said.

– “We explained our concerns during the PPA meeting and shared the IIT-Hyderabad study on possible submergence of Telangana areas due to Polavaram project backwaters. During the study and designing, contours of the project have to be marked on the ground to know the exact submergence area. The PPA has asked AP to reply to our fears,” B Nagendra Rao, water resources ENC (inter- state projects) said. The ENC said the Manuguru plant and ITC Bhadrachalam have written to the government expressing worry about the Polavaram backwater. Quoting the IIT-H study, the government further said 45,000 acres would face submergence as against 200 acres quoted by AP. “Neither the PPA nor the Central Water Commission (CWC) considered this aspect during the earlier meeting. They have completely ignored our concerns,” government officials said.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/t-seeks-study-on-polavaram-impact/articleshow/79008777.cms  (03 Nov. 2020)

Andhra Govt to urge Centre to revise cost Polavaram Project Authority to request the Centre to approve Rs 47,725 crore (2017-18 prices) to complete the project instead of Rs 20,398 crore that finance ministry had estimated based on 2013-14 price levels. https://theprint.in/india/andhra-govt-wont-accept-capped-cost-of-polavaram-project-to-urge-centre-to-revise-amount/535660/  (02 Nov. 2020)   

Mr. Vishnuvardhan Reddy alleged that the contractor who had increased the cost of the Pattiseema Lift Irrigation project from ₹1,100 crore to ₹1,600 crore had made a profit of ₹500 crore, and wondered how the contractor was being continued by the YSRCP government.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/blaming-centre-for-delay-in-polavaram-unfair-bjp/article33016280.ece  (03 Nov. 2020)

Meanwhile, protests have erupted in low lying areas of Odisha’s Malkangiri region, where tribal anxieties are rising. Villagers in the downhill areas are worried that their land will submerge in the waterlogging that will occur due to the clearances given for stone mining to an Andhra Pradesh firm amidst the ongoing work on the Polavaram dam. The villagers from Pusuguda and Motu panchayats fear that mining in the area will lead to the hollowing out of the mountain which hundreds of tribal families call home. The villagers are also insecure over the clogging of Godavari river due to the ongoing Polavaram dam project. The protests are taking place at Amakunda. The tribal groups have also submitted memorandum to the tehsildar at Khairaput and the Malkangiri Collector urging the immediate cancellation of the lease.

– Sankar Pani, an environment lawyer based in the area, said: “The process of stone crushing and stone mining has been given a go-ahead by the pollution control board, the permissions were given exactly a year ago, the crushers are being caught out of the highland and the mining is taking place in around 350 metres of settlement of villages. However, the companies are claiming that the activity is taking place a kilometre away, as per an order of the state government back in 2010 that activity needs to take place beyond the 500 meters mark. The companies are also falsely claiming that people are being rehabilitated.”  https://www.newsclick.in/odisha-adivasis-protest-clearances-given-stone-mining-violation-norms  (05 Nov. 2020)

Telangana App to monitor water systems All the components of KLIS would be available on the decision support system. The State government had entered into an agreement with VASSAR Labs for the support system. Besides designing the App, it will also maintain the system for five years. Services of the App were made available to Water Resources officials from Nov 4, 2020. There would be one central command centre and three local command centres for the system.  https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2020/nov/05/app-to-monitor-water-systems-across-telangana-2219543.html  (05 Nov. 2020)

Sardar Sarovar Dam With many thanks, from Nandini Oza: “Gujarat Government never allowed Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to debate the Sardar Sarovar Project in the state. However the NBA continued its efforts in the decade of 90s in spite of physical attacks and intimidation. One successful debate was in Jamnagar city due to the massive support that NBA had in the people of Jamnagar (photo below). Late. Girishbhai Patel, Himanshu Thakker and Medha Patkar representing the NBA in the debate and Late Babubhai Jashbhai Patel (Narmada Minister+ Gandhian), P A Raj (SSNNL) and Swami Sachidananda representing the state of Gujarat. Today I managed to retrieve over 25 years old CD of this debate, possibly the only one remaining. The second part of the CD is irretrievable – EXPERTS PLEASE HELP.

