DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court

The Karnataka High Court has taken up the petition challenging the constitution of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydropower projects. Notices have been issued to MoEF and also all the members of EAC on a petition filed by the United Conservation Movement Charitable Welfare Trust. Such a scrutiny of the appointment of the EAC was long overdue and urgently required. One hopes the High Court will take the matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that MoEF has a credible, transparent process of appointment of these committees as without such a process, the MoEF gets away with appointing only yes people on the committee who are happy to tow the government line. That nullifies the whole purpose of the constitution of the committee, the EIAs, the public consultations, the appraisals, the clearances and even credible monitoring and compliance. It is complete failure of environment governance and laws and MoEF even gets away with appointment of people with clear conflict of interest. MoEF has no process of selection of the chair and members of these committees. Hoping for the best for the case to correct all this.

Notice to Centre over panel on river, hydel projects The Karnataka High Court on Thursday (Dec. 10) issued notice to the Centre on a PIL questioning the improper constitution of the Experts Appraisal Committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects. Hearing a petition in which the petitioner has also sought writ of quo-warranto against the chairman and members of the committee, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty issued notice to the MoEF&CC. Questioning the notification dated July 13, 2020 issued by the Union government to constitute the committee, the petitioner, United Conservation Movement Charitable Welfare Trust, contended that the notification was ultra vires as it created a new category of Member known as ‘non-official’ member.

Advocate Prince Isaac, representing the petitioner, argued that the chairman and the committee members do not meet the prescribed statutory qualifications. Further, he argued that, as there would be a flurry of applications from various sectors for prior environment clearance for the construction of new projects or expansion or modernisation of existing ones, a direction be issued to the ministry to constitute the committee properly and select qualified members by issuing a public notice in the media. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2020/dec/11/notice-to-centre-over-panel-on-river-hydel-projects-2234709.html  (11 Dec. 2020)

The petition said that bodies such as EAC, constituted under Section 3 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, are the first line of defence for the protection and improvement of the environment. “It is of utmost importance that those selected to be part of these bodies are experts and are free from any conflict of interest and are unbiased and independent,” the petition said. The petition has also prayed for directions to set guidelines for making the selection to the screening, scoping and appraisal committees, both at the central and state level, under the EIA notification. https://www.deccanherald.com/city/bengaluru-infrastructure/river-valley-and-hydroelectric-projects-plea-challenges-appointment-of-expert-panel-925956.html  (11 Dec. 2020)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Arunachal Pradesh Save Dibang Valley -This film shows how the mesmerising Dibang Valley in North East India, one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots of the world is under grave threat of destruction due to 17 hydel projects being planned in this highly earthquake prone and climate sensitive region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iuosfaaHSw&feature=youtu.be  (25 Sept. 2020)

Lower Subansiri HEP “At least 2 out of the HEP’s total 8 units are targeted to be commissioned by August 2022,” Arunachal Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar said. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/arunachal-pradesh/lower-subansiri-hydroelectric-project-is-targetted-to-be-commissioned-in-august-2022-arunachal-pradesh-chief-secretary.html  (08 Dec. 2020)

The Chairman Toko Onuj of the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited (HPDCAPL) during its foundation day celebration on Dec 11, 2020 informed that the corp is now concentrating on small hydropower projects. “These projects take less time and do not affect the environment. We are planning such projects in all the districts of the state, so that every district is power sufficient.” https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2020/12/12/goap-working-to-revamp-hydropower-sector-raja/  (12 Dec. 2020)

DAMS

Study Dams in the Western Ghats are altering the water and impacting the fish The researchers (How Dams affect fisheries. By Dr Vidyadhar et al) chose the Tunga and Bhadra rivers for their near-natural, (river stretches without dam) undisturbed water flow, and the sub-basins of Mhadei and Malaprabha in northern Karnataka for their water flow regulated by dams. They conducted various water quality tests along with mapping river habitat to investigate what factors affect the quality of water and the ecosystems of fishes that dwell in them.

– The study also examined the fish population in the four rivers and recorded a total of 12,840 fish individuals belonging to 79 species across wet and dry seasons during 2011–2014. Among these, as many as 31 species were endemic to the Western Ghats and found nowhere else. The Tunga and Bhadra rivers come from the headwater region and have more endemic and habitat specialist species than Mhadei and Malaprabha.  https://researchmatters.in/news/dams-western-ghats-are-altering-water-and-impacting-fish  (08 Dec. 2020)

Polavaram Odisha govt yet to file IA Odisha’s dilly dallying continues in the Polavaram case. https://www.orissapost.com/odisha-yet-to-file-ia-in-polavaram-case/ (9 Dec 2020)

Telangana SRSP rejuvenation works on track Sri Ram Sagar Project (SRSP) rejuvenation works (cost Rs 1,751 crore) are progressing, with construction works of two of the three pump houses completed. The work on the third pump house is expected to be completed by Dec end. Once completed, the scheme will facilitate lifting of water from Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme to SRSP. “The project, which was a boon for north Telangana till the 1980s, lost its storage capacity from the proposed 112 tmc to 90 tmc due to silting,” SRSP EE said. The 1st pump house constructed at Rampur on flood flow canal, 2nd pump house at Rajeshwar Rao Pet in Jagityal district and third pump house at Mupkal mandal headquarters of Nizamabad district.  https://telanganatoday.com/srsp-rejuvenation-works-on-track (7 Dec 2020)

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Meeting of Special Committee Minister of State for Jal Shakti Shri Rattan Lal Kataria on Dec 7 2020 chaired the 34th Annual General Meeting of the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) Society and 18th Meeting of the Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers (SCILR) through video conference. The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Water resources/ Jal Shakti Department of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar & Rajasthan along with Secretary, DoWR, RD & GR, Chairman, Task Force on ILR and Advisor to Union Minister, Jal Shakti and other officials from various Central and State Government organisations.

– Minister Kataria mentioned that most of the clearances for Ken – Betwa link project are accorded (misleading  and DPRs have already been shared with the States of MP and UP. Some minor decisions like consensus on water sharing during the lean season among UP and MP are pending and affirmed that soon with consultation and cooperation, they shall be addressed. https://indiaeducationdiary.in/minister-of-state-for-jal-shakti-rattan-lal-kataria-chairs-agm-of-national-water-development-agency-and-meeting-of-special-committee-for-interlinking-of-rivers/  (07 Dec. 2020)

INTERSTATE WATER DISPUTES

Maharashtra-Telangana Fields submerged by barrage water, Sironcha farmers plan fresh protest  Farmers under Medigadda-Kaleshwar Barrage Sangharsh Committee from Sironcha taluka in Gadchiroli district are gearing up to launch agitation against the inter-state Medigadda Kaleshwar barrage project between Maharashtra and Telangana. The backwater has submerged their crops and farmlands as the Telangana authorities have not reduced storage by opening the gates. Villagers are also stating that the barrage has affected their socio-cultural life too as they had to stop rituals in Godavari river. They are getting no benefits from the project.

– The barrage was nearly filled in the month of February this year and backwater flooded farms in several villages including Arda, Nagaram, Mrudu Kistapur, Rajannapalli, Janapalli, Maddikunta and adjoining villages. By the time Telangana authorities reduced the storage, the damage had already been done. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/fields-submerged-by-barrage-water-sironcha-farmers-plan-fresh-protest/articleshow/79597469.cms  (07 Dec. 2020)

IRRIGATION

Rajasthan नर्मदा नहर निगल रही है जिंदगियां, 12 सालों में हो गई सैकड़ों मौतें  सांचोर की जीवनदायिनी मानी जानें वाली नर्मदा नहर अब जीवन को हरण करने वाली साबित हो रही है. गत 12 सालों में कई सैकड़ो जानें इस नर्मदा नहर (Narmada Canal) में गयी है. फिर भी नर्मदा विभाग व प्रशासन इस और बिल्कुल भी ध्यान नहीं दे रहा है.

– नर्मदा नहर में हो रही लगातार मौतों को लेकर स्थानीय ग्रामीणों में रोष है. ग्रामीणों की मांग है कि नर्मदा नहर पर सुरक्षा जाली लगाई जाए और तहसील स्तर पर सरकारी गोताखोरों की व्यवस्था की जाए. https://zeenews.india.com/hindi/india/rajasthan/narmada-canal-is-swallowing-lives-hundreds-of-deaths-in-12-years/804974  (12 Dec. 2020)

URBAN RIVERS

Mula-Mutha; Pune STPs inside riverbed approved In 2016, the central government had sanctioned the construction of 11 STPs as a part of Pune Municipal Corporation’s Rs1,000 crore pollution control project. 4 of these STPs were proposed in the blue flood line. “The state government recently announced unified development control rules, which allow setting up STPs inside the river flood line,” a PMC official confirmed. Before the UDC rules were announced, the official said PMC was in the process of finding alternative sites for the four treatment plants.

This development has alarmed environmentalists, who said it could adversely affect the flow of the river. They said they feared that the STPs would get inundated during floods. “The construction of the STPs will lead to other constructions, such as control room gates. The government needs to think of a long-term plan, taking into consideration the environmental impact,” activist Sarang Yadvadkar said.

PMC, however, allayed these fears, with the official saying the plants would be built above the high flood level (HFL), eliminating any chance of inundation. Another activist, Vaishali Patkar, said citizens and experts should have been consulted before a decision with environmental repercussions was taken. “We will write a letter to the minister concerned in this regard,” Patkar said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/mula-mutha-pollution-control-proposal-gets-shot-in-the-arm/articleshow/79700064.cms  (13 Dec. 2020)

Mahisagar; Vadodara VMC issues notices to 2 units for polluting river In a first, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) slapped notices to two industrial units suspected of polluting Mahisagar river. The civic body took the unprecedented step after it came to light that the water polluted by the industries was making its way into the city’s water supply system. VMC officials had recently noticed supply of yellowish water in a water tank in some areas. The engineers started working backwards in an attempt to reach the source of the coloured water.

It came to light that the water was entering the system from the Mahisagar river. The VMC has French wells at Raika, Dodka, Fajalpur and Poicha in the river bed. It is commonplace for water to get muddy during monsoon, but coloured water was something that officials had not expected. Despite treatment, the yellowness of the water had persisted. Personnel of the civic body found out that a channel was releasing polluted water from nearby industries into the Mahi river. They informed their seniors regarding it and a visit was planned to the industries. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/vmc-issues-notices-to-2-units-for-polluting-mahi/articleshow/79667051.cms  (11 Dec. 2020)

Vrishabhavathi; Bengaluru Rajarajeshwari Nagar residents catch tanker dumping effluents in river Two Rajarajeshwari Nagar residents caught a tanker discharging chemical effluents into Vrishabhavathi river, that has turned into a storm water drain (SWD) in the locality, in the wee hours of Friday (Dec. 11). However, the culprits, including the tanker driver, managed to give residents the slip and vanish. Vishal Suresh and Vadiraj S waited at the spot along with three SPCB staffers and managed to catch the tanker around 3.15am.

“For a few days, many residents had been complaining about a toxic smell lingering in their homes and a yellowish discharge in the river,” said Vishal. On his morning walk, he recently spotted a truck passing the spot where the stink as unbearable. “I later spoke to my friend Vadiraj, who also complained of the foul smell, and we decided to track down the tanker,” Vishal said. The duo found a spot near Banashankari 2nd Stage where chemical effluents were spilt on the street.

