DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

Bangladesh Halda River declared Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage The government has declared the Halda River as Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage. The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock issued a circular about this on Thursday. In the circular, the ministry declared the Halda River and 23,422 acres of land adjoining its banks as Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage. The declaration will help protect the fish and environment of the Halda River. With the declaration of Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage, 12 restrictions will be applicable there and those include —

– Nobody can catch fishes the Halda River

– People can only collect eggs in the Halda River during the season under the supervision of fisheries department

– None can hamper the bio-diversity of the Halda River

– Nobody can pollute the Halda River

– Nobody can discharge any garbage into the Halda River

– Nobody can change the natural navigation of the Halda River

– None can catch fishes from 17 canals of the Halda River during the brooding season

– No dam can be set up on the Halda River

– No project will be taken to collect water from the Halda River

– No engine boats can run through the Halda River during the brooding season

– The river can be used only for research work.

Halda is the only river in the country where fishermen can collect fertilised eggs from the river bed and arrange for them to hatch later on, whereas only hatched fish fries (young fish) – and not fertilised eggs – can be caught in other rivers. Halda is one of the most important rivers in Bangladesh for the fishing industry because of its once abundant supply of eggs of freshwater fish such as carp, rohu, katla, mrigal etc., and conditions suitable for the brood (egg-laying).

When the British ruled the subcontinent, Halda fish eggs would be supplied to then Burma and other parts of India. In the 1960s and 70s, two-thirds of the ponds in Bangladesh would use spawn from the Halda River. The Halda River flows through Raozan, Hathazari and Fatikchhari in Chattogram. https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/national/halda-river-declared-bangabandhu-fisheries-heritage-1608870392  (25 Dec. 2020)

Controversial Water Supply Project from Halda Local government minister Md Tajul Islam on Jan 2, 2021 talked about controversial withdrawal of water from the river Halda for supplying drinking water to the under-construction Bangabandhu Industrial City at Mirsharai in Chattogram. Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers, however, expressed concern over the water treatment project initiated by the Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority at a Tk 3,500 crore for supplying water to Bangabandhu Industrial City. They demanded a review of the plan and proper feasibility study in this regard, and recommended alternative, arguing the water plant would impact Halda’s unique ecosystem that helps carps and other fishes spawn. (https://www.newagebd.net/article/126100/water-withdrawal-would-not-harm-halda-minister, 3 Jan 2021)

HYDRO POWER PROJECTS

Assam Kopili HEP: Centre-ADB sign loan agreement The Centre and the Asian Development Bank have signed a loan agreement for USD 231 m for the 120 MW hydro project over Kopili river and Umrong stream, its tributary, in Dima Hasao district.  https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/assam-news/centre-adb-signs-loan-agreement-for-hydroelectric-project-over-kopili-river-assam-518943 (1 Jan 2021)

J&K MoUs signed for J-K hydro projects According to an official release, several MoUs were signed between Power Development Department (PDD), J&K; National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) Ltd and J&K Power Development Corp, in the presence of RK Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Ministry of Power; Manoj Sinha, Lieutenant Governor of J&K, and Dr Jitendra Singh, MoS, PMO on power sector, including hydropower projects.

“J&K is taking a quantum leap from being a power deficit to becoming a power surplus in the next four years”, claimed the Lt Governor. The projects will be handed back to J & K after 40 years of commercial operation. In his welcome address, Principal Secretary, Power Development Department, Rohit Kansal said that the initiative will add 3500 MW capacity. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/mous-signed-to-make-j-k-power-surplus-region-via-hydro-power/80089482 (4 Jan 2021)

Union minister R K Singh on Jan. 3, 2021 said India has become power surplus. “There is no power deficiency in the country. We have a maximum demand of 1.85 lakh MW of electricity but the present availability is 3.74 lakh MW,” Singh claimed.

The Union minister was speaking after signing of MoU of Rs 34,000 core 850 MW Ratle HEP, 930 MW Kirthai-II HEP, Sawalkot HEP (1856 MW), Uri-I (Stage-II-240 MW) and Dulhasti (Stage-II-258 MW) projects. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/india-moved-from-power-deficit-to-surplus-under-modi-govt-union-minister/80089632 (4 Jan 2021)

“The works started now will ensure that another 3,498 MW power is generated in the next three to four years. The potential achieved in 70 years would now be doubled within the next four years.” Claimed Union Power Minister. According to two agreements, the NHPC would work in association with the administration in the first and the languishing Sawalkot project would be handed over to it for completion under the second. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jk-opens-up-water-resources-to-attract-35000-cr-power-projects-engages-nhpc/article33489536.ece)  

DAMS

Dibang Dam Cartoon 2020

SANDRP Blog Why are we still building Large Dams? Analysis of official information shows that Big dams are no longer necessary or viable or optimal in India. And yet India continues to build large dams. Why?  https://sandrp.in/2020/12/30/why-are-we-still-building-large-dams/  (30 Dec. 2020)

Dams, Rivers & People 2020 through the DRP LEAD STORIES 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 52 weekly DRP lead stories of 2020 to recapitulate major happenings related Dams, Rivers, Water and Environment in 2020. We find that maximum number of lead stories are on River Management, followed by those on Dams & Hydropower projects, Environment Governance and River Sand Mining. https://sandrp.in/2020/12/29/dams-rivers-people-2020-through-the-drp-lead-stories/ (29 Dec 2020)

Dams, Rivers & People 2020 through the eyes of the Cartoons A good cartoon can say a lot more than words and possibly more effectively. As in 2019, we are sharing the key events on the issues that we focus on namely Dams, Rivers, Environment and People using cartoons. As you can see, we have sourced them from the various internet sources during the just concluding year 2020. https://sandrp.in/2020/12/28/dams-rivers-people-2020-through-the-eyes-of-the-cartoons/  (28 Dec. 2020)

Chhattisgarh 48 साल बाद गंगरेल बांध विस्थापितों को न्याय की उम्मीद मामले में जस्टिस पीपी साहू की सिंगल बैंच में 24 दिसंबर को फैसला सुनाते हुए हाई कोर्ट ने राज्य शासन को प्रभावित ग्रामीणों को उचित मुआवजा व व्यवस्थापन करने का आदेश जारी किया है। इसके लिए तीन महीने का समय दिया गया है।

सिंचाई सुविधा के लिए राज्य सरकार ने धमतरी में 1972 में गंगरेल बांध बनाने का निर्णय लिया था। बांध के डुबान में 55 गांव आए। डुबान में 98 फीसदी आबादी आदिवासियों की थी। मुआवजे की शर्त पर प्रभावित ग्रामीणों ने गांव खाली कर दिया, लेकिन अफसरों ने मुआवजा देने में आनाकानी शुरू कर दी। तब 8590 प्रभावित परिवारों ने गंगरेल बांध प्रभावित समिति बनाई और जबलपुर हाई कोर्ट में मुआवजा व व्यवस्थापन की मांग को लेकर गुहार लगाई। उन्होंने 48 वर्ष तक कानूनी लड़ाई लड़ी। छत्तीसगढ़ हाई कोर्ट में 20 साल मामला चला। https://www.jagran.com/news/national-displaced-tribals-of-gangrel-reservoir-get-justice-in-chhattisgarh-after-48-years-of-legal-battle-21211087.html  (27 Dec. 2020)

Himachal Pradesh Dam oustees remain victims of politics No political party in Himachal had ever provided any space to the problem of oustees in their manifesto in any elections, but the fact remains that a generation has passed away in getting justice. It is a fact that dams have ruined the state and the hill states are all set to have one of the highest dam densities.

It is not a matter of pride for the nation as it wipes out vast swathes of rivers and biological diversity apart from mass dislocation of local people. Oustees of the state have been victim of politics and poor and innocent dislocated poor and innocent people left to fend themselves. 

“We are yet to formilate a clear, defined, legally binding accountability mechanism in case of dam’s disaster to lives, livelihood and environment, ” warned Prof Arun Ahluwalia, former chairman Dept of Geology, Panjab University, Chandigarh. https://www.punjabnewsexpress.com/news/news/oustees-of-himachal-pradesh-remain-victims-of-politics-127955  (3 Jan. 2021)

Polavaram Project Details about Govt of AP claims about progress in Polavaram construction. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/government-claims-substantial-progress-in-polavaram-works/article33488870.ece  (3 Jan. 2021) The second biggest flood to Godavari river on August 18 with 22.90 lakh cusecs of floodwater created hurdles to the project works as water gushed into the spillway. Subsequently, the floodwater was shifted through the spill channel. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/040121/polavaram-works-progressing-full-throttle.html  (4 Jan. 2021)

Kerala Siltation survey at Malankara dam Kerala Engineering Research Institute, under the aegis of the irrigation department, is studying to determine the siltation through current depth of the Malankara reservoir. The multi-beam survey is being carried out using an echo sounder attached to a boat. The dam rose to its maximum level of 42m in the last few days. This is the first such survey of the dam, commissioned in 1994. “The bathymetric survey is expected to be completed by Jan 6,” Muvattupuzha Valley Irrigation Project (MVIP) executive engineer Saji Samuel said.

The dam is constructed across Thodupuzha river. The reservoir stores water released from the Moolamattom power plant. It is also fed by many streams in the area. The 460m-long dam has six spillway gates. The reservoir’s storage capacity is 37 MCM. According to them, the dam was constructed to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of Idukki, Kottayam and parts of Ernakulam district. It has two main canals, 28.3km to the right and 37.1km to the left. It also has a 10.5 MW power component, commissioned by KSEB in 2005.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/siltation-survey-at-malankara-dam/articleshow/80076221.cms  (03 Jan. 2021)

Maharashtra Stock in Marathwada dams to last till monsoon Despite major dams in Marathwada releasing water for rabi crops, 11 reservoirs in the region still have 165 TMC water — more than twice the average cumulative storage in five years. 11 major irrigation projects in the region have 91% live storage whereas 75 medium projects are 82% full. There are 752 minor irrigation projects in Marathwada, which have 48% live storage.

Jaising Hire, assistant superintendent engineer with Command Area Development Authority of Godavari Irrigation Development Corp, said the collective water storage in the reservoirs in Marathwada was adequate to meet the needs of the region till next monsoon. “Even the dams from drought-prone Osmanabad, Latur and Beed districts were filled to the brim during the last rainy season. The water reservation in dams is planned in such a way that there is adequate stock till at least the next monsoon,” said Hire. The major dams in the region have been witnessing evaporation losses to the tune of 2.5 mcum/ day, which is expected to increase post second half of winter. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/aurangabad/stock-in-mwada-dams-to-last-till-monsoon/articleshow/80077168.cms  (03 Jan. 2021) 

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS

Ken-Betwa Link Govt revises river-linking deal The Ken Betwa River Link Proposal has received a fresh push, with the Modi government making a revised deal for the two states, specifying the quantum of water to be shared by them. In the new memorandum of agreement sent about a fortnight ago, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti reduced UP’s share of water from the rivers during the non-monsoon period (lean season). It also didn’t concede the Madhya Pradesh government’s demand to allow it usage of the entire quantum of surplus water available at the dam site.

– According to the new agreement, UP will be allowed to draw 750 mcm (million cubic meters) of the total 1800 mcm of water from the river between November and May — during the lean season when the water flow is less. Madhya Pradesh would get the remaining 1,049 mcm of water. UP’s water share annually has been fixed at 1700 mcm while MP will be able to draw 2,350 mcm.

– The ministry has also not agreed to the MP government’s demand to allow it to use the entire quantum of surplus water to the tune of 6,590 mcm available at the Daudhan dam site in the upper catchment area. “In 2005, the yield of water at the dam site was 6,188 mcm. This has now increased to 6,590 mcm, as study conducted by the Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology had found. MP wants the right to use the entire quantum of surplus water,” the second official said. Uttar Pradesh had originally demanded 935 mcm of the total water. It agreed to reduce this to 788 mcm in 2018 after Madhya Pradesh did not agree.