Those who wish to see this debate (in Gujarati) will have to write to me.” https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/3968689389825371  

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Ken-Betwa Linking UNESCO declares Panna Tiger Reserve a biosphere reserve “It’s a proud moment for us because the MP forest department did a lot of hard work to create a conducive environment in PTR to reintroduce the population of tigers. In 2008, PTR had lost all its tigers. The forest department had reintroduced a male and a female tiger in 2009 and within a decade the animal’s population increased to over 50,” Alok Kumar, PCCF (Wildlife) of MP said. “Local villages also played a key role in conservation. Panna Nature Club authorities tried to sensitise local villagers about PTR’s vegetation and wildlife. The villagers responded in a positive manner and the landscape did not report a single man-animal conflict through the years,” he said.

– Union Env Minister Prakash Javadekar twitted to congratulate the PTR authorities.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/unesco-declares-panna-tiger-reserve-a-biosphere-reserve/story-UeIXY6iH9nlAfvI0CRvlsM.html  (04 Nov. 2020)

MP says no to UP’s demand for bigger share of Ken water MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has refused any compromise on ‘extra’ sharing of Ken River water with Uttar Pradesh. Chouhan made his view clear on the dispute at a review meeting on the Ken-Betwa river link project this week. “The CM has said that MP will not share even a drop of water more than what was earlier decided, keeping in view what’s best for farmers of Madhya Pradesh. They cannot be deprived of their share,” said an official who was at the meeting.

– The biggest hurdle is the final wildlife clearance that is pending with the Supreme-Court appointed central empowered committee (CEC). The standing committee for approval has submitted its report to CEC, which has sent inquiries to National Water Development Authority (NWDA) on the matter. “Water share and wildlife clearance are the two major hurdles,” said an officer.

– As per the initial agreement, MP was to get 2,650 million cubic meters (MCM) of water and UP 1,700 MCM. UP has been pressing for 935 MCM water in the pre-monsoon months for rabi crops, saying it’s willing to take less in the monsoon months. But this is about 150MCM more than what was agreed upon, say sources in MP.

– Former additional chief secretary Radheshyam Julania had to cancel his London trip to attend a meeting in Delhi on this, and put forth MP’s case strongly during discussions with UP officials, say sources. UP officials eventually settled for 700 MCM, as per the previous agreement, but are back to their demand for ‘extra’. “Our priority is to meet demands of farmers of MP,” said an officer. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/mp-says-no-to-ups-demand-for-bigger-share-of-ken-water/articleshow/79118348.cms  (09 Nov. 2020)

MP-UP water sharing issue unresolved It seems MP CM took a review meeting on Friday (Nov 6, 2020) that also discussed Ken Betwa Project. This report suggests that the water sharing dispute with UP is still not resolved.

– The only new thing the report says is this: “In the year 2017, the MP Centre for Science and Technology had organised a meet jointly with the ISRO. The ISRO scientist Dr Diwakar in his presentation expressed that the river Ken-Betwa link project is being analysed with the help of satellite. The perfect location of the dam and it’s submerged area is also located under the programme.” https://www.freepressjournal.in/bhopal/mp-ready-to-share-700-mcm-water-with-up-but-want-issues-to-be-addressed-cm-shivraj-singh-chouhan  (07 Nov. 2020)

MP will not share even a drop of water more than old agreement Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has refused any compromise on ‘extra’ sharing of Ken River water with Uttar Pradesh. Chouhan made his view clear on the dispute at a review meeting on the Ken-Betwa river link project this week. “The CM has said that MP will not share even a drop of water more than what was earlier decided, keeping in view what’s best for farmers of Madhya Pradesh. They cannot be deprived of their share,” said an official who was at the meeting.

– The biggest hurdle is the final wildlife clearance that is pending with the Supreme-Court appointed central empowered committee (CEC). The standing committee for approval has submitted its report to CEC, which has sent inquiries to National Water Development Authority (NWDA) on the matter. “Water share and wildlife clearance are the two major hurdles,” said an officer.

