Bridges · Dams · Urban Rivers

Bridges of Pune and the People who Stop and See

Several bridges, old and new crisscross over the rivers Mula and Mutha in Pune. Some of them are old and stately like the Lakdi Pul built over 250 years ago or the beautiful Shivaji Pul, while there are low ones like the Baba Bhide Bridge, which routinely gets submerged in the monsoons.

I try to walk across these bridges on most evenings.

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Urban Rivers

South India Urban Rivers Overview 2020

Urban rivers provide a lot of services, but the urban areas are inviting major trouble by destroying them through dumping of solid and liquid waste, encroachments, river front developments, unsustainable mining among others. The urban areas also operate in almost total policy vacuum and none of the cities under smart city programs are dealing with Urban rivers with any smartness.

This overview includes some key developments about Urban Rivers in 2020 from the South Indian states of Karnataka (Vrishabhavati in Bengaluru; Swarna-Netravati in Udupi), Tamil Nadu (Adyar, Buckingham Canal and Cooum rivers in Chennai; Kiruthumal in Madurai; Noyyal in Tiruppur; Bhavani in Coimbatore; Palar in Vellore; Vasishta in Salem), Telangana (Musi in Hyderabad), Andhra Pradesh (Tungabhadra in Kurnool), Kerala (Periyar, Kadambrayar & Konthuruthy in Kochi; Kodoor in Kottayam) and Puducherry (Sankarabarani).

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Dams

Gangetic dolphin deaths in 2020

More than a decade after Gangetic dolphins (platanista gangetica) was granted the status of national aquatic animal, the rare mammal species continue to face multiple threats impacting their habitat and population in Ganga rivers. Just in past one year, the year when the Prime Minister of India declared the Project Dolphin, six dolphins were found dead for unnatural reasons in three states along the Ganga. In addition to Gangetic, river dolphin were killed in three other states.

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Sand Mining

Sand & Stone Mining: 45 lives lost in fatal accidents in a week

 2021 has begun with 45 lives lost in 4 mining accidents in just a week. We highlight the tragic incidents here as they raise some critical questions about governance and to prevent the avoidable accidents from becoming a new normal. 

Karnataka, January 21, 2021

The latest accident occurred in Hunasodu village in Abbalagere taluk of Shivamogga district where a strong blast in a lorry carrying explosive gelatine sticks has killed six people. There is still no exact figure of death toll and cause of explosion is yet unknown. While various media reports have been mentioning death toll varying from 5 to 15, denying these figures[i] six bodies have been recovered so far. 

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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Rivers · Yamuna River

HOW CAN DELHI TACKLE HIGH AMMONIA CONTENT IN ITS DRINKING WATER?

Guest Article by Manoj Misra

Note: This article is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Brij Gopal who introduced me to the concept of stream standards as different from effluent standards and often lamented former’s absence from our current water pollution control mechanisms. Prof. Gopal passed away suddenly in Delhi on 4 January 2021.   

Public Health demands use of ‘Stream’ standards alongside ‘Effluent’ standards – Law provides for it but the authorities have failed to implement.

Is the city of Delhi condemned to suffer high ammonia content each winter in its drinking water supplies from River Yamuna?

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Wetlands

Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective

The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here (keeping aside the Wetlands related developments in Maharashtra in 2020 and Positive wetlands related developments in 2020, on both these subjects we have published separate reports), is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), various High Courts and even the Supreme Court have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands. This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 18 Jan. 2021: Is there any hope for Yamuna from Delhi, SC actions?

Yamuna is again in headlines in this week’s Bulletin. It carries the Nov 2020 announcement of Delhi Govt plan to clean river by 2023 and the action by the Supreme Court. There is nothing very convincing, path breaking or new in what the Delhi Govt has announced, such announcements keep coming every few years and then tend to be forgotten, to be renewed with announcement of new deadlines in this case. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court action is not particularly different. One only needs to remind the apex court and everyone else that in 1994, the SC had taken up Yamuna case suo moto. No impact on the river could be achieved till around 2017, when the SC decided to handover the case to NGT. It is not clear what exactly has prompted SC to take it up again, but the move does not inspire confidence considering the past track record.

We hope we are wrong and the Delhi Plans and the SC move does lead to better days for Yamuna. In the meantime, the Yamuna Monitoring Committee set up by the NGT is doing its role, but one wishes, their hands and plans as strengthened and pushed by the NGT, which does not seem to be the case currently.

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Agriculture · Climate Change · Kerala

Paddy farming in times of climate change – field notes

Guest Article by Dr. Sreeja KG and Dr. Madhusoodhanan CG

January 6, 2021– An unexpected turn of the weather in the afternoon. Rain clouds gathered from the east and a sudden outpour that lasted through the evening. Heady smells of slaked earth and a welcome respite to the day’s heat. The joy of the surprise shower overshadowed by the worry of harvested paddy in gunny sacks stacked on the field bunds. The paddy which had dried to the satisfaction of the procurement agency’s rigorous moisture tests, is now again wet. Drying it will be an added, unforeseen expense.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 11 Jan. 2021: Big question marks over viability of Ganga waterway

[Feature image: A cargo stuck in Ganga in Balia, image source Dainik Jagran, June 2018. https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/ballia-stuck-cargo-ship-in-the-ganges-for-a-month-18139816.html]

This latest episode described below once again raises big question marks over the viability, feasibility and desirability of pushing Ganga as the National waterways. Its economic viability has been questioned many times earlier and this episode only reinforces it. The ecological viability is dependent on refusal to conduct any environmental impact assessment in any credible, transparent or participatory way, while the massive adverse impacts on the river, its biodiversity including the National Aquatic animal Dolphin as also on the livelihood of millions of fisher people and boats people are all known, but being ignored by the Ministry of Inland waterways headed by and pushed by Mr Nitin Gadkari rather blindly. The only way to resolve the issue is if there is an independent, informed assessment, which can happen only if the judiciary were to step in. Will they?

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