– The ministry has also not agreed to the MP government’s demand to allow it to use the entire quantum of surplus water to the tune of 6,590 mcm available at the Daudhan dam site in the upper catchment area. “In 2005, the yield of water at the dam site was 6,188 mcm. This has now increased to 6,590 mcm, as study conducted by the Roorkee-based National Institute of Hydrology had found. MP wants the right to use the entire quantum of surplus water,” the second official said.

– Madhya Pradesh has started work on some sections of the second phase, which includes three local water management projects. “MP had demanded that the Centre should reimburse the amount spent by the state on these three projects. We have agreed to their proposal,” the second official added. While no official decision has been taken over the funding of the project, the Centre had earlier informally agreed to foot 90 per cent of the project cost. The remaining 10 per cent was to be shared by the two states. https://theprint.in/india/governance/up-to-get-less-ken-betwa-water-in-non-monsoon-period-as-modi-govt-revises-river-linking-deal/576319/  (31 Dec. 2020)

RIVERS AS NATIONAL WATER WAYS

NW-1 टैगोर जलयान 25 टन यूरिया लेकर वाराणसी से कोलकाता रवाना इतनी बड़ी परियोजना के लोकार्पण के लगभग दो वर्ष बाद भी व्यापारी नहीं जुड़ सके हैं। मालूम हो कि रविंद्र नाथ टैगोर जलयान अगस्त माह में ही कोलकाता से यहां खाली आया था। पांच माह के इंतजार के बाद यूरिया की खेप प्रयागराज के फूलपुर से यहां आया। तत्पश्चात क्रेन के माध्यम से कंटेनर को जहाज पर लोड किया गया। अधिकारियों की मानें तो जहाज की लोकेशन के लिए यहां रिवर इनफार्मेशन सिस्टम भी इंस्टॉल किया गया है। इसके बाद यह पहला जलयान  है जो कार्गो लेकर रवाना हुआ है। पिछले लगभग एक साल से किसी भी तरह का कार्गो यहां नहीं आया था। https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/varanasi-city-tagore-ship-carrying-25-tonnes-of-urea-to-kolkata-from-varanasi-will-also-be-uploaded-in-patna-21216087.html  (29 Dec. 2020)

Himachal Pradesh Tattapani-Salappar water transport Two jetties and a common facility will be constructed at Tattapani and Kasol village with an estimated cost of Rs 2.02 crore to develop the proposed water transport facilities between Tattapani and Salappar along Sutlej. Stating this while presiding over a review meeting regarding inland water transport, CM Jai Ram Thakur said the draft agreement from the NTPC for signing an MoU for the use of land for construction of jetties had been received. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/tattapani-salappar-water-transport-gets-a-push-192526  (02 Jan. 2021)

IRRIGATION

URBAN RIVERS

Adyar; Chennai Bed dam planned to divert surplus water to quarries The Water Resources Department plans to build a bed dam across Adyar river downstream of Chembarambakkam reservoir and divert surplus water to Sikkarayapuram quarries to be used for the city’s water supply. The Adyar carried flood water joining in the upper portion, apart from the surplus released from Chembarambakkam reservoir, during the recent rain.

The department recently submitted a proposal to build a bed dam across the river near Kavanur and divert water through a 3.9 km-long cut and cover channel to the Sikkarayapuram quarries. This new channel would have a carrying capacity of 400 cusecs (cubic feet per second). https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/bed-dam-planned-across-adyar-to-divert-surplus-water/article33440488.ece  (29 Dec. 2020)

RIVERS

Study Evidence for a river flowing through the Thar Desert Using luminescence dating of ancient river sediments, a new study published in Quaternary Science Reviews presents evidence for river activity at Nal Quarry in the central Thar Desert starting from approx. 173 thousand years ago. These findings represent the oldest directly dated phase of river activity in the region and indicate Stone Age populations lived in a distinctly different Thar Desert landscape than we encounter today. These findings predate evidence for activity in modern river courses across the Thar Desert as well as dried up course of the Ghaggar-Hakra River.

Map showing the location of Nal Quarry at the threshold of the Asian monsoon, and ~200km away from modern rivers in the Thar Desert. Credit: J. Blinkhorn

A deep deposit of river sands and gravels was studied by the team, which had been exposed by quarrying activity near the village of Nal, just outside of Bikaner. The next phase of research is to demonstrate where the river flowed from. Studies of satellite images have suggested a potential connection with a Himalayan source, such as the Sutlej. https://phys.org/news/2020-10-oldest-dated-evidence-river-thar.amp  (19 Oct. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Sarayu stream found under Ram temple The Ram temple trust in Ayodhya has asked the IITs to suggest better models for the foundation of the temple as a stream of the Sarayu river has been found below it. The construction committee of the temple held deliberations over the matter on (Dec. 29, 2020). During the deliberations, it was realised that the existing model for the foundation of the temple was not feasible as a stream of the Sarayu river is flowing below the temple. https://www.hindustantimes.com/education/ram-temple-trust-asks-iits-to-suggest-models-for-strong-foundation-of-temple/story-10HWGpMofH1ogAJD6hGkBM.html  (30 Dec. 2020)

GANGA NMCG WII scientists to assess ecology of Ganga tributaries In a bid to assess the ecology of Ganga and its tributary rivers and conserve them, a team of researchers of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have started closely studying the 2,500-kilometre-long river, revered by millions of people, that cuts across several states.

According to experts, the Ganga tributaries under scanner – Ramganga, Kosi, Gomti, Ghaghara, Gandak, Yamuna, Chambal, Sone, Ajay, and Rupnarayan — have undergone vast change due to increased pollution and anthropogenic pressure. This will be the first-of-its-kind initiative by scientists to evaluate these rivers inch by inch through their habitat features, aquatic species assessment, and anthropogenic influences. The entire project, being undertaken under the aegis of NMCG, will be executed at an estimated cost of Rs 113 crore. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/in-a-first-wii-scientists-to-assess-ecology-of-ganga-its-tributaries/articleshow/79817116.cms  (20 Dec. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh NGT extends oversight committee term NGT has extended the term of an oversight committee to monitor pollution of Ganga river and oversee compliance of environmental norms in the state saying that unless the government sets up any other effective alternative mechanism, it may not be advisable to close the committee abruptly. Accordingly, the term of the oversight committee, for the time being, will be extended for six months. If the State of U.P. has any other suggestion, it will be open to put forward the same, it said.

The Tribunal noted that initially the tenure of the oversight committee headed by former High Court judge Justice S.V.S. Rathore was for six months which was subsequently extended at different intervals. The oversight committee replaced earlier committees appointed by the tribunal to monitor pollution of Ganga, rejuvenation of river Hindon and associated issues, sand mining at Allahabad, pollution of thermal power stations in Singrauli, pollution of Ramgarh lake and River Ami in Gorakhpur, solid and biomedical waste management norms etc. In the course of time, the committee has been requested to monitor compliance of some other environmental issues also such as relating to water bodies. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ngt-extends-term-of-oversight-committee-to-monitor-pollution-of-ganga/article33422564.ece   (26 Dec. 2020) 

Organic farming belt to come up on either side of Ganga State agriculture and horticulture departments, along with the Jal Shakti department, is rolling out a plan to turn a 5 km radius along both sides of the Ganga into an organic farming belt and in the process giving farmers a “new and diversified income platform”.

In addition to proper management of solid waste, disposal of garbage, polythene will be banned completely in villages along the Ganga. A senior official of the Namami Gange department said the use of chemical fertilizers was a major cause of pollution in the Ganga and the idea now is to stop it completely. Trees and plants like peepal (sacred fig), pakad (white fig), mango, jamun (black plum) and banyan will be planted along the river to protect its banks from erosion and degradation.

Ganga nurseries will be developed in every district and geo-tagging of all the plants along the river will be done to prevent their theft. For this, help from the forest department will also be taken. A campaign will also be launched to free land along the Ganga from encroachment so that these places become attractive for tourists. Ganga stadiums will also be built in villages along the river for promotion of sports. Renovation and beautification of ponds along the river are also part of the plan.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/organic-farming-belt-to-come-up-on-either-side-of-ganga-in-uttar-pradesh/story-S9c6rNnmCx9GfB6YxYM7eO.html  (21 Dec. 2020)

YAMUNA Haryana Little progress in reducing pollution The Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC in its recently submitted fifth report to the NGT, has described Haryana’s progress in reducing pollutants entering the Yamuna river as “negligible”. The Haryana government had, in September last year, set December 2020 as the deadline for upgrading sewage treatment infrastructure, in fulfilment of long-pending instructions from the NGT.

However, random inspections of 24 STPs in Panipat, Sonepat, Rohtak, Bahadurgarh, Gurugram, Faridabad, Yamunanagar and Palwal over the past three months have revealed operational deficiencies in at least 16 of them. These 16 plants have an operational capacity of 452 MLD against Haryana’s total sewage generation of 1,164MLD. “The SOP prepared for operation and maintenance of STPs are not being followed… the compliance status given by the line departments were incorrect and the officers of HSPCB being the regulatory authority are not performing their duty assigned under the Provision of Water Act, 1974/EPA 1986,” the YMC committee report notes.

The YMC also randomly inspected 12 CETPs in these same districts and found none of them to be complying with pollution control norms. “Contrary to the claims of complying status by the Line Department, all these 12 Nos. of CETPs is found non-complying. The HSIIDC is constructing the CETPs without considering the effluent characteristics of the industries operating in the Industrial Estate,” the YMC has noted.

“Our last review of the matter was in January 2020. Since then, only an additional 1.2 percent of Haryana’s total sewage per day is being diverted to treatment plants. So any benefit, if at all, is negligible,” said a member of the YMC, requesting anonymity. Of the 1,164MLD of sewage produced in Haryana, at least 500MLD is untreated, while a significant chunk of the remains is only partly treated due to operational deficiencies with STPs.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/little-progress-by-haryana-in-reducing-yamuna-pollution-ngt-committee/story-icTygwubhcZ0U9967pG7zM.html  (31 Dec. 2020)

Yamuna panel pulls up state for not naming erring officials In its fifth report submitted to the NGT recently, the panel has said that the government has failed to adhere to its orders issued on September 11, 2019. The orders had called for Rs 5 lakh per month (per STP) as compensation to the CPCB if operational deficiency is not fixed within three months.

Regarding the under-construction STPs, the NGT had ordered to deposit Rs 10 lakh per month per incomplete STP after July 1, besides Rs 10 lakh per month for discharging untreated effluent.

The report adds, “Officials of the HSPCB are not performing their duty assigned under the Provision of Water Act and the 1974/Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986.” The next date of hearing by the NGT has been fixed for January 27.  https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/yamuna-panel-pulls-up-state-for-not-naming-erring-officials-191104  (30 Dec. 2020)

Meanwhile Panipat industrial effluents continue to pollute Yamuna. https://www.facebook.com/sandrp.in/posts/4121882504506058  (04 Jan. 2021)

Delhi Floodplain farmers can ensure sustainability; social justice Cities all over the world are now adopting urban farming to build their resilience to climatic and planetary shocks such as Covid-19.

This is one of the abiding paradoxes of the development model India has adopted. It aspires to be clean and green, but has been unable to appreciate existing, traditional farming practices. Why should farmers bear the burden of cleaning up the Yamuna or Delhi’s desire to build a world-class riverfront?