– As per the initial agreement, MP was to get 2,650 million cubic meters (MCM) of water and UP 1,700 MCM. UP has been pressing for 935 MCM water in the pre-monsoon months for rabi crops, saying it’s willing to take less in the monsoon months. But this is about 150MCM more than what was agreed upon, say sources in MP.

– Former additional chief secretary Radheshyam Julania had to cancel his London trip to attend a meeting in Delhi on this, and put forth MP’s case strongly during discussions with UP officials, say sources. UP officials eventually settled for 700 MCM, as per the previous agreement, but are back to their demand for ‘extra’. “Our priority is to meet demands of farmers of MP,” said an officer. (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/mp-says-no-to-ups-demand-for-bigger-share-of-ken-water/articleshow/79118348.cms, Nov 9, 2020)

RIVERS

SANDRP Blog Please keep your tree Plantations away from River Floodplains One of the key roles of sandy floodplains is to maintain water table high enough to meet the needs of river during its lean period. But if the floodplains are planted up with trees desiccation of aquifers would be an obvious consequence.  But are there not grasses, sedges, shrubs and herbs to be found in the floodplains? Yes, indeed. But these are all mostly seasonal and small sized in comparison to a tree, their water needs are small and being shallow rooted these hardly ever reach the water table remaining largely content with the soil moisture.

Thus any “Afforestation” where trees are raised in active floodplains of rivers like Ganga and Yamuna presuming it to be benign and a desirable activity is grossly misplaced and should be avoided. The so called forestry intervention for the rejuvenation of  rivers like Ganga should focus on the re-vegetation (which does not mean tree plantations alone) of degraded catchments aimed at the revival  of springs and waterfalls which shall be the true and sustained means by which our rivers could flow once again. https://sandrp.in/2020/11/07/please-keep-your-tree-plantations-away-from-river-floodplains/  (07 Nov. 2020)  

Republished: https://en.gaonconnection.com/floodplains-are-not-available-lands-for-tree-plantation/ (9 Nov 2020)

GANGA Uttarakhand Mountain to muck The Himalaya are an over-stressed, over-burdened ecology. A road tarred to an astounding 12 m. will burn through these already heating up mountains like an iron rod. Bumper to bumper dams across the Ganga, Alakananda, Mandakini and other glacial rivers have shrivelled their roaring flow to ankle-deep streams. It took a people’s movement to stop three hydroprojects and save the last pristine stretch of the Ganga between Uttarkashi and Gaumukh.

This 100 km. stretch is all we have left of the original wild- flowing 2,500 km. long river. Cement buildings, gala weddings in silent highland meadows, noisy tourists and constant pollution pound away at these hills with unrelenting pressure. Railways and floating hotels on artificial reservoirs, low flying helicopters, plastic waste blowing in the wind, dark tunnels, cement-sprayed collapsing slopes and mounds of dusty debris is what we are leaving for the coming generations.  Amidst all this chaos, snow leopards were recently sighted, multiple times, in the Gangotri valley.  It is the valley of origin of the Ganga, and a protected eco-zone. Even here, disregarding all guidelines, the MORTH plans to fell centuries-old deodar, oak and chir trees to build its monstrous DL-PS highway. https://www.sanctuarynaturefoundation.org/article/mountain-to-muck

Bihar Villagers fear Mokama water scheme may adversely impact farming -Mokama Tal, known for cultivation of pulses, supports about 200,000 farmers and half a million agricultural labourers. Excessive flooding and silting has rendered 10,000 hectares uncultivable, and the new project may only increase their misery.  https://en.gaonconnection.com/muddy-waters-villagers-fear-the-ganga-water-lift-scheme-in-mokama-bihar-may-adversely-impact-farming/  (04 Nov. 2020)  

West Bengal Rare green immersion stands out after Durga Puja Tridhara Sammilani, a neighbourhood club in south Kolkata well known for its lavish celebrations, stood out this year by creating an artificial pond lined with plastic sheets to hold the immersion next to the marquee where the Puja had been held. They moved an idol there with a crane, and trained multiple water jets on it. Once the colours washed off and the clay melted, the same water was used for the next idol. The two-hour process took around 25,000 litres of water.