The residents and guards immediately rushed to catch the tanker driver and other people in the cab. While the driver was caught, the others fled. “The driver immediately called someone, who came in a cab with four other people. We then alerted police. But in less than two minutes, the tanker driver got into the cab and escaped,” said one of the KSPCB guards. Senior KSPCB officials said they will look into the matter and in case any industrial unit is found guilty, action will be initiated against it. “An FIR has been lodged against the tanker owner and driver, but no details are known yet,” an official added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/residents-catch-tanker-dumping-effluents-in-river/articleshow/79699593.cms  (13 Dec. 2020)

Kurnool; Tunga-Bhadra KMC lacks STP fund, discharges 60 mld in river KMC has no STP and every day it discharges 60 mld into Tunga-bhadra river without any concerns for peoples health. River pollution in Handri and Tunga-bhadra, the two rivers that flow across Kurnool city, have been causing health issues to people residing on the river bank. Plastic waste and other non-degradable material, lead and cadmium that are in the river need to be cleared.

Regional PCB officials say that Tungabhadra waters showed marginally higher toxins after Pushkarams. The Board conducted a test on the quality of water in Tunga-bhadra in the first week of this month soon after Pushkarams. In the test it was found that “It may be noted from the data, the pH and DO are meeting the standards, whereas the other two parameters, viz., BOD and Total coliform bacteria are exceeding the standards.”

The rivers in Kurnool are polluted by chemical effluents, medical waste in addition to sewage by KMC, said KN Reddy, an environmental activist. KMC Commissioner DK Balaji said it requires Rs 300 crore to construct STP but the civic body does not have that much of money. A proposal has been sent to the Union government to sanction the amount under Swach Bharat scheme, he said. Balaji further said AP Urban Infrastructure Asset Management Ltd also assessed the sewerage treatment desirability and contemplated to take up construction of STP in a phased manner. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/101220/kurnool-shocked-by-quality-of-kmc-water.html  (10 Dec. 2020)

Buddha Nullah; Ludhiana Dozens of studies, crores spent but pollution remains  The life sustaining character of the Sutlej river has changed drastically in recent years. Symptomatic of Sutlej’s sorry state is the Buddha Nullah, a 14-km stream that runs through Ludhiana, picking up toxic effluents in massive quantities and around 200 MLD of untreated sewage a day, in its passage through the city before dumping it all in the Sutlej.

In late 2019, the Dept of Science, Technology and Environment, GoP, issued directions to control the pollution, and made PPCB the nodal agency in charge. It said industrial effluents and dairy discharge be segregated and treated. The Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana had to set up STPs, setting up flow meters and CCTV for effective monitoring. The corporation had to set up ETPs and biogas units to process dairy waste.

Ludhiana has only 3 STPs with a total capacity of 311 MLD, against a capacity requirement of 750 MLD. Even these 3 plants are often non-operational due to technical reasons, which means that the entire raw, untreated sewage of the city is dumped into the Buddha nullah. In January 2020, the Punjab Government firmed up a Rs 650-crore plan to clean up the nullah. However PPCB, the regulator, and Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board, the agency responsible for its implementation, have been going about it in a hush-hush manner without involving civil society or environment experts. https://citizenmatters.in/environmental-costs-of-failure-to-clean-up-buddha-nullah-ludhiana-19780  (22 July 2020)

RIVERS

Plastic & solid waste chocking prestine mountain springs across #Himalayas. This is 1st order stream at Daida village inside Dudhatoli forest in Thailisain block of Pauri, Uttarakhand. It joins Binnu #river which is part of Ramganga in #Ganga basin. #WorldMountainDay (291120) https://twitter.com/Indian_Rivers/status/1337292864607244288?s=20

Goa Save Mollem Young artists trying to re-imagine green activism Fast forward four decades, and a similar case is being made by hundreds of Borkar’s successors from Goa’s creative communities, in the remarkably innovative #MyMollem campaign to stop three potentially highly destructive projects that are slated to bulldoze through Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in the Western Ghats section of India’s smallest state. This entirely millennial-driven movement has positioned art and culture right alongside its scientific and legal strategies. In the process, it is dramatically reinventing environmental activism for our multimedia-saturated 21st century.

Orijit Sen’s pathbreaking 1994 River of Stories grew out from the author’s participation in the Narmada Bachao Andolan struggle against the Sardar Sarover dam, which wound up displacing a million people across Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Now a long-term resident of Goa, Sen told me, “Looking back, I think River of Stories had a kind of ripple effect over time. Initially, it was very well received within activist and progressive circles – who had never come across visually rich depictions of environmental politics and social struggles before. Then university students and other young people started to seek it out. Unfortunately, no commercial publisher was interested, and the very small first edition produced with the aid of a grant from – ironically – the Ministry of Environment, sold out. The book disappeared, But I and my wife Gurpreet kept selling photocopied versions of it through our People Tree bookstore for years. It was not until 10 years later, with Sarnath Bannerjee’s Corridor, that Indian publishers finally discovered graphic novels!”

“River of Stories was born from similar concerns as those that are animating young Goan artists today, but the key difference is I was addressing a generation of Indians coming of age in the early years of the liberalisation project,” Sen said. “With my work, I wasn’t directly addressing the authorities. Mine was a relatively lone voice in the art and design space at the time, and I urgently felt the need to gather allies from amongst my peers in the universities and urban spaces, to awaken them to the catastrophes unfolding in the forests and villages of the Narmada valley. So, my primary audience was other young people like me.”

About the efforts of the Mollem cohort, which includes his 26-year-old daughter Pakhi, Sen said, “I think it’s an unusual and brilliant strategy, which forces the authorities to confront a type of argument they have never had to face before. Art can make rational as well as emotional appeals, and provides direct as well as indirect testimony to the merits of the pro-ecology standpoint. Protest is not simply about objecting to something. In its complete sense protest is also about asserting an alternative – more often, a series of alternatives – for a better, more beautiful, more meaningful world. Art plays a critical role in giving tangible shape and form to that alternative vision.” https://scroll.in/article/981021/as-goa-resists-three-environmentally-destructive-projects-artists-create-images-to-savemollem  (13 Dec. 2020)

Kerala Green activist Sitaraman dead Noted environmentalist S. Sitaraman, who fought for the protection of rivers and created green jungles to check climate change, died on Wednesday (Dec. 9). He was 74. Prof. A teacher by profession, Prof. Sitaraman was the face of the people’s movements in Ernakulam against the indiscriminate human interference on natural resources and its rampant exploitation for commercial interests. Founder of the All-Kerala River Protection Council, he was the Principal Investigator of the ambitious Periyar Action Plan (1977) that envisaged stringent measures against encroachment, pollution and indiscriminate sand mining in the river.

The Harithavanam (mini forest) near the Aluva Sivarathri manaluram on the banks of the Periyar River was an outcome of his constant struggle. He was the petitioner in the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court that ordered the demolition of the Tourism Department’s Rainbow restaurant on the banks of the Periyar in 2014 for violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone norms. Prof. Sitaraman also took the lead to form the National Green Corps encouraging school children to turn into green warriors. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/green-activist-sitaraman-dead/article33290101.ece  (09 Dec. 2020)

Maharashtra Story of a river bed, a geological marvel and community pride Interesting story of Bori Budruk village, for whose residents, the geological term ‘tephra’ is a local legend. The village, around 100 km from Pune city, is nestled along the banks of the Kukadi river. With a population of around 6,000, the villagers are all well versed with the technicalities of the geological term – tephra – the dust sized particles from a supervolcanic eruption that travels long distances in the atmosphere and settles over time into a sediment layer. The village also went to high court and got a stay on sand mining against it in 2016. At the forefront of the battle to protect the unique river bed, are Pushpa and Amol Korde. Pushpa has been the village head for a decade and together with Amol, they have been implementing plans to protect their eco-heritage. After sending the samples for dating, the tephra turned out to be from the OTT era. “I was quite surprised when the dating turned out to be about 8 lakh years old,” she said. However this is debatable. Earlier, the tephra lined the Kukadi riverbanks across 12 villages, with Bori Budruk having the highest concentration. It is now coating some stretches of the bank, and is patchy.

– “They are doing commendable work trying to protect this heritage site, and transform it into an eco-tourism spot. Unfortunately, in India not much is done in terms of heritage conservation and protection. Most of these sites are dilapidated and their significance is undervalued. For the villagers to come together and do so much is very inspiring,” Sudha Vaddadi, a geological consultant said.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/story-of-a-river-bed-a-geological-marvel-and-community-pride/  (10 Dec. 2020)

Assam A River Runs Through It: Life by Jia Bhoroli, a tributary of the Brahmaputra From its origin in the Tawang border district in Arunachal Pradesh to its final meeting with the Brahmaputra by Kolia Bhomora bridge, the 264-km long Jia Bhoroli river nurtures flora and fauna and sustains the livelihood of local communities. Gaon Connection brings you stories from this lesser-known river of Assam.  https://en.gaonconnection.com/a-river-runs-through-it-life-by-the-jia-bhoroli-a-tributary-of-the-brahmaputra-in-assam/  (11 Dec. 2020)

Jharkhand Bauxite mining threatens India’s lone wolf sanctuary and an interstate river Local communities in the bordering villages of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh complain that bauxite mining in the region is threatening India’s only wolf sanctuary and affecting the Burha river. They allege the Burha river originating in Chhattisgarh, and flowing through the Palamau tiger reserve in Jharkhand, is drying up due to mining activities. Locals in Chhattisgarh allege that dust pollution is a major concern for them as it becomes difficult for them to grow crops. The activists working in the area state that the issue is stuck between the administration of the two states even as the villagers and local ecology suffer. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/bauxite-mining-threatens-indias-lone-wolf-sanctuary-and-an-interstate-river/  (09 Dec. 2020)

Karnataka Are you willing to issue a public notice that ‘Cauvery Calling’ is not a state project? HC to govt  The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the state government to clarify whether it was willing to issue a public notice that the ‘Cauvery Calling’ project is the project of ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vausdev’s Isha Foundation and Isha Outreach and that the government has nothing to do with it. A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty said : “Entire grievance is that respondents are projecting that they are implementing a govt project. You must clarify and put an end to it by issuing a public notice and the matter will come to an end.” https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/cauvery-calling-karnataka-high-court-isha-foundation-sadhguru-166912   (07 Dec. 2020)

NARMADA NTPC signs MoU with IIFM for Narmada Landscape Restoration project NTPC Ltd announced it has signed an MoU with Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, to implement the Narmada Landscape Restoration Project with a grant-in-aid from NTPC and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in equal proportions. The 4-year project will be implemented in Khargone District of Madhya Pradesh in the catchment of selected tributaries of River Narmada between Omkareshwar and Maheshwar dams. IIFM is to jointly implement this project with global green growth institute (GGGI). They will manage watersheds to maintain water quality and supplement Smart Cities by introducing a smarter way of purification of urban water supplies. This is expected to positively impact the water quality and quantity in the Narmada tributaries. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/ntpc-signs-mou-with-iifm-for-narmada-landscape-restoration-project/79617581  (08 Dec. 2020)

A bit more information about the NTPC-IIFM-GGGI (S Korea) 4 yr project called Narmada Landscape Restoration project. It mentions Indore water issue, but also 400 MW Maheshwar Dam: “Maheshwar is a planned large dam on the Narmada Valley that would lead to the production of 400 MW electricity” https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/what-is-narmada-landscape-restoration-project-nlrp-1607512315-1  (09 Dec. 2020)

GANGA Uttarakhand & Uttar Pradesh

YAMUNA, Delhi No improvement in river health in past 5 years No significant improvement in the water quality of the Yamuna has been seen with respect to DO, pH, BOD and faecal contamination between 2015 and 2020, reveals an analysis by CPCB. The NGT appointed YMC had asked CPCB and DPCC to conduct a trend analysis of the water quality during this period to understand whether numerous efforts at setting up and upgrading STPs are having any effect on it.

