In SANDRP’s weekly News Bulletins, we select lead story each week. Here we try to look back and take stock of major happenings of 2020 through a compilation of DRP lead stories to recapitulate major happenings related Dams, Rivers, Water and Environment. While doing this we are aware that this may not completely capture all the key happenings in this sector, since not all the major developments are captured by the media and their headlines. However, it does provide some idea about what were the major developments in this sector in the just outgoing year 2020. We have divided the lead stories under several key classifications like River Management, Environment Governance, Dams, Hydropower projects, Flood management, groundwater management etc.
River Management A bit surprisingly, ten lead stories were on River Management. This includes three under Char Dham Highway, since the ultimate major impact of all the impacts and violations happening in that project are going to be experienced by the rivers. The cleaner rivers during lockdown and also the citizen efforts to save our rivers are top stories among these ten lead stories.
6 April 2020: Ganga-Yamuna-Cauvery flow cleaner in lockdown: What can we learn?
2 Nov. 2020: Citizen Efforts to Save our Rivers
13 Jan. 2020: We need new river management
27 Jan. 2020: Beginning of Corporatisation of Rivers?
6 July 2020: Dear NGT, Yamuna Monitoring Panel needs extension
20 July 2020: Will the Supreme Court stop destruction of Ganga & Himalayas in the name of WIDER Char Dham Road?
31 August 2020: No Rule of Environment Law in Char Dham Highway
7 Sep 2020: On Himalaya Diwas, will SC stop destruction of Himalaya by Char Dham Road?
03 Aug 2020: India needs to demand info from China on Brahmaputra issues
5 Oct 2020: Nominations Invited for the 2020 BPS & Anupam Misra Medal. [Since the BPS and AMM are focused on rivers, we have decided to put it in this section.]
Aquatic Biodiversity Aquatic biodiversity are broadly related to rivers, and hence we have put it immediately after River Management, though there is just one lead story on this topic.
30 March 2020: Chilika has fishing cat & otters, but why we know so little about aquatic biodiversity?
Inland Fisheries Since inland fisheries is subset of aquatic biodiversity, we have added placed it immediately after aquatic biodiversity, though there is only one lead story on this important subject, the very first lead story of year 2020.
Lakes, Wetlands Again since Lakes and wetlands are related to river management, we have located them after River Management and aquatic biodiversity, as they are also related to lakes and wetlands. The Sukhna Lake related High Court order in March 2020 was another attempt at giving rights to the nature after earlier attempt at giving rights to Ganga and Yamuna by the same justice did not go too far. Even the attempt through Sukhna Lake directions do not seem to go too far. The other story of disappearance of 28849 wetlands of Maharashtra is a sad case, that is still being fought in case of some specific wetlands and bring them back to the list of notified wetlands.
17 February 2020: Case of “disappearance” of 28849 wetlands in Maharashtra
9 March 2020: High Court Directions for Sukhna Lake
River Sand Mining River Sand Mining is a major impactful issue on rivers and hence this is located soon after River Management. India Rivers Week 2020 focused on River Sand Mining as a theme in 2020, the dialogues provided many new lessons for all participants. There were five Lead stories on this subject this year, almost all of them carry seeds of change for the better. That seems like a bit misleading, since in reality the picture remains quite murky.
08 June 2020: Banda Satyagaraha shows tip of the Sandberg
23 Nov 2020: Pune Citizens Expose illegal River Sand Mining in Pune City
30 Nov 2020: J&K SEAC denies EC to sand mining
7 Dec 2020: Courts expose NEXUS & IMPUNITY in Sand Mining. Will any commensurate consequences follow?
19 Oct 2020: India Rivers Week 2020: IS SAND MINING KILLING OUR RIVERS?
Urban Water Management Urban Water Management remains a major area of policy vacuum. There are three lead stories in 2020.
20 Jan 2020: India urgently needs national urban water policy
24 Feb 2020: Urban Rivers Need Urgent attention: Hiding won’t help
28 Sep 2020: AAP to rivatize Delhi Water supply?
Big Dams While world over the dam building increasingly gives place to decommissioning, we continue to push dams. However, the number of under construction dams are decreasing. Though the vested interests keeps trying to push dams. It is interesting to note that Interlinking of rivers, an agenda that is essentially extension of big dam agenda, do not see any lead story this year.