-“We were under various pandemic-linked restrictions and risks related to the conventional immersion in the Ganga, so we decided on this unique mode,” said Debasish Kumar, a club official and a member of the KMC board of administrators. As a KMC official, Kumar is in charge of immersion arrangements for all of Kolkata. He hoped that in future other clubs would opt for a ‘green immersion’ as well. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/11/03/rare-green-immersion-stands-out-after-durga-puja/  (03 Nov. 2020)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

World of Diatoms -Researcher Karthick Bala talks to host Pavan Srinath about the microscopic world of diatoms, and discusses the life and work of HP Gandhi, a pioneer in the study of diatoms in India. https://bangaloreinternationalcentre.org/audio/63-hp-gandhi-and-the-world-of-diatoms-with-karthick-balasubramanian/  (31 Oct. 2020) 

SAND MINING

SANDRP Blog Durga Shakti Nagpal: ‘Civil society have important role to play in sand mining governance’  Transcript of famous, courageous IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal’s address and Question Answer session at North Zone Dialogue on “IS SAND MINING KILLING OUR RIVERS” at India Rivers Week 2020 on Oct 31, 2020. It’s a must read for the amazing clarity and forthrightness that she spoke with about her experience in taking on Sand Mining Mafia in her very first posting as IAS officer, as SDM Greater Noida in UP in 2013. https://sandrp.in/2020/11/04/durga-shakti-nagpal-at-india-rivers-week-2020-civil-society-have-important-role-to-play-in-sand-mining-governance/  (04 Nov. 2020)

North Zone River Sand Mining

North India Sand Mining Dialogue under IRW 2020: Local communities need to have key role in governance The Key message that came through from all the panellists and North India Sand mining presentation was that if we are to see any improvement in the murky state of sand mining that is a threat to everyone today, then we urgently need key role for the local communities in civil society in sand mining governance. The second loud & clear message was that the Supreme Order of 2012 on the need for environmental appraisal and clearance of sand mining leases stands violated in letter and spirit by the Union Government.  https://sandrp.in/2020/11/06/north-india-sand-mining-dialogue-under-irw-2020-local-communities-need-to-have-key-role-in-governance/  (06 Nov. 2020)

Summary report of South Zone: The grain of sand is habitat for so many lives One of the central themes of the lively presentations and discussion at the South India Sand Mining Dialogue was that the grain of sand is a habitat for so many lives, as so brilliantly put forward by Munmun Dhalaria, one of the panelists. Another key highlight was that as Yogeshwaran, the lawyer painfully noted, sand mining laws are neither environment friendly nor people friendly and can be environment friendly only if they are people friendly. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2020/11/08/south-zone-sand-mining-dialogue-the-grain-of-sand-is-habitat-for-many-lives/  (08 Nov. 2020)

Madhya Pradesh How sand mining along the Narmada is choking web of life A huge number of machines extract as much sand as possible from the Narmada before the monsoon ban on mining. The scale has increased tremendously, with illegal mining dwarfing the legal ones. These are the outcomes of a new policy brought forth in 2015 by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, which identified more sand mining areas; sand became the first mineral to be e-auctioned. At least 586 approved mines spread over 4,537 hectares in 33 districts were operational in 2015. The administration is silence on illegal mining; staff members in the mining department are unequipped to deal with the large-scale of operations. The sand mafia has been aggressive on police constables, journalists and administrative officers. Several cases have been filed by non-profit Narmada Bachao Andolan and others, and the National Green Tribunal has banned mechanised sand mining in the Narmada.

– Mining has altered the landscape, the river flow, water availability and sand deposit patterns. Streams now dry up from January onwards, including Shed and Shakkar in Narsinghpur district, which had previously held water all the year round. Tributary rivers of Narmada such as the Dhudi have dried up and changes in river ecology have brought sand to some farms, disabling farming.