The committee, in its latest report to NGT, said “the analysis by both CPCB and DPCC clearly does not point to a trend towards improvement in water quality”. After checking both reports, the committee told NGT that the analysis by “CPCB and DPCC clearly does not point to a trend towards improvement in the water quality. This concern needs to be conveyed to the important stakeholders, namely, NMCG, Delhi government for their information and to critically examine the issues involved and take remedial steps”. The two-member committee comprises B S Sajwan and Shailaja Chandra. “No improvement has been observed in the water quality due to discharge of untreated sewage and improper functioning of effluent treatment plants,” said an official.

On December 6, CPCB asked DJB to submit an action plan to ensure that STPs follow norms and no untreated sewage is discharged into drains. CPCB also directed DPCC to take action against non-complying effluent treatment plants and industrial units. A DPCC official, however, claimed, “As no change in water quality has been observed in the Yamuna in the past five years, it means that the river pollution has not deteriorated. Joint efforts taken by several agencies have ensured that the water quality has not worsened.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/is-yamuna-cleaner-in-5-yrs-not-quite/articleshow/79699505.cms  (13 Dec. 2020)

‘Clean Yamuna – A road map’ – In conversation with Manoj Mishra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4DESfam6GQ   (06 Dec. 2020)

RIVERS BIODIVERSITY

IUCN Bisons revive, freshwater dolphins dwindle: Conservationists IUCN in its latest “Red List” of threatened species, released on Thursday (Dec. 10), says all four known freshwater dolphin species are now threatened with extinction, after newly discovered information on the tucuxi in the Amazon river system showed it too is endangered.

The conservation group said 31 species have been declared extinct in the latest of its regular updates of the list, including three Central American frog species and 15 freshwater fish species endemic to a single lake in the Philippines. A South China Sea shark, last seen in 1934 and only formally described last year, is thought to be “possibly extinct.”

Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN red list, said the impact of human activity was a driver for many species nearing extinction. “All of these things are down to human activities, whether it’s direct hunting or fishing or harvesting of the species, to introducing invasive species, changing habitats to agriculture, urbanization, climate change,” he said in a video interview. “The human footprint is everywhere.”

The tucuxi, a small gray dolphin found in the Amazon River system, is now listed as “endangered.” Its numbers have been severely depleted by human activity, including fishing gear, the damming of rivers and pollution. Previously there wasn’t enough information to determine its status.

The Gland, Switzerland-based group cites 3 other freshwater dolphin species – the Amazon river dolphin, the South Asian river dolphin and the Yangtze River dolphin in China, though it may already be extinct – as threatened, along with the Yangtze finless porpoise, IUCN spokesman Matthias Fiechter said. IUCN says nearly 129,000 species are on its list, including 35,765 threatened with extinction. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/bisons-revive-freshwater-dolphins-dwindle-conservationists/articleshow/79667475.cms  (10 Dec. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Crocodile with fish hook stuck in mouth rescued  A Mugger crocodile with a fish hook stuck in its mouth has been rescued from a village pond in Firozabad and released into River Chambal after medical treatment. Officials said members of Wildlife SOS and the forest department personnel rushed to help the crocodile after receiving a call from the regional forest officer. The crocodile was rushed to the Wildlife SOS hospital in Agra, where an X-ray revealed that the fish hook was approximately three cm long and stuck in the crocodile’s jaw. The Mugger crocodiles are commonly found in freshwaters and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/croc-with-fish-hook-embedded-in-mouth-rescued/story-ZUJxRVk4ZarMfxMSXCPHFM.html  (14 Nov. 2020)

Bihar Dead dolphin thrown back into Ganga without autopsy The carcass of a Gangetic dolphin was disposed in the Ganga without ascertaining the reason of death of the marine mammal that is supposed to be highly protected. “If a dead Schedule I animal like a Gangetic dolphin is found, it is the duty of the forest department to take possession of the carcass for conducting a post mortem examination to find out the cause of death,” Gopal Sharma, regional head of the Zoological Survey of India, Bihar and Jharkhand, told this reporter.

-The carcass was found floating at Umanath Ghat on the Ganga in the Barh subdivision of Bihar’s Patna district by fishers December 10, according to the police. Local people soon informed the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) and the cops about the incident. But when no one from either the forest department or the police reached the spot, some people threw the carcass into the river.

-Sharma noted that this was the first reported death of a Gangetic dolphin this year. Dolphins are frequently targeted by poachers for their skin and oil and also because of the high demand for their meat and fat. Sharma said prima facie it appeared that the dolphin had died three days prior to being found. But the cause of its death was not clear. There was a mark of injury on the neck. Dolphins are usually injured by motor boats. They are also injured and die due to the use of fishing nets. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/dead-dolphin-thrown-back-into-ganga-in-bihar-without-autopsy-74612  (11 Dec. 2020)

West Bengal New freshwater fish identified in the Ganga Researchers from Kerala and West Bengal have identified a new species of freshwater fish from the Ganga in West Bengal. The fish, which is edible, has been christened Systomus gracilus for its thin and compressed body. ‘Gracilus’ means slim in Latin. This fish can be cultured in inland waterbodies.

The fish was discovered, scientifically named, and described by Mathews Plamoottil, Head of Zoology Department, Government College, Chavara, Kollam, and Debargya Maji, an young researcher with the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Kolkata. The latest issue of Journal of Experimental Zoology has published an article on the discovery.

The fish, which has a light reddish-white body and fins, was discovered from Naihati, West Bengal. Systomus is a genus in the family Cyprinidae. Systomus gracilus can be distinguished from other species of the genus by its high and strongly compressed body, tiny barbels, and anal fin with six branched rays. The collected specimens were of 11 to 12 cm in length.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/new-freshwater-fish-identified-in-the-ganga/article32482185.ece  (30 Aug. 2020)

Telangana New fish species found in Kawal Tiger Reserve A new fish species discovered in the hill stream area of Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) is among the first vertebrates to bear the name of Telangana. Called Indoreonectes Telanganaensis, the new species of loach, is distinguished by pectoral fins as long as the head, large eyes, nasal barbel reaching the middle of the eye and a number of other distinguishing features.

“The hill stream is seasonal and is part of the Godavari river basin but does not flow into the main river directly. It was discovered there,” informed Srinivasulu Chelmala, the corresponding author of the paper published in Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific journal for taxonomists. The research team was led by Krishna Prasad Kante, a scholar from Osmania University. The researchers backed up their claim for the new species with DNA analysis information.

Clown loaches with their interesting golden-yellow and black patterns are a favourite of aquarists who keep ornamental fish. Clown loaches are native to the inland water systems in South East Asia. While clown loaches have shorter bodies and pinkish fins and tails, the loach discovered in Telangana is a little less colourful and has a longer body with bands of black. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/new-fish-species-found-in-kawal-tiger-reserve/article33097515.ece  (14 Nov. 2020)

Arunachal Pradesh Amid disturbance, three black-necked cranes halt briefly at Nyamjang Chhu Three black-necked cranes arrived in Nyamjang Chhu in Zemithang in Tawang district on 1 December but made a hasty retreat after a few hours, following disturbances. The cranes may have been disturbed as some people flocked to the area to shoot videos of the revered birds of the Monpas, and that the 3 km stretch of the wintering site of the cranes are heavily disturbed because of sand and gravel mining. The cranes – two adults and a juvenile – have not been sighted again since 1 December. A short 3 km stretch of the Nyamjang Chhu, between Brokenthang and Zemithang, is one of the only two regular, long-term wintering sites of the bird in India, but mining activities along the stretch, still ongoing, have led to severe disturbance. He said that state agencies should intervene and come up with a “strategy to meet both ecological needs as well as local livelihood.” Medhi said that the way forward could be zonation of the mining areas, so as not to disturb the 3 km critical habitat. He advocated stopping mining altogether during the period in winter when the birds call Pangchen valley home for a duration of upto three months, starting mid-November.

– Neeraj Vagholikar of the environment research and advocacy group Kalpavriksh said, “The arrival of the black-necked crane once again for its annual wintering along the Nyamjang Chhu river is not only auspicious for the locals in Tawang but a reason for celebration for all of us across the country, especially since this precious habitat was saved by the people of Arunachal after a hard-fought legal battle.”

– ”Their stand was vindicated when the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in its study also recommended that the 780 mw Nyamjang Chhu project be dropped and the habitat protected. It is now important that the state government works closely with the local communities and organizations working in the area to address other threats and ensure long-term ecological security of the habitat, as well as livelihood security of the locals,” said Vagholikar.

– The biggest threat to this 3 km stretch of the river where the bird winters was averted when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended environmental clearance for the 780 mw Nyamjang Chhu project on April 7, 2016. The barrage for the project would have submerged this area. This was based on intervention by the Save Mon Region Federation.

– The NGT in its judgment further directed the WII to conduct an impact assessment of the project on the black-necked crane. The report submitted in 2019 has recommended that the project not be built, and that this site is protected. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2020/12/12/amid-disturbance-three-black-necked-cranes-halt-briefly-at-nyamjang-chhu/  (12 Dec. 2020)

Punjab Gharials bounce back but the real test is breeding Forty five of the 47 gharials brought from Morena captive breeding centre to Punjab about three years ago, have been rehabilitated into the Beas river. Twenty five more gharials are set to be released next month and another 25 juveniles will be brought in from Lucknow breeding centre to Punjab. The Punjab gharials are now sub-adults and the next crucial phase is to see if they are able to breed and multiply in years to come.

“There is no government study on how and when gharials, that were once extensively distributed in rivers of Punjab, went extinct here. But multiple factors like hunting by Punjab royalty, poaching, as well as disturbance in their habitat due to construction of irrigation barrages are some of the key factors behind their disappearance,” said Mishra, Punjab Chief Wildlife Warden.

According to B.C. Choudhury, there are still abundant challenges ahead. “The key is to keep the disturbance factor as low as possible,” he said. There are many factors like mining, commercial activities on the river banks, and a low quantity of fishing in the water that may affect the habitat of gharials. So different departments responsible for such activities must regulate them, he said. He said that even as Punjab has declared Beas river as a conservation reserve, it is yet to finalise its management plan. Under this plan, it is decided which kind of activities are not permitted and how the activities which are permitted can be carried out, said Choudhury.

Sand mining in Beas river is one of the main threats to the river ecosystem and the reintroduced gharials. Photo from India Water Portal.