21 Dec 2020: Morand Ganjal Dam opposed in Narmada Valley
Feb. 3 2020: Some welcome news on Pinjal and other dams
2 March 2020: Will Mumbai rise up against unwanted, destructive Gargai Dam?
15 June 2020: Athirapally, Bodhghat, Cauvery, Dibang, Etalin: New growth alphabets from the PMO?
27 July 2020: China’s Three Gorges Dam may be safe for now, but at what cost?
Big Hydropower Projects Big hydropower projects are also increasingly seen unviable and a technology no longer relevant in 21st century. However, there is an industry that would keep trying to push the agenda to survive and political economy continues to help this agenda. So this year we saw five lead story on Big hydro projects, four of them were focused on the proposed Etalin hydropower project in Dibang river basin in Arunachal Pradesh, North East India. Fortunately, that dam still awaits statutory approvals. The year 2020 saw a major campaign against the project, in which large number of young people participated.
27 April 2020: For whom is this unviable Etalin project being pushed?
04 May 2020: Wildlife Institute of India doing quid pro quo with hydro developers?
11 May 2020: Jindal accepts Etalin HEP is unviable!
25 May 2020: Review Environment Clearance Approval for Etalin Project
21 Sep 2020: IHA President accepts-Hydro faces massive slowdown & worse
Water Options It is heartening to note that non dam water options saw five lead stories this week. One hopes this number goes up in coming years.
10 February 2020: Examples of Better Water Management Options
13 April 2020: Check dams revival in Dakshina Kannada
13 July 2020: “Rainwater harvesting is key to solving India’s water woes”
14 Sep 2020: How should we define a Normal Monsoon?
9 Nov 2020: Welcome water initiatives
Flood Management Floods remain a major disaster that India faces in multiple locations in multiple ways. There were four lead stories on this subject in 2020, though one expects more of them.
16 March 2020: Invitation to another Kedarnath floods tragedy?
22 June 2020: Seven years after Uttarakhand Disaster: Any lessons learnt?
12 Oct 2020: Why is India’s flood forecasting system ineffective?
26 Oct 2020: Why Floods is not big issue in Bihar elections?
Dams and Floods Dam induced floods is another aspect of flood management and there were two lead stories on this subject. When we write separate blogs on specific dam induced flood instances, we do not repeat them in lead stories (this is true for all issues). Hence floods and dam induced floods see less number of lead stories than what one expects to see.
18 May 2020: Signs of Impending Dam Floods in SW Monsoon 2020?
1 June 2020: No escape from Dam floods as dam lobby continues to dominate
Environment Governance Proper Environment Governance can help us reduce the wrong and disastrous decisions. However, our governments continue to see environment as an obstacle to business and hence in the name of Ease of Business they keep trying to dilute environment norms and our environment governance continues its downhill journey with increasing acceleration. We all know the consequences of acceleration in downhill journey! Three of the lead stories were related to the draft EIA notification 2020 and three of the five lead stories here were related to judiciary.
16 Nov 2020: India’s Environment Governance continues downhill journey
14 Dec 2020: Constitution of EAC for River Valley Projects Challenged in High Court
23 March 2020: Welcome SC order asks for fresh EIA: Will Judiciary be equally strong against all fraudulent EIAs?
10 August 2020: CANCEL EIA 2020!
17 August 2020: The Contempt of Court case against MoEF
Climate Change Climate change this year was headlined only once: in the context of Covid 19 pandemic.
20 April 2020: Solutions to Covid 19 & Climate change are same?
Groundwater Management Groundwater should have possibly got more lead stories, considering that it is India’s water lifeline.
29 June 2020: Don’t blame NGT for Govt failure on Groundwater regulation
Water Management There were two residual lead stories of 2020 that won’t fit into any of the categories above, so they are located under Water Management. However, both were very important lead stories considering that Janta Parliament provided platform to raise people’s real issues. The other lead story, the last one of 2020, provided five positives of 2020 as listed below.
24 August 2020: Janta Parliament discusses some serious water issues
28 Dec. 2020: Five Positives of outgoing Corona year:
– Clean Rivers in Lockdown
– Campaign against EIA notification amendment
– Campaign against Etalin Hydro project in Dibang basin
– River Sand Mining Dialogues
– Farmer Protests
We are doing this exercise of compiling the lead stories of the year under various key subjects for the first time to understand what were the key major stories related to Dams, Rivers, Water and Environment. Hope this is found useful by the readers. This exercise will possibly make us more conscious when we decide about lead stories next year.