– The intricate relationships between the fishers, the small-scale sand miners, the sand farmers, the birds and the trees pertain not only to the possibilities of developing sustainable ways of human life in an economic sense, but also sustaining all life forms and their relationships. But capital operates in ways that side-line sustainability, making the ordinary people poorer. As a result, many may be forced to migrate. Landless people lose not only common lands, but also a sense of belonging to any place on the earth. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/mining/how-sand-mining-along-the-narmada-is-choking-web-of-life-74100  (05 Nov. 2020)

West Bengal Opposition blame illegal sand mining damaged Durgapur barrage The BJP said that the government had shown “extreme inefficiency” in dealing with the situation, while the CPM said the connivance of a section of irrigation officials with the sand mafia had led to the incident. https://www.telegraphindia.com/west-bengal/bjp-cpm-flay-govt-inefficiency/cid/1796626  (05 Nov. 2020)

Haryana Firm tries to divert Yamuna, booked A mining firm, PS Buildtech Jathlana, has been booked for allegedly trying to divert the flow of the Yamuna by constructing an illegal bundh to undertake mining activities in MT Karhera village of Yamunanagar district.

– It is the second case of violation of the National Green Tribunal guidelines in the village in the past 15 days. On October 23, another mining firm — M/s Kawaljeet Singh Batra — was booked for attempting to divert the flow of the Yamuna. Jaswinder Singh Hooda, Sub-Divisional Officer, Radaur, said he along with junior engineers had visited the quarry in MT Karhera on September 21. It was found that PS Buildtech had tried to divert the natural flow of the Yamuna by making a bundh using sand, flouting the NGT guidelines.

– On the complaint of Hooda, a case was registered against PS Buildtech (Block-12) under Section 431 (damaging river, road or bridge) of the IPC and Section 45 of the Canal and Drainage Act, Haryana, at Jathlana police station yesterday. Dharampal Singh, SHO, Jathlana, said the Irrigation Department had provided them photographs of the obstruction by the firm. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/firm-tries-to-divert-yamuna-booked-165670  (04 Nov. 2020)

21 police personnel injured in sand mafia attack in Panchkula. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/3954039284623715  (04 Nov. 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Assam NGT committee renders OIL’s entire Baghjan oil field illegal On Nov 3, Justice Katakey submitted a status report on the ongoing investigation into the cause and impact of the blowout. The committee is likely to submit a final report by December 15. The committee has recommended payment of Rs 25 Lakh to 173 families and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families identified by the district administration. The authorities found that 57 houses had been completely gutted during the explosion June 9, when the spilled gas condensates and crudes caught fire.

The committee found that a pregnant woman living in the vicinity had suffered a miscarriage. Similar instances of miscarriages were also reported among cattle and the endangered Hoolock Gibbon in the neighbouring forests.

Justice Katakey made interim recommendations in the status report submitted to the tribunal in which it sought legal action against Oil India Ltd (OIL) for violating the Air, Water and Environmental Protection Acts. “On the day of the blowout of well Baghjan-5 May 27 and explosion June 9, Oil India Limited did not have the mandatory consents, the committee reported. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/ngt-committee-renders-oil-india-limiteds-entire-baghjan-oil-field-illegal.html  (04 Nov. 2020)

-While most of the people have since returned to their homes, scores of families who were living closer to the site of the fire are still in temporary shelters.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-54719286  (04 Nov. 2020)

URBAN WATER

Planet Talks dialogue on Water Governance: Challenges and the Way Forward with Himanshu Thakkar SANDRP & India Water Portal by TERI School of Advanced Studies; IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (06 Nov. 2020) Video: https://fb.watch/1AGf_3JNu-/; YouTube: https://youtu.be/2jtCGTNSXvA; Event Page: https://www.impriindia.com/event/water-governance-challenges-and-the-way-forward/

Report WWF list of 30 Indian cities that rank high on water risk.  https://theprint.in/india/30-indian-cities-feature-in-wwf-list-of-100-set-to-face-severe-water-risks-by-2050/535486/  (02 Nov. 2020)

Bengaluru Water bills may get costlier -Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is mulling a hike of 12% in monthly water bills for domestic users. If approved by the government, this will be the first hike by the BWSSB in six years. The proposal comes even as electricity charges in the state were recently hiked.  https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/water-bills-may-get-costlier-bengaluru-residents-bwssb-mulls-hike-137060  (06 Nov. 2020)