Creating accessible public spaces and rejuvenating urban ecology need not mean that the people who already exist on ground should be left out. Alternatives such as a shift to floriculture are possible and are more conciliatory than forced evictions. Not only is it possible to integrate farming practices in this collective vision for Delhi’s future, the farming communities could also be integral for ecological restoration as custodians of the riverbed. Therein lies a more sustainable model for a “world-class” city, departing from the top-down visions that have dictated the previous Master Plans for Delhi. https://scroll.in/article/978915/by-including-farmers-in-yamuna-riverfront-plan-delhi-can-ensure-sustainability-and-social-justice  (20 Dec. 2020)

Wetland is brought back to life in south Delhi Over the past six months, officials at DDA’s South Delhi Biodiversity Park have removed garbage, construction waste and raw sewage residue from the Yamuna floodplain near Kalindi Colony and revived a “ringed” wetland that ultimately feeds clean water into the river. With islands in the middle, it also supports migratory birds. This is in addition to a work being carried out to revive a 2.5km-long wetland, also fed by raw sewage from neighbouring colonies. The park, likely to open by the end of next year, will also have 12 “constructed wetlands” — natural systems made using boulders, pebbles and plants to purify dirty water, which will help in releasing clean water into the Yamuna.

Professor C R Babu, head of CEMDCE said each wetland would be inter-connected with small islands and larger mounds created around them, with 12 constructed wetlands naturally purifying the sewage water from nearby drains. The park is located along Kalindi Colony and fed sewage from Batla House, Zakir Nagar, Kheejrabad and Taimur Nagar. “One constructed wetland is functional, but the natural channel of the river Yamuna has been diverted and is being passed through the floodplain where the soil itself acts as a filter and removes impurities,” Babu said. The ringed wetland has been dug up to create an elevation difference and this will eventually connect to the larger wetland, which will enter the Yamuna, he added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/twin-gains-as-ringed-wetland-is-brought-back-to-life-in-s-delhi/articleshow/79887128.cms  (23 Dec. 2020)

Review Sanjay Lake plan, says activist Yamuna activist Manoj Mishra on Monday (Dec. 28, 2020) wrote to LG Anil Baijal and CM Arvind Kejriwal for a third-party evaluation of the proposed Sanjay Lake View Complex project. Sanjay Lake is the ox-bow waterbody of the Yamuna and located on the river’s previous channel, said Mishra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. Its floodplain sensitivities are as grave as the Yamuna’s, he added.

“Any highrise apartment on it is highly susceptible to damage and destruction from liquefaction in case of a serious earthquake,” Mishra wrote, claiming that plans of green buildings and reuse of waste water couldn’t take away the fundamental risks involved in such constructions. “Sanjay Lake requires a restoration plan that secures its catchment for it can’t continue to remain propped up” through groundwater extraction.

However, a DDA official said, “A public consultation will be carried out before starting any work. The area is not part of the Yamuna floodplain and the lake’s catchment area would not be affected.” The plan includes highrise apartments with uninterrupted view of the huge waterbody in east Delhi and various commercial units. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/delhi-review-sanjay-lake-plan-says-activist/articleshow/80005086.cms  (29 Dec. 2020)

Look into plea alleging discharge of untreated sewage in Sanjay Lake: NGT to DDA The NGT has directed the DDA to look into a plea alleging garbage burning and discharge of untreated sewage into Sanjay lake. NGT asked the DDA’s Vice Chairman to ensure proper action in the matter expeditiously. The tribunal’s order came on a plea filed by city resident R P Singhal alleging that the Sanjay Lake park is being polluted by ingress of sewage in the water body.  The petitioner alleged that DDA has completely failed to respond to the serious issues relating to garbage burning as well as the discharge of untreated sewage into the lake and the park. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-directs-dda-to-look-into-plea-alleging-discharge-of-untreated-sewage-in-east-delhi-lake/article33263591.ece  (06 Dec. 2020)

Ammonia pollution rises DJB vice chairman Raghav Chadha blamed the Haryana government on Tuesday (Dec. 29) for releasing industrial effluents in the river “despite repeated reminders.” He also asked the CPCB and the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) to look into the issue and sternly deal with “irresponsible behaviour” of the Haryana government.

Drain number 8 brings potable water to the capital and drain number 6 carries wastewater. The two drains often mix due to overflow or damage to the wall that separates them. Haryana’s irrigation department is expected to start a tendering process to build a conduit pipeline and prevent the mixing of two drains, officials said.

The laying of a conduit pipeline to separate drain number 8 and 6 would also reduce pollution of potable water, however, it is not clear when would this be completed. The YMC has also said that fast-track approvals should be given to build a conduit.

Moreover, the Committee had also recommended to the Ministry of Jal Shakti earlier this year to rework the 1994 water sharing pact between Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The recommendation is based on the need to revive the Yamuna by releasing more fresh water into it, which would help maintain a certain environmental flow for the river to sustain its functions throughout the year. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/dirty-water-wars-why-its-delhi-versus-haryana-on-yamunas-ammonia-levels-7125420/  (30 Dec. 2020)

The CPCB had earlier this month raised concerns over pollution and frothing in the river and asked Delhi, Haryana and UP to ensure effective sewage treatment. According to a CPCB statement, the monitoring of 22 drains in Delhi has found 14 drains “untapped and discharging sewage”.

In the past, the CPCB had observed froth formation and increase in ammonia levels in the Yamuna because of discharge of untreated sewage, non-operation of existing STPs, improper functioning of effluent treatment plants installed by the industries and common effluent treatment plants located on the banks of the river.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/raghav-chadha-urges-cpcb-to-intervene-as-yamuna-pollution-rises/story-lKZee4R35ZfSEJ32sfeDaN.html  (29 Dec. 2020)

The DJB will consider moving court against the “apathetic” Haryana government as it is yet to stop the discharge of pollutants into the Yamuna which affect drinking water supply in the national capital, the utility’s Vice Chairman Raghav Chadha said on Thursday (Dec. 30). https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2020/dec/31/yamuna-pollution-will-consider-moving-court-against-haryana-govt-says-djb-vice-chairman-chadha-2243705.html  (31 Dec. 2020)

RIVER BIODIVERSITY

Are Gharials Threatened by Illegal Mining in Chambal? Image Source: TWI

Madhya Pradesh Endangered Chambal Gharials Find New Home in Kuno Gharial (Gavialis Gangeticus) has found a new home in Kuno, a tributary of Chambal river in the upstream. Over a year after a female gharial showed way to a safe haven to it’s threatened reptile species, 25 gharials were released in the river, the lifeline of Kuno Palpur national park. Continued to be threatened by the illegal sand mining in National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary in Morena, the forest department decided to introduce the reptiles in the river.  Five males gharials and 20 female-reptiles were released, said the divisional forest officer of Kuno wildlife division PK Verma .Besides, threatened  chambal turtles were also released.

– Kuno flows through the Kuno Palpur national Park in Sheopur district of MP, awaiting a pair of lions for two decades for translocation from Gir.  The river flows from south to north in the park draining the other rivulets and tributaries into Chambal in Morena, at MP-Rajasthan border. About 180 km long , it originates from the Shivpuri plateau and passes through districts of Shivpuri, Sheopur and Morena.

– The gharials which chose to lay eggs on the quiet banks of the Kuno River were radio -tagged in 2017 by the scientists of Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBTCH) under telemetry research to learn more on their movements and nesting.  Zailabdeen Sheikh  the scientist  studying the gharials said, “During research, we have found that a female gharial went to Kuno but didn’t return. When we traced, the gharial  was found along with it’s nest in Kuno . Besides sand mining the rising population of gharials in Chambal may also be the reason for the dispersal of the reptile.”  But statistics suggest the gharial population in Chambal River had declined to 1,255 in 2017 from close to 1,800 in 2015. For the 2019 census, the department decided to include Parwati River also, and therefore, the number of gharials in Chambal river basin increased to 1,681. https://www.thewildlifeindia.com/2020/12/endangered-chambal-gharials-find-new.html  (30 Dec. 2020)

Uttar Pradesh Second dolphin death in 5 days in Bulandshahr In the latest instance, a dolphin was found dead in the lower Ganga canal near Ramghat bridge on Tuesday (Oct. 13). Previously, a young dolphin was found dead near Narora village on October 9. Earlier in January, a dolphin was found dead near Jalapur Jora village Meerut’s Hastinapur area. A senior forest official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Prima facie, illegal fishing in the river seems to be the reason for the death of these two dolphins.”

Dr Sandeep Behera, consultant of NGMC, said, “We must put an effective check on the frequent death of dolphins.” He said the stretch of Ganga between Narora and Garhmukteshwar was declared a Ramsar site (wetland site of international importance) because of these dolphins and the community’s participation in their conservation. But, he alleged, officials could not develop a management plan for the site in past 15 years.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/second-dolphin-death-in-5-days-in-up-s-bulandshahr-probe-panel-set-up/story-rQoT9ctoGJikfEaty8UJiJ.html  (14 Oct. 2020)

प्रतापगढ़ में डाल्फिन को पीट-पीटकर मार डाला  नवाबगंज थाना क्षेत्र के कोथरिया गांव के पास से गुजरी शारदा सहायक नहर का पानी बुधवार को बंद कर दिया गया था। इसके चलते नहर में पानी कम हो गया था। सुबह ग्रामीणों ने नहर में एक बड़ी मछली घूम रही थी। मछली के आकार को देखकर लोगों में उत्सुकता जगी। खबर फैलने पर लोगों की भीड़ जुटती गई।

ग्रामीण उसे डाल्फिन बता रहे थे। साथ ही लोगों के लिए उसे खतरनाक बताया। इस बात का इतना असर हुआ कि लोगों की ने उसे पीट-पीटकर मार डाला। नहर में पानी कम होने के चलते डाल्फिन वहां से जा नहीं सकी। बाद में इसकी जानकारी वन विभाग को हुई तो रेंजर सहित अन्य लोग मौके पर पहुंचे। सूचना पर पुलिस भी आ गई। https://www.amarujala.com/uttar-pradesh/allahabad/dolphin-beaten-to-death-in-pratapgarh-allahabad-news-ald295480829  (01 Jan. 2020) 

सरपतहा गांव के पास शारदा सहायक से निकली अदलाबाद माइनर में डॉल्फिन आ गई। ग्रामीणों ने उसे पीट-पीटकर मार डाला। माइनर में पानी के तेज बहाव के साथ डॉल्फिन पहुंच गई। माइनर में वह मात्र 500 मीटर आगे पहुंची होगी, तभी उक्त गांव के पास ग्रामीणों ने देखा। देखते ही देखते ग्रामीण उस पर टूट पड़े और लाठी-डंडों से पीट-पीटकर उसे मार डाला। https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/raebareli-dolphin-reached-in-minervillagers-beated-and-killed-21224498.html  (01 Jan. 2021)

करीब आठ फीट लंबी मृत मछली को गंगा डॉल्फिन के रूप में पहचाना गया। मछली का पोस्टमार्टम कराने पर पता चला कि धारदार हथियार से वार करने से मछली की मौत हुई है। यह करीब डेढ़ कुंतल वजन की थी। उसके शव को नहर के किनारे गड्ढा खोदकर दफना दिया गया। इस बारे में वन रेंजर आरके सिंह का कहना है कि मृत पाई गई मछली गंगा सुंइस या गंगा डाल्फिन लग रही है। नहर में गंगा से पानी आता है। पानी बंद होने से मछली आगे नहीं जा पाई होगी। इसी से लोगों की नजर में आ गई। https://www.jagran.com/uttar-pradesh/pratapgarh-ruthlessly-killed-dolphins-for-food-up-prayagraj-pratapgarh-21224858.html  (31 Dec. 2020)

Meghalaya Newly discovered fish species named after a local youth Meghalaya boosted its name as a key area for biodiversity conservation because of its high species diversity, which led to the discovery of a new species of Channa, a genus of predatory fish in the family Channidae, commonly known as snakehead (locally known as Dohthli), native to freshwater habitats in Asia.