Wildlife expert Vikramjeet Singh said that sand mining is the biggest threat to riverine ecology and that Punjab must be attentive. In case it is rapid, it will harm sand islands of the river stretch and destroy their habitat. “In case they become defensive, they may not lay eggs and multiply,” he said. Also, the state should not release too many gharials without assessing the overall carrying capacity of the river. The moment gharials come near the Harike barrage, there is danger of their flooding or even getting trapped there, posing danger to their lives, he added.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/gharials-bounce-back-in-punjab-but-the-real-test-is-breeding/  (07 Dec. 2020)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

Maharashtra Within a year, fisheries dept cancels contract at Yeldari dam Within a year of granting a five-year fishing contract at Yeldari dam to a society, the fisheries department has cancelled it citing violation of conditions. For the dam spread over 15,500 acres of land,the five-year contract from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2024, was awarded to a Late Rajiv Gandhi Fishermen Traders’ Cooperative Society situated at Jintur of Parbhani district for an annual royalty of Rs 3.10 lakh. Against the granting of this contract, a local NGO named Lal Sena alleged serious loss of revenue to state exchequer as well as violation of the contract conditions and protested against the same. Taking cognizance of the same, fisheries department carried out an internal probe and found that the society had violated the contract condition by tying up with a fisheries company based in Mumbai.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/aurangabad/fisheries-dept-cancels-contract-at-yeldari-dam/articleshow/79597554.cms  (07 Dec. 2020)

Rajasthan Researcher found a blind snow trout near Thar desert This biological puzzle could be the key to deepen our geological understanding of the region.

In a video interview in 2006, Durvey said that snow trout is found in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the higher reaches of Himalayas. “It was not something new,” he said. “But to get the fish in the plains, that too in the region of Rajasthan was something unimaginable and absolutely new.” He had a theory about how Tehsin could have come to find the specimen in the mine outside Udaipur: “The significance of this find to me is that, sometime or the other in the past geological history of the region, a Himalayan river must be flowing through Rajasthan.”

In 1988, Tehsin, Durvey and a student named M Kulshreshtha, who had accompanied Tehsin on his second trip to Matoon Mines, published a research note in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. “Schizothoracine fishes inhabit hilly streams and lakes in the Himalayan and sub-Himalayan region extending to China,” they wrote. Such fishes had also been observed in Kashmir, Punjab, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, and Nepal, they said.

In 2006, two Australian scientists, behavioural biologist Culum Brown and ecological geneticist Felicity Brown, launched an expedition called “Lost in the Desert” with Raza Tehsin to try to collect further specimens of the fish from the cave complex. They were funded by Australian Geographic. But they were unable to find any more fish.

Durvey remarked during the video documentation of the expedition that the underground caves in this part of the Aravallis have not been charted. “Adivasis have told me that there are underground caves that contain water,” he said. “But then how to do it is a problem. It is a big project which has to be funded by a big organisation. Quite likely in other caves which we have not surveyed so far, they [the fish] must be there. It requires a real scientific investigation of high order with adventurous people getting into it and confirming this.”

In 2015, Tensin gave an interview to PTI recalling his find. “This area lies in the Aravalli hills, one of the oldest ranges of the world,” he said. “There is no geological evidence from the historical era of a glacial river originating in the Aravallis or human memory of a Himalayan river flowing through this region. A major part of the drainage of the Aravalli region today is connected to the Gangetic system and some flows south, towards the Arabian Sea. It is possible that several thousand years back the drainage of Mewar was flowing towards the west and a tributary of a larger Himalayan river could have joined this drainage.”

He added: “The fishes of the Himalayan region might have migrated through its tributaries towards Mewar. Due to geological changes, a fish species from the cold streams could have been cut off from their main water body, got trapped and survived in cooler underground water.” https://scroll.in/article/981060/how-a-researcher-found-a-blind-snow-trout-near-thar-desert-and-why-its-vital-to-study-it-further  (13 Dec. 2020)

SAND MINING

Plundered rivers, vanishing ecosystems: Sandmining in India’s west Great to see India Water Portal publishing the report about West Zone River Sand Mining Dialogue held on Nov 12, 2020. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/plundered-rivers-vanishing-ecosystems-sandmining-indias-west  (11 Dec. 2020)

Illegal river bed mining continues unabated in north India India Water Portal report about North Zone Dialogue as part of IRW 2020. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/article/illegal-river-bed-mining-continues-unabated-north-india (Nov 25 2020)

Madhya Pradesh 4 kids killed while mining sand in Bhopal, two critical Six children, aged seven to 12 years, were buried alive when a sand mine caved in on the outskirts of Bhopal in Barkheri on Monday (Nov. 9) morning. Four of them died, two are in critical condition in hospital. Seven kids of Barkheri had gone out at 8.30am to bring yellow soil to help build their huts before Diwali.

They were digging out sand from a ridge-like structure near a nullah, burrowing deeper and deeper with sickles, unaware that the ridge was becoming more and more unstable. Suddenly, it collapsed. A seven-year-old girl named Bunty was the luckiest as she was at the edge of the tunnel and only her legs were trapped. Those killed were identified as eight-year-old Asha, Manoj, 10, and 12-year-olds Kavita alias Puja Singh and Balli Bai. Manoj’s brother Vikas and Asha’s brother Rohit, both 7, are battling for life. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/four-kids-killed-while-mining-sand-in-bhopal-two-critical/articleshow/79141441.cms  (10 Nov. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Labourer buried under sand mound, dies A labourer died after he was buried under a mound of sand during “illegal mining” at a Banda village, police said on Sunday (Sept. 27). According to Circle Officer Atrara Siyram, the incident took place at Risaura-Pandadev village on Saturday (Sept. 26).

During illegal mining at Risaura-Pandadev village, Gora Dhobi (32) was buried under a mound of sand and was seriously injured, he said. He succumbed to his injuries on way to the hospital, the officer added. Angry relatives of the deceased blocked a road in protest on Sunday morning. The police officer said a case has been registered against the owner and driver of the tractor-trailer, which was being used in the mining. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/sep/27/labourer-buried-under-sand-mound-in-up-dies-2202613.html  (27 Sept. 2020)

Rajasthan Home guard killed by sand mafia in Dausa A home guard was killed after being attacked by the sand mafia in Dausa district following which four persons have been detained, police said on Friday (Sept. 18). The home guard was part of a mining department team deputed to take action on the sand mafia. The incident happened in Garh Himmat Singh village of the district on Thursday (Sept. 17) where a team of Mining Department had gone to take action following a complaint.

According to the police, members of the sand mafia pushed home guard Bhawani Singh from a moving tractor leaving him severely injured. He was rushed to hospital but died while undergoing treatment at a hospital. Attacking the government over the incident, Nagaur MP, Hanuman Beniwal, raised questions over the functioning of the state government. “Considering the circumstances, it seems the government seems to have kneeled down in front of illegal mining mafia. Government’s silence raises questions despite attacks and murder of government employees by the sand mafia,” Beniwal tweeted. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/osaka-says-shes-out-of-french-open-with-injured-hamstring/1938230  (18 Sept. 2020)

Tamil Nadu Man killed for ‘tipping off police’ on illegal sand mining Police on Saturday (March 21) said that a 22-year-old youth identified as Aravindan, son of Vairavakesu, a building contractor from North Street in Devipattinam near Rameswaram, was declared dead in a road accident and the police had registered a case under relevant sections of the IPC. However, family members suspected that the incident was the handiwork of a gang and formed a representation, who showed up before superintendent of police, Varun Kumar. The Puthiya Tamilagam and CPI functionaries also appealed to police to probe the incident.

Based on the complaint, the police probe yielded information which revealed that a sand mining gang had allegedly been behind the death of Aravindan. It is said that a gang, which had been arrested recently, was under the impression that Aravindan had tipped off police about their activities after which they were arrested.

To seek revenge, the gang had followed the victim on Saturday (March 21) and while he was on the two-wheeler, the gang attacked him and beat him to death to settle the score. When the incident came to light, police arrested accused Sethupathi of Devipattinam, while another accused Saravanan surrendered. A hunt is on to secure the remaining three persons. Family members received the body from the hospital only after they were informed about the action taken. https://newsable.asianetnews.com/crime/man-killed-for-tipping-off-police-on-illegal-sand-mining-in-tamil-nadu-q7owku  (24 March 2020)

Madras HC bars issuing of fresh mining and quarrying licences in Madurai The orders came after the court went through the report submitted by U Sagayam IAS after investigating the illegal mining scam in the region. According to reports, the court also ordered the government to speed up the process of installing CCTV cameras in Madurai district and state borders by the end of this month. The court was hearing a petition filed by social activist Traffic Ramasamy who demanded action against illegal mining of granite in Madurai district. The plea was heard by a bench consisting of Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice G Jayachandran.

During the hearing, the state government submitted that of the 212 recommendations submitted by U Sagayam in his report, the government has already complied with 121. The state government also stated that 67 of the recommendations cannot be accepted because they fall outside the scope of law and 14 recommendations fall under the purview of the union government. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/madras-hc-bars-issuing-fresh-mining-and-quarrying-licences-madurai-139464  (12 Dec. 2020)

Odisha NGT refuses to lift ban on Subarnarekha sand mining The NGT has refused to lift its ban on sand mining in the Subarnarekha river under Jaleswar tehsil in Balasore district. The NGT had imposed its interim ban on July 30 while adjudicating on a petition alleging violations of pollution norms by sand mining operators (leaseholders) in over 27 acres. Laxmidhar Pallai and two other residents of Panchughanta had filed the petition. When the case came up for hearing last, the leaseholders implicated sought permission to restart mining activities. However, the NGT’s principal bench said, “Considering the prima facie serious violations by the leaseholders, we are not inclined to allow this prayer.”

“The most glaring illegality is to grant Consent to Operate for 20,000 cubic metre of sand against 5,000 cubic metre as per the Environmental Clearance granted for sand mining. There is also violation with respect of excavation of sand outside the demarcated lease area, mining close to the embankment of the river and portions of embankments of both sides of the river having been cut for construction of road,” the bench of justice S P Wangdi (judicial member) and Saibal Dasguta (expert member) observed in its December 2 order, a copy of which was available on Monday (Dec. 7). https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/cuttack/ngt-refuses-to-lift-ban-on-subarnarekha-sand-mining/articleshow/79621856.cms  (08 Dec. 2020)

Goa ‘Illegal sand mining back with vengeance’: Court raps Goa for ignoring orders Noting that illegal sand mining has “returned with a vengeance”, the Bombay High Court has issued contempt notices to Goa chief secretary and other authorities for allegedly violating its orders on curbing illegal sand mining in the state.

Hearing a petition filed by the Goa River Sand Protectors Network, the court noted that there was evidence that its orders were not being followed and issued notices to the state chief secretary Parimal Rai, the Director Mines and Geology and the DG of Police asking why action should not be initiated against them for contempt of court.

“At least, prima facie, we find that our orders in relation to sand mining are not being complied with. The material placed on record, at least, prima facie, indicates that illegal sand mining has returned with vengeance and the authorities, who, in the past had done commendable work in preventing it, appear to have let down the guard,” the high court noted.

“We are constrained to issue notice to the respondents to show cause as to why action under the Contempt of Courts Act be not initiated against them. Though the personal presence of the authorities is dispensed with, for the present, the respondents file their responses on or before January 11, without seeking any extension of time. For any reason, if the responses cannot be filed by January 11 by any of the authorities, then they will personally remain present to submit their say in the matter,” the high court bench of Justice MS Sonak and MS Jawalkar said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/illegal-sand-mining-back-with-vengeance-court-raps-goa-for-ignoring-orders/story-89DBhkGPAxQ4rQKzLPT6EO.html  (11 Dec. 2020)

Mines dept to take stern action against sand mining violators The directorate of mines and geology (DMG) has decided to increase vigilance and take stringent action against those involved in illegal sand extraction in some parts of the state. TOI has regularly reported and published photographs of illegal sand extraction in rivers across Goa. A recent report highlighted the Khandepar river which is the main source of raw water for the Opa water treatment plant supplying potable water to Tiswadi and Ponda talukas, as being under threat due to rampant and illegal sand mining in Collem, which is part of the eco-sensitive area of the Western Ghats.