Delhi Govt to adopt Dungarpur’s RWH model A seven-member delegation, led by Delhi Water Minister Satyendra Jain was on an official visit to witness the rainwater-harvesting system that costs just Rs 16,000 as compared to the conventional one, which costs Rs 50,000-one lakh per household. The Dungarpur model was centred on routing the rainwater to a bore well, instead of a regular rainwater-harvesting pit. The Dungarpur administration gives a 50-per cent subsidy per household for installing a rainwater harvesting system.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/delhi-to-adopt-dungarpur-s-model-of-rainwater-harvesting-satyendar-jain/story-hsCrBvyaIyXv2fIPfS7XQJ.html  (09 Nov. 2020)

Dhaval Joshi on FB post comment:- Are we going to simply focus on technocratic solutions completely undermining the local geology which will be crucial if water is going to be pumped into bore-wells? Dungarpur is underlain by hard rocks while large parts of Delhi have alluvial settings. Won’t this be even looked at while designing such populist and ‘cheaper’ policies?

JJM/ RURAL WATER SUPPLY

India Reports Drastic Fall in Consumption of Toxic Water – but Budget Is Unspent The Centre launched the National Water Quality SubMission (NWQSM) on March 22, 2017 to provide safe drinking water to nearly 27,500 arsenic and fluoride affected rural habitations in four years, “subject to availability of funds”. The outlay for the project was estimated to be Rs 25,000 crore, half of which was to be released by the Centre.

– According to Gaon Connection, with just five months to go for the March 2021 deadline, the Centre has only released Rs 3,940 crore or 32% of its share. In turn, state governments have spent only around 70% of it. It’s reasonable to expect that large-scale projects like this, with a big outlay, typically use every penny instead of only 22% (i.e. 70% of 32%) of the estimated total.

– However, this BIG drop in affected villages: A report by Gaon Connection says that while there were 13,819 arsenic-affected habitations in 2016, that figure is now down to 4,588 as of August 1 this year. Fluoride-affected habitations have dropped from 13,725 in 2016 to 5,632 in August 2020.

– Karthik Seshan, who has worked on water-related issues, acknowledged that the drop in Karnataka is drastic but said the wide installation of reverse osmosis (RO) plants across the state could have resulted in classifying these habitations as safe. However, a September 2020 Times of India report says nearly 5,000 of these RO plants in Karnataka are defunct. The decline in affected habitations might reflect “project achievements, but need to be taken with a pinch of salt”, Seshan told Gaon Connection.  https://science.thewire.in/health/fluoride-arsenic-contamination-water-drop-habitations-budget-unspent/  (07 Nov. 2020)

AGRICULTURE

Jammu & Kashmir World famous Kashmiri saffron continues to decline Despite the formation of a Saffron Mission to irrigate the land and the labelling of the crop as ‘geographically indicated’, experts fear saffron cultivation will continue to dwindle. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/11/02/farmers-lose-hope-as-bid-to-save-prized-kashmiri-saffron-flounders/  (02 Nov. 2020)

MONSOON 2020

SANDRP Blog IMD continues callous reporting of River Wise Rainfall in Monsoon 2020 IMD (India Meteorological Department) also provides river basin wise rainfall figures. Here is an overview of the river basin wise rainfall during SW Monsoon 2020 (June-Sept 2020, though the monsoon withdrew much later).

This is very useful, but needs a lot more rigour, seriousness and improvements. We have been writing about it, but have seen no change in this in the last five years. If some key changes are done in this, this can be of much more useful. Plz Read, Share.  https://sandrp.in/2020/11/02/imd-continues-callous-reporting-of-river-wise-rainfall-in-monsoon-2020/  (02 Nov. 2020)

FLOOD 2020

SANDRP Blog Dam Floods & Embankment Breaches in South West Monsoon 2020  Improper operations of dams, disasters related to dams and hydro projects and breaching of embankments have been aggravating flood disasters during every monsoon. There have been several such incidents during South West Monsoon 2020, taking heavy toll on people and property which could have been avoided or impacts reduced in many cases with proper dam operations and proper maintenance of the embankments.  https://sandrp.in/2020/11/04/dam-floods-embankment-breaches-in-south-west-monsoon-2020/  (04 Nov. 2020)

DAM FLOOD ASSAM On Sunday (Oct. 25), the floodwaters of Kopili and Borpani river had breached few portions of embankment, roads and submerged several villages in Kampur and Baithalangso areas. The authorities of Karbi Langpi Hydro Electric Project have also released excess water by opening several gates after the water level of the project started rising following incessant rains. The floodwaters have submerged Pramila, Madhabpara, Kachua, Longjap, Jaroni, Borpathar, Lutumari and many other areas. Several hectares of croplands are now underwater.