Channa AristoneiPhoto by PRAVEENRAJ JAYASIMHAN

This species of Channa is named ‘Channa aristonei’ after a Shillong-based freshwater enthusiast and former MMA fighter Aristone M. Ryndongsngi, who also holds a degree in Fisheries Science from St Anthony’s College, Shillong. Ryndongsngi discovered the species in 2017 when he accidentally collected the new species, thinking that it is Channa pardalis, and was trying to find the habitat of this snakehead species, discovered from West Khasi Hills in 2016. https://www.thenortheasttoday.com/current-affairs/states/meghalaya/newly-discovered-fish-species-in-meghalaya-named-after-a-local-youth-2  (27 Dec. 2020)

Odisha Carcass of whale shark found The carcass of a whale shark washed ashore Dec. 31, 2020 three km from the coast near the Baradia river mouth in Balasore district, local fishing workers informed forest officials. “The shark was perhaps hit by some ship or fishing vessel deep sea and the body was washed ashore,” Sukumar Dash, Chandipur forest range officer, said. The 12-feet-long whale shark had scars and evidence of previous entanglements — common for the species because of their feeding habits Dash added. An autopsy is due.

“The whale shark is a filter-feeder shark, which means it does not eat meat like other sharks. They filter sea water and feed on tiny planktons. They are distributed globally, but the population is declining in India,” Sajan John of WTI, said. “The largest whale shark aggregation is in Gujarat; the only aggregation along east coast is in Andhra Pradesh. Accidental entanglement in fishing net is a major threat to this animal. Whale sharks have no any commercial importance, but fishers illegally extract their fins and livers,” added John who has works to conserve whale sharks in Gujarat. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/wildlife-biodiversity/carcass-of-whale-shark-found-in-odisha-74859  (31 Dec. 2020)

FISH, FISHERIES, FISHERFOLKS

SANDRP Blog Dammed Fisheries of India Parineeta Dandekar on how inland fisheries and fisherfolks in India are affected by dams. https://sandrp.in/2020/12/30/dammed-fisheries-of-india/  (30 Dec. 2020)

Inland Fish, Fisheries, Fisher-folks: 2020 Overview A review of developments related to INLAND FISHERIES in India in 2020. Inland fisheries support millions of people and remains a major source of nutrition for a very large number of poorest people. This includes riverine fisheries, reservoir fisheries, wetland and local water body fisheries. The overview has following sections: Policy & Governance in Centre, followed by in States, some positive developments, Covid-19 & Fishing Community, Fisher folks’ struggles, New Fish Species, Invasive fish, Fish Deaths & Pollution, Over fishing & Extinction, Studies related to inland fisheries. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/03/inland-fish-fisheries-fisher-folks-2020-overview/  (03 Jan. 2021)

Meghalaya Hundreds of dead fishes found floating in Lukha Hundreds of fishes and fingerlings died and were found floating on the ‘mysterious blue’ waters of river Lukha in East Jaintia hills district on Dec 26, 2020. Since 2007, waters of river Lukha turn blue during the winter months. But, this year, the water quality has reportedly deteriorated further, and has turned ‘deep blue’. The cement factories around Thangskai and Lumshnong are the main cause for the pollution in the river system in East Jaintia hills district. While the cement companies have always been claiming that they were not responsible for changing colour of Lukha river, according to experts Calcium Carbonate slush from limestone mines can change colour of river waters to ‘blue’. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/meghalaya/hundreds-of-dead-fishes-found-floating-on-blue-lukha-river-in-jaintia-hills-of-meghalaya.html  (26 Dec. 2020)

Kerala Oil sardine on path of revival; experts advise caution Oil sardine, Kerala’s staple fish which had been on the decline in the state’s coast for the past many years, is on the path of revival, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Kochi, said on Friday (Jan. 1). However, the institute has cautioned fishers in the state about catching the sardine as they are still below the reproductive age.

Catching these sardine stocks extensively may badly affect the expected revival of the fish, the CMFRI stated. Upon assessing the sexual maturity of the fish, a team of researchers at the CMFRI found that the sardines which are of a size of 14 to 16 cm are yet to reach the reproductive stage. The CMFRI researchers said that three more months will be required for the fish schools to attain full maturity. The research team has also revealed that in the discovered fish stock, spawning stock biomass which is the total weight of fish in a stock that have attained reproductive maturity for spawning is meagre. The CMFRI has stated that regulating the fishing of sardines at present, will help augment the revival of the fish along the Kerala coast. The CMFRI also stated that if regulated, the revival of oil sardine in Kerala will be quicker.

Oil sardine landing in Kerala had been on a sharp decline for the past five years. Though sardine landing reported a slight increase in 2017, it dipped further in the following years. In the annual study report released in June 2020, the CMFRI stated that in 2019, sardine landing was the lowest in two decades at just 44,320 tonnes. The CMFRI had earlier found that unfavourable conditions in the ocean ecosystem following the El Nino phenomenon were behind the fluctuations in the availability of sardine. A huge dip in the catch in 2019 had led to a sharp hike in the price of the fish. At the time, the price of the fish, which was at Rs 60 to 100 per kg, had shot up to Rs 300 kg. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/oil-sardine-path-revival-kerala-coast-experts-advise-caution-140673  (01 Jan. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh Mahseer fish number up The Fisheries Department is emphasizing its main focus on artificial breeding of Golden Mahseer fish and by conserving and ranching of the river system with Mahseer seed would also promote eco-tourism in the state. The state recorded  20900, 28700 and 41450  Golden Mahseer fish eggs production in the year 2017-18  year 2018-19 and year 2019-20 respectively. The state has recorded highest 45.311 MT Mahseer catches during these years.

Director Fisheries Satpal Mehta said despite being declared as endangered species, it is found abundantly in the state which contributes about 10-15 percent of total catch in the state reservoirs especially in Pong reservoir. He said that state’s water bodies are home to 85 fish species, including Rohu, Catla and Mrigal and Trout, both brown and rainbow. Total 492 MT fish has been marketed outside state during last financial year.

The state government is also setting up new Mahseer hatchery-cum-carp breeding unit at Sunni in district Shimla with an estimated cost of Rs 297 lakh to develop methods of breeding under safe conditions in hatcheries. An estimated 12,000 record highest hatching are expected during this year out of 41450 eggs produced this year so far. https://sunpost.in/mahaseer-fish-number-up-in-himachal/  (20 Dec. 2020)

Odisha Elephants destroy prawn farms, fishing boats  A herd of 14 elephants destroyed prawn farms in Bahuda lake in Ganjam on December 29, 2020. Wild elephants often enter villages in search of food, and damage the paddy crops, vegetables, granaries, etc. But this is the first time they have damaged the prawn farms in the Bahuda lake.

Photo Ashish Senapati; DTE

Changes in Ganjam district has destroyed habitats and traditional corridors of elephants, bringing them into frequent conflict with humans. As many as 14 elephant corridors were officially identified by the government in Jan 2010 that included three interstate corridors with West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Rs 20 crore was spent on these corridors for improvement. However they are not protected under the law, said Biswajit Mohanty, secretary Wildlife Society of Odisha. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/gallery/wildlife-biodiversity/elephants-destroy-prawn-farms-fishing-boats-in-odisha-74838  (30 Dec. 2020)

Assam Community fishing banned in Deepor Beel The Ban is not due to Covid issue, but for conservation, it is suggested. The government has imposed section 144 CrPC under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 prohibiting assembly of more than five persons in and around Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary for community fishing. The prohibitory order has been imposed in the wildlife sanctuary located to the south-west of the city from January 1 to January 31, 2021. Villagers from the areas around Deepor Beel take part in the community fishing in the wetland to welcome the New Year. https://www.thenortheasttoday.com/current-affairs/states/assam/assam-community-fishing-banned-in-deepor-beel  (31 Dec. 2020)

RIVERBED MINING

Karnataka Sand mining worse than iron ore mining: Activist As the Karnataka government has lifted a ban on sand mining and is all set to announce a new policy, well-known environmental and anti-corruption activist SR Hiremath in an interview with The New Sunday Express said that sand mining is worse than illegal iron ore mining, which he fought against and won. He also revealed how many politicians are involved in the sand mining mafia and why the policy is being pushed now.

On alternative:- M-sand is an alternative, but it is equally disastrous to ecology and local people. Another alternative, which is being explored is recirculation: extracting sand from debris. The real alternative is to use the minimum necessary quantity of sand by controlling our unnecessary aspirations, changing our perspective and lifestyle.

On Policy:- The sand policy is not as big a problem as it sounds. But the challenge before the government and citizens is how to effectively deal with the powerful sand mafia, which has well-entrenched corrupt politicians and officials.

On Industry:- The question of striking the balance should be answered not just in the short term concerning only the real estate sector, but also with a long-term perspective, considering a healthy relationship between nature, society and culture. But unfortunately, this perspective is not included in the development approach and that lacuna is leading not only to climate change and its disastrous consequences but also total lack of accountability. These vital issues were raised by us in our PIL (WP No.562/2009) and subsequent writ petitions relating to Goa and Odisha. The apex court, however, addressed them to a limited extent. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/jan/03/sand-mining-worse-than-iron-ore-mining-activist-2244763.html  (03 Jan. 2021)

Sand Policy at odds with Kasturirangan report Sand Policy 2020 notified on May 21, 2020 but yet to be implemented, powers have been given to Gram Panchayats to issue permits for transportation of sand through bullockcarts and tractors to consumers in villages for their own consumption from I, II, III order streams by collecting a fixed fee. Licences in these streams will be issued to Gram Panchayats by a committee headed by the assistant commissioner at the taluk level.

From streams of IV, V and VI order, the sand blocks will be allotted to Karnataka State Minerals Corp (south Karnataka) and Hatti Gold Mines (north Karnataka) for extraction, transportation, stocking and supply of sand to consumers on a fixed rate. For the first time, the State has also allowed extraction of sand from tanks, backwaters of reservoirs etc.

One of the recommendations of the Dr K Kasturirangan report is a complete ban on mining, quarrying and mining of sand in ecologically sensitive areas. This will be in direct conflict with Sand Policy 2020. If the report is implemented, all the 1,533 villages will not be able to make use of powers given to Gram Panchayats.  The state’s Sand Policy 2020 is on the lines Andhra Pradesh’s policy and shifts from past policies by classifying the streams as I, II, II, IV, V and VI. The classification will not stand legal scrutiny if the streams are not notified under relevant laws.

Sand mining in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests would largely affect the riparian ecosystem, fauna and flora. A riparian ecosystem is a vegetated area near a stream, usually thickly forested, which helps shade and partially protect the stream. It plays a key role in increasing water quality in associated streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Sand mining will destroy them, enhance the drying of perennial steams leading to extinction of amphibians, fish and other water habitat fauna/flora.

As per the estimation of the Mines Department, around 45 million metric tonnes (MMT) of sand is required in the State per year. Of this, around 30 MMT is produced and supplied as manufactured sand (M-sand). About 4.5 MMT of natural sand is supplied legally from various sources. Some sand comes from other states. There is a gap of about 8.5-10 MMT of sand which is supplied and procured illegally. Some agencies put the requirement between 60 and 70 MMT per year. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2021/jan/03/karnatakas-sand-policy-at-odds-with-kasturirangan-report-2244764.html  (03 Jan. 2021)

Rajasthan SC panel recommends Rs 10 lakh per vehicle fine The central empowered committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court has recommended imposing a fine of Rs 10 lakh per vehicle and Rs 5 lakh per cubic meter of sand seized as penalty against illegal Bajri mining in Rajasthan.