As per the NGT direction, legal sand extraction can take place at the Chapora river and the north Goa collector will soon apply for environmental clearance to start legal sand extraction. The NGT had ordered sand extraction banned in the state. The state government was pulled up by NGT for alleged cases of illegal sand mining. The government’s plea to exempt Goa from the ban on sand extraction since it has effective regulatory mechanism in place, was rejected by NGT.

Earlier, the government had identified 30 sites for sand extraction in a bid to ensure scientific quarrying of the mineral for construction purposes. The state had asked the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) to conduct a detailed study so that sand extraction can be permitted. In January 2020, the HC of Bombay at Goa asked the state government to indicate steps taken to implement its judgement to stop illegal sand mining in Goa. The Goa river sand protection network (GRSPN) filed a contempt petition in the high court and placed on record several photographs, “which suggest that sand mining is continuing and there is at least prima facie some deficit in the manner of action on the part of the authorities”. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/mines-dept-to-take-stern-action-against-sand-mining-violators/articleshow/79632964.cms  (09 Dec. 2020)

Illegally mined sand poured back into river Seven canoes and a truck were seized and around 225 cubic metres of sand were poured back into the river basin, following a raid on illegal sand mining at Betki in Ponda in Goa. The raid was carried out by officials of the directorate of mines and geology on Friday (Dec. 11) morning.

Deputy director Abhir Hede said some complaints were received that illegal sand extraction from River Mandovi at Betki was being carried out. A team of around seven officials led by senior geologist Sudhir Mandrekar found a huge stock of sand at the site during the raid, but no person was found actively extracting the sand.

Heaps of sand along the river bank and the truck parked nearby were found, along with the canoes anchored in the river. The team had initially engaged some labourers to pour back the sand into the river basin. However, as the quantity was huge, an excavator had to be called in as well to perform the task. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/illegally-mined-sand-poured-back-into-river/articleshow/79686503.cms  (12 Dec. 2020)

Jharkhand Case against SAIL subsidiary in Dhanbad for illegal sand mining The Dhanbad district mining department has lodged a certificate case against Chasnala colliery of SAIL subsidiary ISP for realization of Rs 13.30 crore fine slapped on the company on charges of illegal mining of sand from the Damodar river. District mining officer (DMO) Ajeet Kumar on Monday (Nov. 23) said, “The department had slapped a fine of Rs 13,29,49,634 in August, but as the company failed to paying the penalty within the stipulated time, the department has filed a certificate case for realization of the amount.”

According to reports, the DMO visited Chasnala on July 2 and found sand being mined illegally from the Damodar and being transported to the Chasnala and Jeetpur colliery through a conveyor belt even though the colliery had no permission to do so. “A show-cause notice was served to the colliery and when we found the reply was not satisfactory, we decided to impose the fine,” Kumar said.

“Of the 11 sand leases in Dhanbad, only two are operational at the moment. We are awaiting environmental clearance for making at least four more sand leases operational soon. If collieries need sand, they should buy it from the leased areas or from the neighbouring states. But mining sand illegally can neither be permitted nor does it suit a central public sector undertaking,” he added.

Meanwhile, Praveer Kumar Ojha, joint general secretary of INTUC-affiliated Colliery Karamchari Sangh, in a letter to chief vigilance officer of SAIL has demanded a high level probe into the alleged irregularities in procuring sand and stern action against the guilty officials. The mining department action has exposed the ongoing loot in the name of procuring sand and making payment to the contractors through forged papers, he said adding that it was a blot on the image of a Maharatna company. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/case-against-sail-subsidiary-in-dhanbad-for-illegal-sand-mining/articleshow/79376722.cms  (24 Nov. 2020)

Haryana Overloaded vehicles from other states hitting mining business The Stone Crusher Association, Yamunanagar, has demanded that the state government stop the entry of overloaded vehicles coming from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan in Haryana to save the business of sand, stone, stone dust, core-sand and bajri in the state. Rampal Kamboj, president of the Stone Crusher Association, said, “The state government is not allowing plying of overloaded vehicles in the state. Therefore, the stone crusher owners of Haryana are under-load building construction material, including sand, stone, stone dust, core-sand and bajri in trucks from their stone crushers and screening plants.” He alleged that this was happening due to connivance of officers and officials of some departments. He said they also wrote a letter to CM Manohar Lal Khatter in this connection in the last week of November. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/overloaded-vehicles-from-other-states-hitting-mining-business-183575  (13 Dec. 2020)

Telangana Set up special task force to stop illegal sand mining: Minister Ajay Referring to the complaints about illegal sand mining at the ZP general body meeting on Thursday (Dec. 3), Transport Minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar told the officials to take serious measures to control illegal sand mining in the district. He suggested setting up of a special task force involving police, revenue and mining departments to control illegal mining and transportation of sand. Inspections have to be conducted from 6 pm to 6 am daily to check the illegal sand transportation. Around 2, 200 cubic metres of sand from river Godavari reaches was available for private use at the sand yard at NSP camp, the Minister said. https://www.thehansindia.com/news/cities/khammam/set-up-special-task-force-to-stop-illegal-sand-mining-minister-ajay-659920   (03 Dec. 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Maharashtra Greens angry with Raigad collector’s stand of ‘No wetlands in Uran’ City greens are shocked and angry with the latest statement of the Raigad district collector, Nidhi Choudhary, that “there are no wetlands in Uran”.

The collector took this stand at Wednesday’s (Dec. 9) meeting of the Bombay HC appointed wetlands grievance committee. Environmentalist and member of the wetlands panel, D Stalin, raised a strong objection against Chaudhary’s stand, while also complaining about it to the state environment minister Aditya Thackeray on Twitter.

“At the meeting, I opposed the collector’s view that there are no wetlands in Uran. This is ridiculous, because hundreds of wetland birds, including flamingos, regularly visit Uran. If there are no wetlands in Uran, then there is no forest or tigers in Ranthambore. The collector must take back her statement, so that it does not affect the ongoing efforts to save the surviving wetlands and mangroves in Uran,” said Stalin. He added that there are at least 17 wetlands sites in Uran region, based on the old government documents.

When contacted, collector Chaudhary said: “Even before I took charge of Raigad district, a wetlands survey was carried out, based on seven parameters. Out of 131 sites inspected, only four were declared as wetlands, which are outside Uran taluka. However, I am ready for a re-examination of the wetland sites in Uran, if required.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/greens-angry-with-raigad-collectors-stand-of-no-wetlands-in-uran/articleshow/79648032.cms  (09 Dec. 2020)

Environment groups, however, have proposed 17 small water bodies in Uran to be incorporated as wetlands. Stalin D, Director of Vanashakti, and a committee member, said: “Reclamation of wetlands in Uran is a serious concern. Panje is a CRZ-1 area and neither the MCZMA (Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority) nor the collector is protecting it. Also, the other areas that have been proposed as wetlands are being reclaimed. Amid this, we got a shocking reply from the Raigad collector that there are no wetlands in Uran.” Spread across 213 hectares, with 157 hectares as the buffer area for migratory bird roosting, Panje is home to around 1,50,000 migratory and resident birds during the winter. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/no-wetlands-in-uran-says-raigad-collector-7098703/  (10 Dec. 2020)

Report Coastal Road Projects Don’t Just Damage the Environment – They Are Also Outdated In Dec 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) made an amendment to the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) laws which govern activities and development in coastal areas. The amendments allowed, for the first time, construction of roads by way of reclamation (creating new land from oceans, rivers or lakes by filling the area with rock, sand etc anywhere along India’s 7,500 km-long coastline without any environmental clearance, albeit in “exceptional cases” the definition of which was left undefined.

The amendment, which came as a result of an unprecedented recommendation from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), effectively nullifies several laws and regulations – the original CRZ notification which was issued in 1991 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, as well as the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

It also ignores the eco-sensitive nature of the intertidal zone. Land-filling, unquestionably, desecrates fragile coastal ecosystems; it destroys coral reefs and crucial fish spawning grounds and disrupts marine food chains, which in turn impacts adversely the local fishery communities and economies dependent on them. Additionally, it creates a dam between the city and the water body, affecting natural storm-water drainage patterns and increasing the threat of flooding manifold. https://thewire.in/environment/coastal-road-project-damage-environment-outdated (12 Dec 2020)

Bihar New Ramsar site designated could benefit local fishing community Kabar Taal is Asia’s largest freshwater oxbow lake. According to the Ramsar Convention, it covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains in Bihar. “The Site is one of 18 wetlands within an extensive floodplain complex; it floods during the monsoon season to a depth of 1.5 metres. This absorption of floodwaters is a vital service in Bihar State where 70% of the land is vulnerable to inundation. During the dry season, areas of marshland dry out and are used for agriculture,” notes the Convention in its designation.

The news of Kabar Taal wetland being declared a Ramsar site has been welcomed by the environmentalists who expect a change in its present condition. “It has been a long battle waged by the environment enthusiasts from across the country. The mindless encroachments and other illegal activities have taken a toll on the health of the Kabar Taal and have destroyed its ecosystem. It is now the responsibility of the state government to protect the site and conserve it. The local community can also chip in to stop bird poaching and illegal constructions that have been shrinking the area of the lake,” pointed out Ashok Ghosh, a scientist and chairman of the SPCB.

“The water level in the lake has reduced because of heavy siltation and eutrophication (when excess algae and plant growth and their decomposition deprive water of available oxygen, causing death of other organisms) has set in. The fishermen are having plenty of water this year because the inlets and outlets of the lake connecting it to Burhi Gandak river are choked due to silt. This time though it has proved to be a blessing in disguise because of good monsoon. But it has been cleared to allow the flow of water into the lake,” he said.

Ghosh who has done an extensive study of the lake found that the area of the lake had reduced to 2032 ha in 2012 from 6,786 ha in 1984. His research had also found that the net area sown was 60 % while the land put to non-agricultural use was 5.13 %; the permanently water-logged area was a mere 2.8 %.

Some members of the fishing community however are not aware about the Ramsar Convention and its importance, “We are too illiterate to understand about these things. We would only consider it as good news if our livelihood improves else nothing matters. We have been watching political leaders making high promises during their polls campaigns of improving our condition but it has proved to be lip-service. The situation, in fact, has turned from bad to worse so far,” fumed Lalu Sahni, 70, who has been a fishermen for the past five decades.

The encroachments coupled with the poaching of migratory birds have been the major issues the wetland has been grappling with over the years. Senior government officials privy to the matter, however, blame a conflict between Sahnis and local landlords for land encroachments and also targeting of migratory birds. “A major chunk of the notified land under Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 belongs to the local landlords who were not kept in the loop during the notification process. As a result, they lost their land and turned rebels. The local farmers and landlords still consider the land as their own and have been capturing it. They also target migratory birds out of anger and frustration,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.

According to A.K. Dwivedi, Member Secretary of Bihar State Wetland Authority,  “The total area of the wetland is over 6300 hectares out of which around 2620 hectares have been identified as core zone where the water is available most part of the year. The area under the conflict with the locals has been excluded from the core zone. We are in talks with locals and would allow farming with stern rules including a bar on the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals that might affect the ecosystem.” https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/new-ramsar-site-designated-in-bihar-could-benefit-local-fishing-community/  (11 Dec. 2020)

Telangana Explain why houses in lake beds are regularised, HC asks govt Reminding authorities about unwanted consequences witnessed in Eluru, where water from abandoned lakes filled with dangerous chemicals like lead was crippling the lives of people, the high court on Thursday sought to know from the state government as to why its authorities were regularising encroached lake beds and tank bed plots in Telangana. A bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy was hearing a PIL filed by Cheruku Bharati of Bharati Bharosa Foundation charging the authorities with inaction in the face of encroachment of lake bed at Bhimaram in Mancherial district.