-“The authorities of Karbi Langpi Hydro Electric Project have also released excess water. The agricultural lands, many homes in the area are now underwater. The villagers are facing various problems,” the local villager said. On the other hand, one person drowned in floodwaters in the Baithalangso area in West Karbi Anglong district. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/fresh-wave-of-flood-affects-over-15-000-people-in-assam-s-nagaon-west-karbi-anglong-district-1735017-2020-10-25  (25 Oct. 2020)

West Bengal Erosion along Ganga’s riverbanks finds new victims -Villages along the Ganga river in Samserganj block of West Bengal experienced erosion after several decades, with many families unprepared and suffering major losses.

-Some locals & experts attribute this fresh spate of erosion in Aug-Sep at Samserganj to the obstruction of the natural flow of the river Ganga due to the Farakka Barrage. Experts monitoring the situation have proposed climate change mitigation and adaptation plans for the Ganga floodplain along with effective warning and rehabilitation measures. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/11/photos-erosion-along-gangas-riverbanks-in-west-bengal-finds-new-victims/  (02 Nov. 2020)

Bihar Breach in embankment halts Kahalgaon power production Four power production units at Kahalgaon Super Thermal Power Station (KhSTPP) were shut down after breach in the fly ash dyke embankment early Saturday morning (Nov. 7). It hit total 1420MW power production from unit number 3 and 4 (210MW each) and units 5 and 6 (500MW each).

-Executive director of NTPC (Kahalgaon), Chandan Chakraborty, told this newspaper that a technical committee has been constituted to look into the issue. “NTPC experts from New Delhi will reach Kahalgaon on Sunday (Nov. 8) to probe the issue. We are working on a war footing to restore power generation,” he said and added, “Electricity is being generated from the two other units. The four units have been shut down as preventive measures only.”

-Meanwhile, the sources said preliminary investigation indicated that the overflow of residual water under the ash dyke embankment might have caused the breach. “A high-level technical inquiry committee has been formed for investigating the cause. There is no loss of life or damage to properties. We are monitoring the affected sites and are in touch with local administration and neighbouring villagers,” the official said, adding that electricity generation is likely to be resumed soon. The Kahalgaon officials claimed to have initiated repair of the embankment to resume power production.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/breach-in-embankment-halts-kahalgaon-power-production/articleshow/79105626.cms  (08 Nov. 2020)

ENVIRONMENT

Goa People say NO to Coal -A strong people’s movement is underway that is asking probing questions: Why is Goa embracing Coal and destroying forests in violation of our Paris treaty obligations?  https://sabrangindia.in/article/goas-people-say-no-coal  (02 Nov. 2020)

Goa civil society highlighting impacts of these projects on forest, rivers and fisherfolks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noMVHjSHXr4  (05 Nov. 2020)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Dust worsening melting of Himalayan snow A new report states that wind-blown dust from Asia and Africa is darkening Himalayan snow at high altitudes and adding to the melting caused by Climate Change. The report, “Dust Dominates High-Altitude Snow Darkening And Melt Over High-Mountain Asia”, is the result of a collaboration between researchers from five international institutions (including IIT Madras). It notes that dust blowing in from Africa and Asia in spring and summer is darkening Himalayan snow, reducing its reflectivity and increasing the melt. This is especially a problem at higher altitudes of 4,500m. https://lifestyle.livemint.com/smart-living/environment/climate-change-tracker-dust-is-worsening-the-melting-of-himalayan-snow-111604549548564.html  (05 Nov. 2020)

SOUTH ASIA

Opinion Can water balance equation help restore river basin? There is a glaring lack of data when it comes to small rivers and streams. Yes, who is to be blamed for this?