In February, the SC had constituted the committee to look into illegal sand mining in the state and submit a report suggesting measures to deal with it. After visiting relevant places and understanding the details of the illegal trade, the committee recently submitted the report, which comprises 111point recommendations.

The CEC suggests that the ministry of environment and forest issues environment clearance to all the valid LoI (letter of intent) holders recommended by the expert appraisal committee (EAC) in its meeting, held during 2014-2016, without insisting on submission of scientific study report as a precondition for the grant of EC within a period of three months, said a senior official of the mines department.

In absence of replenishment study and environment clearance, the Supreme Court in November 2017 had banned bajri mining and directed the state government to ensure that illegal mining does not take place. Official data tabled in the Assembly states that between April 1, 2018 and July 31, 2020, a total of 3,076 FIRs and 33,317 complaints have been registered for violations of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. Also, in this period, the state government compounded Rs 216.19 crore as fine from the violators.

Other recommendation of the CEC recommends that all the Khatedari leases located within 5 kms from the river bank as well as leases, where violation of the lease conditions including misuse of e-ravannas are detected, are terminated forthwith and the state government shall not issue fresh Khatedari leases except for Palaeo deposits in district of Bikaner without the approval of this court, said a senior official on anonymity.

The state government will constitute an empowered committee headed by the chief secretary to consider and settle claims of excess payments collected from the LoI holders. The state government is directed to conduct a drone survey in respect of all the remaining Khatedari leases within the next four months to assess the irregularities if any committed by them, he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sc-panel-recommends-rs-10-lakh-per-vehicle-fine-to-curb-illegal-bajri-mining-in-rajasthan/story-GrzF9aGnHKt02ye3tkPP5I.html  (01 Jan. 2021)

Goa Govt to decide on permitting legal sand mining from Chapora The State government is likely to take a call on permitting legal sand mining from the riverbed of Chapora and its tributaries. However, no mining activities will be allowed along Mandovi, Zuari and Tiracol rivers pending completion of ongoing Sand Mining Impact and River Biodiversity Index study by the Department of Environment.

Image source The Herald.

A senior official told Herald that the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has completed the impact study of Chapora River and its tributaries. “The study of Mandovi River is in process and the same is likely to be completed in next two-three months,” the official said. “The Government, through Environment Department and DMG will take a call on granting sand mining permits in Chapora River based on the findings of the impact study,” the official said.

The Directorate of Mines and Geology (DMG) had not renewed or granted sand mining permits for last three seasons- 2018, 2019 and 2020, after an NGO approached the High Court of Bombay at Goa seeking restrictions on the number of sand mining permits. DMG had issued over 300 sand mining permits for the 2017 season with a cap of 1,400 cubic metres per permit. For last three years, Goa has been dependent on other States for export of sand. The non-grant of permits, also gave rise to large scale rampant illegal sand extraction.

The official said at present DMG is not in a position to grant any permits for sand mining activities, unless the Environment Department grants Environment Clearance (EC).  “As per EC norms, the State has to conduct the study of rivers to assess the impact of sand mining activities so far. The study will give a clear picture of the impact sand mining has had on the ecological equilibrium of river and marine life,” the official said. “Riverbed mining causes several alterations to the physical characteristics of a river and riverbed. These can severely impact the ecological equilibrium of a river and damage plants, animals and riparian habitats,” the official added. https://www.heraldgoa.in/Goa/State-may-take-call-on-permitting-legal-sand-mining-from-Chapora-riverbed/169165  (29 Dec. 2020)

Andhra Pradesh Govt likely to tie up with PSU for sand mining, supply Govt is likely to enter into an MoU with a public sector undertaking with regards to the mining and supply of sand. The officials of the Mining dept might enter into an agreement with Metal Scrap Trade Corp (MSTC) next week. Whether the agency will take up the task of implementing the revised sand policy of the State govt on its own or it will appoint another agency is yet to be finalised.

The AP Principal Secretary (Mines and Panchayat Raj and Rural Development) Gopala Krishna Dwivedi said that the talks are in the final stage with the PSU, after they had received response from several Central agencies about implementing the revised sand policy and explaining the proposal to them.

The Government has recently cleared the new sand policy where it has decided to hand over the entire sand mining activity to a single entity. The State further intends to seek help from a Central Government agency for this purpose. Under the new policy, people would be authorised to examine the quality of sand and transport it in their own vehicles after the booking is done online. The Cabinet also proposed a price list that would vary based on the delivery point from each supply or mining point. https://english.sakshi.com/news/andhrapradesh/ap-govt-likely-tie-psu-sand-mining-supply-128435  (03 Jan. 2021)

West Bengal Tensions over illegal sand mining  Tensions have risen in the Chandur area of ​​the Darkeshwar river in Arambagh over illegal extraction of sand from the river in defiance of government guidelines. According to police sources, the owners of the sand dunes have been illegally cutting the banks of the river for a long time. Even the sand-laden lorry with him went through the road illegally every day and the houses and roads became dusty. 

As soon as residents of the area surrounded the road and protested against the long-running incident, they started quarreling with the locals. After that, widespread tension spread throughout the area. Later the situation became so bad that the police of Arambagh police station came to the spot and brought the situation under control. After that the police stopped the sand mining work. Locals allege that the mine owners are illegally extracting sand. They are destroying the roads by driving illegally on the roads of the area. http://7anews.com/tensions-erupt-over-illegal-sand-mining-in-arambaghs-dwarkeshwar-river-area/  (03 Jan. 2021)

Telangana Officials asked to act tough against illegal mining Nizamabad Collector C Narayana Reddy ordered Revenue, Roads and Buildings officials to prevent illegal sand mining, transportation and speed up double bedroom houses construction works. At a review meeting on illegal sand mining, Collector directed officials to provide sufficient sand for 2BHK house works in district and told to take action against those who were illegally mining sand in the name of 2BHK housing scheme. “Allow sand transportation in day time only for double bedroom house works”, said Reddy. Additional collector Chandrashekhar, R&B officials were present at the meeting. https://telanganatoday.com/nizamabad-officials-asked-to-act-tough-against-illegal-sand-mining  (31 Dec. 2020)

Study Busting Illegal Sand Miners With Sand “Fingerprinting” Geologists are now suggesting we “fingerprint” sand. While it might seem like it’s always the same stuff, sand can differ a lot depending on where it came from. During the 2020 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, geologists suggested taking a closer look at the sand people are buying.

To make sand “fingerprinting” cost effective, geologists are going to start by analyzing sand in the United States, where sources and destinations are well known. Next, they’ll work with colleagues from around the country to collect and catalog sand from home improvement stores around the country. Finally, they’ll work to see if they can figure out where the sand came from and see if they got it right. https://cleantechnica.com/2020/12/30/busting-illegal-sand-miners-with-sand-fingerprinting/  (30 Dec. 2020)

WETLANDS, LAKES, WATER BODIES

Tamil Nadu Govt made Ennore map disappear  In 1996, the govt formulated the Coastal Zone Management Plan. But in a few months, the map will be gone! This was replaced with the 1997 Coastal Zone Management Plan. Why did the government do this? What has this got to do with the arrival of factories in the Ennore area? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=By3La73hXz0&feature=youtu.be  (02 Jan. 2021)

Himachal Pradesh Migratory birds continue to die With the inexplicable death of migratory water fowls continuing to rise in Pong Dam Lake, authorities have closed the wetland to both locals and tourists. Over 1,000 birds of different species have mysteriously died since the first deaths were reported on December 28. Preliminary postmortem reports have ruled out poisoning. Forest minister Rakesh Pathania had ordered a probe into the matter soon after the dead birds were found.

The Pong Dam Wetland—an International Ramsar Site— hosts more than 1 lakh migratory birds of over 100 species, that fly thousands of kilometers from the trans-Himalayan Region and Central Asia in winter every year. The Pong Dam Lake, constructed on the Beas river in 1960, was declared a bird sanctuary in 1983 and given the status of the wetland of national importance in 1994. In 2002, it got the status of a Ramsar site. Last year, 1.15 lakh birds of 114 species were spotted on the wetland. The bar-headed geese are most plentiful in Pong. https://www.hindustantimes.com/chandigarh/migratory-birds-continue-to-die-officials-shut-hp-s-pong-wetland/story-UGOFoemLxmdZr8S0vvqmdO.html  (03 Jan. 2021)

A dead bar-headed goose in the Pong Dam Lake. Officials say the birds exhibited an inability to take off despite having healthy wings before succumbing.(HT Photo )

The incident has led to concerns as Pong wetland is an important winter ground for nearly 100,000 birds of over 110 species. Post mortem of the dead birds was conducted at Fatehpur. The preliminary findings of the post mortem ruled out suspicions of poisoning, informed DCF Wildlife Hamirpur. https://himachalwatcher.com/2020/12/30/migratory-bird-deaths-in-pong-dam-wetland/  (30 Dec. 2020) More than 750 migratory birds have been found dead under mysterious circumstances at the Pong Dam lake in recent days, according to wildlife officials. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/himachal-over-400-migratory-birds-found-dead-at-pong-dam-lake-7126828/  (31 Dec. 2020)

WATER OPTIONS

Commentary Cost-effective technology options for FSM Compared to centralised sewerage systems, Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) is a faster and cost-effective alternative as it aims to fix gaps in the sanitation value chain by tapping into already existing systems and infrastructure, at the local level, in a scientific manner ensuring easy adoption and sustainability over a long term, write the authors of this commentary.  https://india.mongabay.com/2020/12/commentary-cost-effective-technology-options-for-faecal-sludge-management/  (23 Dec. 2020)

GROUNDWATER

Maharashtra Purandar taluka ‘critical’ at 91% groundwater extraction Groundwater extraction at some villages in Purandar taluka of Pune district, which has been designated for the proposed Pune international airport, has reached ‘critical’ levels. Some villages here have been termed ‘unfit’ for further groundwater extraction, a report released by the Groundwater Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) has stated.

The GSDA has prepared hydrogeological reports under the Atal Bhujal Yojana for select districts and talukas of Maharashtra. Also known as Atal Jal, this Rs 6,000 crore scheme is partly funded by the World Bank. The scheme was implemented last year in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These states were chosen in the pilot phase after it was found that the groundwater table in these states were fast depleting in recent years. Atal Jal will be implemented over the next five years and is expected to benefit about 8,350 gram panchayats in 78 districts across India. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/taluka-for-proposed-pune-intl-airport-termed-critical-after-91-groundwater-found-extracted-7123406/  (28 Dec. 2020)

Tamil Nadu Treated water to be used to recharge groundwater: Velumani Treated water from a treatment plant in Ondipudur would be used to recharge groundwater and help farmers irrigate lands, Municipal Administration Minister S.P. Velumani said here on Sunday (20 Dec.) while participating in the ground-breaking ceremony organised to launch the scheme. A release from the district administration quoting the Minister said the State Government, based on representation from farmers in Chettipalayam, Pattanam and Peedampalli had sanctioned ₹4.76 crore to pump the treated water from the plant to fill ‘kadukuttai’.

The 60 million litres to be treated at the Ondipudur plant would flow into a 2.60 lakh litre sump. A motor near the sump would pump 3.06 cusecs water in such a way that in 16 hours it pumped 50 lakh litres. At this rate, the release said, it would take 15 days to fill the 2.60 mcft (million cubic feet) kadukuttai tank. As the water flowed through 4,590 metre-long pipeline, it would recharge 14 tanks in Chettipalayam, nine in Peedampalli and four in Pattanam.

In short, the scheme would help recharge groundwater and thereby farmers can irrigate 10,000 hectares. In the process, the scheme would also help increase water level in wells and borewells. And, the number of beneficiaries would be around 30,000 farmers. The scheme was in keeping with the State Government’s commitment to help farmers, the release said and quoted the Minister referring to the ‘kudi maramathu’ and River Noyyal Rejuvenation schemes to underscore the point. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/treated-water-to-be-used-to-recharge-groundwater-velumani/article33380023.ece  (21 Dec. 2020)

URBAN WATER

Puducherry Kurumbapet dumpyard impacting groundwater quality Residents living near the yard complain that the quality of water had further deteriorated after the recent rain.