“We seem to have made a mess of lakes. If you do not save lakes, the future would be bleak,” the bench said.

– The bench asked the district collector to inquire into the matter and inform the court how the authorities regularised encroachments on this lake under GO Ms No 59. The bench also reminded him about the Shamirpet lake in Medchal-Malkajgiri district that has scores of houses in its buffer zone. “If you regularise tank beds too, then nothing would remain in Telangana,” the bench said, while issuing notices to the state and the district collector.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/explain-why-houses-in-lake-beds-are-regularised-hc-asks-telangana-govt/articleshow/79676353.cms  (11 Dec. 2020)

Uttarakhand Govt to start geo-tagging of wetlands for better conservation, documentation Government will soon start geo-tagging of wetlands in the state for better conservation and documentation, informed officials. The revenue and forest department will work together to conduct ground inspections and check the status of wetlands under the guidance of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC).

-USAC director MPS Bisht said the initiative is part of a nationwide project of Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad, that is trying to gather information about wetlands across the country. “We are being provided satellite data by Space Application Centre. This data will be used to geo-tag wetlands of the state. Our scientists will study the data and then conduct field visits to map the wetlands,” said Bisht.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/uttarakhand-to-start-geo-tagging-of-wetlands-for-better-conservation-documentation/story-9QzkHBGxkMj4dPCnQeXmpO.html  (07 Dec. 2020)

WATER OPTIONS

West Bengal Restoration of ponds leads to revival of agriculture Story of Rainwater harvesting in Cooch Behar, W Bengal with annual rainfall of 3500 mm. Despite good rainfall, lack of water retention led to farmers’ migration. Deepening of ponds to store rainwater has stopped migration and helped farmers grow crops across seasons. https://www.villagesquare.in/2020/12/07/restoration-of-ponds-leads-to-revival-of-agriculture/ (7 Dec 2020)

Tamil Nadu Whistle comes first, water next A physics teacher in Gandarvakottai in Pudukottai has attached whistles to household drinking water lines on his street to alert residents to the supply of water to their residences. Since air would flow through the pipe before water was pumped through it, the whistles make a sound, informing the residents of the water supply.

R. Balamurugan, a physics teacher at Vidhyaa Vikas International School in Gandarvakottai, has been devising innovative ways to be informed of the water supply. Gandarvakottai receives water from the Cauvery Combined Drinking Water Supply Scheme and there are no fixed timings for the supply. “Some days it comes during the day and on other days late into the night. Since the supply is on a rotational basis across Gandarvakottai, the timing is not fixed,” he said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/whistle-comes-first-water-next/article33315431.ece  (12 Dec. 2020)

GROUNDWATER

Tamil Nadu ‘Kudimaramathu’ works have helped increase groundwater table: Collector The groundwater table in Pudukottai district has risen due to widespread rain and completion of kudimaramathu works taken up to rejuvenate water bodies, Collector P. Uma Maheswari said on Tuesday (Dec. 8). Speaking to reporters after inspecting water bodies in Lembalakudi and Peraiyur villages in Thirumayam union, she said dredging works at a cost of ₹45.5 crore had been completed in tanks through the PWD and the Rural Development Department.

The groundwater table in the district rose by 1.35 metres due to completion of kudimaramathu works and it continued to rise due to widespread rain. Out of the 43 tanks where dredging works were carried out through PWD, 8 tanks had attained full capacity. The scheme had come as a boon to farmers and the general public. The dredging works under the scheme were completed well ahead of the monsoon season, she added. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/kudimaramathu-works-have-helped-increase-groundwater-table-collector/article33280735.ece  (08 Dec. 2020)

WATER POLLUTION

Andhra Pradesh Eluru illness: experts say Covid-19 sanitation drive may have polluted water Twenty-four more cases of an undiagnosed illness were reported from Andhra Pradesh’s Eluru city on Wednesday (Dec. 9), according to India today. With this, the total number of cases has now reached 593. The new cases were registered in the city’s Tangelamoodi, Shankaramatham, East Street and West Street areas. Sixty-two medical teams have been deployed to handle the situation in the city.

Meanwhile, officials investigating the disease said that the excessive use of chlorine and bleaching powder for coronavirus sanitation drives may have contaminated the water, which in turn made people sick, The Indian Express reported. Andhra Pradesh Health Minister A Krishna Srinivas told the newspaper that this is just one of the causes that the government is looking into.

A team comprising scientists and officials of the Eluru Municipal Corporation, health department and revenue department was formed to track the source of contamination of drinking water. Experts from the Delhi’s AIIMS, the WHO, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and other institutes have advised the state government to keep its focus on finding out the source of water contamination.

On Tuesday (Dec. 8), the Andhra Pradesh government had said that traces of nickel and lead found in the blood samples of patients were established to be the root cause of the undiagnosed disease. The blood samples were examined by a team of experts from AIIIMS Delhi. The source of these particles, however, remains unknown. Another team from AIIMS, New Delhi, is examining the water and food samples to determine how the heavy metals crept in. Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, on the other hand, has sought stool and bile samples of the patients for a viral and bacteriological analysis. However, a comprehensive report on the causative agents that triggered the disease outbreak could come out only in about a week. https://scroll.in/latest/980824/eluru-illness-24-new-cases-emerge-experts-say-covid-19-sanitation-drive-may-have-polluted-water  (10 Dec. 2020)

AGRICULTURE

SANDRP Blog Agriculture Reform Rhetoric or Unbridled Capitalist Accumulation? In this Guest Article, Rahul Banerjee writes how the ill effects of the green revolution model were warned about by a number of people including Dr M S Swaminathan, who has been credited with major contribution to Green Revolution. The ill effects have all come true possibly worse than predictions, including in water sector. We did not address them then and we are not addressing them now even as the debate is raging on the agriculture reforms with farmers justifiably on the doorsteps of the National capital. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2020/12/11/agriculture-reform-rhetoric-or-unbridled-capitalist-accumulation/  (11 Dec. 2020)

‘We must treat the soil with respect — conserving the land will conserve humanity’ Lindsay Stringer is professor of environment and geography at the University of York. An eminent authority on land degradation, she is a lead author on IPCC, IPBES and other reports highlighting the implications of losing soil health. Speaking to Srijana Mitra Das at Times Evoke , the distinguished scientist discussed why we must protect the soil — which supports human life itself:

Which human activities cause significant land degradation? Any repeated use of the land which doesn’t allow it time to regenerate causes it to degrade — this includes deforestation, mining and unsustainable agriculture, where you’re not allowing nutrients to return to the soil and you’re disturbing the soil structure and profile. All these activities disturb the natural balances which have preserved Earth’s ecosystems so far. If we keep taking from the soil without giving back anything, land degradation will finally harm us. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/we-must-treat-the-soil-with-respect-conserving-the-land-will-conserve-humanity/articleshowprint/79689210.cms  (12 Dec. 2020)

POST MONSOON 2020

Report Extreme weather events impact 75% of India’s districts With an unusual spike in extreme events since 2005, these districts are bearing the effects of changing microclimate with loss of property, livelihoods and lives, says a new report, even with just 0.6 C rise in temperature over the past century. The world is on line to achieve 3 C by the end of the century as per UN’s Gap report published on Dec 10, 2020.

– While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events (drought, floods, cyclones and compounding events like floods and cyclones) between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 extreme weather events after 2005. There is a shift in the pattern of extreme climate events such as flood-prone areas becoming drought-prone and vice-versa in over 40% of the districts.

– The report has estimated that 97.51 million people are exposed to extreme floods in India. There has been an abrupt surge in the number of extreme flood events since 2005. Between 1970 and 2004, 3 extreme flood events occurred per year on average, but after 2005, the yearly average rose to 11. Similarly, the annual average for districts affected by floods until 2005 was 19, but after 2005 it jumped to 55. Six of India’s eight most flood-prone districts in the last decade — Barpeta, Darrang, Dhemaji, Goalpara, Golaghat, Sivasagar — were in Assam.

– After 2005, the yearly average number of districts affected by cyclones tripled and the cyclone frequency doubled. In the past decade, 258 districts were affected by cylones with hot spot districts being Chennai, Cuttack, East Godavari, Ganjam, Nellore, North 24 Parganas, Puri, and Srikakulam – all along the eastern coastline. The East Coast’s warming micro climate is also playing a role here.

– Several traditionally flood prone districts such as Cuttack, Guntur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Paschim Champaran, and Srikakulum are becoming drought prone in recent years. Coastal southern Indian states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka are increasingly witnessing more droughts. Further, floods and droughts coincide during the same season in several districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu.

– “These changing patterns are due to micro-climatic changes across the Indian subcontinent that are triggered by local climate change drivers such as land-use-surface change, deforestation, encroachments upon mangroves, and wetlands,” the report adds. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/extreme-weather-events-impact-75-of-india-s-districts-report/story-x2YiYDP0JbapvhXpmaIlOK.html  (12 Dec. 2020)

Uttarakhand In the middle of winter season Uttarakhand forests are on fire. Forest dept alert detected 791 no. of large/small forest fires in Nov 2020. Since Dec 2 so far 124 forest fire incidents have been detected. There could be many going on unreported like in video dated 07 Dec. 2020 in Kharsali close to Yamnotri shrine. The state also facing significant reduction in winter rainfall this year affecting farming in hilly areas.  

POST FLOOD 2020

Uttarakhand Govt studies past 100-year flood data to mark flood-prone areas In a bid to protect the population living in the Alaknanda-Mandakini valley of Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand, the state government has now started a study of floods reported from these areas in the past hundred years. The study is being conducted by the district administrations of Rudraprayag and Chamoli, where flood protection measures will be taken in respective areas by finding areas with maximum frequency of flooding. The study would cover Mandakini river’s stretch from Kedarnath to Rudraprayag and Alaknanda river’s stretch from Badrinath to Rishikesh.

– Manuj Goyal, district magistrate of Rudraprayag, said that the study is being undertaken following the guidelines of Uttarakhand Flood Plain Zoning Act. “Under the Act, demarcations are made based on flood level data ranging from 25-100 years.” said Goyal.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/dehradun/uttarakhand-govt-studies-past-100-year-flood-data-to-mark-flood-prone-areas/story-jEdbY5PPviqGKTfiScHsrM.html  (13 Dec. 2020)

Maharashtra Farmers move HC against ‘discriminatory’ approach of govt during floods Two farmers from Chandrapur district have moved the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court against the “discriminatory” approach of government authorities while dealing with floods in Vidarbha vis-a-vis other parts of Maharashtra. A division bench of Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Avinash Gharote issued notices on Dec 11, 2020 and gave six weeks to various state and central authorities to file their response.

– Petitioners Manik Chaudhari (53), from Nilaj (Panchgaon) village, and Manohar Naktode (55), from Udapur village – both in Brahmapuri tahsil of Chandrapur district – have claimed that the government did not alert Vidarbha villages and towns before the floods caused by the release of water from a dam (in Madhya Pradesh) between August 28 and 30. They also claimed that the government did not provide prompt relief and rescue during and after the disaster.