– This is not true, its amazing to see such biased view for the activists: “the absence of basin management planning capacity among activists has hampered the development of comprehensive understanding as well as structured interventions at the local level, both by local authorities and activist groups.”

– “INTACH seeks to address this gap by offering a guide to civil society groups that will enable them to develop basin plans for medium and minor rivers.” Why only for civil society groups, and not to the government, which is in fact in charge of governance of rivers? Link to INTACH guide.

– “Basin planning would not only lead to a more informed citizenry, but also to an informed dialogue with the establishment, leading to rational perspectives and sensible interventions, both for river revival and developments.” Amazing again. Has the establishment shown any interest in “informed dialogue”?

– It provides this link:” While saying: “This approach is now being initiated in the Ganga basin, with the tributary management programme of Namami Gange (NMCG), which is still in its infancy.”

However, looking at that link, we find no evidence of this program being implemented. On the contrary it is business-as-usual list of NMCG programs including severely destructive elements of River Front Development Programs, and standard, centralised STPs and effluent management plans. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/11/05/opinion-an-equation-to-restore-river-basins-in-south-asia/  (05 Nov. 2020)

International Rivers Can legal rights for Rivers help? Participants at the dialogue first identified the major threats facing rivers, including pollution; excessive water extraction; the construction of hydroelectric and other dams; sand mining; the privatization of long stretches of riverbank; large-scale hard infrastructure interventions (such as India’s interlinking rivers concept); and various types of community and transboundary conflict.

The group also looked at what’s standing in the way of legal rights for rivers. They identified the current extractive, anthropocentric model of development as a major culprit, as well as the profound lack of ecological understanding among decision-makers. They examined the pitfalls of centralized governance, which often excludes local communities from decision-making, and the lack of legally-mandated, democratic spaces to come together to share information and influence policy. All agreed that winning legal rights for rivers is one way to fight the constant undervaluing and depredation of these vital sources of life. https://www.internationalrivers.org/news/how-to-win-legal-rights-for-south-asias-rivers/

Myanmar Out of Eden Walk: Civilization along a fabled river Clay jars under fields of wheat and peanuts hold the remains of the people of Pyu, an Iron Age city on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/11/history-ebbs-flows-fabled-irrawaddy-river/  (04 Nov. 2020)

CHINA

Protests against big dams -Existing dams on the Yangtze have drastically altered the natural flows of the river and interfered with the migration and spawning of various species. Spawning grounds for Chinese hillstream loach, a fish endemic to the Yangtze that needs fast-moving water and gravelly river bottoms to thrive, have been severely impacted by the construction of the Liyuan hydropower project downstream from Tiger Leaping Gorge. Three other spawning grounds have been discovered in the area behind the proposed Longpan dam, including one directly at Longpan, according to earlier studies. Dams along the Yangtze also cause sedimentation and eutrophication within the reservoirs. And the power lines, roads and other infrastructure associated with the dams fragment and degrade terrestrial habitats in the valleys. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/11/05/with-activists-silenced-china-moves-ahead-on-big-dam-project/  (05 Nov. 2020)

No new information here on new planned dams by China. Its seems like periodic speculative report. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3108904/could-chinas-new-dam-plans-unleash-more-trouble-india  (08 Nov. 2020)

ASIA

Indonesia Photo Essay on Citarum River in West Java Guardian calls it the worst polluted rivers of the earth. Over 9 million people live close to the river. There are over 2000 textile companies close to the river. And cities and villages. All using water from the river and dumping the waste back to the river. Many people suffer from dermatitis, contact rashes, intestinal problems; but also from delays in child development, renal failure, chronic bronchitis and a significant incidence of tumours.

– The Indonesian government, after pressure from international organisations such as Greenpeace about the state of the river, has established a seven-year cleaning programme for the Citarum, with the goal of making its water drinkable by 2025. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/nov/02/rotten-river-life-on-one-of-the-worlds-most-polluted-waterways-photo-essay  (02 Nov. 2020)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 02 Nov 2020 & DRP News Bulletin 26 Oct. 2020  

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

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