Several studies in the past have highlighted the deterioration in the quality of ground water in the area, since civic bodies started dumping waste in the 23-acre yard. Assessment by the Local Administration Department revealed that the ground held around 5 lakh tonnes of legacy waste.

“After it rained, we had to leave the tap open for around one hour to drain out the yellowish water. Now, the yellowish colour has reduced, but the water tastes bad,” said V. Poovarasan, a resident of Gopalankadai Pet. He said, even now, the rain water filled with slush from the yard was getting drained out into several residential areas in the locality. “We rarely ever open the windows of our houses because of the foul smell,” he added.

According to S. Rajesh, Anbu Nagar, Gopalankadai, the accumulated waste was posing a health hazard to cattle population as well. “Many in the area depend on dairy farming for a living. Cattle deaths due to illnesses have become quite common,” said he said. When children in the area fall sick, they are left in the care of relatives until cured. “Children fall sick quite often due to the pollution. Their recovery time takes longer if we treat them at our homes, so we shift them to our relatives’ place,” he added.

C. Balamurugan, ex-councillor, Villianur Commune Panchayat, said several assurances were given to the residents by successive governments. The NGT had directed the government to do away with legacy waste. “We have been fighting for the cause for last several years. Cases were registered against us at D-Nagar police station in the past for staging protests,” he said.

According to a municipal authority, the Local Administration Department, two months ago, had shortlisted Erode-based Zigma Global Environ Solutions Private Limited for bio-mining of the accumulated waste. The bio-mining of legacy waste and remediation of the landfill would cost around ₹42 crore. The government had allocated ₹16 crore in the current budget to execute the project, a government official told The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/rain-adds-to-woes-of-residents-near-kurumbapet-dumpyard-quality-of-groundwater-further-deteriorates/article33430241.ece  (27 Dec. 2020)

Mumbai Simple answers to s complicated water scarcity issues This raises some sensible questions about Mumbai water issues, which SANDRP raised several years ago. https://mumbai.citizenmatters.in/simple-answers-to-mumbais-complicated-water-scarcity-issues-22240  (04 Jan. 2021)

Hyderabad Water board unaware how 170 MGD of water leaks Sources said if the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) manages to curb the 38 per cent leakage, the 9.2 lakh consumers in the city would get 24/7 uninterrupted water supply and even the domestic needs of 1,400 slums and about 190 villages along Outer Ring Road can be met. It spends Rs 46 per kilo litre to purify and supply the water from Krishna and Godavari water sources. Five years have passed but the HMWS&SB has not come up with an action plan even though officials were well aware of the extent of water lost or that had remained unaccounted for.

Out of the total 448 MGD supplied to the city, only 278 MGD has been reaching the city residents and 170 MGD wasted through water theft, leakages and corruption by the field level staff. A senior Water Board official said that in order to curb leakages, the board requires at least Rs. 600 crore. The board has to have a scientific approach. The need is to fix sophisticated ultrasonic meters for 9.02 lakh consumers, so that the sources of leakage can be identified and curbed. The board requires another Rs. 300 crore for repair or replacement of the damaged pipelines. The official said that even though these proposals were discussed by the higher authorities, no financial institution is coming forward for do the funding. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/281220/hyderabad-water-board-unaware-how-170-mgd-of-water-leaks.html  (28 Dec. 2020)

Tamil Nadu Projects for new year In 2021, the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department will focus on faecal sludge treatment projects, desalination, underground drainage, water supply and integrated stormwater drain projects. We will develop faecal sludge treatment projects at 60 locations, covering smaller urban areas. Many town panchayats will get FSM projects. We plan to establish a desalination plant in Chennai, will 400 mld capacity. In Villupuram district, a desalination plant of 60-mld capacity will be set up to improve drinking water supply.

The Kosasthalaiyar basin stormwater drain project in the Chennai Corporation is in the pipeline, and is expected to mitigate flooding in north Chennai, covering areas such as Tiruvottiyur, Manali and Madhavaram. Madurai will get water supply from Vaigai river, through a project with an estimated outlay of ₹1,300 crore. Water supply projects in areas such as Arupukottai will be implemented at an estimated cost of ₹550 crore. In Coimbatore, we will establish an underground drainage system, at an estimated ₹350 crore. The Sivaganga combined water scheme, covering town panchayats and village panchayats, will take shape at an estimated ₹1,800 crore. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/desalination-plant-in-chennai/article33467000.ece  (01 Jan. 2021)

WATER POLLUTION

Maharashtra 66 water sources in Palghar sealed due to contamination The district administration of Palghar in Maharashtra has sealed 66 water sources across 16 villages due to contamination, officials said. The administration said in its release issued on Saturday (Jan. 2) that the water at these points was unfit for consumption and posed a health risk to the local residents.

The decision to seal these points was taken following the NGT order passed a few months ago, it said. The NGT had ordered the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the district authorities and others to take corrective measures in this regard. The recommendations by a committee constituted by the NGT were in the form of remedial plan and implementation for restoration of environment in and around Tarapur MIDC in the district, the statement said. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/maharashtra-66-water-sources-in-palghar-sealed-due-to-contamination-192669  (02 Jan. 2021)

Kurnool 10 fall ill after drinking contaminated water in Kosigi The villagers alleged that River Tungabhadra water was supplied to the people without proper filtration by the Rural Water Supply department. On Friday (Dec. 31, 2020) the villagers drank the same water and less than 30 minutes later, some began vomiting. The villagers said that panchayat employees have not maintained the tanks properly and hygiene and cleanliness went for a toss. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/010121/10-fall-ill-after-drinking-contaminated-water-in-kosigi.html  (01 Jan. 2021)

Contaminants causing water pollution Most of the time water pollution is caused by the release of contaminants like sewage, chemicals into the water bodies. Herbicides, detergents and other synthetic waste are common sources of water pollution. Chemical agents like lead, mercury and cadmium that used commonly in batteries also find their way into the water. https://www.timesnownews.com/mirror-now/in-focus/article/know-about-some-major-contaminants-causing-water-pollution/699104  (25 Dec. 2020)

AGRICULTURE

Maharashtra Community farming to augment villagers’ income The Forest Department has launched a pilot project to encourage community farming and help augment farm income of local villagers on the outskirts of M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. It was launched last week at Tulsikere village bordering M.M. Hills range and 12 families, who were keen to be part of the pilot project and displayed active interest in the scheme, are part of it. The concept entails providing incentives to beneficiaries to cultivate vegetables and add value to the agricultural products for which the department will network with buyers.

The farmers have been instructed not to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides and instead harness cattle dung that is available in plenty but which used to go underutilised. Though the community is traditionally dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, it is unsustainable and also lacks a commercial component. This is because agriculture takes place under rain-fed conditions in the hilly terrain and the food cultivated is consumed locally.

“The Forest Department will provide solar-powered drip or sprinkler irrigation system at a cost of Rs. 3 lakh so as to ensure that agriculture could be taken up on a commercial scale,” said Mr. Yedukondalu. There is money earmarked for projects of the eco-development committees of the villages and this amount will be utilised for funding the project.

A portion of the land will be developed as a grassland so as to ensure fodder for the cows. The authorities aver this will also reduce the practice of letting cattle inside the forest for grazing which tends to degrade the jungles. If successful, the template will be replicated in other villages too. https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/community-farming-launched-to-augment-villagers-income/article33484366.ece  (03 Jan. 2021)

POST MONSOON

SANDRP Blog Post Monsoon 2020: State wise Rainfall For the just concluded Post Monsoon (Oct 1-Dec 31) season rainfall figures, state wise, district wise as per IMD including maps. https://sandrp.in/2021/01/01/state-wise-post-monsoon-2020-rainfall/ (1 Jan 2021)

URBAN FLOODS

Chennai Maintaining ‘eris’ crucial for flood prevention -The study finds that: Traditional tanks in the upstream catchments greatly help in controlling or preventing floods in a downstream city, when the initial storage in the tanks is minimum or when there is an insignificant wet spell prior to occurrence of the extreme rainfall. Thus developing an accurate short-range rainfall forecasting system for the Adyar basin can greatly help the authorities in charge of the tanks to plan beforehand and release excess water in the tanks to downstream areas or store it in secondary reservoirs. https://chennai.citizenmatters.in/chennai-groundwater-eris-temple-tanks-flood-prevention-22594  (22 Dec. 2020)

ENERGY OPTIONS

Time to start wasting solar power? The solution, Marc Perez argued in his doctoral thesis, was to overbuild and use surplus solar energy to top off the grid, rather than storing most of that extra energy or keeping solar farms small to avoid overproduction. The strategy could theoretically lower the cost of electricity by as much as 75%.

– Each year, solar farms are being built with more capacity than they can ever store or deliver. When fuel is free and hardware is cheap for producers, any hardware and construction costs are eclipsed by improved reliability and the greater productivity on cloudy days, says Ravi Manghani, head of solar research for Wood Mackenzie. “Solar is too cheap to meter essentially,” Manghani says. “Costs are going down so rapidly, and are expected to keep going down for the next decade, that developers are building bigger solar projects.” A decade ago these inverter ratios might have been 1.1. Today, 1.3 is the norm. And that’s rising rapidly.

A carbon-free grid is now official policy in 14 US states, the European Union, and China. https://qz.com/1950381/the-case-for-producing-way-more-solar-energy-than-we-need/ (29 Dec 2020)

Power demand touches all-time high of 182.89 GW All-India power demand on Dec 30, 2020 at 0948 in the morning touched a record high of 182.89 gigawatts (GW), said Power Secretary S N Sahai, crossing previous high of 1,82,610 at 1458 hours on May 30, 2019.

– Peak power demand met recorded negative growth from April to August this year, due to the pandemic. In March, it was muted at 0.8 per cent. It had dropped 24.9 per cent in April, 8.9 per cent in May, 9.6 per cent in June, 2.7 % in July and 5.6 % in Aug. The power demand recovered Sept. Peak power demand met grew at 1.7 % in Sep, 3.4 % in Oct & 3.5 % in Nov. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/power-demand-touches-all-time-high-of-182-89-gw/80038789  (31 Dec. 2020)

Union minister R K Singh on Jan. 3 said India has become power surplus. “There is no power deficiency in the country. We have a maximum demand of 1.85 lakh MW of electricity but the present availability is 3.74 lakh MW,” Singh said. https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/india-moved-from-power-deficit-to-surplus-under-modi-govt-union-minister/80089632  (04 Jan. 2021)

ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE  

NGT Yearly Round-Up 2020 https://www.livelaw.in/columns/national-green-tribunal-ngt-covid-19-important-orders-and-judgments-2020-round-up-167813  (01 Jan. 2020)

National Unified environmental approval to infrastructure projects from next year In the new year, the MoEFCC will put in place a unified portal that will list the status of all clearances sought by the developer of any infrastructure project, including wildlife and forest consents, and coastal zone regulation. Presently, these approvals need to be applied for and considered separately by three independent panels of the MoEFCC.

In an office memorandum (OM), the ministry said all meetings to consider green clearances should be held at least twice a month to reduce the time taken for grant of approval. Acceptance process for an application should be limited to just checking if all relevant documents have been submitted and terms of reference covered, according to the OM.

All projects placed on the agenda should be considered by an expert appraisal committee even if project representatives are absent. Only if project representatives do not attend meetings for over six months will the member-secretary of an EAC write to the regional office of the environment ministry to check the on-ground status.