– The petitioners, represented by lawyers Kalyan Kumar and Anand Deshpande, said that the provisions of Disaster Management Act and state and district disaster management plans were not adhered to during the entire period of floods and thereafter.

– According to the petitioners, no chain of commands was followed to reach the warning of floods to the affected areas in time. “There were no heavy rains in the affected districts of Vidarbha, Nagpur, Bhandara-Gondiya, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur. The floods were caused by the release of water from a dam in Madhya Pradesh. When the neighboring state was receiving heavy rains, a chain of commands should have been followed to inform the affected parts of Vidarbha. But the local authorities said they had received no such alert from the Madhya Pradesh side. The responsibility must be fixed for this lapse,” argued Kalyan Kumar, seeking a judicial inquiry. “The inquiry should also look into the discrimination meted out to Vidarbha in the quantum of compensation,” Kumar said.

– The court has issued notices to respondents including the Union ministries of water resources and river development, chief engineer of the water resources department in Nagpur, Maharashtra’s revenue, irrigation and relief and rehabilitation departments and collectors of Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondia and Chandrapur districts. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/two-chandrapur-farmers-move-hc-against-discriminatory-approach-of-govt-during-floods-7101459/  (12 Dec. 2020)

Two Chandrapur farmers have knocked the doors of high court here alleging that floods that hit Vidarbha’s four districts on August 28-30 were “man-made”. They charged the state government with discrimination while awarding compensation to farmers in the region when compared with those in western Maharashtra and Konkan. The petitioners prayed for constitution of judicial commission to inquire into the floods that devastated many crops in districts of Nagpur, Bhandara, Chandrapur, and Gondia.

– On August 28-30, Gosikhurd dam’s 33 gates were opened for discharging water into Wainganga. The release at 30,000 cubic metres per second led to submergence of 261 villages in 4 districts and over 96,000 people were affected.

– According to the petitioners, the respondents didn’t comply with the guidelines in operation and maintenance manual for dams issued by the Central Water Commission and Central Dam Safety Organization. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/ryots-allege-flood-man-made-demand-higher-compensation/articleshow/79684686.cms (12 Dec 2020)

Hyderabad GHMC officials take ‘U-turn’ on Rs 10,000 flood relief After announcing that their officials will visit flood affected areas to conduct verification of damaged homes and families who have suffered loses, post which Rs 10,000 would be deposited directly into bank accounts, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has taken a smooth U-turn, and has now declared that the civic body was “not concerned with the providing of financial aid”. Corporation officials said they have not received instructions or guidelines from the government pertaining to field verification. The GHMC has appealed to the people not to come to Mee Seva centres to apply for relief.

As per official data, GHMC distributed Rs 10,000 cash to about 4.13 lakh families while the government deposited money into bank accounts of 1.26 lakh families. Official records say that overall 260 colonies were affected due to floods. Heavy rains and floods in October, in particular on October 14, had battered the city and the outskirts, killing 50 people and inundating hundreds of colonies. Responding to criticism and allegations of fraud in cash distributions, Municipal Administration and Urban Development minister K.T. Rama Rao said on November 15 that those who have not received aid can apply through Mee Seva centres. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/081220/ghmc-officials-take-u-turn-on-rs-10000-flood-relief.html  (09 Dec. 2020)

ENVIRONMENT

Western Ghats Bringing life back to grasslands Tropical montane grasslands (TMG) in the Shola Sky Islands of the Western Ghats have suffered big reductions due to invasions by exotic trees such as acacias, pines and eucalyptus, shrinking the range sizes of endemic species, including plants, birds, amphibians and mammals. Some populations are being driven to local extinction. But researchers have now identified areas suitable for grassland restoration and conservation to reverse the decline.

Reporting on their study titled ‘Opportunities and challenges in using remote sensing for invasive tree species management, and in the identification of restoration sites in tropical montane grasslands’ earlier this month in Science Direct, M. Arasumani, V.V. Robin and Milind Bunyan from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Tirupati, and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru lay out the possibilities.

They focus on identifying grassland restoration sites using satellite images with a high spatial resolution (RapidEye), and have recommended careful removal of young and isolated exotic trees at the invasion front and restoring grasslands, instead of removing dense stands of mature exotic trees.

TMG are high elevation grasslands forming only 2% of all grasslands in the world. Among their functions is regulating the global carbon cycle and serving as a source of water to downstream communities. Researchers say grasslands do not benefit from conservation and restoration efforts afforded to tropical montane forests, possibly due to limited information. “In India, TMG have even been classified as wastelands in forest management plans since they are unlikely to generate revenue, contrary to the timber (even if exotic) found in forests,” the study says.

Loss of grasslands due to invasive exotic trees is a “novel threat” through the establishment and expansion of exotic tree plantations. In the Western Ghats, 23% of montane grasslands were reportedly converted into invasive exotic tree cover over a period of 44 years.

The study also throws light on policies for grasslands, which are seen as having no productive use, as is often alleged in the case of the Hesaraghatta grasslands in Bengaluru. “Grasslands are not wastelands. Though they are not being put to use, we are benefiting in other ways – such as serving as pasture. In the Sholas, they are responsible for hydrological recharge,” he said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bringing-life-back-to-western-ghats-grasslands/article33316899.ece  (13 Dec. 2020)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change worsens water crisis in Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra basins -The Roorkee-Goa team of scientists analysed daily rainfall data from 1998 to 2017 to identify monthly and seasonal patterns. Previous studies have looked at annual and seasonal rainfall variations in different areas and over different time periods in the IGB basin, but this is one of the first studies on water availability across the entire region. Their results indicate that as the average temperatures rose by 0.02 degrees Celsius each year across the whole basin, the total water stored was reduced by 12.6 mm annually over the region. https://www.thethirdpole.net/2020/12/07/climate-change-worsens-water-crisis-in-indus-ganga-brahmaputra-basins/  (07 Dec. 2020)

A mobile application helping farmers be climate-resilient

FarmPrecise is quietly revolutionizing providing timely and locally-relevant agro-advisories so that no farmer unprepared and vulnerable to climate change. https://scroll.in/video/981080/eco-india-a-mobile-application-has-become-a-gamechanger-in-helping-make-farmers-climate-resilient  (13 Dec. 2020)

Telangana Greening drive aims at mitigating climate change The green garland scheme of Telangana is expected to raise forest cover in the southern Indian state to 33% of its total area to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2020/12/14/telanganas-greening-overdrive-aims-at-mitigating-climate-change/  (14 Dec. 2020)

SOUTH ASIA

India-China China’s “Largest, Costliest & Riskiest” Dam In Tibet Will Hit India, Bangladesh Very Hard — Experts  Himanshu Thakkar, the coordinator of the SANDRP, explained the impact of building the world’s “challenging, costliest, and riskiest” dam. He said that the flow pattern of the water could adversely impact the downstream in India and Bangladesh. “It depends on how China releases water,” adding that during the Monsoon, a sudden release of water can cause floods in the region. Thakkar, who has been associated with the water and environment sector for about three decades, further explained that it could have severe ecological impacts as well. He pointed out that when the dam stores water, it also stores sediments with it which can cause the water to lose its silt. This water then affects the fisheries and swarms as sediment-free water will have greater erosion capacity. On being asked about the Indian government’s plan to build its own dam to mitigate the effect of China’s ‘super dam’, Thakkar said that instead of a “knee-jerk reaction,” the government should raise demands for a joint impact study between India and China. He emphasized that building a dam wouldn’t solve the problem, but instead create new problems including its own river fluctuations and other ecological impacts. “It would be like a self-inflicted wound,” added Thakkar. He suggested that using Indian satellites by the government to monitor any cross-border construction could be helpful in measuring China’s words with its actions.  https://eurasiantimes.com/chinas-largest-costliest-riskiest-dam-in-tibet-will-hit-india-bangladesh-very-hard-experts/  (12 Dec. 2020)

India’s counter to China’s mega dam plans by building its own dams, is a bad idea Experts, however, say the “dam-for-dam” response is “short-sighted”. Not only would the ecological costs be extremely high, it is unlikely to “mitigate the adverse impact of the Chinese dam project”, as the government claims. Observers hope that the prohibitive costs of constructing these mega dams in what is a highly risky landscape – and dwindling electricity markets – will deter both countries from actually following up on the projects. Said Thakkar: “My reading is China is provoking India. I hope India doesn’t take the bait and go ahead with the construction of another needless dam.”

– The Upper Siang project that has been billed by the Jal Shakti ministry as the answer to China’s plans was envisioned in its current avatar in 2017 by the Niti Aayog. The mega 300 metre high dam was to replace two smaller projects that had been planned earlier – Siang Upper Stage-I and Stage-II. It was to be built on the site earmarked for the latter. But there has been little progress since. Local communities in Arunachal Pradesh rose up in protest against the proposed dam which, engineers believe, would submerge the district headquarters of Yingkiong in Upper Siang district.

– “The whole point in a seismically active zone is not to have such a big reservoir kind of dam with a big head of water,” said Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, visiting research associate at the Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi. “Even if there is a treaty – and there is none – China’s record in international treaty obligations is abysmal, look at the South China Sea arbitration, for instance,” said Rahman. “So, there is no question of India being able to enforce on an international or bilateral platform that China needs to supply an x amount of water to keep downstream dam projects running and operational.” Thakkar tended to agree. “The prior use rights is a misconception that the Indian bureaucracy has,” he said. “But where are you going to go claiming this right? China does not believe in granting any such rights.” “Not everything can be viewed from the prism of security,” said Das. “Because of faulty foreign policies you don’t know how to deal with each other, so you set your sights on the river which is a lifeline for millions of people in the North East.”

– “You want to do this project just because China is doing something upstream, but you do not even know what exactly – that is extremely scary for the people of the region,” said Partha Jyoti Das.

–  But critics say a multipurpose dam, as the Upper Siang has been envisioned, may not help with that at all. “The flow from such a project will depend on your power generation requirements,” said Himanshu Thakkar, the founder and coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, a Delhi-based advocacy organisation. “So if it operates like a peak-load project, you won’t be able to ensure regular flow of water all the time.” https://scroll.in/article/980469/india-wants-to-counter-chinas-mega-dam-plans-by-building-its-own-it-is-a-bad-idea  (11 Dec. 2020)

Parineeta Dandekar article (Marathi) on China’s much talked about Dam(s) on Brahmaputra. https://www.loksatta.com/bara-gaoncha-pani-news/article-on-shangri-la-dam-and-middle-road-abn-97-2352421/  (12 Dec. 2020)

Author says, while not mentioning that India is not even a signatory to the 1997 UN convention say: “India must take up with China the 1997 United Nations Convention on Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses that specifically focuses on shared water resources. It established two key principles to guide the conduct of nations regarding shared watercourses: “equitable and reasonable use” and “the obligation not to cause significant harm” to neighbours.” https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/chinas-super-dam-near-indias-north-east-statesman-contributor  (11 Dec. 2020)

Strangely, even after arguing that the proposed Indian dam wont help mitigate the impact of the proposed Chinese dam on Brahmaputra at Great bend, this article still assumes both will be build. https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/spotlight-on-planets-largest-hydropower-project-by-china-on-yarlungbrahmaputra/  (12 Dec. 2020)

The only interesting part in this article is the last para: “India must take up with China the 1997 United Nations Convention on Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses that specifically focuses on shared water resources. It established two key principles to guide the conduct of nations regarding shared watercourses: “equitable and reasonable use” and “the obligation not to cause significant harm” to neighbours. There is a consensus among experts that international watercourse agreements need to be more concrete, setting out measures to enforce treaties made and incorporating detailed conflict resolution mechanisms in case disputes erupt.” The author does not know or does not want to say that India did not support the convention and in fact opposed it in the debate when the convention was being debated. In any case, where will we go to ensure the implementation of the convention? https://www.thestatesman.com/opinion/water-as-a-weapon-1502939911.html  (10 Dec. 2020)

There is nothing new in this article and some inaccuracies and misleading information too, besides not discussing some key issues. https://thediplomat.com/2020/12/india-to-expedite-dam-construction-after-china-announces-project-in-tibet/  (10 Dec. 2020)

This report rightly says some of the rxns to the China statements are excessive, but does not critique Indian Govt response in pushing big project on Siang. https://thediplomat.com/2020/12/chinese-dam-plan-worries-india-but-perhaps-excessively/  (09 Dec. 2020)

The huge investment on a massive infrastructure development drive in the region is part of a state-engineered, long-term plan to facilitate mass migration of Chinese into the Kongpo (Nyingtri Prefecture) region where the great bend is located, which shares a long border with India. Such a strategic plan is aimed at countering also domestic Tibetan resistance.