This is only one among several significant reforms that the environment ministry has made this year to the environmental governance process. Many of them were to counter the effects of the Covid 19-pandemic on the economy, officials said. A number of big-ticket environmentally contentious projects were also cleared– the 3,097-MW Etalin HEP which will involve clearing of rainforests in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley, and the renovation and expansion of the Parliament building in New Delhi, among others.

The Centre launched the auction of 41 mines for commercial mining in June. But several of them were located in biodiversity rich forest areas in central India including a few in one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest in central India called Hasdeo Arand spanning 170,000 ha. Following opposition from Chhattisgarh government some of those were saved from going under the hammer.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/unified-environmental-approval-to-infrastructure-projects-from-next-year/story-1GrcdvVswgSXQmhyFjkD0I.html  (30 Dec. 2020)

Govt tweaks green law to allow coal extraction sans final FC The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in a meeting held in the last week of Nov. 2020, allowed commencement of mining activities in non-forest parts of coal lease areas simply by obtaining Stage I of forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

As per environment laws, mining operations can commence only after obtaining final forest clearance from the government. However, the FAC has now decided that in certain lease areas that comprise both forest and non-forest land, mining activities for coal can commence on the latter even with Stage II clearance pending.

The decision was taken at the behest of the Union Ministry of Coal which had requested the MoEF&CC to allow commencement of mining operations in non-forest areas in projects where Stage-I approval for forest area and environment clearance for the project has been obtained.  https://www.newsclick.in/Modi-Govt-Tweaks-Green-Law-Allow-Coal-Extraction-Sans-Final-Forest-Clearance  (29 Dec. 2020)

Goa Save Mollem: No impact assessments, no mitigation The ‘Save Mollem’ campaign in Goa has drawn everyone from celebrities to politicians, who have come together to express outrage at the absence of assessment of the threats to green cover and wildlife that the projects pose, and a consequent lack of mitigation measures.

The National Board for Wildlife’s standing committee approved the project in April 2020 without recommending any wildlife mitigation measures. It said measures recommended earlier by Goa’s Chief Wildlife Warden would do. Two other prominent projects near Mollem have not carried out any wildlife assessment at all.

All three projects are still awaiting final forest clearance by the MoEF. Meanwhile, on Dec.16, the SC’s CEC said it would carry out site inspections in Goa for all three projects after it received a number of complaints on the manner in which the projects were green-flagged with no assessment to the threats to wildlife. There may yet be a glimmer of hope for the pristine forests of Mollem. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/no-impact-assessments-no-mitigation-wildlife-clearances-in-goas-mollem-forests/article33470539.ece  (02 Jan. 2021)

Kerala Locals oppose quarry coming up in Kottancheri hills Chettikad Granites got the environmental clearance (EC) from the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) in 2018 allowing it to operate in the Kottancheri-Pamathattu region. The quarry, however, can start functioning only if the Mining and Geology department gives sanction for mining. “If any kind of activity like quarrying is allowed here, then landslides similar to those that happened in Kavalappara (the area in Malappuram where scores of people were killed in landslides in the 2019 floods) would occur here too,” Vinayan, an activist from the Kasaragod Samrakshana Samithi, tells TNM.

Rijosh MJ, Secretary of the Kottancheri-Pamathattu Samrakshana Samithi, and Biji Jose, a member of the Samithi, filed a petition with the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) last month challenging the EC given to the quarry. Apart from the EC, the quarry needs to get an ecological impact assessment clearance. The presence of water bodies is one of the criteria considered while giving EC and clearance after ecological impact assessment, because activities like mining or quarrying can pollute them and hence damage water sources used by people.

The application from Chettikad Granites wrongly mentions that the nearest canal/ check dam/ reservoir/ pond from the site is 5 km and 3.5 km (a drinking water pump house and a canal pump house). The Samithi’s petition clarified that there are two canals on the site as certified by the Divisional Forest Officer.

The acceptable distance from forests for quarry permission differs from case to case in Kerala. There are no proper criteria at present. While the application claims that the hill is 2.5 km from the ecologically sensitive area (ESA) comprising wetlands, water resources/ other water bodies, coastal zones, biospheres, mountains or forests, the petition says that the ESA regions are only 1.5 km from the site. In addition, the nearest forest land is only 500 m from the site.

The Samithi’s petition says that the environmental clearance to the quarry was granted without examining the facts and must be cancelled if there has been “suppression of material facts and submission of false data”. The petition also said that the DEIAA does not have competent persons to deal with the EC application and hence sought to cancel the EC granted to Chettikad Granites. The National Green Tribunal had in 2015 ordered to disperse the District Environmental Impact Assessment Committees. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/why-local-residents-are-opposing-quarry-coming-kerala-s-kottancheri-hills-140419  (28 Dec. 2020)

Western Ghats Karnataka rejects Kasturirangan panel report  The announcement came just two days ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline imposed by the NGT for its implementation. After a meeting chaired by Forest Minister Anand Singh, the state government decided its stand against the implementation of the recommendations in the Kasturirangan Committee report.

Karnataka had rejected the draft notification of this report in May 2020. Monday’s (Dec. 28) cabinet sub-committee meeting was the last meeting to discuss the report before the final decision was taken. Forest Minister Anand Singh had previously hinted at rejecting the report pointing out that red category industries would not be permitted inside ESZ. The issue will now come up before the NGT on December 31. The recommendations in the report also affect Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka will send a written memorandum to the Union government this week communicating its decision. The sub-committee is also discussing reducing the eco-sensitive zone around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks from a 10-km radius to just 1 km.  . https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/unscientific-karnataka-rejects-kasturirangan-panel-report-western-ghats-140527  (30 Dec. 2020)

Comment The tragedy of conservation Isolating the indigenous people from their natural habitats in the Western Ghats to protect biodiversity is unproductive. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-tragedy-of-conservation/article33447813.ece  (30 Dec. 2020)

Gujarat Protests over ESZ in Narmada district This explains why tribal communities have been protesting against the notification since the beginning of November, when the district administration served the first notice to execute the MoEFCC order. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/gujarat-narmada-district-eco-sensitive-zone-protests-7125774/  (31 Dec. 2020)

Delhi Central Vista: LokPATH urges MoEF not to accept CPWD’s latest proposal The conditional approval granted by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to the new terms of reference for the development or redevelopment of various buildings under the Central Vista project has been criticised by a citizen’s collective on the grounds that this evaluation is piecemeal and hasn’t looked at the alternatives. Also, the group of architects, urban planners, historians and politicians has charged that such an assessment only diverts additional public money when the SC’s final decision on the project is still pending.

The project now envisages construct of a total built-up area of 17,21,500 sq m, down from 18,37,057 sq m planned earlier. However, the project cost has gone up by Rs 1,656 crore – from Rs 11,794 crore to Rs 13,450 crore.

The LokPATH has also objected to spending of more public money on assessments only for the purpose of justifying a pre-determined project. It said the expert committee’s recommendation for a ToR would require the CPWD to carry out several detailed studies, including a cumulative impact assessment, on issues such as demolition plans, groundwater recharge, contour plans and traffic. “All these studies,” it expressed the apprehension, “would necessarily be engineered to make the project appear more environmentally acceptable because the decision to build the project is predetermined.”

Stating that these studies would be contracted to consultants and sub consultants at public cost using tax payer’s money, the group reminded how in view of the COVID pandemic, and its economic and social impacts, citizens have already raised serious questions about the government diverting public funds for this project when it should be prioritising expenditure on public health and social welfare. https://thewire.in/government/central-vista-cpwd-environment-ministry-clearance  (03 Jan. 2021)

Opinion Ecologically and culturally rich lands must not be labelled ‘wastelands’ What we often forget is how unique deserts and grasslands are as habitats that support human communities, wildlife, and vegetation. Ill-informed attempts to modify these landscapes are the legacy of colonialism, when many such lands were considered wasteland because they did not generate revenue. Monocultures and plantations were considered productive while wetlands, deserts, and grasslands were not. This categorisation persists, and these landscapes are thus vanishing.

It’s not just the Banni — as much as 17% of India is classified as wasteland, according to Wastelands Atlas of India 2019. This includes not just seasonal grasslands and deserts, but also riverine and coastal sandy areas, wetlands, mangroves (as areas affected by salinity or alkalinity), ravines, scrubland, glaciers, and areas under snow cover.

“The term ‘wasteland’, a colonial construct, obsesses with the monetary benefits that a piece of land may or may not provide,” says Abi Vanak, Senior Fellow and Convenor of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, ATREE. “The classification ignores the social, cultural and historical links of the inhabitants, as well as the ecology and ecosystems of these places. The only true ‘wastelands’ on earth stem from human industrial activities that render land lifeless.” Areas deemed wastelands — grasslands, deserts, rocky outcrops and sand dunes — are actually “rich ecosystems teeming with unique biodiversity and human cultures finely attuned to the dynamics of such landscapes,” he says.

The Wastelands Atlas indicates that grasslands and waterbodies are under consideration for reclassification, although the exact process seems unclear. These landscapes are home to not just endangered megafauna but also plants and invertebrates, several of which we depend on. We see history repeating itself in initiatives such as the Compensatory Afforestation Programme and Management Authority and Green India Mission. Land for these ‘greening’ drives, which seek to compensate for land used for development activities, comes from those misclassified as ‘wastelands’. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/ecologically-and-culturally-rich-deserts-swamps-and-grasslands-must-not-be-labelled-wastelands/article33037900.ece  (07 Nov. 2020)

Report Leopard population growing, habitat fast vanishing A 60% rise in India’s leopard population has been recorded in 2018, compared to 2014, but there is one area in the country, the northeastern landscape, where its population is facing “major threat” due to land-use changes triggered by agriculture, tea gardens and linear infrastructure projects.

According to the Indian government’s Status of Leopard in India, 2018 report published on December 21, the northeastern landscape has 141 leopards out of 12,852 estimated across the country while the Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains range has recorded 1,253 leopards, Central India and the Eastern Ghats range has 8,071 leopards and Western Ghats range has 3,386.

The report said leopards are distributed widely in the northeastern landscape from the high altitude of the eastern Himalayas to the forests adjacent to tea gardens in the flood plains but due to sampling inadequacy, the leopard population was estimated only from the camera trapped sites of northern West Bengal, Manas and Nameri tiger reserves of Assam and the southern valley of the Pakke Tiger Reserve of Arunachal Pradesh.

In fact, the actual number of leopards could be more than recorded in the report. Besides land use factors such as linear infrastructure projects, the report revealed that poaching and human-wildlife conflict are other major factors impacting the species in the northeastern landscape. https://scroll.in/article/982738/while-the-leopard-population-is-growing-in-india-its-habitat-is-fast-vanishing  (03 Jan. 21)  

Report Record 212 environmental activists killed in 2019, says watchdog Latin America accounted for more than two-thirds of all victims last year, with Colombia the deadliest country of all, with 64 killings. In Asia, the Philippines had 43 killings compared to 30 the previous year, with six in India, three in Indonesia and one in Cambodia, according to Global Witness. Many more were attacked, arrested, threatened and sued, said Global Witness, which recorded killings in 21 countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the “downward spiral of the human rights situation”, and a new anti-terrorism bill could be used to target activists, they said. “Days after the act was signed, the harassment of human rights defenders has visibly worsened,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Philippine human rights advocacy group Karapatan. “While rural communities, including indigenous peoples, grapple with the impact of COVID-19, they are constantly hounded by military operations that benefit mining corporations encroaching on their ancestral land,” she said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/record-212-environmental-activists-killed-in-2019-says-watchdog/article32217916.ece  (29 July 2020)

Haryana Explore utilisation of fly ash in cement plants The NGT has directed a Faridabad based thermal power plant to explore utilisation of fly ash in cement plants and also directed the CPCB to monitor whether covering of the ash dump meets scientific environmental norms.

Taking note of a report furnished by the HPCB, the tribunal: “It appears that the exposed surface has been covered and the pond ash is not being allowed to be lifted. The question whether covering of the ash dump meets the scientific environmental norms needs to be cross checked to prevent the potential of any damage by such exercise.” “This may be done by the CPCB within two months. The power plant in question may explore utilisation of the fly ash in cement plants, taking precautions and ensuring that no air pollution is caused during transportation and handling. This aspect may also be monitored by the CPCB,” the Bench said.

In its report, the state pollution control board had recommended that installation work of solar power plant “must be expedited to avoid any possibility of air pollution.” The directions came when the green panel was hearing a plea moved by petitioner Chetram Choudhary alleging illegal disposal of fly ash by a power plant in Faridabad, which was causing health hazards. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/explore-utilisation-of-fly-ash-in-cement-plants-ngt/article33448989.ece  (30 Dec. 2020)

CLIMATE CHANGE

Report Extreme weather events cost India $10 billion Fifteen extreme weather events, influenced by climate change, were identified globally this year, including the terrible floods that struck India cost $10 billion, killing 2,000, a London-based Christian Aid’s report, ‘Counting the cost 2020: A year of climate breakdown’ said on Dec 28, 2020. Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be higher. Some of the disasters hit fast, like cyclone Amphan, which struck the Bay of Bengal in May and caused losses valued at $13 billion in just a few days. Other events unfolded over months, like floods in China and India, which had an estimated cost of $32 billion and $10 billion respectively. 2020 flood was one of the worst in history (of Bangladesh), as more than a quarter of the country was under water. https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2020-12-28-devastating-floods-cost-india-10-billion  (28 Dec. 2020)

SOUTH ASIA

SANDRP Blog Dams, Rivers & People overview of Nepal 2020 This report provides and overview of key developments in Nepal about Dams, Rivers, Environment and people in 2020. We have divided the overview into these sections: Hydropower projects, Power Trade, Governance, River Sand Mining, Monsoon 2020 dominated by Landslide news, Climate Change, India-Nepal issues dominated by Pancheshwar and border dispute issues, Nepal China issues. Plz Read, Share. https://sandrp.in/2020/12/31/dams-rivers-people-overview-of-nepal-2020/  (31 Dec. 2020)

India- Nepal A new India Nepal dispute about building embankments along Mahakali river, India in Pithoragarh dist and Nepal on their Dharchua area. This is mainly due to the massive floods in the river around July 20, 2020 when the river changed course. Nepal media here is strongly protesting. http://annapurnapost.com/news/172772

Pakistan Dams, climate change push Indus dolphins to brink The Indus river dolphin is one of the world’s rarest mammals, and the second-most endangered freshwater river dolphin.

Though rescue efforts in Pakistan have helped to boost their numbers, climate change and the building of dams continue to threaten their long-term survival. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/dams-climate-change-push-indus-river-dolphins-to-the-brink-of-13884328  (03 Jan. 2021)

Bangladesh Increasing river erosion due to sand mining The government spends a lot of money each year to prevent river erosion, but due to the unplanned sand mining the country’s rivers are being eroded extensively, speakers said at webinar. Sand mining now becomes a threat for the river, biodiversity and environment as well as for the lives of the people, they warned. Speakers made the remarks at a webinar titled, ‘Speaking up about sand miners and contractors: challenges of women, youth and grassroots activists’, jointly organised by Change Initiative and Oxfam Bangladesh on Dec. 10. https://tbsnews.net/bangladesh/increasing-river-erosion-due-sand-mining-170080  (10 Dec. 2020)

ASIA

MEKONG Vietnam Outrage: scars of sand mining Sand mining scythes through communities on the Mekong River to erect behemoths for the rich in Singapore.  Hundreds of kilometres of roads and surrounding land fall into the Mekong River every year, yet there is no prediction this monstrous cycle will stop any time soon. Vietnam did announce it would stop exporting sand to Singapore in 2009. However, the export numbers state a different truth. Singapore claimed that they purchased US $766 million worth of sand from Vietnam between 2009 and 2017.

Image source: The Architectural Review

Big sand dredging companies are backed by provincial politicians and they just quietly keep exporting. In response, farmers have turned villages into self-protective units in the desperate effort to keep their last vestige of home and life from the edge of destruction. Last year, villagers planted bamboo trees in the middle of the river near Hue in central Vietnam, as a booby trap to deter sand miners, after a two-kilometre stretch of fertile soil eroded into the river.

Violent clashes with sand miners have claimed blood and life, although farmers’ persistent efforts have not yet triumphed against the desire for profit and the extraction of free natural resources from the river. On the other hand, these farmers know an underlying truth: sand mining workers are just farmers similar to them, who have lost homes and everything to the river, and turn to sand mining as the final expedient to feed their hungry families. They too struggle to survive in the endless lifecycle of a grain of sand. https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/outrage/outrage-scars-of-sand-mining  (20 Oct. 2020)

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Report Promise & limitations of UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration The United Nations (led by UNEP and FAO) has declared 2021-30 to be the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. However, it is not very clear how much additional funds will be committed for this over the decade, to what extent firm commitment for this is already available & from which sources, in addition to the existing ones. It will be important to know what is being done to check the systemic factors which have caused so much ecosystem destruction & continue to do so.

– Thirdly, we need to be reassured that the Decade related activities will avoid big business interests and heavily funded consultancies etc. which in the past have taken away a very big chunk of the budget of such declarations, while leaving little for real grassroots work to be taken up with the involvement of communities, particularly weaker sections.

– Last but not the least, are adequate steps being taken to improve conditions of continuing peace, avoiding war and conflict, achieving very ambitious disarmament goals, without which conducive conditions for sustained and big work on ecosystem restoration, and the international cooperation needed for this, may not be possible? https://countercurrents.org/2021/01/the-promise-and-the-limitations-of-the-un-decade-of-ecosystem-restoration/  (01 Jan. 2021)

UK Plans to flood River Otter estuary recommended for approval Multi-million pound plans to restore the Otter Estuary to its natural and historic flood plains to avoid a catastrophic failure of sea defences are set to be given the go-ahead next week.

East Devon District Council’s planning committee are being recommended to approve the Lower Otter Restoration Project, which will create 55 hectares of mudflats, saltmarsh and other valuable estuarine habitats. The project, led by landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency, would see the Big and Little Marsh floodplains around Budleigh Salterton restored, with breaches created in the Little Bank, the Big Bank and the River Otter Embankment to allow water to flow through. The funding will support the Lower Otter Restoration Project’s aims of climate change adaptation by working with natural processes to provide benefits for people and wildlife.

It follows the significant risk that a major flood or extreme tidal event could lead to catastrophic failure of embankments, with unpredictable environmental and social impacts, with recent years having seen part of the South West Coast Path that runs along the embankments closed to the public for significant periods due to erosion caused by such events. As part of the plans to restore the historic floodplain of the River Otter, breaches in existing embankments would be created to allow water from both the River Otter and the Estuary to inundate the site, creating intertidal saltmarsh and mudflats.

The Lower Otter valley is the subject of plans from the Environment Agency: Image Source Devon Live.

Recommending approval, the report of planning officers says: “This is a significant application within the Lower Otter Valley which will result in a change to the existing landscape, which has been managed over the past two centuries. The proposal would clearly significantly change the area, particularly by way of breaches to the embankments which would irreversibly change the habitat and visual appearance of the estuary. “The scheme is widely supported by a number of significant conservation bodies which have an interest in the site, this is a result of a number of years of consultation on the project including working groups. “The Flood Risk Assessment and modelling have fully considered the impact of the scheme on nearby residents and businesses, and have concluded that the risk is minimal.

The Environment Agency has submitted plans to East Devon District Council on behalf of LORP as the £15 million project enters its final phase and if approved, work will start in 2021 and be completed by spring 2023. The Lower Otter project is largely funded by the European Interreg programme through an initiative called Promoting Adaptation to Changing Coasts (PACCo). It is partnered with a similar project in the Saâne Valley in Normandy, France. Both schemes aim to demonstrate that early adaptation to climate change brings greater benefits than a delayed response or inaction. If successful, the adaptation model for these two projects will be rolled out to other locations in the UK and France. East Devon District Council’s planning committee meets on Wednesday, January 6, to determine the fate of the application. https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/plans-flood-river-otter-estuary-4842375 (31 Dec 2020)

Australia Waterbirds; wetland areas declining despite temporary relief Rainfall from January to April 2020 has enabled partial recovery of some wetlands and waterbird populations –  but only significant further rain and floods would help bring about a substantial recovery in Murray−Darling Basin water bodies after record-breaking drought during 2017-2019, UNSW’s Aerial Survey of Wetland Birds in Eastern Australia has shown.

A large flooded wetland with lignum bushes. A small colony of a few thousand straw-necked ibis had established in the middle of the wetland. Photo: Richard Kingsford.

The Centre’s annual survey – with results released today – covers a third of the continent and provides one of Australia’s most important long-term datasets on the health and biodiversity of the country’s river and wetland areas.

“There has been limited recovery in water storage levels in the Murray-Darling Basin with the rain since January 2020, which is good news after water storages in the northern Basin had reached the record low of 5.4 per cent of combined capacity in mid-January, 7.5 per cent lower than at any point during the Millennium Drought,” says Centre for Ecosystem Director Professor Richard Kingsford.

“The results are alarming. If we leave aside 1983 and 1984, the peak years, three of the four major indices still show a significant downward trend – and long-term trends are more informative for predicting population status than year-to-year fluctuations,” Prof. Kingsford says. “For example, the total waterbird abundance in 2020 – 162,824 – decreased from 2019 and remains well below average, the sixth lowest in 38 years.”

Given the concerning trends, the scientists say it is important to look at long-term causes, including the effects of the current drought and the ongoing decline in the health of the rivers as a result of reduced flooding with water resource development. Scientists also remain concerned about the long-term impacts of a drying climate on the rivers and wetlands.

“These long-term data are critical to identifying trends in the health of rivers and wetlands and it is important that we continue to track these changes so that we can identify the problems and solutions,” says Prof. Kingsford. “The implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is critical, most importantly ensuring that the floods continue to bring health to our rivers and their waterbirds.” https://indiaeducationdiary.in/waterbird-numbers-and-wetland-areas-declining-despite-temporary-relief-aerial-survey/  (16 Dec. 2020)

Study Land sinking fast world over due to excessive groundwater removal As per the study, the majority of the 635 million inhabitants of subsistence-susceptible areas are located in Asia. The study has highlighted some scary facts. It says that Jakarta has sunk by 2.5 metres in last decade. This is a huge thing considering changes in Earth’s surface to the tune of mere centimetres are considered significant. The study notes that 25 per cent of the Netherlands is below sea level and more areas are under threat of subsidence. https://www.wionews.com/science/land-is-sinking-fast-world-over-because-of-excessive-groundwater-removal-study-353883  (01 Jan. 2021)

Research Controlling the nanoscale structure of membranes is key for clean water Researchers from Penn State, The University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, Dow Chemical Company and DuPont Water Solutions published a key finding in understanding how membranes actually filter minerals from water, online today (Dec. 31) in Science. The article will be featured on the print edition’s cover, to be issued tomorrow (Jan. 1).

“Despite their use for many years, there is much we don’t know about how water filtration membranes work,” said Enrique Gomez, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering at Penn State, who led the research. “We found that how you control the density distribution of the membrane itself at the nanoscale is really important for water-production performance.” https://phys.org/news/2020-12-nanoscale-membranes-key.html  (31 Dec. 2020)

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

Also see: DRP News Bulletin 28 Dec. 2020 & DRP News Bulletin 21 Dec. 2020  

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

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