– The region has seen rapid upgrading of the 5,476-km-long National Highway-318, which connects Chinese cities as far as Shanghai and Chengdu to Nyingtri city. The much-reported Chengdu-Nyingtri-Lhasa railway line (1,629 km), once completed, would be a direct passage for mass migration into the region. Kongpo (Nyingytri Prefecture) in Tibet is an ideal spot for mass migration as the region has pleasant mild weather with extensive forest and vegetation cover.

– The close proximity of the location to India’s border means any sudden release of water from the dam could quickly and forcefully reach India with very little time for evacuation. (Tribune 091220, Opinion piece by Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, Senior Research Fellow, Tibet Policy Institute) https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/chinas-super-dam-a-threat-to-indias-security-181375  (08 Dec. 2020)

New battle over water An attempt by SCMP (South China Morning Post) to keep the fire burning? https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3112843/india-and-china-gear-new-battle-time-over-water  (07 Dec. 2020)

India-Bangladesh The waters we share with our neighbours Twenty-Four years ago the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India signed the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty on December 12, 1996. It was the first-ever long-term water-sharing treaty signed between the two South Asian neighbours. It was a great achievement for the then Awami League government to sign this long-awaited deal within the first 175 days of assuming power. It has remained the only water sharing treaty between India and Bangladesh. December 12, 2026 seems to be far way, when the Ganges Treaty expires. But is it really that far?

Having 54 rivers coming from India and three from Myanmar, handling of transboundary rivers like the Ganges has always been a sensitive political agenda for Bangladesh. But transnational water sharing soon went beyond being a mere partisan agenda defining the country’s major political fronts. It became an environmental issue as well. Reduced water flowing from the upstream via the Ganges impacted the Sundarbans mangrove, shared between Bangladesh and India, changing this unique ecosystem badly. https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/the-waters-we-share-our-neighbours-2009837  (12 Dec. 2020)

India-Nepal Close to finalizing regulatory modality for power trade Nepal and India are close to finalizing the regulatory modality for allowing Nepali power producers access to the Indian power market, according to the statement of the 8th joint steering committee meeting on cooperation in power sector held on Dec 11 2020. The statement said that once the regulatory modality is finalized and signed between the two countries, it would provide an outlet for Nepal’s surplus power in the coming months. The power and energy secretaries of Nepal and India co-chaired the meeting. https://tkpo.st/3a2bSgw  (11 Dec. 2020)

Foundation stone of head regulator works of Indo-Nepal Link Canal laid Shri A.K. Singh, CMD, NHPC, laid the foundation stone of head regulator works of Indo-Nepal Link Canal at Barrage of 94.2 MW Tanakpur Power Station of NHPC located in Banbasa, Distt Champawat (Uttarakhand) on 8 Dec 2020. The 1.2 km long Indo-Nepal canal is being constructed under Mahakali Treaty signed between India and Nepal. https://www.psuconnect.in/news/CMD-NHPC-lays-the-foundation-stone-of-head-regulator-works-of-Indo-Nepal-Link-Canal/25812/  (08 Dec. 2012)

Bangladesh Jamuna loses battle to illegal sand mining in Sirajganj Untimely erosion of the Jamuna River in Sirajganj region took the homes, properties and agricultural land of ten villages so far this season, while administrative action has failed to stop sand lifting from the banks of the river. Locals of Sirajganj’s Shahjadpur upazila said they are too afraid to protest against unscrupulous businessmen, who have been extracting sand from the upazila’s Khukni, Jalalpur, Koijuri and Gala unions.

Locally influential people are backing the multi-million Taka illegal trade. The practice remains temporarily suspended after drives by the upazila administration but resumes within a few days, sources say.  Extraction of the ‘Raw Gold’, as the sand lifters call it, does not cost much but fetches a huge amount of money. Locals alleged that the sand lifters are working in collusion with some corrupt local administration officials. The claim could not be verified independently. https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2020/12/12/jamuna-loses-battle-to-illegal-sand-mining-in-sirajganj  (12 Dec. 2020)

Sand mining boosts Jamuna erosion Illegal and unabated sand extraction is causing serious erosion on a six-kilometre stretch on the bank of Jamuna River in Sirajganj’s Shahjadpur upazila. Residents of 10 villages are facing untimely erosion as the river gobbles up their homes, properties and agricultural land. Administrative action has failed to stop sand lifting and the locals are too afraid to protest against them fearing for their safety. https://www.newagebd.net/article/124206/sand-mining-boosts-jamuna-erosion  (13 Dec. 2020)

Sri Lanka Policeman deployed to implement SC directive killed by sand mining Mafia  A driver of a truck carrying a load of illegally mined sand on Saturday (Nov. 28) night ran over a policeman who ordered him to stop, in the Kobaigane police area. Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said that the 32-year-old victim, PC Ratnayake, attached to the Kobaigane police station, had died on the spot. The police later found the truck abandoned in the Kuliyapitiya police area. DIG Rohana said that the police deployment was in line with the Supreme Court directive to take action to prevent illegal sand mining at Daduru Oya. According to him, the 27-year old suspect was later arrested at Nikaweratiya. https://island.lk/policeman-deployed-to-implement-sc-directive-killed-by-sand-mining-mafia/  (30 Nov. 2020)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Italy Venice Under Water As Newly Installed Dam System Fails To Activate Venice’s St Mark’s Square was under water on Tuesday after a newly installed system of mobile artificial dams failed to activate. A massive flood defence system called MOSE aimed at protecting Venice’s lagoon during high tide was finally installed in October. The network of water-filled caissons is designed to be raised within 30 minutes to create a barrier capable of resisting a water rise of three metres above normal. But on Tuesday the system failed to swing into action because the forecast erroneously predicted a rise of only 1.2 metres (four feet) above sea level. “To activate MOSE a bigger forecast is necessary,” Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/venice-under-water-as-newly-installed-dam-system-fails-to-activate-2336047  (09 Dec. 2020)

-The long-awaited Mose system, which was given its first full test in July, was praised for saving Venice from recent high tides. In early October, Mose’s huge yellow floodgates, which rise to separate the Venetian lagoon from the sea, succeeded in shielding the city during its first real-time test when the high tide rose to 1.2 metres. The system again functioned successfully a few weeks later in preventing water of up to 1.35 metres from entering the lagoon.

-The Mose dams were designed in 1984 and were supposed to come into service in 2011, but progress was blighted by a corruption scandal and cost overruns. https://www.theguardian.com/weather/2020/dec/08/venice-floods-as-forecasts-fail-to-predict-extent-of-high-tide  (08 Dec. 2020)

Mayor of Venice arrested on lagoon barrier project corruption charges https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10875534/Mayor-of-Venice-arrested-on-lagoon-barrier-project-corruption-charges.html  (04 June 2014)

Report The Dirty Truth About Turning Seawater Into Drinking Water A paper published in March 2019 by United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health in the journal Science of the Total Environment found that desalination plants globally produce enough brine – a salty, chemical-laden byproduct – in a year to cover all of Florida in nearly a foot of it. That’s a lot of brine.

In fact, the study concluded that for every litre of freshwater a plant produces, 1.5 litres of brine are produced on average. For all the 15,906 plants around the world, that means 142 billion litres of this salty-arse junk every day. Brine production in just four Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, accounts for more than half of this.

The study authors, who hail from Canada, the Netherlands, and South Korea, aren’t saying desalination plants are evil. They’re raising the alarm that this level of waste requires a plan. This untreated salt water can’t just hang around in ponds – or, in worst-case scenarios, go into oceans or sewers. Disposal depends on geography, but typically the waste does go into oceans or sewers, if not injected into wells or kept in evaporation ponds. The high concentrations of salt, as well as chemicals like copper and chlorine, can make it toxic to marine life. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2020/12/the-dirty-truth-about-turning-seawater-into-drinking-water/  (09 Dec. 2020)

USA California Water Futures Begin Trading Amid Fear of Scarcity Water joined gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, highlighting worries that the life-sustaining natural resource may become scarce across more of the world. Farmers, hedge funds and municipalities alike are now able to hedge against — or bet on — future water availability in California, the biggest U.S. agriculture market and world’s fifth-largest economy. CME Group Inc.’s January 2021 contract (first of its kind being traded), linked to California’s $1.1 billion spot water market, last traded Monday at 496 index points, equal to $496 per acre-foot.

– In California, the most recent acute dry spell stretched from December 2011 until March of last year, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The most dire effects took hold in July 2014, with 58% of the state’s land suffering “exceptional drought,” leading to crop and pasture losses and other water emergencies.  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-06/water-futures-to-start-trading-amid-growing-fears-of-scarcity  (06 Dec. 2020)

https://fb.watch/2k97Nql7Od/

Water Trading on Wall street: Beginning of Trade, speculation, profiteering on Life, suffering? https://fb.watch/2k97Nql7Od/  (11 Dec. 2020)

UK Pictured: bulldozer at work in river Lugg -The work has been described as “one of the most egregious acts of ecological vandalism” in 25 years. It was highlighted by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust on Thursday, who said a 1.5 kilometre stretch of the river had been “intentionally destroyed”, with huge repercussions for wildlife downstream. The Wildlife Trust said the river and its banks have been bulldozed, straightened and reprofiled into a sterile canal, obliterating habitats. https://www.herefordtimes.com/news/18925788.pictured-bulldozer-work-river-lugg/  (07 Dec. 2020)

Report Global Treaty Needed to Halt Deep Sea Mining Deep sea mining is leading private mining firms and arms companies to carve up the seabed in plans that should be halted by an international ocean treaty, argues a new report from Greenpeace.

The investigation, Deep Trouble: The murky world of the deep sea mining industry, decries the increasing use of the ocean floor by large corporations, such as U.S. arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, to mine metals and minerals. Only several private sector companies with shell-organizations, or “operating through complex and opaque structures of sub-contractors, partnerships or subsidiaries,” received 30 contracts to mine from the International Seabed Authority, a consortium with no environmental or assessment process that acts as the overseeing organization on seabed mining contracts. The ISA has never rejected a bid for mining.  https://www.ecowatch.com/deep-sea-mining-greenpeace-2649430652.html  (09 Dec. 2020)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 07 Dec. 2020 & DRP News Bulletin 30 Nov. 2020

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

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